The all-out disco assault of Gabriella Cilmi’s new single, On A Mission, is a long way from the laidback pop of her chart-topping 2008 debut single, Sweet About Me. And watching Cilmi vamp it up as a futuristic space diva in the video clip, it’s hard to believe she only turned 18 in October.
She’s not all glitter and glamour though — when Sydney Star Observer spoke to the Dandenong-born singer, across time zones from her London home, both interviewer and interviewee admitted we were in our PJs.
“We’re having our very own pyjama party,” Cilmi giggled.
Her sophomore album Ten, released this week, sees Cilmi branch out from British production house Xenomania, who masterminded her debut. Along with a lone Xenomania track (brilliant future single Hearts Don’t Lie) sit collaborations with top-shelf producers like Greg Kurstin and Dallas Austin.
“Greg and I wrote a song called Superman together — there’s kind of a superhero theme to the whole record. And I worked with Dallas in Atlanta, so I decided I wanted to write a country-hip-hop song. He played the guitar while I yodelled.
“Somehow, this track that probably shouldn’t sound good, he made sound good. It ended up getting a bit of disco magic in the end too, so it’d fit in with the rest of the album.”
So why the switch to disco? Sure, Cilmi was only born in 1991 — well over a decade after the sounds of Studio 54 fizzled out — but the girl’s done her homework.
“One of my band members gave me a Donna Summer record, I Remember Yesterday, and I loved the sound. I started getting into things like Flashdance — Giorgio Moroder, who produced all that stuff, inspired the sound of the record.
“I wanted to make something that would make people groove live, something where I could put on a great show with amazing costumes.”
And with On A Mission an early contender for campest song of the year, Cilmi said she was waiting to see a drag interpretation of the track.
“The song was actually inspired by I Will Survive, which is one of my favourite songs ever. I wanted to write something strong and empowering, so I’d love to see a drag performance of it.”
Cilmi’s debut album, Lessons to be Learned, earned her a massive six ARIA awards two years ago. While early signs indicate her follow-up might be met with a more muted response (Mission has so far hung around the lower reaches of the top 20), she said she was trying not to think about the dreaded ‘second album curse’.
And as for those six ARIAs?
“I keep most of them up really high out of reach, because I’m afraid they could be used as weapons — they’re really sharp! And I keep one under my bed, just in case anyone breaks in while I’m sleeping. I can come at them with my ARIA.”
info: Ten (Warner Music) out March 19.