Let’s talk about writer’s block. So I’ve had writer’s block in terms of working on a book or working on an article. That’s one version of it. What is it like for you? What is writer’s block like as an artist? And then how do you get through it?
I think initially, I didn’t even admit to myself that that’s what was happening. I’d had a really traumatic experience of spending five years working on a project. It was when all the record companies were folding, and I kept getting inherited by new people, and everyone kept trying to change me, and the album changed three different times. Then finally, I signed to Island Records, and I had three Coldplay co-writes on this album, and then they shelved it. They dropped me. I think it was released in Australia and New Zealand only. I was like, you know, the universe is telling me something. I’m not supposed to be doing this. So I quit. I had a bit of a breakdown. I went to Australia. I was a judge on The X Factor for a year, I went to America and studied acting, and I really thought that I was done with music. Really, I really did. Even down to when I got signed to another record deal, the covers album, which I was made to do because I wanted to do original material. But looking back, I don’t think I would have been able to write an original-materials album at that point. I think I was still very much dealing with insecurity and fear.
There was a funny experience I had with a guy called Ronnie Heart, who came down from Scotland to write with me. I couldn’t sing a note. I kept kind of saying, “Should we go for coffee?” It was the most traumatizing experience. I didn’t try again for a long time after that, because it was so terrifying. It was touring the Male album that I reconnected with my fans. As much as I love singing other people’s music, it dawned on me that my fans really want to hear what I’ve got to say, and there’s nothing like singing your own truth, singing your own story. So I just thought, I owe it to myself and to my fans to get over it. Baby steps. I just said to my management, “I want you to book me, at least 10 days straight, songwriting sessions a day.” I had to be brave because there were going to be songs that I don’t like, and there were tears and everything. The song “When You Love Too Much” was the first. I wrote other amazing songs in Nashville. But this one, it was about the conversation, the heart opening I’d had with a collaborator. The fact that we encapsulated heartbreak we’d both been through in this song in a particular tone—most of my songs are about love, but there are so many different ways to talk about love—the fact that we just nailed it, it’s almost like therapy for me as well because you’re like, I got that one out. So that was a turning point.