Back in the spot­light.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - CAMERON ADAMS

TINA Arena has added a new skill to her CV – taxi driver.

For the first time in a decade, Arena has spent sev­eral months in­tro­duc­ing her six- year- old son Gabriel to the joys of her home­town, Melbourne.

‘‘ He is ab­so­lutely lov­ing it,’’ Arena, 44, says. ‘‘ I am a taxi driver these days. I spend my life driv­ing him and his mates around to play footy and soc­cer or just hang­ing out. He’s at a fun age, he’s de­vel­op­ing his per­son­al­ity and it’s hi­lar­i­ous most of the time. Most of the time . . . ’’

Arena’s tem­po­rary re­lo­ca­tion from Paris is to ac­com­mo­date her re­turn to

Young Tal­ent Time, the feel- good fam­ily TV pro­gram that launched her ca­reer when she joined in 1974. This time around she’s judg­ing the new gen­er­a­tion.

‘‘ I knew when I de­cided to join the show it was go­ing to be life- chang­ing and I haven’t been dis­ap­pointed,’’ Arena says. ‘‘ I’ve been in­spired by a bunch of gor­geous kids. No­body wipes the smile off their face in the stu­dio. I’ve not been in a sit­u­a­tion like that be­fore. It’s in­cred­i­bly rare what we’re liv­ing with on

YTT. And it’s been very emo­tional go­ing back to the show. It was over­whelm­ing for me. Par­tic­u­larly the first episode where the orig­i­nal cast went out on stage and paid re­spect to the show’s her­itage. It was a pow­er­ful mo­ment.’’

Too busy to bother about the show’s haters on Twit­ter and Face­book harp­ing on rat­ings, Arena is fol­low­ing her judg­ing ethos and fo­cus­ing on the pos­i­tives.

‘‘ I un­der­stand all that so­cial me­dia has a place, but it’s very easy to say what you like when you’re sit­ting be­hind a screen and no one can see you.

‘‘ I don’t take any no­tice. The show is what it is. It’s a show that was done 40 years ago, to­tally ahead of its time. It was done with good in­ten­tions. It’s still be­ing done with good in­ten­tions. As a judge, you can say what you feel very hon­estly, but you don’t need to put some­body down. That’s not the right thing to do to kids. That’s not part of my char­ac­ter. I was a lit­tle girl up on that stage once singing. I’m pleased I was never ripped apart. Why would I want to do that to any­body else?’’

Her son vis­its the YTT set with his mum dur­ing the Syd­ney record­ing ses­sions each week­end. ‘‘ Will he fol­low in my foot­steps? I’m happy for him to do what makes him happy. He’s got a good lit­tle voice, but I want him to fol­low his own destiny. It’s his call, not mine.’’

YTT fol­lows Arena judg­ing on the French ver­sion of US a capella re­al­ity show The Sing Off. She’s con­fi­dent

YTT will re­turn next year and could be up for a sec­ond bout.

Af­ter this sea­son of YTT ends, Arena will em­bark on an­other or­ches­tral tour, mix­ing in her own hits with choice cov­ers such as Don’t Cry For Me Ar­gentina and

Cry Me A River. ‘‘ For me to ex­plore those songs that al­ready have a life is amaz­ing. To be able to tell them in the con­text of a sym­phonic or­ches­tra is like be­ing in the best car you could pos­si­bly drive or a Boe­ing. And hav­ing it all to your­self.’’

This year Arena will also fin­ish her first al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial in more than a decade. ‘‘ It’s a bunch of sto­ries I’ve lived the last seven or eight years. It’s like a travel diary of dif­fer­ent places, ob­ser­va­tions and jour­neys. I’ve loved writ­ing it. It’s not some­thing hit FM sta­tions will play, but I’ve been very happy with the evo­lu­tion of my ca­reer tak­ing its nat­u­ral pace.’’

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