The sexy Aussie pop singer on Robert Plant, Johnny Borell and her new direction.

Gabriella Cilmi, once a wholesome 16-year-old trying to tell the world that there was nothing sweet about her has morphed into a full-blown sultry diva.

Oh, and there’s a souped-up, sexy disco sound to match.

So what the hell happened?

Gabriella Cilmi’s new album Ten

A chance meeting with Donna Summers’ Giorgio Moroder-produced back catalogue inspired Cilmi to ditch the hip-hop numbers she was working on for her new album Ten, and jacknife in a new direction.

“I wanted to make a modern disco record that has that soulfulness about it that Donna Summer has.”

Unlike her first album, Lessons To Be Learned, which won her a record-breaking six Arias but produced only one real hit Sweet About Me, there’s at least three potential hits on Ten, including disco stormer On A Mission, clearly  influenced by Summer’s I Feel Love and Amy Stewart’s Knock On Wood.

“I was trying to do a strong super-hero anthem like Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive for the ladies,” she says.

We think she means super-heroine.

Nevermind the Buzzcocks

But anyone who saw Cilmi on music quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks last year would have to question her, ahem, maturity.

Despite her best efforts to impress Germaine Greer with her feminist credentials (“I made a video with blokes hanging upside down!”), she flailed miserably.

“I didn’t know what Never Mind The Buzzcocks was,” she complains. “I’d literally gotten off a plane. I just remember feeling really out of place and a bit bored.

“I think it was really wrong to put a 17-year-old girl on that show!”

On Johnny Borell, George Clinton

According to Cilmi’s press release she’s been hanging out with music luminaries such as George Clinton and Beyoncé, and is friends with Johnny Borrell, so it must be true, right?

“I’ve met Johnny Borrell,” she corrects. “I had an interesting conversation with him about would you rather eat a dog or a human.”

The George Clinton anecdote has more legs it turns out: “When I was in Atlanta recording with [producer] Dallas Austin I see this guy walk in with a massive, crazy hairstyle, and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ And he just sits down and says ‘Hey lady!’ and was talking about who got James Brown’s suits when he died – bizarre!”

On her hero Robert Plant

“We played this music therapy gig at the O2 Arena.

“We were backstage in the café and I just had to say hello to him. I tapped him on his back and all I could think to say to him was ‘are you gonna eat the salmon or the pie?’ This is my absolute hero. Pretty embarrassing!

“I bumped into him again. He was standing next to Tom Jones. I completely ignored Tom, and said to Robert: ‘I love you, you’re my hero,’ and I thought I was going to cry, I had a tear in my eye.

“And then a girl tried to interrupt us and he turned to her and said: ‘Excuse me, we’re having a moment here’.”

» Gabriella Cilmi’s new album Ten, featuring single On A Mission, is out now through Island