When Missy Higgins first came to the public's attention with the smash album The Sound of White, the levels of success the singer-songwriter went on to achieve in such a short amount of time was nothing short of ridiculous. A hectic touring lifestyle which ensued would cause Higgins to take a break from music completely, to both pursue other interests and rediscover herself. Now in 2012, armed with a refreshed perspective and love for her art, Higgins returns to the live scene with a new album and national tour. She chats with the AU about how she dealt with taking the steps back into the music arena.
Thanks for taking the time out today, how’s your day been Missy?
No worries! It’s been okay; I’ve been hanging out at my parents’ house today because I’m in the middle of moving house, so I’ve been staying in my old bedroom for a couple of days! It’s actually been really lovely.
You picked a good time to be moving…
[Laughs] Yeah I know, I really didn’t intend for it to happen right now, but that’s just the way things go!
The new tour kicks off on June 1st, how are you feeling with it all coming to a head so soon?
I’m really excited to get out on the road; that’s kind of what it’s all for, for me. That’s why I write music, so I can perform it. You know, between now and then I’ve got to rehearse up a new band, so that’s going to be interesting! That’s all I’m kind of thinking about at the moment, we’ve got a few days to learn 25 songs! It’s going to be huge, but the most exciting thing is playing new songs; I’m just so glad that after so many years, I’ve finally got a new album with entirely new songs to play for the audience. It’s going to make the shows just really fun, I think.
You’re playing some kickass venues on this tour too, how does it feel to be taking to so many theatre-like venues on your first one back?
Yeah, I mean, that’s my favourite type of venue to play. When we were organising this tour, I said that I’d really love to play theatres again because there’s something so beautiful and regal about them. It’s like you’re going to a proper show, when you go and see a show at the theatre. You can sit down and you can just really take in the music; I can’t go to shows unless there are seats because I can never see! As a punter, it’s my favourite place to see music as well.
It’s all about the sound; I’m so fussy when I go to shows and the sound isn’t right or the acoustic of the venue is really bad. I feel so sorry for the artist onstage because they don’t realise that it doesn’t sound nearly as good out the front as it does onstage! If people have come to experience something completely different and beautiful than the record, you want it to sound as live and amazing as possible for everyone.
A lot of people have probably been asking about your decision to quit music; was there a part of you that thought you’d be able to slip under the radar, as it were, in returning to working on new material?
Yeah I mean I was pretty apprehensive about coming back, unless I came back with something that was really damn good and something I was proud of. I think that was part of the reason as to why it’s taken me so long; I never want to release something that I don’t feel proud of, or that I feel is kind of mediocre. In the back of my head, I was like, ‘Oh people have probably moved on to the latest hottest thing in Australia and I’m going to have to try and get everyone’s attention again’! I thought I’d have to release a sex tape or something! [Laughs] But no, it was really relieving to see the sales for the tour and everything…
For sure, I mean in terms of ‘winning crowds’ back, it seemed like everything there had just been on pause, as it were.
I guess so! It’s crazy; I never thought in a million years that it would happen like that. You know, who knows? The first album was just so crazy in the way that it sold; I’m never going to be able to get back to that point again, but even if the core of my fan base are still interested – that’s enough for me. Just to be able to have a sold out tour of theatres, that’s a dream come true. If I can keep doing that, I’ll be more than happy!
Totally! You went to university and did the student-life thing for a while; was this a decision that had been a long time in the making for you or was it more of an ‘I have time off…I’m going to do something completely different’ decision?
I didn’t really think I’d make a career out of what I was studying; my main objective was just to learn more about the things that I was interested in because when you tour non-stop for a living, it’s really quite a mindless game. It’s mostly just travel and sitting around and then playing; I really felt like I wasn’t learning anymore and that my brain was shrivelling up. I wanted to exercise it again and I am really interested in the Australian indigenous culture and the true history of Australia, so I wanted to learn as much about that as I could. I mean it does help you, indirectly, with every other facet of your life, it allows you to get a better perspective on everything.
It must have been a massive thing for you to let go of music in the sense that it would have been, to many, a defining factor of your identity, at least publicly?
Yeah it was, not just my public identity, but my private identity too. I didn’t have a clue who I was without music; I’ve been singing for as long as I remember and you know, since I was 14, I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. It was really terrifying and was like totally diving into new territory. I didn’t really have a choice because I just wasn’t able to write songs anymore and I just didn’t really know how to articulate what was going on inside my head. In a way, it was something I just had to do.
Understandable! I was sent a stream of the album last night and just off listening to the material once through, it’s evident how much passion and personal insight has gone into the making of it.
Oh that’s good, thank you!
Were there any personal answers you’d been looking for which you’d found only through the writing and recording of the album?
Yeah definitely, I mean every time I write a song, I learn something about myself. I think, especially in writing for this album, I got to the point where I had to start writing about my writer’s block, in order to get through my writer’s block! That was a real turning point for me, because I realised I just had to be honest about what I was feeling; I’ve always been honest in my songs, but for some reason, it just got to the point where I couldn’t be honest.
I didn’t feel like I knew what to say anymore because the truth was kind of painful, the fact that I was just really struggling to grab what and where happiness was and what do with my life. When I turned around and confronted my greatest fear, which was not being a musician anymore, ironically, that’s when I began to start writing again and began to tap into it. It was almost like I was just trying to avoid it for so long and because it was too painful, but then when I started recognising it and writing about it, it took the power out of it.
“Unashamed Desire” has been met with so much praise upon its release not that long ago, did you feel like you were slipping into a comfortable place again, or were you fretting like a new artist with their first single?
It definitely felt like a risk for me to be releasing that song, because it was so different for me! I felt like I really wanted to take a risk, you know? I think that the worst thing for me to do would have been to play it safe and release an album that sounded like my last two and that didn’t surprise anyone. I thought that I would rather people be surprised and shocked and feel strongly about it than people be unsurprised and maybe a little bit disappointed or bored.
Will you be remaining in Australia after this tour is finished, or will you be heading overseas with the new music? I know that you were only over there recently performing with Gotye.
Yeah I’m going to be going over to America again. I do spend a lot of time touring over there; I spent a lot of time touring my second album over there and I’ve definitely got quite a strong live following over there, so I’m hoping that some of them will still be left! I’m going to do some shows over there and hopefully in the UK and in New Zealand as well!
Wicked. It sounds like things are only getting better for you these days! That’s pretty much all I had for this afternoon so thanks again. Best of luck with everything and we’ll catch you out on the road soon!
Awesome, thanks very much!
Have fun moving house too!
[Laughs] Thanks Sose, see ya later!
Missy Higgins will be kicking off the Ol' Razzle Dazzle tour in Adelaide on the first of June. For more info, visit www.missyhiggins.com.