Price of success
Fame has been a challenge for Ricki-Lee Coulter and Ian Dickson, write and
PROFESSIONALLY, RickiLee Coulter and Ian ‘‘Dicko’’ Dickson have never felt more fulfilled.
They’ve thrown themselves into a rejuvenated Australian Idol — Dickson in his role as judge and Coulter in her first season as a backstage mentor.
In addition to Idol, Dickson has revelled in his breakfast radio gig at Vega FM, recently taking out the best newcomer title at the Commercial Radio Australia Awards.
Former Idol contestant Coulter, meanwhile, has not only produced an album, The Singles, she’s preparing to fly to Los Angeles for another stint in the recording studio.
But for Coulter and Dickson, success at work has come at a cost in their private lives.
For Dickson, it’s the strain that’s emerged from being a distant husband and dad.
For Coulter, 23, it’s been the shock marriage split from Gold Coast builder James Babbington.
Earlier in the year, Coulter revealed she battled depression soon after her wedding. It was Babbington who bore the brunt of her mood swings.
‘‘I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to see anyone,’’ she said.
‘‘When I woke up in the morning, Jamie didn’t know which Ricki-Lee he would get. The good Ricki-Lee? The evil Ricki-Lee?’’
Coulter and 31-year-old Babbington last month confirmed their marriage of just a year was over, citing distance and time apart as reasons for the split. Given Coulter’s commitments with Idol and life on the road promoting her music career, it’s no surprise married life became difficult.
As she prepares for Sunday’s Australian Idol final, a disarmingly honest Coulter confesses: ‘‘I feel like I’m 45. I’ve never had a big break-up, so I didn’t know what heartbreak felt like.
‘‘With everything that has been going on (personally), it has been great to be busy and have other things to focus on.’’
One of those things is a new album. Coulter will fly to Los Angeles in early 2009 to begin writing and recording.
‘‘I’ll get to express all my emotions and experiences and ups and downs of the last 12 to 18 months (on the album),’’ she says.
‘‘It might be a little edgier than what I’ve done before. It (the mar- riage split) is something that I can turn into a positive through music.’’
Coulter’s recent personal problems are a reminder to Idol contestants of the costs associated with a successful music career.
Coulter has done it the hard way — an independent artist who has achieved chart success through sheer grind.
‘‘It does have an effect on your personal and social life,’’ she says. ‘‘You have to be driven and passionate and focused about what you do.
‘‘If you’re constantly touring, you can’t be going out and socialising with your friends.
‘‘I’ve helped them (2008 Idol contestants) out. I’ve had dinners at my house with them. They’ve asked me millions of questions about management, writers, producers, record labels — everything.
‘‘You have to have understanding people in your life and surround yourself with people who can grow and adjust with you,’’ she says.
Her Idol colleague Dickson needs no reminding of the importance of stability in life away from work.
He and Mel, his partner of 23 years, have two daughters, Esme, 17, and Edie, 15.
Dickson spending so much time in Melbourne for his radio job, however, has robbed him of valuable time with his Sydney-based family.
‘‘ Professionally, it’s ( year) worked out brilliantly . . . but it’s been a bit hard on my family, if the truth be known,’’ Dickson says.
‘‘My oldest (Esme) is doing HSC (exams) and if I’d planned it, there’s no way on Earth I’d have been away from her for this period of her life. I’ve been a bit of an absent father and husband, so it’s been difficult. The cost hasn’t been to me, but to them.
‘‘I probably drink more when I’m down here (Melbourne) than at home and I do it (drink) on my own.’’
Dickson, however, has loved his year on Idol.
‘‘It’s been Dickson says.
‘‘We (judges) used to be overbearing, and felt we needed to put on a pantomime every week. This year we made a commitment it was going to be about the talent and as a result we’ve ended up with some f---ing great singers.’’
Has the structural revamp (changing the format of the Idol Monday show and ditching Mark Holden from the judging panel) been an unqualified success?
‘‘We worked hard to make the Monday shows watchable and it hasn’t worked,’’ Dickson laments.
‘‘The Mondays have been pretty good, but the audience is just not going there. It’s frustrating. It would be stupid not to look at the Monday shows and see how they fit into the schedule next year. Maybe they (producers) take it back to a halfhour show, maybe they can it all together and bed it into the Sunday night show. I don’t know.’’
I feel like I’m 45. I’ve never had a big break-up, so I didn’t know what heartbreak felt like
Australian Idol’s Ricki-Lee Coulter and Ian Dickson have both seen the downside of fame.