Fifteen years ago Shannon Noll was another one of the locals from the small, rural town of Condobolin in New South Wales, but a run on the inaugural season of Australian Idol changed all that. Even though he didn’t take the top spot on Australian Idol, it has meant that he is now known affectionately to throngs of fans, fans who have waited over six years since the release of A Million Suns for a new album from the singer.
As Noll prepared for the release of his fifth record Unbroken, he took some time to answer our questions about what he has been up to in the intervening years, how his process has changed, and what advice he has for others in rural areas who hope to make it big.
Haydon Benfield: Hey Shannon, congratulations on your new album, Unbroken, and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s been over six years – which is almost an eternity in the pop world – since you last released an album, why the long break? What have you been up to in that time?
Shannon Noll: Yeah it sure has been a long time between drinks but I really wanted to make sure I had the right songs before recording again. I’ve also chased management and record labels and now just feels right and the songs feel right which to me is the most important thing.
HB: What’s the meaning behind the album title, Unbroken?
SN: Just the fact that after 15 years in the industry I’m still here, the live shows are going great and feel any of the obstacles that have been put in front of me haven’t stopped me.
HB: The album contains a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son. What drew you to covering this song?
SN: It’s a song I’ve always loved and have been playing it live for the past twelve months and the crowds have loved it and really get into so I thought why not include it as a recording on the album!
HB: Are there any specific songs on the new record that stand out for you as being more personal or meaningful than others and if so, why?
SN: Take It Back simply because I reckon it will be awesome to do live, I’m really looking forward to that!
HB: In the years since you took second place on the first season of Australian Idol, has your songwriting process changed and if so, how?
SN: I think I’ve learnt a lot since then. I’m more involved now and I want the songs to tell my story.
HB: Speaking of Australian Idol, a couple of years back “Shannon Noll was robbed of winning Australian Idol” gained some traction on social media and a petition was raised to have you added to the Groovin’ the Moo festival line-up. How did it make you feel to have to see this outpouring of support on the internet? Does a sense of competition still remain between you and Guy?
SN: It was really nice to see the support and people actively getting behind me but I’ve never thought I was robbed. Guy and I have remained mates since that very unique experience and we support each other’s successes, he is an amazing talent and always has been!
HB: When you were growing up in a small rural community, did you ever imagine that you would end up having a music career that would span over fifteen years?
SN: You can always dream but you never know what the reality will be, I have been really lucky and it’s the fans that have allowed me to have a career. I never forget where I’ve come from.
HB: What would you say to someone from a remote or regional area that wanted to make it in the music business? Any words of advice, or tips and tricks?
SN: It’s a tough business and you’ll have your ups and downs and most importantly trust your own instincts and gut because being a business some people are just in it for the money but if you want a career you need to love what you do and be passionate!
HB: Who inspired you to pursue music? And who has been your biggest influence?
SN: Mum and Dad were musical and my brothers are too so it’s always been something in the family. For me my greatest influences are the icons that have made our country musically like Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham and John Williamson… you can’t beat them!
HB: When you’re touring, is there a specific town or venue that you feel a special affinity with?
SN: Not really, it’s all about the vibe from the audience.
HB: Are there plans to tour Australia and possibly further afield?
SN: For sure, we’re working on dates and location for a full national Unbroken tour right now.
HB: If you had to nominate one song from Unbroken as a must listen, which one would it be and why?
SN: If you love Australia like I do then have Southern Sky on repeat I reckon.
HB: What do you feel has been your greatest professional achievement to date?
SN: The fact I’m still working and loving it after 15 years and have a great team around me professionally is something I’m pretty proud of.
HB: Thanks for your time today Shannon.
Shannon Noll’s fifth album Unbroken is out now.