I Don’t Care (S Kipner/D Frank/P Sheyne) 2001 and Born to Try (D Goodrem/A Mtawarira) 2002 and Lost Without You (M Gerrard/B Benenate) – Delta Goodrem 2003
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. Below L-R – Young Delta with parents Lea and Denis, Delta and Lea with brother Trent, Delta and manager Glenn Wheatley.
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. At thirteen years of age she submitted several demo tracks via the Sydney Swans AFL Football Club, to one of their Directors, Glen Wheatley. At the time Glen 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 – 1993 appearance in Hey Dad, 1999 2x Shots for debut record release.
The precocious fifteen-year-old, who liked to play piano shoeless, was taking her initial musical cues from Elton John, the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and Mandy Moore, and she completed what was intended 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 company had shown interest in signing her to that stage. Below – Empire Records Paul Higgins and Trevor Carter
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.
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 as Delta’s manager and took over the reins herself. Below L-R Delta as Nina Tucker in Neighbours, Neighbours Cast Photo 02/03, Delta and Momager Lea.
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 144 episodes of the TV soap Neighbours, in a customized role where art was imitating life, to a script originally devised by 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. The cover artwork depicted Delta in low slung jeans, bed head, tank top, wih a sultry pout, could this photo be any more early ’00s? It was an attempt at a Britney One More Time sound-a-like but only charted at #63, the video depicted Delta 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 seemed assured, and for a while it seemed that there was nothing that could deflect her on the path to global superstardom, or was there?
Between 2001-2003 Delta worked with many different songwriters and producers to create her debut studio album, Innocent Eyes, she also recorded internationally at no less than eight different studio locations – the Cove City Sound Studios (New York), Mansfield Lodge Studios (Los Angeles), Sing, Sing Studios, and Metropolis Studios (Melbourne), Studio 301 (Sydney), Olympic Studios and True North Studios (UK) and The Lab (Santa Monica). Innocent Eyes would be one of the most stunningly successful debut albums ever recorded by an Australian artist, released in 2003 it went straight to #1 in Australia, #2 in the UK, #6 in NZ, top twenty in six European countries, sold 4.5 million copies worldwide (1.2million in Australia alone) and is the ninth largest-selling album in Australian history.
The first single released from the album was the piano-based ballad Born to Try, which was debuted by Delta in an episode of Neighbours, it was an impressive track, co-written by Goodrem and Audius Mtawarira (below), a Zimbabwean singer-songwriter who lived in Australia in 1996-2012, and had also written songs for Jessica Mauboy, Paulini and Ricki-Lee Coulter.
Lyrically the song is about finding your way in life, ignoring the naysayers, taking chances and following your dream, it had an autobiographical verisimilitude about it “Be wrong or right/ Sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice the things you like/ But I was born to try.” The lyrics were truthful and heartfelt, and Delta imbued the song with a touching naivety, while musically it was floaty, ethereal but still utterly charming, and endearing. Like many of the songs on the album, Born to Try aspired to authenticity, credibility and dramatic structure by a soft piano intro and plaintive vocals building to a more emotional and impassioned delivery, as the synth-inflected rhythms increased in tempo and the orchestration swelled and Goodrem’s crystalline soprano carried the song forward. She has said that this was the quickest she had ever written a song, that Audius Mtawarira had played a few chords and she then sang the whole song in one take, the lyrics naturally emerged, it was a magical creative moment for Delta. Richard Sanford played piano, and Russ DeSalvo played acoustic and electric guitars and synths, it was recorded in New York, and was Goodrem’s first #1 hit single and stayed on the charts for 32 weeks.
It was also an international hit, #1 in NZ, #3 in the UK and top 20 throughout Europe, sold over 500,000 copies and was awarded ARIAs for Best Single and Best Breakthrough Artist in 2003, the promo video featured footage shot in Helsinki with Delta performing at the piano and was generally praised. Below- Bridget Benenate and Matthew Gerrard
In March 2000 Lost Without You was the second single lifted off the all-conquering Innocent Eyes album, recorded in Santa Monica with producer/arranger Matthew Gerrard, it was co-written by him and American Bridget Benenate, the former had previous production credits with Kelly Clarkson, Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff and co-composer Benenate had written the mega-hit Breakaway for Kelly Clarkson and had also worked with Australia’s Batchelor Girl.
The song is a lover’s lament for a failed relationship, the girl admitting her mistakes and seeking reconciliation “I thought I had all the answers never giving in/ But baby since you’ve gone I admit that I was wrong … Oh my bed’s so cold at night and I miss you more each day/ Only you can make it right, I’m not too proud to say.”
Gerrard and Benenate arranged and recorded the music and backing vocals (Benenate) in the States, and Goodrem’s vocals were recorded in Sydney and ultimately mixed by Michael Brauer. The song opens with piano and guitars, Delta at the piano projects a more animated, vampish, sexy image in the promo video, and the song was yet another #1 hit in Australia spending 30 weeks on the charts, and top ten in NZ, Sweden, and the UK and #18 in the US, for global sales in excess of 500,000. Delta Goodrem had come straight out of the blocks with a sledgehammer album, and a seemingly endless stream of #1 hit songs that resonated globally, her future releases were much anticipated.