Jessica Mauboy is one of Australia’s most loved and exceptional entertainers. She is an all-round talent who has earned praise and admiration over the course of her ten years in the spotlight. #1’s, platinum and gold accreditations for her single and albums, international acclaim for her acting performances, tours with Beyoncé and Chris Brown, collaborations with Ricky Martin, Flo Rida, Snoop Dogg and Pitbull, 17 Aria Award nominations, 2x Aria Awards, performances for Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, representing Australia at Eurovision, performing at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, and the list goes on….
At 27 years old, Jessica Mauboy is a true-blue Australian success story.
Having already been applauded for her key acting roles in ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘Brand Nue Dae’, Jessica has just completed work on her latest project, the six-part TV series ‘The Secret Daughter’ and it’s accompanying 17-track album. It is a project that is close to Jessica’s heart, not least because the role was specifically developed with her in mind.
“The script by Screen Time first started to take shape nearly two years ago, and they came to me with the idea of getting me involved in the project,” says Jessica proudly. “They wanted to get my thoughts on the character and get deeper into who she was in terms of her interests and cultural background. They wanted to explore the ideas I could bring to the project in collaboration with them.
“Both physically and mentally I threw myself into the character development and was there throughout the fleshing out of the character and her story. I had a lot of input into the project and the writers would take my thoughts and ideas and put that into the character of Billie Carter. Her journey mirrors mine in some ways, in terms of breaking into the music industry and our shared backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the story is character-driven, but I went into my own experiences to allow that expression to evolve.”
Whilst there are similarities between Jessica and her character Billie in the series, the 27 year-old performer also has great admiration for character’s unique sense of strength.
“Billie thinks she can do it all herself, but realises in the end that she needs the people that she connects with on her way in life. I think that’s the part that really interested me. In life I’m not a tough-cookie like Billie, but I really admire her courage and that’s what drew me to her as a character. She’s rough around the edges, but she’s okay with that and doesn’t care what people think – I like that. Coming into the entertainment industries you can get really caught up in what people think about you, and I love that she has an independent spirit and self-determination of sorts.”
Continuing, Jessica unveils the story of ‘The Secret Daughter’. “A man comes to a country-town and bumps into a local singer, and events unfold for both of them that start to change their world. It’s really a family-type drama that all the members of the family can set down and watch together. It’s inspirational in a lot of ways, and doesn’t sugar-coat some of the hardships of life, but at the same time it’s really entertaining and engaging.
“It’s basically about a young girl who goes on her journey to find her path in life. She sings in a covers-band and she’s always wanted to show her own original music to the lead singer, who also happens to be her boyfriend of three years. However he’s always made it clear that the audience and the crowd always want to hear covers of familiar songs, not new material. So in a lot of ways she’s in the background and sings what she’s told to sing, but always had the ambition to sing her own music. She loves the band and performing every night, but it’s not what she wants to do for the rest of her life.”
Accompanying the series is an exhilarating new album featuring some impressive and dynamic covers of familiar songs, alongside a handful of brand new original recordings, all of which encapsulate the storyline to good effect.
“Originally, since the series is about a singer, it was just going to be an album which featured some well-known cover songs. Whilst I was getting ready for the role, and over the time I was working on my method-acting training I started to think about the song “Risk It”, produced by the guys from DNA Songs, which I had recorded earlier in the year. The lyrics of the song were parallel to the story, which we hadn’t even started to film yet, and it just seemed like a natural fit. I brought it up in one of the music-production meetings and everyone just loved it. So even though it wasn’t written specifically for the series, it tells the story of Billie Carter and what she goes through, and so it was a perfect match and a great way to launch the album and TV series.”
Together with The Secret Daughter team, her management and producer Louis Schrool, Jessica helped to finalise the tracklisting for the project, selecting songs that would convey and enhance the storyline , whilst at the same time varying the genres from pop, rock, soul and acoustic recordings.
“We really wanted to keep the songs quite raw sounding. We really wanted to match the pureness of the storyline so we either wanted to strip things back acoustically or rock-out pub-style when it helped to set the scene and tell the story.
“I remember one of the first ones to come up was Cold Chisel’s “Flame Tree” which is one of my favourite songs, and we just thought having a female version of that song would be a really new way to interpret the lyrics and bring a really interesting texture to the song.
“One of the other songs that stands out for me was the version we did of “Better Be Home Soon” by Crowded House, which was one of my picks. My mum use to play that song 24/7 and I think it works really well because there’s so much heartache in it. It has a feeling of someone trying to find themselves out of a difficult situation, and it reminds me so much of Billie’s journey.”
The album inspired by “The Secret Daughter” is equally fresh as it is familiar. It captures a salt-of-the-earth honesty that is in no doubt a reflection of its leading actress Jessica Mauboy. At the same time, it is important to note that this is a character-driven project, and the songs speak to the storyline and Billie Carter’s life and journey. Jessica Mauboy has excelled (again) in creating an artistic interpretation that takes the audience with her on an emotional and reaffirming journey of discovery.
“It was important for me to make sure these songs weren’t about Jessica Mauboy – they really had to embody the character of Billie Carter. Not all of it had to sound perfect, it should have to sound honest, and represent Billie,” Jessica says with clarity. “Generally I’m the type of artist who likes to stay in the studio for hours and hours to make my music sound the way I want it to, whereas these songs were all previously written and I just had to go into the studio and sing them as Billie Carter would. This album is all about her, not me. The little imperfections are really what make this album so interesting and honest – it’s music the way she would have recorded it. I am so proud of the work I’ve put into this project and this album, and I can’t wait to see what Australia thinks in the months ahead.”