In the five years since Dami Im won The X-Factor (Australia), she has proven to be one of Australia’s most versatile and talented performers, with chart-topping pop hits, reinterpretations of Karen Carpenter classics and domination of the Eurovision stage on her varied list of career highs. She now takes on the role of jazz singer on her fifth studio album, I Hear a Song, released today. A collection of twelve cover versions originally recorded by some of the most iconic female singers in music history, plus two original tracks, all interpreted in a jazz style, the album has given Im the chance make music in a more organic style. Women In Pop recently met with Dami to discuss the new album and her upcoming tour.
Hi Dami! When Women In Pop last spoke to you in late 2016 you told us on your next album you wanted to go back to your roots – just you and a piano – and use your jazz vocal training. It all makes sense now …
After that chat is when it really started coming together. I was referring more to my music in a generic sense as well as this specific album. I’m heading towards something that is closer to my roots and something that I feel really connects with myself. This album is the beginning of that process, of going in that direction.
Why did you choose to record the songs that you did?
It was important for me that the whole album reflected myself as a musician. The songs are obviously songs I really connect with or I’ve loved for a number of years. But they all had to feel natural to me when I did my versions. Some songs I can try and sing, but it feels forced and like I’m copying [another] version – those songs didn’t make it onto the album. The ones that did, they’re the ones I felt really strongly about in terms of my performance.
You recorded the album in an old-school way, where you were recorded singing and playing the piano live. What was that experience like for you?
The good thing was I could just feel really comfortable, and we could capture the sound in a more natural way because I’m used to playing and singing together. We tried recording [piano and vocal] separately as well, and even though I could play and sing in a cleaner way, it just didn’t seem to have the same vibe or feel. For each song we did about three takes and then chose our favourite one.
You recorded the album in Nashville. What was that like?
I really love Nashville. It was actually my second time there. I was there earlier last year – I had another gig in Orlando and then my manager was going to Nashville and I said I’d come and hang around. I didn’t really have any work to do. I just looked around the city and listened to all the music and I really liked it. It’s a small city, so it’s got a nice feeling. Everyone’s so friendly. It was great to record there. Having world-class musicians available who we could work with was a privilege.
How long did the album take to record?
I was there for just over two weeks. I recorded all my parts, vocals and piano, and then I also watched them put the band together. Rick Price, who produced the album, lives there, so he did the final edit and all of that.
You’ll be touring in April to promote the album – what can we expect from your live shows?
They’ll be quite different to what I’ve done in the past. I’ll be going to more jazzy venues – the Basement in Sydney, the Chapel in Melbourne, the Powerhouse in Brisbane – which I love. I’ll be doing an intimate jazz show with my five-piece jazz band. It won’t be boring jazz because I can’t call myself a proper jazz artist, really –I’m just an artist who sings solos for twenty minutes! It’s more pop music with a jazz vibe and colour. It’ll be fun to experience that again and sing in little jazzy venues, like I used to ages ago.
It’s almost Eurovision Song Contest time again. Have you been involved this year?
I judged the pre-rounds for Czech Republic and Slovenia, which was fun. The song that I gave twelve points [maximum points] to for the Czech Republic actually made it through. It’s a really cool song. The song I picked for Slovenia didn’t make it through, but the song that did is great – it’s got a really cool dance break.
Do you have any favourites this year?
Obviously Australia, with Jess [Mauboy] – that will be fun to see. And I guess the Czech Republic, because I chose that song. It’s my fault!
I Hear a Song is available now through Sony Music. You can buy the album on iTunes or stream on Spotify