Like fine wine: Kylie Minogue talks 35-year career, surviving cancer and being ‘anointed’ by Nick Cave

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Few pop stars as have enjoyed a career as dazzling and lasting as Kylie Minogue’s. After exploding onto the charts 35 years ago with the Stock Aitken Waterman-produced hi-NRG smashes “The Loco-Motion” and “I Should Be So Lucky” and going on to sell more than over 80 million records worldwide, the Aussie multi-hyphenate’s latest success is Kylie Minogue Wines — which has sold more 5 million bottles worldwide, is the most successful U.K. wine of all time, and includes Britain’s No. 1-selling Prosecco Rosé among the nine bottles in the line.

It seems everything the “Golden” singer touches actually turns to gold. However, speaking to Yahoo Entertainment the morning after a soiree at New York’s famous Café Carlyle to launch Kylie Minogue Wines in the U.S., Minogue, now age 54, confesses that it’s been “a lifelong process” — only culminating in her 2019 performance at England’s massive Glastonbury in the Legends slot — for her to feel confident in her career and in her own skin.

Kylie Minogue attends the Kylie Minogue Wines 2nd anniversary at Annabel's on May 31, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)Kylie Minogue attends the Kylie Minogue Wines 2nd anniversary at Annabel's on May 31, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)

Kylie Minogue attends the Kylie Minogue Wines 2nd anniversary at Annabel’s on May 31, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)

“I’m not going to lie,” says Minogue, whose first big show business break was a role on the hugely popular Australian soap opera Neighbours when she was 18 years old. “All the little demons and the insecurities that you have, which either come from within or from those other voices… it very definitely was that. In the early days I was very successful, but hadn’t earned my stripes. And I was a very easy target to say, ‘This is a one-hit wonder,’v or ‘She doesn’t deserve it,’ or ‘She’s not good enough.’ And all that stuff stays with you.

“It takes time to learn your craft,” Minogue continues. “And I guess all of that adds up to now and something like performing at Café Carlyle last night in that intimate setting, and really feeling like I’ve earned this. I worked hard for this — physically hard, mentally hard! And you know, it just makes me that much more grateful.”

Kylie Minogue performs during the Kylie Minogue Wines U.S. launch at Cafe Carlyle in New York City. (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)Kylie Minogue performs during the Kylie Minogue Wines U.S. launch at Cafe Carlyle in New York City. (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)

Kylie Minogue performs during the Kylie Minogue Wines U.S. launch at Cafe Carlyle in New York City. (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Kylie Minogue Wines)

Some might assume that Minogue’s big career turning point came in 2001, when “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” from her eighth studio album Fever, went to No. 1 in 40 countries. “I think no one could deny that was a kind of a meteor of a moment for me,” she says. But she cites her 1996 duet with Australian post-punk auteurs Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, on the devastating Murder Ballads instant classic “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” as the moment was she was “anointed.”

I think on paper, it would’ve made no sense whatsoever,” Minogue says of the Cave collaboration, which was a major departure from her sound at the time. “I mean, it certainly wouldn’t have come from my imagination!” But the seeds for “Wild Roses” were planted, so to speak, not long after her initial mainstream pop success, when she was dating INXS frontman Michael Hutchence from 1989 to 1991.

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“I remember back then, Michael saying to me, ‘Nick would love to do a song with you.’ I didn’t know who Nick Cave was! I’m listening to, you know, Deee-Lite! I was not listening to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds,” Minogue chuckles. “So, I just said, ‘Oh, that’s nice’ — and I didn’t really think anything more of it. And then a handful of years later, when Nick and I were on the same record label at that time, and this came to be again. So, when the request and when Nick reached me at that time, it was actually really important that I’d heard about it years before.”

