Natalie Imbruglia talks to Andy Welch about her new Greatest Hits album and how she's happily married - but doesn't live with her husband
I took a year off after the first album. I think it was really bad advice
As she lies back on a huge leather sofa, sipping a coffee, it's easy to believe Natalie Imbruglia when she says she's having an easy day talking to the Press. Had this been a few years ago, however, it might not have been the same story.
"I never used to like interviews," confesses the singer. "Now, they're not as stressful as they used to be. I'm just not as nervous as I used to be in general."
It's hard to believe she's been making music for 10 years, but forthcoming compilation Glorious: The Singles 1997-2007 is proof of the fact, and upon listening back to the album, it strikes you just how many memorable songs Natalie has in her catalogue.
"It's been a really nice 10 years, and I'm proud of the songs on there," she smiles. "Of all the songs, I really like Smoke. It's the least single-y single, if you know what I mean? A lot of people come up to me and say they like that song, too. I don't remember it doing very well over here though."
Really? She's wrong - Smoke got to No 5 in the charts when it was released in October 1998, a none-too-shabby position for the fourth single off any album, but then Imbruglia can be forgiven for forgetting how well the song performed.
"Torn kind over overshadowed everything around then. Initially, at least. I think that's undeniable."
The song she's referring to, of course, was her debut single, a cover of Norway band Ednaswap's song, which had also been recorded by fellow Norwegian Trine Rein.
It went to No 2 in the charts in 1997, selling more than a million copies to become the third biggest-selling song ever not to top the UK charts.
"I remember there being a bit of a fuss in the papers when it was 'discovered' Torn was a cover," laughs Natalie. " I never once pretended I'd written it - Ednaswap's names are in the credits!"
Singles collections such as Natalie's forthcoming compilation are quite common in today's music market, and while they might serve as a convenient reminder of an artist's career or introduce the songs to new fans, they are often derided for being shameless money-spinners. No such criticism can be levelled at Glorious, however, for it boasts five new tracks, but as the former Neighbours star explains, the album wasn't the one she was expecting to release next.
"I spent the last year writing my fourth album, but the record label said they wanted to put out the singles first. My initial reaction was, 'But what about my album?'.
" Eventually I agreed to do it, but only if there were five new songs on it. From not being that keen on the idea, I'm really excited about it now. I also thought it would be a nice teaser for people after me being away for so long."
Being away for a long time between records is something Imbruglia has become accustomed to. Her debut Left Of The Middle was released in November 1997, but its follow-up, White Lilies Island, didn't arrive for another four years.
"I took a year off after the first album," she says with a slight grimace. "I think it was really bad advice. I don't think I fully realised the repercussions of doing that, or how hard the second record was going to be to write.
" In retrospect, it was too long between the two, but I was very scared about making the second record. I just did what I thought was right, and it seemed like a good idea at the time."
Natalie's third album Counting Down The Days, would have been released slightly sooner, but after some wrangling with her record label, it was eventually unveiled in April, 2005, with lead single Shiver becoming her most successful chart hit since Torn.
"Between albums I write and I write and I write, five days a week. I have Christmas off, but that's about it," she says, before her honesty gets the better of her. "I guess I just write a lot of average songs. Lots of stuff gets scrapped. At the beginning of an album, there'll be a work-in-progress list, and by the time it's finished, lots of songs from the first list won't be there."
Imbruglia's fourth album is now recorded, and Ben Hillier, who has produced the likes of Blur, The Futureheads and Elbow, is currently mixing the album, ready for its expected release date in March.
"We recorded 16 songs, and I chose five to go on the compilation. They won't be on the new record, but I think they give a really good taster of what's to come. Hopefully I can go out on tour when the album comes out, I've not done enough of that, and it's the part I love most."
Natalie first shot to fame in Neighbours, playing Beth Brennan, later Willis, between 1992 and 1993. Despite the fact she left the show almost 15 years ago, and five years passed before she released her first single, the singer, who has an Italian father and an Australian mother, says the daily soap crops up in most interviews.
"Most journalists mention it, but it doesn't bother me. We can talk about Neighbours - it's responsible for me being here today. In all honesty, it blows my mind that people still remember my character. I only vaguely remember Beth myself! I look so different as well."
Natalie is married to Daniel Johns, lead singer and guitarist of Australian rock group Silverchair. They wed in 2003 after a three-year relationship, but as widely reported in the tabloids, they don't live together.
"I understand why the papers have written about us, it looks weird, doesn't it," she says openly. "We're fascinated by it, to tell you the truth, it's not normal is it? But we're not normal.
"You don't choose who you fall in love with, though, and you can't plan these things. I'm attracted to creative people, so if he stopped doing his thing over there, he wouldn't be creative. That's why we're not in the same country. He's in a record deal over there, I'm in a record deal here, what are we going to do?
"I tried to move back there, but all my people are in England, and the time difference makes it impossible. I didn't want to start working over there, that's my home, and the UK is where I work, so I came back here," she continues, before talking about the paparazzi culture that plagues so many of her peers.
"I don't get much of that any more, but I've been on TV a few times in the last few weeks, and I have noticed a difference. The attention comes and goes. I don't court it, though, and I realise that if I go to a place where the paps wait outside, then I'm going to get my picture taken.
"If you're too famous, you have no choice, and people who aren't famous court it. I think I'm neither. People just forget about me and think I've gone on holiday. The truth is, I've just been busy here, working!"
Natalie Imbruglia's Glorious: The Singles 1997-2007 is released on September 10