Monday, August 23, 2004
Much as I could take the opportunity to bang on about why Missy Higgins is such an interesting and talented individual, Iâm happy to let her talk for herself. If you can download the MP3 version of this interview, do so â youâll get to hear snippets of her songs. Of course, you should have heard some of her work already â the Triple J Unearthed winner of some years back has been touring quite extensively, and her last release, The Scar EP, debuted at number one in the singles chart. So even if you wanted to, just try and avoid her.
I was initially going to sit on this interview until Missyâs album, The Sound of White, was released September 6, about a month after the interview was conducted, but after Scar leapt to number one, I had to run it â or at least a truncated version of it with a few less questions and song snippets, as part of the chart listing at the tail end of that weekâs music news. But now Iâm banging on. If she sounds interesting to you, buy her album â Missy Higgins really is a talented individual.
Soundbite: âScarâ by Missy Higgins, from The Scar EP.
Demetrius Romeo: Missy, you describe yourself as a songwriter, musician and singer in that order. Is that how you see yourself, as a songwriter first?
MISSY HIGGINS: Yeah, definitely. Thatâs how I want to see myself, anyway. Iâd much rather be writing songs and not singing, than singing and not writing songs. Itâs my passion.
Demetrius Romeo: How long have you been writing songs for?
MISSY HIGGINS: I think I started when I was about fourteen.
Demetrius Romeo: How old were you when you sent your demo away to Triple J Unearthed?
MISSY HIGGINS: I was seventeen. I was in Year 12. My sister actually sent it away because I was at boarding school at the time.
Demetrius Romeo: Had you written a lot of songs by then?
MISSY HIGGINS: No. I pretty much only had that one song. That was pretty much the first song that I was proud to say was my song. And I forgot about it. It was, like, two months later, and I got a phone call saying that Iâd won.
Demetrius Romeo: Wow!
MISSY HIGGINS: Yeah.
Demetrius Romeo: Howâd you feel?
MISSY HIGGINS: Well, the lady goes to me, âHi Missy. So, are you sitting down?â And I thought, it must be a pretty big deal if sheâs asking me if Iâm sitting down. I didnât quite know that it was a big deal until afterwards, really, when people started going, âWow, thatâs really great!â And I got my song on the radio, which is pretty cool.
Soundbite: âAll For Believingâ by Missy Higgins, from her Unearthed session at Triple J (although a very similar version exists on The Missy Higgins EP).
Demetrius Romeo: You seem very comfortable with different genres insofar as some of your songs are majestic piano ballads, others have bluesy horns, some of them are just straight out syncopated, scat-singing jazz numbers.
MISSY HIGGINS: Yep.
Demetrius Romeo: What influences you musically? Where do you come from as a musician?
MISSY HIGGINS: Well, I guess Iâve always listened to a broad variety of music. Iâve always really loved jazz, I studied jazz through high school and I sang in my brotherâs jazz band growing up, and listened to a lot of old jazz singers. But I listen to all different types of music and I think, as a songwriter, thatâs the best thing that you can do: if you want to come up with an original sound, then you have to listen to heaps of different kinds of music so that you can make your own combination.
Soundbite: âThe Cactus That Found The Beatâ by Missy Higgins, from The Scar EP
Demetrius Romeo: The other thing I find interesting is that you were discovered through Triple J Unearthed. Within three years, youâre touring with people like Bic Runga, The Waifs, The John Butler Trio, Pete Murray. Itâs all quite whirlwind. Did you have any idea that youâd be here three years later?
MISSY HIGGINS: No, not at all. Iâve always kept my expectations very low so that Iâll never be disappointed. I was just really excited by the possibility of actually having a full-time career in music, because I knew that I loved singing and I loved performing, but I always thought that it was something that I was going to do on the side. Iâm just ecstatic that itâs something that I can do with all my time these days.
Soundbite: âCasualtyâ by Missy Higgins, from The Scar EP
Demetrius Romeo: How do you manage to write songs that sound quite mature in their lyrical approach and also their musical approach?
MISSY HIGGINS: I guess Iâve always been someone that feels very strongly and deeply about things. Iâve always been a fairly introverted person and have always thought very deeply about everything that happens to me. Iâm quite emotional, I guess, so something that might seem trivial to one person, I feel like itâs the end of the world, that itâs something very important that is happening to me. I guess thatâs how I get the depth in my songs. And I guess I have been through quite a lot â obviously not as much as people that are maybe six years older than me, but I feel like I have been through a lot.
Soundbite: âThe Special Twoâ by Missy Higgins, from The Missy Higgins EP.
Demetrius Romeo: You must have imagined at some stage in your childhood, because you loved music so much, that you would make a career of it somehow.
MISSY HIGGINS: I always knew that I wanted to play music and perform music but I never thought that I could do it full time. I thought I would do music on the side, as something I loved but couldnât necessarily do full time.
Demetrius Romeo: So you didnât even fantasise that one day you would be on the cover ofâ¦
MISSY HIGGINS: Oh sure, I used to fantasise all the time about singing in front of thousands and thousands of people. I used to dream about that. I loved holding a microphone so much, and having my voice amplified and performing. Yeah, I just used to dream that one day Iâd be playing at a concert.
Demetrius Romeo: So is it going the way you imagined it, so far?
MISSY HIGGINS: Yeah, definitely!
Demetrius Romeo: So whatâs the next stage of the plan? How did you imagine it goes from here?
MISSY HIGGINS: I didnât. The only thing I ever imagined was playing in front of a sea of people. Iâm yet to play in front of a sea of people, but Iâm getting there.
Demetrius Romeo: Fantastic! Missy Higgins, thank you very much.
MISSY HIGGINS: Thanks for having me.
Soundbite: âScarâ by Missy Higgins, from The Scar EP.
If you enjoyed this interview, Robbie Buck had a great chat with Missy Higgins on his Triple J show Home & Hosed. There is an MP3 file of it on this page.