Delta Lea Goodrem was born in Sydney in 1984, two months prematurely, after her mother was involved in a serious auto accident and admitted to hospital. Her parents Lea and Denis were inspired to name her Delta after attending a Joe Cocker concert when Lea Goodrem was pregnant, and the Sheffield wild man sang Delta Lady, a song written by Leon Russell and inspired by his then-muse, Rita Coolidge. From the get-go Delta was a showbiz kid, she had dancing, singing and piano lessons, appeared in her first advertisement at age 7, and guested on such TV series as Hey Dad, A Country Practice, and Police Rescue. Below – Delta with parents Lea and Denis , Delta with Lea and brother Trent, and with her first manager Glenn Wheatley
At thirteen years of age she submitted several demo tracks via the Sydney Swans AFL Football Club, to one of their Directors, Glenn Wheatley. At the time Glenn was John Farnham’s manager, and he ultimately signed her to a contract with Empire Records and introduced her to record producers Paul Higgins and Trevor Carter, who collaborated with Delta throughout 1999-2000 on what was to be her debut album. Below L-R Paul Higgins and Trevor Carter
The precocious fifteen-year-old, who preferred to play the piano shoeless, was taking her initial musical cues from Elton John, the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and Mandy Moore, and she completed what was thought to be her debut album, Delta, in 2000. By then she was only sixteen years old, but this record has never been released, Delta was contractually tied to Empire Records and its recording house Studio 52, a Melbourne-based company, as no other label had shown interest in signing her to that stage.
The songs on the now-unreleased Delta album were mostly written by Trevor Carter and were a collection of standard pop songs, which the label hoped would promote Delta as a Britney Spears clone, in what Delta regarded as an overly- sexualized image, which she apparently resisted. Carter and Higgins sought recompense for their creative efforts and commenced litigation against Goodrem and her parents to secure a release of the album, a share of the royalties flowing therefrom, and a percentage of all royalties subsequently generated by Goodrem on recordings she subsequently made for Sony, on the grounds that the Empire contract predated Delta’s Sony deal. The case was eventually settled in mediation, with Carter and Higgins receiving an unspecified payout in return for undertaking not to release the earlier recordings, this ensured the album would never see the light of day, and it seemed that Team Delta were airbrushing history here, right from the start. Below – Delta and mother Lea.
Glenn Wheatley has admitted that his first assessment of Delta Goodrem was that she was very young and therefore immature, possessed a potentially great voice, but lacked the kittenish sex appeal of a Britney Spears, or the teasing girl-next-door allure of a Kylie Minogue, and her mother Lea was very involved in the management of her daughter’s career, a stage mother with great ambitions for Delta; even though she personally lacked the experience and skills to guide her daughter’s career. In 2003 Wheatley would realize just how much maternal control Lea aspired to when she personally sacked Wheatley and became Delta’s “momanager” herself. Below- Delta as Nina Tucker in Neighbors
At sixteen Delta was signed to Sony Music, two years later she was playing the role of a shy schoolgirl and aspiring singer Nina Tucker, in the TV soap Neighbours, in a customized role where art was imitating life, to a script originally devised by her manager Glenn Wheatley.
Her debut single in 2001, was a cover of a dancefloor pop song entitled I Don’t Care, a standard tween-pop confection, co-written by Aussie Steve Kipner for inclusion on Angel Via’s debut album in 2000, and produced for Delta by Vince Pizzinga who would become a fixture on Team Delta into the future. It was an attempt at a Britney One More Time sound-a-like but only charted at #63, the video depicted Delta in rural setting rebelling against her father and hooking up with a cute bad boy lover, the couple head for the bush on a motorcycle, frolic in the scrub, he presents her with ribbons tied around trees, and then they meandered off into an uncertain future, which was just about where Delta’s career was at that time.
The failure of the single, and the lack of any real chemistry between Delta on screen and the viewers, caused Team Goodrem to re-evaluate her future musical direction, and how best to re-define her image going forward. At this time the Neighbours role was giving Goodrem valuable exposure locally and in the UK where the TV soap had a huge audience of 8 million viewers every evening. Goodrem also made the smart move to focus on ballads and place herself at the piano for future appearances, and in her promo videos she would leave the dancefloor antics to others with a little more fluidity and animal grace. Delta Goodrem would very quickly become the brightest young singing star in the country with hit albums and singles here and overseas, she was beautiful, had a powerful soprano voice, played piano, possessed a great work ethic, and was writing most of her own material, her future was assured, and for a while there seemed that nothing could deflect her on the path to global superstardom, or was there?