KYLIE MINOGUE: pop’s golden girl on menopause, love and lone­li­ness

With her 14th stu­dio al­bum just re­leased, Kylie Minogue talks to Chrissy Iley about heal­ing her bro­ken heart with her new coun­try-in­spired mu­sic, turn­ing 50 and go­ing through menopause... twice!

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

When I first learnt that Kylie’s new al­bum Golden was a coun­try fu­sion, I was a lit­tle ret­i­cent... but it is mes­meris­ing. Sump­tu­ous pop riffs and the dis­cov­ery that Kylie has the per­fect coun­try voice. It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary blend of clas­sic Kylie pop, yet soul-bar­ing coun­try-style lyrics. It’s per­sonal. It’s deep. Her most raw thoughts set to mu­sic ever, yet some­how with their catchy, sunny melodies those thoughts are made beau­ti­ful. And that has al­ways been Kylie’s style. To see good rather than bad. To cre­ate ease rather than stress. I’ve known Kylie for some time now and I’m glad to say we have an emo­tional short­hand. Kylie is and al­ways was ex­tra­or­di­nary and spe­cial, yet down-to-earth real.

We meet in The Ritz in London. She has The Royal Suite which is sev­eral rooms vast. Lots of bro­cade, can­de­labra, chan­de­lier and swirly gold frames on 19th-cen­tury oil paint­ings. Kylie her­self is wear­ing gold snake­skin stiletto boots, an off-white floaty chif­fon skirt that has golden em­broi­dery and al­abaster chif­fon-y top, hair longer and more golden than ever.

She pours me tea and agrees that the mak­ing of Golden has been a cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’m ac­tu­ally sad not to be go­ing into the stu­dio be­cause cre­at­ing is very re­ward­ing. It’s a weird time to have to let it go.

“In the be­gin­ning it was very much like a ‘Dear Di­ary’ sort of thing. I don’t think the songs were very good. Now I’ve moved on, the songs have, too. But I was glad to reach a point where I thought I’ve got to be hon­est with my­self more than any­thing. I wrote about re­la­tion­ships and love and the usual cul­prits. I was writ­ing about heart­break. I sing, ‘I’m bro­ken hearted’.

“Ac­tu­ally, I think I was a bit more bro­ken than just heart­bro­ken be­cause for a long time I was in a re­la­tion­ship that we both knew was end­ing. I think it came out in the press a dif­fer­ent way [it came out that Joshua Sasse, the 30-year-old ac­tor to whom she was en­gaged, had an on-set ro­mance with a co-star] but towards the end of any re­la­tion­ship it takes its toll on you. I knew I wasn’t strong in my­self so go­ing into the stu­dio and get­ting all that stuff out of my sys­tem was a way of deal­ing with it. My A&R [artists and reper­toire] guy Jamie Nelson had the idea that we would give it a coun­try feel so it was a reinvention.”

Kylie al­ways seems to man­age reinvention seam­lessly. “I didn’t know what he meant at the time when he was talk­ing about a lit­tle coun­try edge but then we found it. I re­alise you can get away with putting more of a story in the song and you can be hu­mor­ous with those sto­ries.”

The most beau­ti­ful thing about the re­ally sad songs is that they man­age to be haunt­ingly sad and at the same time clev­erly up­beat – a bit like the woman her­self. You would never see Kylie as sad, but this al­bum is about get­ting over a re­la­tion­ship with the man she was sup­posed to marry. They met in Septem­ber 2015 on the set of the TV mu­si­cal com­edy Gala­vant, when Kylie made a guest ap­pear­ance, and six months later they were en­gaged. By the end of 2016, things had started to fall apart. Joshua is a Bri­tish ac­tor 20 years her junior and the son of poet Do­minic Sasse, who was killed in a plane crash when Joshua was five.

They were pic­tured to­gether of­ten and looked happy and thrilled with each other, but the love went wrong and it be­came the ba­sis of the al­bum. “We started in the UK and then we went to Nashville. There’s such a dif­fer­ent feel­ing about the place. It’s not like London, LA, Mel­bourne, Syd­ney. Even the shop­ping is dif­fer­ent, al­though I didn’t have much time for that.

“It’s that peo­ple seem so emo­tion­ally con­nected there. I don’t want to take things away from any other thing

I’ve done but this was dif­fer­ent.