Minogue had spent the much of the ‘90s reinventing herself, and shortly after the Cave duet, she released her alternative/techno-leaning sixth album Impossible Princess, which featured collaborations with Britpop group Manic Street Preachers and Soft Cell’s David Ball. “In the mid-‘90s, there was that postmodern irony and Brit-hop. It wasn’t the pop-pop time. I was trying to go against that myself with Impossible Princess and experiment with different things. So, I knew when Nick asked me to sing ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow,’ it was genuine,” she stresses. “This wasn’t a kind of an ironic thing. It was really genuine. And the moment I met him, the day I met Nick, was the day I did my vocals for ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow.’ And I just couldn’t love him anymore. He’s a hero of mine.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, at the time of their single Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, at the time of their single

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, at the time of their single “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” (Photo: David Tonge/Getty Images)

“I could call it a bit of rebellion, but also just growing into myself,” Minogue continues. “I started out [in music] when I was 19. I wore primary colors in videos, and my audience were from [ages] 6 to 10! So, I’ve had to grow as a person and try and push those boundaries. And sometimes it works and sometimes you really shouldn’t have done it, but it’s all part of the process. And I am so fortunate that my fanbase, for the most part, has grown with me. We’re all going through stuff. Now I’m mid-fifties, and it’s a different stage of life.”

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Minogue was relatively mature by ‘pop-pop’ standards — 31 years old — when she experienced her biggest global success with Fever. But the singer — who was named the “Hottest Woman Over 50” in a recent poll of 1,500 Brits, beating out Elizabeth Hurley and Jennifer Aniston — says, “I probably didn’t really think about it at that point. Now it’s become more of a subject that we talk about: women and how we age in this industry. Here I am a little bit opening up, talking about it myself, but I kind of hate talking about it, because I wish we didn’t talk about it. But, it’s a thing. That’s what I tried to say in the song ‘Golden.’ I tried to address that topic without being too overt about it: We’re not young and we’re not old. We’re golden. Like, I can’t be older than I am; I can’t be younger than I am. We could all just be who we are in this moment in time. And I guess the broader conversation, in many walks of life, is about acceptance. And hopefully that is something that we continue to get better at.”

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Minogue is a survivor in more ways than one. In May 2005, only a few years after her Fever success and career renaissance, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36, leading to the postponement of her Showgirl tour and her withdrawal from the Glastonbury Festival that year. She didn’t get to play Glastonbury until 14 years later, but she didn’t stay away from the stage for long, emotionally resuming her tour in November 2006.

“When you have that first big struggle in your life, it does change your view and your experience,” Minogue muses over her glass of rosé. “I was diagnosed in the kind of a middle of a tour. My stage was being built in Sydney, and I was in Melbourne; it was literally people all over that stage building it. And then we shared the news and made the announcement. So, all that was my goal to get back onstage and finish that tour.”

When Minogue returned to the stage a year and a half after her cancer diagnosis and treatment, it felt “a bit like an out-of-body experience,” she recalls. “I had to do things a little differently. We built in an interval in the show for the first time. I just was really nervous about going out and doing that — doing any show at full speed. But once we kind of started and got on a roll, the second night Bono came and sang onstage with me! So, that was a real boost, an absolute boost! I just had to stop myself from going to the big cry. Obviously it was emotional, same with Glastonbury — I did the same thing. But I was very determined to get back onstage. So, I guess [surviving breast cancer] reaffirmed that I love what I do.”

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Minogue’s most recent album was 2020’s critically acclaimed DISCO, which featured a song called “Fine Wine” that could serve as either the perfect jingle for Kylie Minogue Wines or as a description of her ever-evolving career. And the pop star is as ambitious as ever and excited to re-enter the studio next month to start work on DISCO’s follow-up.

“I can’t wait to get in there,” Minogue gushes. “I feel that there’s more to say. There’s more of life’s experiences to share. And I know I’m driven. I’m curious. I feel like creativity breeds creativity. And even though I’ve already got more songs than I can fit in a show, I’m hungry for that next song: What’s the next one? So, getting into that puzzle again is going to be really fun — how to use my tools and how to express myself. It’s layered and interesting, and yeah, I feel like I do approach things very differently with a different confidence, even more intrigued, than I would’ve had back in the early days. I would never have imagined this life and this career coming from those early beginnings and daydreams.”

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— Video produced by Jen Kucsak, edited by John Santo