It was one of the first concerts for Natalie Imbruglia and her friends.
After taking the train to Sydney from the central coast of New South Wales, they raced through the city streets to get to the INXS concert.
“We were really close to the front of the stage,” she remembers.
“It was when the hormones were raging, and I just remember us all screaming for Michael.
“It was the rock god’s sexy thing.”
But Imbruglia didn’t just spend the night admiring singer Michael Hutchence.
She stared out into the crowd, dreaming of trading places with those on stage.
“Recently a photographer posted a photo on Instagram and I was tagged in it,” she says.
“I see this image of me in the front row of this show, and I literally feel like I’m studying, ‘How do I get up there?’
“Oh, my God, I just wanted to be up there and do what he does.”
About a decade later, she was.
An early passion
From the beginning of her life, there was no doubt about what Imbruglia wanted to do when she grew up.
“I used to say I wanted to be a star, which makes me cringe now,” she says.
“But also, (I’m) really envious of the confidence I had.
“It boggles your mind, I think, in an industry like this.”
Imbruglia quickly realized that not everyone had such certainty about their future.
“I remember arguing with my sister Carla, my older sister, about it,” she says.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, don’t be so ridiculous. Everyone knows what they want to do.’
“She looked at me deadpan and said, ‘No, you’re not, and you’re really lucky and you should appreciate it.’
“I never realized that for some people it was like a lifelong task trying to figure out what they wanted to be, what they wanted to do.”
Undeterred by his parents’ refusal to enroll him in voice lessons, Imbruglia pursued his craft in his own way – sometimes staging Whitney Houston performances in the backyard or attempting to imitate Karen’s voice. Carpenter on road trips with his family.
Take back your power
His self-confidence and determination paid off.
Imbruglia went from being a girl in front of the crowd to a star on stage.
Her debut album Left of the Middle and 1997 single Torn propelled her to the top of the world charts.
“It was a mixture of gratitude, terror and excitement,” Imbruglia recalls.
But while realizing a childhood dream and moving to the UK may seem like the pinnacle of success, the intensity of the experience was not what she had imagined.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ve always found the celebrity side difficult,” she says.
“I became very paranoid, moved to Windsor and hid.
“I think the pressure to live up to it was difficult, but also incredible.”
Despite his determination, powerful voice and commercial success, Imbruglia was not immune to having his worth questioned by those in the music and media industries.
She answered questions about the connection between her success and her looks and shares that on one occasion she was asked to audition in a bikini for a guest TV spot.
“I found him really terrible and dysmorphic,” she says.
Imbruglia has spoken openly about her history of body dysmorphia and told Take 5 that it started long before she became famous.
After this hearing, Imbruglia found his voice and the confidence to resist.
“I would go and do a photo shoot and I wouldn’t want to wear these dresses,” she says.
“I wanted to cover myself, and that was a problem.
“I would ruffle feathers, but it was taking my power back.”
Imbruglia says that included choosing the clothes she wore in Torn’s music video.
“The way I was dressed and everything, well, it didn’t come out of nowhere,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Can I just wear my own clothes?’
“I think all of these things come from feeling very young, like I made bad decisions or let things happen that I wasn’t comfortable with.”
Reopening the “floodgates of creativity”
More recently, Imbruglia opened up about years spent battling writer’s block after being dropped by her label.
She returned to music with her 2021 album Firebird, which was a proud moment for her and proof that she could overcome her songwriting difficulties.
“A lot of my stifled creativity kicked in,” Imbruglia says.
“It’s been a long, difficult five years leading up to this moment.”
Another important factor that allowed her to unleash her creativity is deciding to become a mother and have her son in 2019.
“I didn’t really realize that it could also seriously affect my songwriting,” says Imbruglia.
Wanting to become a mother but feeling like she “might not make it” had a direct impact on Imbruglia’s songwriting.
“Even if you try to ignore it as a woman – and I know a lot of women will relate to this… it’s a basic need, a want (or) a desire,” she says.
“You can see how this could have also opened the floodgates of creativity once this was in place.”
Although this creativity is what makes Imbruglia thrive, she has abandoned the fear of business failure in favor of another driving force: finding happiness.
“A lot of my ambition is dead,” she says.
“When you have overnight success, you realize there’s no place to get there. There’s no point where you’ve made it.
“I love making music and getting excited about things that could happen without any expectations.”
Despite the challenges her career has placed on her, Imbruglia says if she had time again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Because the worst things that happened to me, on the other hand, it’s so much better,” she says.
“And really, I just want to be happy.”
Watch Natalie Imbruglia on Take 5 tonight, 8 p.m. on ABC TV or on ABC iview And listen to the extended conversation on the Take 5 podcast on the ABC listening app.