I went to The Blue­bird Cafe [mu­sic club]. I loved be­ing in a room and see­ing an au­di­ence of all ages lis­ten­ing. It was just beau­ti­ful with ac­tual Stet­sons and cow­boy boots. I felt I could fall in love a mil­lion times. That’s the feel­ing there. That’s the en­ergy, and when you go to the per­for­mance rooms there, you see the song­writ­ers talk about the song, how it came about. Not nec­es­sar­ily the best per­form­ers but you were there lis­ten­ing to it. I would love to per­form at The Blue­bird Cafe. Can you imag­ine how ner­vous I would be? But I’m go­ing to try and do it. I’m al­ready think­ing of the sto­ries I’m go­ing to tell.”

This is the new Kylie. Pre­vi­ous Kylie would rather lis­ten to sto­ries than tell them. She would rather de­flect the con­ver­sa­tion away from her­self. “I’d love to go back to Nashville. I feel I just scraped the sur­face. It had a pro­found ef­fect on me and I want to get to the next level. Every­body seems emo­tion­ally con­nected – as I said – so maybe it hap­pens by os­mo­sis. It re­ally helped me be­lieve in the song at the mo­ment. It made me feel if you’re not go­ing to give it ev­ery­thing, you may as well not be there.

“Al­though there was def­i­nitely a mo­ment where I said, this is cool, but when we get back to my real world how is it go­ing to trans­late? I wor­ried that it would seem disin­gen­u­ous to have gone all coun­try. I didn’t want to be dis­re­spect­ful to the genre but at the same time it’s so fun to sing.”

This is not to say Golden is pure coun­try. It’s Kylie-fied coun­try and it is af­ter all called Golden, a homage per­haps to her golden hot pants her­itage and ev­ery­thing else glit­tery that en­cap­su­lates Kylie.

“I didn’t know this al­bum would be called Golden. I felt I was sift­ing and chip­ping away for long enough and I was like, I need a nugget, give me a nugget. So that was the al­bum. Not so much a style, but the style of my heal­ing.”

As we talk about this heal­ing she’s not spe­cific about what she’s heal­ing from, but she looks at me with an im­plicit un­der­stand­ing. She knows that I know she’s talk­ing about

Joshua Sasse. Was she re­ally go­ing to get mar­ried to him? “Well I had the ring on the fin­ger, didn’t I?” Had they planned a wed­ding? “No, we’d not gone that far.” Did she know which coun­try it was go­ing to be in? “No, no, no. It was a hasty move. It was the mo­ment. It was a beau­ti­ful mo­ment and I loved it and there was ob­vi­ously a hon­ey­moon pe­riod, just with­out that ex­act word­ing. And then, you know, as time goes on…”

What hap­pened? Did they fall out of love with each other? There is a long pause and a quizzi­cal ex­pres­sion. “I think we did, yes. It’s com­pli­cated. And to try to put it in a nut­shell would not only be too dif­fi­cult but un­fair.”

Was it true that he went off to do a movie and fell in love with a co-star? “These things are known to hap­pen but I wouldn’t want to com­ment on it. For me, and this is go­ing to sound self­ish, but this al­bum is about me. It’s about my re­la­tion­ship, where I am in my life and some songs talk about that point. In A Life­time to Re­pair I say, ‘thought I’d set­tle down, a happy ever af­ter princess...’ But ac­tu­ally, I never thought I was the mar­ry­ing kind. I know for a lot of peo­ple it’s an im­por­tant goal. But for me it never was. I guess the thought was – that’s what peo­ple do. Maybe I’ll give it a try. But ei­ther it isn’t for me or it was the wrong per­son.

“I was swept up in the mo­ment and not afraid to ad­mit that. To go back to the lyrics of A Life­time to Re­pair

I say, ‘I’m not giv­ing up on it’ and I’ll prob­a­bly do fool­ish things again in the fu­ture. Oth­er­wise I might as well stay at home and get lots of cats.”

There’s a long pause. “I’ve got lots of cats,” I say. “Have you?” she shrieks

“I never thought I was the mar­ry­ing kind... I was swept up in the mo­ment.”

in­cred­u­lously and we both burst into laugh­ter. “But you don’t just stay home. I mean no of­fence to mul­ti­ple cat lov­ing peo­ple who stay home, but I think my great­est fear is lone­li­ness, even though some­times I crave to be alone. Maybe more so as I get older. I just want some quiet.

