Jess ain’t no little girl anymore. Picture: Supplied / Sony
Jess ain’t no little girl anymore. Picture: Supplied / Sony

Jessica Mauboy as you’ve never heard or seen her

IT was three days into the new year and Jessica Mauboy decided to go blonde.

Enjoying a few champagnes with two of her closest mates, stylist Mikey Ayoubi and make-up artist Victoria Baron, she dug out a short-cropped, platinum wig from her "dress-up box" and matched it with a couple of sexy outfits.

They posted the Polaroids they shot of the sizzling singer to Instagram and boom!

 

Mauboy having fun with wigs and Polaroids set social media alight in January. Picture: @jessicamauboy1/Instagram Source: www.instagram.com/jessicamauboy1
Mauboy having fun with wigs and Polaroids set social media alight in January. Picture: @jessicamauboy1/Instagram Source: www.instagram.com/jessicamauboy1

 

There were plenty of flame emojis and similarly excited expressions of approval, counterbalanced by the objections of some fans and pundits who were dismayed by the provocative and sensual depiction of the 29-year-old artist.

Mauboy knows there are people who have perhaps time-frozen her in their minds as the adorable, shy teenager who competed in Australian Idol in 2006, coming second to Damien Leith.

But she ain't that little girl anymore.

"I was a little shocked by the reaction but I wanted that conversation. How far do we go?" she says.

"I had never been that extreme when it comes to photos but when me and my besties are sitting around, having a sip, that's what we do. And I love a wig. I will go to concerts and wear wigs; I wanted to share these spontaneous things I do in my personal life.

"That was me experimenting, testing waters to see what conversations would come up. And what came out of that has made me really excited because now I can do what I want, I can play."

Those photos aren't there anymore, along with anything else she has posted in recent years. Mauboy cleaned out her Instagram ahead of releasing her new single Sunday this week.

 

Mauboy has been playing with her image on Instagram ahead of her single release. Picture: Supplied / Sony
Mauboy has been playing with her image on Instagram ahead of her single release. Picture: Supplied / Sony

 

It's her first song in several years that is music for music's sake and isn't tied to an acting project like her chart-topping soundtracks for the two seasons of the television drama The Secret Daughter or last year's We Got Love for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.

The new song, like all of those on her next studio album later this year, will feature her writing credit. She had no hesitation directing her collaborators, the hitmaking LA production duo The Orphanage, to tweak the song in its final days of mixing and has set up the release with another set of sensual, and at time wistful, images to give fans a clue to what comes next.

This is Mauboy taking control in a way she never has and she admits it has taken her years to find the confidence to do so.

 

Mauboy on the set of her Sunday music video shoot in Broken Hill. Picture: Supplied / Sony.
Mauboy on the set of her Sunday music video shoot in Broken Hill. Picture: Supplied / Sony.

 

"Having worked in the music industry for more than 10 years now - Idol was in 2006 - my experience of building a career, being aligned or associated with other people's ideas, being moulded or made to fit, the meeting and the greeting, absorbing all that information and then taking it on board because someone wants you to and you will deal with all of this later … now is the later," she says.

"At some point, I've really struggled to work out how to say what I want, what are my needs and what is my message?

"Now I feel awake and I do know what I want. Then I have had to figure out how to say it, without sounding diva, right? That was the hardest thing.

"There have been so many moments when I've poured out tears after storing up all of that energy of being frustrated because I just kept trying to go with the flow."

The images introducing Sunday which she has shared with fans in recent weeks tell the story of Mauboy looking in the mirror and figuring herself out.

Scenes in a motel room are symbolic of the quiet time she needs to do the figuring out; Mauboy often talks about needing to dream about her dilemmas.

Car scenes suggest the journey to find herself, one that will culminate in the official video shot a couple of weeks ago outside Broken Hill.

 

Mauboy on set for Sunday shoot. Picture: Supplied / Sony
Mauboy on set for Sunday shoot. Picture: Supplied / Sony

 

Mauboy standing and dancing in the red dirt of the outback is perhaps the most potent version of this complicated young woman's identity.

She admits to getting stir crazy if she doesn't get regular visits back home to her family in Darwin; fishing in croc-infested waters and running barefoot in the dirt are two of her favourite things.

"Being barefoot in red earth … it's a big deal. I would 100 per cent live in Darwin if I could," she says.

"I was home a few days ago thinking about the fact I still am completely in love with my home, the smells, the dirt, the water, everything about it is exactly what I am. It makes me very sad when I am away for too long; I need the energy."

Sunday is partly about those days when she is back home with family, and recalls the happiest memories of her childhood when the extended clan would gather to share a meal and good times.

But it wasn't actually inspired by those cruisy vibes.

Instead Sunday is the story of the funniest "disagreement" she has had with her longtime partner Themeli Magripilis.

 

A silly agreement with partner Themeli Magripilis inspired her new single Sunday. Picture: Richard Dobson
A silly agreement with partner Themeli Magripilis inspired her new single Sunday. Picture: Richard Dobson

 

The pair were chilling out watching a movie at home on a Saturday night about "graduating and dating" when Mauboy remembered the "hit lists" of crushes which she and her girlfriends would write when they were teenagers.

When she asked her partner about his teen "hit list", he didn't want to play that game.

Mauboy took his reaction to heart and spent the night on the couch.

"All I could think was 'I've been with you this long and you're embarrassed to tell me your little childhood crush?' I got so cut about it! Some of those feelings trailed into the next day, Sunday, because he's my best friend and the fact he couldn't tell me made me feel awkward. I bottled that up even though I told him, let's just leave it, I'm cool with it."

 

Jess and her girl squad in her beloved outback. Picture: Supplied / Sony
Jess and her girl squad in her beloved outback. Picture: Supplied / Sony

 

But she didn't leave it; she wrote a song about it. Magripilis described it as "gutsy" the first time he heard it, which his girlfriend was very pleased about. They share a laugh every time she plays it in their car.

"After all this time, I still feel how much our love is growing. We just got back from Darwin on the weekend and there was this little moment when we got home and I thought 'I am still so freaking in love you, man, I love you mate and I would do anything for you at the end of the day'," she says.

Sunday is out on Friday.