Ricki-Lee Coulter is upbeat. Complimented on a debut single that bears the influence of R&B diva Beyonc?she claps excitedly.

Just as cheerful is Coulter’s I’m so excited when asked about an appearance at Arq this Sunday to launch that single. Even her appearance on oddball reality TV show Celebrity Circus takes on a happy sheen.

Some people were thinking it’s suicide -“ you’re doing a circus show, Coulter said. [But] it put me back in people’s heads again and refreshed people about me, and it was just fun.

All this enthusiasm should be the perfect fit for an ambitious young singer on the cusp of her solo debut. But to see Coulter so effervescent is a surprise, for this 19-year-old is more commonly associated with a far less happy occasion.

A hot favourite to win Australian Idol last year, Coulter met with a shock rejection before Casey Donovan went on to take the crown.

Could Coulter’s new single Hell No! and its themes of defiance and frustration be a comment on the Idol experience?

Everybody has had that one time that you remember where everything is going wrong at once, and you just want to scream and you want to pull your hair out, Coulter said of the inspiration for Hell No!

Or another meaning you could take is when you’re on a big hit TV show and you get kicked off. What do you say to that? Hell no.

And while Coulter, back in high spirits now, said her experience on Australian Idol helped build her profile, her shock ejection jarred.

It was hard at the time because it’s your life, it’s what you’re doing, it’s everything, Coulter said.

So it is a big deal and it’s disappointing [to be kicked off Idol] and anyone who says that they weren’t disappointed is just saying that.

You’re taken out of your normal life and thrown into this new life and then all of a sudden they’re spitting you back out again.

Having seen the white-hot hype surrounding Idol winners Guy Sebastian and Casey Donovan grow cool, however, Coulter is warier of the reality TV production line nowadays.

It was a blessing in disguise that I got out when I did because I got to be Ricki-Lee now, not Ricki-Lee from Australian Idol, she said.
I don’t want to be looked at as a product. I want to be looked at as Ricki-Lee and [I want people to say] -˜she can sing’ or -˜that’s a great song’.

With Guy and Casey, they’re always known as the Australian Idol, and Anthony [Callea] is always going to be the runner-up. It’s going to be really hard to shake that tag.

You’re always going to be known for that, but I really want to try and carve out my own name in the music industry.

Performing at Arq may be one way to secure solo success, at least in the eyes of gay fans, whom Coulter calls the best crowd and the best audience. And she reckons her larger-than-life stage persona explains her following.

I think it’s just because I do the diva thing. I love the fake eyelashes and the bling bling. I’m a fun, happy person, Coulter said.

I love dressing up and singing big, kick-arse diva things, and I think that’s probably why.

That, and a willingness to engage in some good-humoured self-effacement.

I’m pooing my pants. I’m really nervous. I don’t know what to expect, she said about the impending release of Hell No!
It’s like being thrown into the unknown. But I just hope people like it.

Hell No! is released on 13 June through Shock Records.

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