Australian soul singer Renee Geyer has garnered a formidable reputation throughout her 35-year musical career, often playing up to her image as something of a prickly diva. She even named a 1994 album Difficult Woman.

It came as a surprise, then, that Geyer was such an utterly charming interviewee -” the singer certainly doesn’t suffer fools, but she was quick to laugh at her slightly scary reputation.

It may have helped that this scribe introduced himself as a writer for a gay publication.
Good! I was wondering where you all were, she exclaimed.

We’ve been hiding?

No, I see a lot of gay people at my shows. There’s a major gay fan base out there, but I never seem to speak to the gay press.

Geyer is about to embark on a tour to promote her 23rd album, punningly titled Reneessance, which features stripped-back recordings of some of her best-loved songs, including Heading In The Right Direction and Say I Love You.

I already have a lot of Best ofs out there, but I’d been doing a lot of acoustic shows so I thought it’d be great to have a go at it on record. When you have a really good song, it’s going to sound good in any format, she said.

And I’ve finally used the name Reneessance -” it’s something I’ve been asked to call a record for 30 years now, and I’ve always resisted because it’s been so obvious. But this was about putting these songs down in a new way and then moving on.

Often singers who start their careers with pure, clear vocals face criticism as their voices inevitably age. But Geyer had a pack-a-day voice from the moment she hit the scene, something she feels has worked in her favour.

My voice is ten times better now. That’s my opinion, and apparently people agree with me. What do you think?

Listening to Reneessance, it’s hard to disagree -” her new interpretation of James Brown’s classic It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World is jaw-dropping, her supple voice soaring through the song.

I asked Geyer when she first knew she was blessed with such a powerful instrument.

When I was really young. I just knew. Singing into my hairbrush in the lounge room when I was 14, I’d watch singers on TV and say -˜I’m better than them.’ But I was meant to go to university like my older brothers, then meet a nice Jewish boy and become a housewife -” that was the plan for me, she recalled.

Despite the stripped-back nature of her new album, Geyer said fans shouldn’t expect a low-key performance when they see her on tour: I’m never low-key. She also scoffed at any notion that she would ever tire of singing her classic hits.

I don’t sing anything I don’t want to sing, and I never have. Anyone who knows me, knows that, much to their chagrin.

info: Renee Geyer plays The Basement, Circular Quay, on June 17 & 18.

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