It’s been six years between albums for Jessica Mauboy. She’s been busy—and not only in the “acting in movies and TV shows and performing at Eurovision” sense, but in terms of soul-searching and looking within. “There were so many moments of pushing my heart and mind,” the Australian pop-R&B artist tells Apple Music of the inspiration behind her fourth album. “Trying to find the pockets in my memory about myself, about my family, about truths, about regret. And over the last six years, it took a lot of guts and bravery to realize how important those things are to me.” Hilda (the Darwin-born singer’s middle name) is Mauboy’s most down-to-earth, real, revealing album. Throughout, she sings about herself, her mother, her family’s history, and her relationship, among other intimate moments. “I knew that I wanted to let in my family stories and tell them respectfully and honestly,” she says. “There were so many things that I was able to experiment with that I’d never really had the opportunity to do before.” Mauboy shares the stories behind her favorite songs on Hilda.
Blessing “Life can be cruel sometimes, and I wrote it from the point of view of being neglectful. Everyone has those days where you feel either left out or like you haven't been respected or acknowledged. I love that it's the introduction because I wanted that firsthand ‘I’m strong, I’m powerful, I'm worthy, and I'm great’ message. I think there's nothing greater than having that self-confidence. If you know yourself deeply and you know how strong you are, you’ll know what you're capable of.”
Little Things “It’s my hardest song to share. I was struggling about whether or not I wanted to share a story like that. It’s so deep and dark, but also colorful. It’s about my mother and her mother, and my siblings, and my life. The stories that have been passed on, and what I've witnessed through my mother's actions and storytelling. It was quite difficult and scary to share this song, but that was the whole point of making the record. And I knew that sharing that truth could help heal others. There are so many people going through a similar kind of pain or situation. I hope it’ll affect someone else who’s also struggling.”
Sunday “The idea stemmed from a disagreement with my partner one Sunday, but it turned into this groovy, gospel, woman-power chant. I’d never written anything like that, which had such spice, so much sexy power. So it was a real surprise moment for me to write a song in such a brave way. It was very fun writing with [production duo] The Orphanage. At first, I wasn't quite sure how confident I felt about sharing this very honest and truthful disagreement. Especially with having two male producers hearing a female’s struggle. But I really wanted to tell the story. They were so loving and understanding of the song, and I guess that's what made the song so special. They told me about their own experiences with their long-term partners. I guess that fear went away really quickly after hearing their experience.”
Jealous “I wanted to take it back to En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Toni Braxton, Janet Jackson. All these soulful groove feelings, the music that’s influenced my life and influenced me to be confident in who I am. These women allowed me to create this song. Plus, I love that it stems from my relationship with my partner—the first time I met him, I was trying to make him jealous, trying to wrap him around my fingers. I just had the best time writing a song that was sensual and sweet but also kind of mysterious and rough around the edges.”
Just Like You “It’s about my father being the male role model in my life and showing me what it is to be a man, a father, to be around, to be loving, to be strong, to provide. You can be hard, you can be soft, you can share your emotion. He was that, not only in my life, but my mother's life and my sisters. It was a magical moment to be able to express that here.”
Wish You Well “I was listening to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony two days before [writing this song]—their song ‘Change the World’ makes me feel like I'm 12 or 13 again. My older sisters were listening to it, so it passed down to me. And it inspired me. It’s basically a song about a breakup that turned into a friendship, all the things that we tried to work out, but we weren't meant to be, so I’m saying, ‘I wish you well on your path and hope that we’ll still remain friends, no matter what.’ I just wanted to create something that took me back and turned pain into a celebration.”