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Interview with Ricki-Lee Coulter: on her love for music, performance, drag and independence

Singer Ricki-Lee Coulter has confidence in spades. On her new single On My Own – where you’d think the title alone would lead to a song of sad sentiment – she instead comes across as bold, proud, headstrong.

On the phone to Cream, Ricki-Lee chats about the joys of performing on stage, working on herself in all facets of her career, and how she finds flattery in drag queens’ routines of her music (and who wouldn’t?).

Interview by Antonino Tati


Hi Ricki. Do I call you Ricki or Ricki-Lee?

Whatever you like, really. On the birth certificate it’s with a hyphen, named after Ricki-Lee Jones.


So your Mum liked Ricki-Lee Jones?

Yep, Chuckie’s In Love was her favourite song.


Then you might be familiar with a song called Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb that samples snippets of an interview with Ricki-Lee Jones, put to psychedelic dance music.

No, but I need to familiarise myself with it, for sure!


Seeing as you’re named after the woman, you seriously need to hear it. It’s a cult rave classic.

Wow, I love the sound of it.


Incidentally, what genres of music did you grow up listening to?

I grew up listening to a lot of Motown and old-school R&B. Even old soul music, like The Temptations. Then I was obsessed with Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Boys II Men… that kind of stuff I absolutely loved.


“Yes, I have an amazing team of people that I work with, but I’m certainly not an artist that’s a puppet.”


Bringing it closer to music of today: one [critic] described you as a cross between Beyoncé and Kylie. Would you agree to that, so far as your sound goes?

That is a huge compliment to me. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Beyoncé and Kylie so to be mentioned in that league is a huge compliment. Of course as artists, we draw from the people that we listen to. I’ve been inspired my whole life by so many artists: Janet to Gaga, Madonna to Katy Perry. And P!nk. All people who are out-there, outspoken and strong. People who are unafraid to say what they think and be the person they are. They don’t hide from that nor censor or filter themselves.


Would you say there’s a certain degree of packaging involved with presenting an artist to [their] audience today?

Well, I don’t see myself as a product or package. I see myself as an artist from the ground up: from writing the songs to producing them, to coming up with the concepts of my videos. Yes, I have an amazing team of people that I work with, but I am in control of all of that so I’m certainly not an artist that’s a puppet.



Basically, I always have been a confident person, but nowadays I really know what I like and what I don’t. And I think I’m a bit more fearless with everything in my life; I’ll try things now that I never have before. With fashion, I don’t try to please anyone else with what I wear. I just wear what I like. And to me, fashion’s just another extension of your creativity as an artist and as a person.


Who are a few of your favourite Australian designers?

I really like Manning Cartell. I like Scanlan & Theodore. I wear lots of Willow, and there are plenty of others. There are some amazing Australian designers out there.


“Basically, I always have been a confident person, but nowadays I really know what I like and what I don’t.”



What’s the most bizarre place where you’ve heard one of your songs being played?

I might be at a gay club with some friends, and when the drag queens are up there doing a show to one of my songs, that is the most bizarre and beautiful thing. They dress up like you, and get a costume designed to look like one right out of your video. I mean, a man dressed up as a woman, miming along to your own song: it’s amazing and I love it. And as they say, imitation is the [highest] form of flattery.


So it’s always a compliment, yeah?



Is variety the name of the game in music these days? Do you have to constantly reinvent yourself to appeal to a broad range of people?

Not really, because I think everyone seeks out what they like. You just have to stay true to who you are as an artist and true to your style and your own values, and those that relate to it will be drawn to it.


Ricki-Lee’s new single On My Own is out now.


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