“I think the end of be­ing in the re­la­tion­ship was the hard­est part. The de­ci­sion mak­ing. Af­ter­wards peo­ple were go­ing, ‘I hope you’re okay af­ter this break-up,’ and I thought, you know, I am okay. Once it was done it was a re­lief to both of us, be­cause it’s hard. You hang on to what is good and it’s hard to let go.”

She nods, know­ing it’s a sit­u­a­tion that most peo­ple have been in. Do I stay or do I go? It’s also come at a par­tic­u­lar time of life. Kylie turns 50 at the end of May. “Golden, not old, not young, but golden. I know it sounds a lit­tle fan­tas­ti­cal but it’s true. You can’t make your­self younger.

You are who you are and it makes sense to me in a re­al­is­tic and slightly ex­is­ten­tial man­ner.”

By this she means, I think, she is not go­ing to be daunted at the prospect of reach­ing 50, and that mile­stone doesn’t mean she won’t have fun or ex­cite­ment or love in her life.

“I’m al­ways asked how do I feel about be­ing my age in this in­dus­try, and I think by ask­ing me that you’re per­pet­u­at­ing the cy­cle, the myth that you can’t be older. By the same to­ken, they also asked me how it feels to be 18 and in this in­dus­try when I was start­ing out. I don’t know be­cause I had noth­ing to com­pare it to.”

On Golden there’s a sense of the pas­sage of time, an ur­gent need to live in the mo­ment, which is per­haps a re­sult of her can­cer di­ag­no­sis and sur­vival. Is that how can­cer changed her? Need­ing to live in the mo­ment? “No. I think it’s just where I am right now. I don’t think I would have sung those things 10 or 15 years ago.

I want ev­ery­thing I’m singing to be au­then­tic. Ev­ery story to come from a real feel­ing.”

That is an in­ter­est­ing cir­cle. In Kylie’s be­gin­ning she was dis­missed as a man­u­fac­tured pop star and now she’s de­scrib­ing her­self as a woman who craves truth, au­then­tic­ity. She is al­low­ing her­self to be open. All the songs have a truth in them.

“For in­stance, Ra­dio On, I didn’t take a spe­cific drive, put the ra­dio on and cry, but we’ve all been there and I just feel strength­ened that I’m at a point in my life where I can look at things real­is­ti­cally.”

Does she feel anx­ious about get­ting older? “I’d be ly­ing if I said I never think about it. Sure. High heels and walk­ing down the stairs, my knees make sure I know about it. They’re go­ing, how much longer are we go­ing to be do­ing this? The heels come off as soon as I get home. But I do feel bet­ter within my­self. A lot of peo­ple I know are turn­ing 50 or have turned 50 re­cently and one thing that seems to ring true for all of us is to think, this is me. Not a num­ber, but this is me. I’m turn­ing an­other cor­ner of who I am. And a lot of things start to make sense. Things that you can’t have known when you were younger.”

When women ap­proach 50 they fear the un­known, menopause, but Kylie had that in her 30s as a re­sult of her treat­ment for breast can­cer. “Oh yes, I know about those things al­ready,” she nods with a gri­mace. In fact, she told me ev­ery­thing about it at the time when I ques­tioned why she was car­ry­ing a fan around with her. She told me I would soon be car­ry­ing that fan and she was right.

“You are flum­moxed, you are hot and you for­get what you’re say­ing.” So at least she doesn’t have to worry about that, as she’s al­ready had it. “I don’t have it now but I know what to ex­pect.” What? You’re go­ing to get it again? “Prob­a­bly I will, yes, be­cause the first one was med­i­cally in­duced. So, when the time comes, at least I know what it will be like.” That’s re­ally un­fair, I tell her. “I know! They didn’t re­move my ovaries or any­thing like that. They just sup­pressed my oe­stro­gen and once you stop the med­i­ca­tion, once you’re past a cer­tain pe­riod, it comes back. So, I’ll be back in the fridge. A friend of mine a bit older than me used to go to the fridge, open it and stand in front of it. I’m un­der no il­lu­sion as to what’s in store.”

