The queen of pop

Interview with Colleen Hewett

“The great thing is all the downs make the ups so much brighter and so much fresher again.

The potholes are great, I appreciate them in hindsight.”

 Colleen Hewett, Queen of Pop.


Colleen Hewett has nailed the ‘longevity’ thing.

Loved for her soulful 70’s hits she was crowned Australia’s Queen of Pop – twice – a regular on Bandstand, a star of the stage and small screen and her latest album debuted at number 1 on iTunes Blues charts.

But behind the pop star storyline I found a multi-dimensional, warm human who is not afraid to be vulnerable and explore the less glitzy side of life.

Delighted to introduce you to Colleen.


 Photo – Tania Savage photography.

Martine Harte: Your new album Black & White appeared at number 1 on iTunes Blues charts… can you believe it?

Colleen Hewett: It’s quite a lovely feeling to know the company I’m keeping up there on this chart, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Otis Redding. Music has no age, if you’ve watched somebody go through their life – doesn’t matter if they’re a painter, butcher, guy from the fish and chip shop – they may age but they still make great fish and chips.

You’ve had so many interesting chapters.

Oh god (laughs) I was supposed to be retired now! (laughs) I haven’t even had time to sign up for the pension! I’m 65, I’m supposed to put an application in to get the old age pension darlin!

(laughs) Can’t even imagine it! Maybe you should pause that pension thing Miss rockin’ the iTunes charts… Seriously though, how do you define yourself?

A singer, I have no age. Martine sometimes I wake up and I feel 120, other days I feel in my 20’s, I thought you were supposed to feel old every day. I don’t feel any different, I still think exactly the same, I’m still as blunt as I’ve always been and as far as I know my feet are still on the ground.

There’s something very nice about turning 65.

You’ve had a 17-year hiatus between albums?

I didn’t want to, had no desire. You get investors to put money into records and the pressure is on you to get that money back. We don’t get any money from it, there’s nothing in there for me, unless I add a song on the album. Even then because it was an independent label – my own that we established – I don’t know where those royalties went.

So how have you lasted?

I’m really lucky, I’ve got the right friends (Hewett’s dear friend is Industry great Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum) and have been in the right places at the right time. When I fall into the potholes, that’s generally my own fault. I’m not blaming anyone, they were bad decisions.

When is a time when it all collapsed?

I’ve had dozens. The great thing is all the downs make the ups so much brighter and so much fresher again.

The potholes are great, I appreciate them in hindsight.

Is there stage moment which was the ultimate for you?

Definitely ‘Don’t cry out loud,’ The Boy from Oz. I would sing the song and come off and generally every night they’d be at least half a dozen people back stage crying and these were the actors!

Aaand you got to work with Hugh Jackman! Tell us about Hugh…

Generous, down-to-earth, a spunk (his wife as well) there’s nothing about them you would not like. You know Hugh bought us all vouchers to get massages, and then before we opened in Sydney we all got a camera each, to take on tour. So generous!

I find it so interesting how your first husband and dad to two of your children is your manager Danny…

He’s like my right arm, if I lose him I’m totally stuffed.

Then why did you separate?

Cause I loved him too much!

He’s my husband, was my drummer, my manager, the father of two of my kids,  I mean he’s around all the time. My best friend.

You have also been open about your experience with domestic violence with your second husband. The song ‘Shut Up and Let Me breathe’, has changed your life course really and you are now part of Rotary’s fantastic Violence Free Families initiative..

There was a ballad that was presented to me, I was embarrassed to even play it to Danny because it just resonated so much, I got goosebumps like, oh someone’s just walked over my grave.

What is the message behind the song?

It’s saying, just come on, shut up, let me breathe… it’s not about the strangulation, it’s about wanting personal space.

If you’ve had anything emotional: bullying or intimidation, you question yourself, anyone who’s had that understands it’s not about you it’s about me.

What’s this hands around my throat? I’m blue and I can’t breathe. What’s this knife, doing this thing making me bleed, what’s this thing of kicking me in the stomach when I’m four months pregnant I don’t get it, I must be missing something here, you know?

So the song is not so much about the person who is doing the damage, it’s about doubting yourself.

When I got the kick in the stomach and was four months pregnant (I’d been with him for three years) but it still took me another year to get rid of him.

We were living in Fiji, he was the food and beverage manager at the resort, I was starting to show, somebody said something (I can’t even remember what it was) he took it the wrong way and he got stuck into me, into my stomach.

That was it.

He was taken by six cops out to the airport and they gave him 24 hours to get out of Australia.

It wasn’t public at the time, how did you keep it quiet?

My domestic violence story wasn’t interesting, because I was in entertainment. This is entertainment, the show goes on. they didn’t want to hear about the bad staff, just the glamorous stuff.

So are you relieved where you’re at now?

It’s out, it’s a secret where if I carked it tomorrow I’m not taking it with me. It’s great to get it out. WIlliam could have been broken in half, he was inside me, how the hell he survived I don’t know.

So how has your son reacted to you talking about it?

He doesn’t mind at all, he’s sorry that it happened, but it has nothing to do with him. He was in Paris for a few days, he has an uncle still over there but has no interest in seeing them.

What do you say to anybody living in a violent situation?

The ones that are really in the firing line I think are the ones who hear screaming and yelling and thumps, the ones that know there’s something going on in their neighbour’s home but don’t talk about it.

Do something about it. We need to do something.

If you or anyone you know is in need of help tap this link to learn more about the Rotary’s Violence Free Families program.

BLACK AND WHITE is available through iTunes or through her website Colleen Hewett official.

Colleen Hewett on

Images: Thanks to Tania Savage photography.

Where we met – CRU Glenferrie Rd Kew, Melbourne.

What we drank – lattes all round.




Have you read the chats with Nat Bass, Tim Costello, Sandra Sully, Charlie Pickering or even James Reyne?… pop across to the interview section by tapping here.