Why Tina Arena almost quit music
She owned the title QuaranTina Arena earlier this year.
But right now Tina Arena is literally in quarantine. The Melbourne-based singer took her family for to France to see relatives and is currently holed up upon returning to her home state.
"It's an interesting experience," Arena says. "An extraordinary human test."
As well as having her 53rd birthday in quarantine ("I was overwhelmed by the love and support that poured in") Arena is planning her return to the stage, with a national tour locked in for May 2021.
That return is more significant than most realise - following her 2017 career retrospective tour, privately Arena pondered her future in the industry she joined as a eight-year-old on Young Talent Time in 1974.
"How close was I to quitting? I was pretty serious," Arena tells SMARTdaily. "That 2017 tour was magical. Then I did Evita (in 2018 and 2019), which was amazing but psychologically and physically exhausting. After that I knew I needed to take some time out and I very seriously thought 'Maybe it's time to stop?' I think it's normal and healthy for an artist to question things, it's part of their trajectory.
"I had to take some time out, to get off the conveyor belt and really understand where I wanted to go. But during that time there were moments I thought about walking away. It was a privilege to be able reflect and be introspective."
After an acclaimed live set at Fire Fight Australia in February by the time the pandemic hit in March, the committed technophobe took to Instagram - not to sing, but to interview fellow artists under her QuaranTina title.
Despite requests to sing online, like many musicians, she stuck to talking.
"I didn't feel like singing. I didn't feel I had anything to share. I didn't think it was the right time. I'm not a puppet. Singing is totally driven by my emotions. If I don't feel like expressing myself, I just don't. I'm not very comfortable with the whole expectation thing. It doesn't sit very well with me."
However something changed for Arena, who has started writing songs and "reacquainting" herself with the piano again recently.
"I'm getting the passion (for music) back. After the first lockdown in Melbourne I realised 'OK, we're going through something tough right now, but am I really prepared to disconnect myself from something I truly love?'
"I truly feel I have so much more to explore. I guess I wasn't ready to disconnect from that. Songwriting has been an incredibly powerful thing for me to do, there's lots to talk about. I've been pretty prolific actually.
"Being on stage is where I belong. I understand profoundly the fact people need to connect, now more than ever. The importance of being able to have that human connection - that's what I do."
There's a "strong" chance she'll include some new material in the Enchanté tour next May (where she's joined by violinist and dancer Eric Avery) but Arena has used her break to realign her career.
Her record deal with EMI has expired, and after representing herself for a few years she's signed with 6 Degrees management (the company currently in a legal feud with Guy Sebastian).
"I'm designing my own life now, I feel I've earned that," Arena says.
The musician has long been vocal about the negative impact of technology in society and art - she's also been outspoken about tech giants like Spotify, Apple, Google and You Tube, as well as major record labels, not remunerating artists properly, especially during the pandemic.
"I don't need to work under that guise. I can't put a price on my freedom. In most businesses there's a real value on those who come up with the ideas. It's the content creators who enable those platforms to exist. There are changes to be made but only when people stand up and say 'No, this is the way it needs to be'. There's a war in our sector, art needs to be valued more, people who create art need to be valued far more. It doesn't work fairly."
Similarly, Arena has made no secret about how the arts industry has been left behind by Government during pandemic bail outs.
"This year particularly it's been incredibly apparently how important art is; it has inspired and comforted people. The arts have been ravaged and unfairly so. It's been brutal."
Scott Morrison, the country's most famous Arena fan, promised $250 million for the arts in a flashy press conference but months later, no money has been handed out to those who have lost their income.
"I don't know what to say," Arena says. "Other than I'm disappointed."
Tina Arena with Eric Avery. Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre May 2, Sydney ICC May 5, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre May 8, Adelaide Entertainment Centre May 11, Sidney Myer Music Bowl Melbourne (with the MSO) May 15, RAC Arena Perth May 22, WIN Entertainment Centre Wollongong May 26, Llewellyn Hall Canberra May 29. On sale November 16, tegdainty.com
Originally published as Why Tina Arena almost quit music