Kylie Minogue was just 19 when she landed a record deal that would turn the soap star into a singing superstar. This year marks a quarter-century of Kylie, who’s celebrating the milestone with orchestral reinterpretations of her most popular songs on “The Abbey Road Sessions,” a greatest hits, two movies and an upcoming book chronicling her style over the last 25 years.
We hooked up with the 44-year-old pop icon to talk about those projects, the outfit she calls an “abomination,” taking a sabbatical from music and why she doesn’t want to know how she became a gay icon.
“The Abbey Road Sessions” really shows a more sophisticated side to you – one that people who only know you from your dance music might not be familiar with. Why now are you venturing out into more stylistically ambitious territory and taking risks? Is it because you’re in your 25th year and you just don’t give a crap anymore?
(Laughs) That could be a tiny bit of it! I actually recorded “The Abbey Road Sessions” late last year, knowing it would be part of what we’ve called K25. But I can’t tell you exactly why. I’ve just felt like now is as good a time as any to do these things that I’ve been harboring – these desires to do the Anti Tour and to do an orchestra album – and I managed to make them happen.
It’s not even just with music, though. You’re taking risks with film, too. You returned to acting this year in “Jack and Diane” – and you kissed a girl.
(Sings) “And I liked it”.
What was it like shooting that scene?
Blink and you’ll miss me, but I am there! (Laughs) I play a part-time flame of Riley Keough’s character, and she’s having drama with the girl she’s just met and I’m, like, the older woman.
What brought you back into the acting world?
I was based in New York for a year – when I say that, I’m never anywhere for too long – but I had an apartment in Williamsburg and I was hanging out there. It was brilliant. My acting manager in the states said, “Oh hey, there’s this independent director, Bradley Rust Gray. Do you fancy meeting him?” I met with Bradley and I said, “OK,” because that’s kind of where my head was and where my mind was heading – and then “Holy Motors” came up, and that took it to the next level.
Did you study any lesbian flicks, like “Bound” or “The Hours”, to prepare for your lesbian role in “Jack and Diane”?
(Laughs) No, I just went with instinct.
You’ve kissed a girl before anyway. Remember smooching Geri Halliwell in 2001?
Oh, that’s right! That’s true, I hadn’t thought about that. (Laughs) It was just very straightforward. It’s a film about a couple of girls who fall in love, and I was a momentary wake-up call for Riley’s character. We never discussed it – the kissing or anything. It just all happened.
What does your hot Spanish boyfriend think of your lady lovin’?
(Laughs) He hasn’t seen it. I don’t think he minded at the time. He’s very open-minded, which is good.
A lot of people who are working the same job for as long as you have might move on to something else. In these 25 years, was there ever a moment – maybe during your battle with cancer in 2005 – where you thought about … going off and living in Taos, New Mexico? Somewhere easy, somewhere kind of mystical?
Maybe for a brief moment, but no, I was just eager to finish what I’d started. I wanted to get back on stage, and I wanted to be better and stronger and not as stressed-out as I always was. I wanted to make it work for me as well as working for “it.” So no, I’m really so fortunate that I have a lot of different types of opportunities – thank god, because otherwise I would be off! That’s why I’m doing so many different things, and fortunately my audience understands that about me and almost expects it of me these days. It’s harmonious. It’s not like I go off and do something and they just think, “She’s just disappearing for a while and then she’ll be back.” They come with me.
Gay fans are super loyal. We’ll follow you anywhere.
Oh yeah. Nothing if not loyal.
For a lot of gay fans, you’ve been a source of strength and perseverance. I have a gay friend who was in the military who said he listened to you every day and it got him through.
Aww, really? I love stories like that.
What kind of stories have you been told over the years from your gay fans about how you’ve inspired them?
That’s really hard for me to think of a specific story, but in general, I do hear that kind of thing. The biggest question is: How did I end up in this position? My gay audience just decided. It was like, “You’re ours. We’re adopting you.” And I thought it was brilliant. But it wasn’t like I was marketed to the pink pound or anything like that – that didn’t even really exist back then, actually.
So yeah, I do hear lots of stories about people feeling some kind of support and loving what I do. I don’t have the answer and I’m asked all the time, “Why do you have such a gay following?” “Why are you a gay icon?” I almost don’t want to know the answer, because it was so organic the way it happened.
When you work on a project, be it including mermen in the Aphrodite World Tour last year or recording a dance song, how much do you keep the gays in mind?
I try to keep everyone in mind, because I don’t want to go too far and I don’t want to go “not” far enough. It’s just a case of balance. Like, I wouldn’t go on a tour that’s got a routine like we had for “Slow” on the Showgirl tour. You wouldn’t want that for two hours. I don’t even think my gay audience would want that for two hours.
I don’t think we’d care. It’s Kylie for two hours!
(Laughs) I nearly spat my water across the room right then!
You don’t stop. Another album is already in the works, and I hear this one’s supposed to be more personal. How personal are we talking?
I don’t want to make a personal album at the expense of a great pop album, so I can put some personal material in there; I have done that previously, as well. People don’t generally know that I write quite as much as I do, but a song like “Flower” (from “The Abbey Road Sessions”) – that’s the extreme end of personal. But it was very liberating, so I wouldn’t mind more of that. That song wouldn’t even be on the album if fans hadn’t just loved it – and they didn’t even know what it was about before they fell in love with it! It was just an instinctive reaction to the song; if it’s about my life, they seem to know it.
“The Best of Kylie Minogue” compilation, released earlier this year, made it easy to compare all the styles you’ve gone through since the ’80s. For you, which was the most ridiculous fashion era? What are some clothes you’d like to burn – or that you have already?
Oh my god. Gee, I probably have burned them. Hey, the late ’80s wasn’t that kind to anyone. There’s a poster in existence where I have bicycle pants or, like, leggings under cutoff shorts with polka-dot socks and ankle riding boots and a huge leather jacket – and I even think there are stripes involved. It’s just an abomination. If that could disappear into the black hole, that would be amazing.
But there’s been some in the kind of “good period” when I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. (Laughs) Sometimes things just don’t come together, especially if they’re out of context. I’m thinking of one example of being on stage, where you’ve got extra stage makeup on, and then going to something afterward. You look a bit like a freak.
You crushed my little gay heart when you debunked rumors about you doing a song with Madonna for a TV special to commemorate your anniversary. You were kidding, right? Please tell me this is happening.
Aww. No, for real. There’s nothing. I’ve always dueted with guys, which is also good, but the question always comes up: “Would you duet with Madonna?” “Would you duet with Britney?” And the answer is always “yes,” because I think all of those girls are great for different reasons. Hey, it might never happen, but maybe – if the moment and the song and the desire came up from both parties. It is a bit like a gay wet dream, but who knows. I’ve just always said, “Of course that’s something that’s interesting.”
Is there a gay friend who cuddles up with you on the couch with a bottle of wine to watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?
Is there “one”? No! Look, I might be a serial monogamist with my actual boyfriend, but with my gay boyfriends I’m a floozy. There are a few. I’ve got one in every port! (Laughs)
What would you like to tell your gay fans who’ve been following you for these last 25 years?
It’s very simple: I just want to say thank you. That’s all.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.