Natalie Imbruglia can’t remember the last song she shared with a boyfriend or used to nurse a broken heart.
“I have been single for so long, sweetheart, I can’t even remember. I am serious,” she says.
And then she laughs.
An examination of the tracklisting of Imbruglia’s selection of covers written and recorded by men on her new album "Male" did make me wonder if any of them were ever “our songs”, the ones that soundtrack a love affair.
Or the songs you play over and over again after a breakup.
There’s the happy songs — The Cure’s celebration of falling in love (Friday, I’m In Love) alongside The Who’s "Let My Love Open The Door."
And the sad songs including "I Will Follow You Into The Dark," a song whose beauty provoked audible sobs during Death Cab For Cutie’s recent tour, and Neil Young’s "Only Love Will Break Your Heart."
But if you are searching for odes or arrows directed at her former husband Daniel Johns or other past lovers, you will not find them.
“I am a romantic. Like any other girl, I dream about finding love or mourning over love lost, so I can draw from that to connect with a song,” she says.
“Because I am in the public eye, people are always looking to pin you down to say your music is about one thing or another.
“But this is my album and these are songs for me. I don’t even remember what you are talking about.”
In fact, Imbruglia points out her interpretations of these songs are as much the work of Imbruglia the actor as they are Imbruglia the singer.
It was acting she decided to focus on when she effectively quit the music business half a decade ago.
Her record label had been sold in the merger between Sony and BMG and most of the people she had worked with left or were made redundant. Her fourth album "Come To Life" fell through the cracks because the executives who inherited her in the record label machinations wanted to change it.
“In trying to please all these people, I found myself in a place where I didn’t feel like myself. I got fed up because all I wanted was an audience and to stand in front of a mic and sing,” she says.
“I didn’t feel inspired, I was frustrated so I stopped. It was the best thing I could have done.”
Imbruglia moved to Los Angeles to study for two years with respected acting coach Ivana Chubbuck and made her stage debut in a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s "Things We Do For Love."
She had no desire to make another record.
“If something is not making you happy, stop doing it. I know I was lucky I could afford to do that but that was not wasted time. I honed my acting, I made my stage debut and the study I did helps with songwriting and singing and being able to deliver these songs,” she says.
As well as reconnecting with emotions she claims to have become diluted due to a lack of romantic relationships, acting appears to have unlocked fresh, strong tones in her voice.
The “character” who sings the dramatic reinvention of the Daft Punk and Julian Casablanca's song "Instant Crush" is vastly different to the one whose voice gives Tom Petty’s "The Waiting" a breathy sweetness.
“I am an emotional being and I can go to those places when delivering a song. That could be the actress in me too,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s true that the song is a reflection of what’s going on in my life but I have been able to write songs that are so dark when blissfully happy and in a relationship.
“And artists want to go there. Part of what we do is wallow in those moods.”
She is a very convincing actor in the video to "Instant Crush" in which she plays a Stepford wife to a cold, distant husband.
There is an uncanny similarity in her performance to that in the video of "Torn," the debut single which catapulted her from "Neighbors" star to global chart-topper.
“It’s so funny you picked up on that and I agree with you but I didn’t plan it,” she says.
“It wasn’t until I saw the rushes that I thought the way I look off camera and I am moving recalls how I am in 'Torn.' I can’t stand still when I sing,” she says.
Perhaps the brightest song on an album of tracks penned and previously recorded by men is "The Summer," a Josh Pyke song.
That suggestion came from her singer and songwriter sister Laura.
“I was talking to Laura about the shortlist I was looking at covering and she asked if I had thought of doing a Josh Pyke song. I love that guy so I dived into all his music and chose that song because for me it imbues that Australian vibe,” she says.
“He’s such a storyteller, he creates these beautiful little worlds.
“But I have to tell you, he also writes song that are very difficult to sing because he barely takes a breath. I literally had to plan where I was going to breathe.”
Imbruglia will finally get her chance to stand in front of an audience and sing again when she comes home in February as one of the guests artists on the Simply Red tour of A Day On The Green wineries and special sideshows.