During four decades as one of Australia’s best loved singer-songwriters, Tina Arena has seen her industry face a lot of challenge and change.
After a year when the arts were forgotten and musicians “really struggled”, she’s excited to return to the basics of performing on stage, touring Australia later this year.
“Tiny Tina” became a household name aged eight as a favourite on Australian variety TV show Young Talent Time.
Arena says she still gets “really emotional” looking back at old videos of herself performing, because she has “a real respect for that little girl”.
“The arts was my calling,” she tells 7.30.
“I would have to say that I was probably under five, when that became really apparent to me.”
Reflecting on her life, she tells 7.30 she faced some significant hurdles.
“I grew up in an era where it wasn’t terribly cool to be ethnic,” she says.
“I was also in an industry surrounded by an incredible amount of misogyny and really poor behaviour. To which I’m very, very aware of now, as a mature woman.”
‘I just want to do my job’
While the industry has changed in the decades since Arena began performing, nothing could have prepared artists for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have closed venues around the world, and thousands of Australian musicians and industry figures say the sector is in crisis.
“And are certainly the last to be reinstated.”
Arena believes it’s been a time of learning for the industry, provoking artists to re-think how they do business.
She says intellectual property is “majorly undervalued”, meaning “the economic system was not set up for the artists”.
She says that forced many artists — including herself — to give their content away for free in order to remain relevant.
It’s against this backdrop that Arena will soon take to the stage again as part of a national tour.
“Not only for myself, I’m excited for the collective. I’m excited for an industry that’s been on pause for over a year now … I just want to do my job.”
And with all the perks of digital advancement, Arena says the thing she has missed the most is human interaction and connection.
“A screen will never, ever replace the beautiful alchemy that happens between human beings. It just it can never do that. And it will never do that.”
The ‘extraordinary privilege’ of being loved by generations
After decades in the music industry, Arena’s music remains relevant to a younger audience.
Her hit album Don’t Ask, released in the mid-1990s, is still in regular rotation, owing, she says, to songs like Sorrento Moon that “came from a very, very honest place”.
“Don’t Ask became a sort of soundtrack of their [parent’s] lives and I find it so exquisitely beautiful that they have been able to transcend that record,” she says.
“And those stories and melodies have been passed down in generations. It’s an extraordinary privilege for me.”
Tina Arena’s Australian tour Enchanté: The Songs Of Tina Arena kicks off in Brisbane in early May.
Watch the full interview tonight on 7.30 on ABC TV and iview.