Of course, can­cer af­fected her life in so many ways, but does she feel that there was one over­rid­ing thing that changed her? “Whaaat? That ques­tion is so hard. I don’t think I’m cut out for in­ter­views. I mean this is my life, but the in­ter­view bit... whoa. Okay, this is what hap­pened... I wish I had a sound bite but the truth is a lot of things hap­pened. You’re in that mo­ment try­ing to get through... I felt a lot of guilt with my fam­ily be­cause they felt help­less. They weren’t, be­cause their strength was im­por­tant to me. It was tough to see them hurt­ing so much and putting on a brave face. I don’t know how much they cried or how much they hurt out of my sight be­cause they just couldn’t show that to me then.”

Did she feel she couldn’t show her pain? “Oh, there were times, more than a cou­ple of times that I re­ally did. Now I’m just go­ing to say clichéd things but per­haps that’s all right. You take a look at the big­ger pic­ture, what’s im­por­tant to you, who is im­por­tant to you, what you want to do dif­fer­ently, al­though I didn’t want to do any­thing dif­fer­ently. I just wanted to get bet­ter and get on with it. But I did re­alise that I like what I do, love what I do even, and some­times the good points come from beau­ti­ful mo­ments of con­nec­tion. I’ve got pretty good fans. They’re kind. I had a cabby the other day – I had an ap­point­ment but I re­ally wanted to get a good cof­fee and there’s a place just near my house. I thought do I have time to go there or maybe I can get the cab driver to di­vert for the cof­fee. It’s only three blocks away but the weather was side­ways so I asked him. He said, ‘Hey, of course. I want to thank you. You sent my daugh­ter a pic­ture. I re­mem­bered I’d been in that cab be­fore and he’d said it would be such a thrill for his daugh­ter to have some­thing, so I took his name and ad­dress and I said don’t prom­ise her in case it goes miss­ing or some­thing. But he said, ‘We got it, we framed it and wrapped it up and she opened it on her birth­day and burst into tears.’ It was a beau­ti­ful mo­ment. So that’s why I say if you’re not go­ing to give it ev­ery­thing, you may as well not be here.”

Menopause, break-ups, tak­ing off heels, can­cer. Mis­er­able sub­jects, yet we were laugh­ing. Laugh­ter, friends, mu­sic, fam­ily – that’s how she dealt with ev­ery­thing.

I ask, is she dat­ing now? “No,” she says, semi-firmly.

Does she want to? “Some days I think yes and other days I think I just don’t want a boyfriend right now. It sounds a cliché but I’m not look­ing for cats ei­ther.”

We have more tea. I no­tice there’s not a line on her face. Her com­plex­ion is gor­geous. Would she ever have work done? “One of my ab­so­lute idols is Jane Fonda and the way she has han­dled it is ad­mirable. I re­mem­ber her say­ing some­thing like it’s 80 per cent ge­net­ics, 10 per cent tak­ing care of your­self and 10 per cent a good sur­geon, so if and when the time comes, I’ll be tak­ing a leaf out of Jane Fonda’s book. I’m not pro or against any­thing. I’m a bit lazy, to be hon­est. Just to­day I was look­ing in a mag­ni­fy­ing mir­ror putting on mas­cara and I said to the guy do­ing my make-up, I think I need to do some­thing, which of course I won’t get round to do­ing, and in a flurry it may hap­pen. I think you can do min­i­mal stuff when you’re golden.

“But I do love to cleanse my face. I have to get ev­ery­thing off. And I love a good sun­block. I’m hi­lar­i­ous. I love to be by the beach but I reap­ply all the time, un­der the tree with a hat, fully cov­ered, swat­ting mos­qui­toes. But I love the vibes of the sea and

I get my­self a bit of vi­ta­min D. In Australia you re­ally can’t man­age stay­ing out of the sun that much.”

Of course, this al­bum will come with a tour, a world tour, and she will be back down un­der for that.

Kylie has chan­nelled her heart­break into Golden, her new al­bum.

CLOCKWISE, FROM ABOVE: Kylie with then fi­ancé Joshua Sasse at the 2016 ARIA awards; at­tend­ing the Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous: The Movie pre­miere in 2016; Kylie in London in 2005 while bat­tling breast can­cer.

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