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The Artists of Lilith Fair Series: Missy Higgins Exclusive

The Artists of Lilith Fair Series: Missy Higgins Exclusive

In America, we crooned to the song that put Missy Higgins on the map in 2008 (the androgynous tune “Where I Stood” off her album "On a Clear Night"). The LGBT community took comfort in the haunting lovelorn lyrics written by the Australian-born singer/songwriter, but really had no idea who she was or where she came from…or where she was going.

In America, we crooned to the song that put Missy Higgins on the map in 2008 (the androgynous tune “Where I Stood” off her album On a Clear Night). The LGBT community took comfort in the haunting lovelorn lyrics written by the Australian-born singer/songwriter, but really had no idea who she was or where she came from…or where she was going.  In an interview with Missy recently, she let us in on a little secret; she has no idea where she’s going either and that is just fine with her.

Missy Higgins was born into a musical family in Melbourne, Australia on August 19, 1983. Her talent surfaced at the age of six when she began playing classical piano and following in the footsteps of her older brother and sister.  Realizing that piano-playing might not calm her heart’s yearning, she began to sing.  Finding her calling, she convinced her middle-class parents to allow her to attend boarding school where she would ultimately pen the lyrical pieces that would later go on to play on radio stations across the world.  Loneliness found a friend in Missy Higgins.

Photo Credit: LeAnne Mueller

Now signed to Warner Brothers in the United States, Missy is on the road less traveled, has no sure idea where she is going, but is taking measures to ensure that all of her friends (LGBTQ-included) are along for the ride.  Missy will be joining Sarah McLachlan, Jill Hennessy, Kelly Clarkson, and Tegan and Sara (among others) on the road this summer for Lilith Fair 2010.

Missy, how crazy has life been for you with your recent successes?

Well it’s not too crazy at the moment, as I’ve been taking a bit of time out lately.  For the first time in a while I’m staying put (in Melbourne, my home town), which has been so lovely. I get so excited doing the most mundane things like hanging the washing out and sprouting mung-beans and cooking for my friends because they’re all things I never get to do on the road. And I somehow inherited my Great-Grandmother’s upright piano which has been so incredible to have in the house to just play whenever I walk past it. It’s a Steinway from the early 1900s and has so many stories inside it. So at the moment I’m really just taking stock of everything that’s happened over the past few years.

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The Sound of White was Australia's best-selling album of 2005. You are originally from Melbourne so it had to be extremely exciting! What was that experience like for you?

It was like an exhilarating tornado of flashing lights and pavement spinning past my eyes. Thinking back now it’s almost hard to remember, I guess because it happened so suddenly and so dramatically. I did a lot of touring but the success happened quite fast with my first single Scar, so before I knew it I was playing really big venues in Australia and having to learn how to talk to big crowds. It’s a lot different from small crowds, there’s no discussing little things you’ve read in the paper that day, it’s all huge one-liners so you can reach the person in the back row. I found it really quite hard actually - there’s only so many times you can ask a crowd how they’re doing out there!

How do your Australian fans differ from your United States fans? 

I’m never sure how to answer that question. Every single person and every single city is different and with a different story. The United States I found that there were more people that found my music through “Where I Stood,” the single off my second album.  Where as in Australia my first album was more successful than my second one. So the responses to songs were always different. That was great for me because by the time my second album came around and I was touring America, I was much happier to not play so many songs from the first! 

“Where I Stood” is a phenomenally raw track from your album On a Clear Night.  Did you have any second thoughts before releasing such an emotionally- vulnerable piece to the world?

Thanks for saying so, for me that’s a great thing when a song is emotionally honest. All my favourite songs are anyway. There’s something really rewarding as a writer about not pretending to be any more together than you are. It seems to open other people up too, as though you’re giving each other permission to drop the act and say what you really mean. People are aloof enough in every day life, including myself, so song-writing is a safe place to be the person you wish you were always.

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Lilith Fair 2010 is gearing up and you are scheduled to be involved.  How did you receive the news that you were selected to join the festival?

I heard a rumour about a year ago that it might be happening and I was so excited I just kept saying “I want to be involved I want to be involved!!” Then I forgot about it , then my manager emailed me and told me I’d been asked to play. Lilith Fair was always one of those things I wish I’d gone to, but I was too young and it was on the other side of the world, so was absolutely so excited to be asked. Sarah McLachlan was a huge influence on me when I was about 15, just at the time when I was beginning to write songs on the piano.

When you are not singing and writing your own music, what do you listen to for fun?

I love community radio, we have some really great stations in Melbourne that play a whole range of genres from all over the world. I also really love classical and contemporary piano music,  at the moment I’m listening to Arvo Part’s  album Alina,  it’s so dark and beautiful it makes you disintegrate. And Clare de Lune, by Manuel, is another stunning classical song, my Dad used to play it all the time when I was growing up. 

With a bright future ahead of you, what do you dream of accomplishing most?

I think having a happy family, with a veggie garden and a dog and a little house with a studio out the back would be the only dream I have. I don’t know what will happen with my music, or anything else for that matter- I don’t have big aspirations one way or the other really- just a future with lots of laughing and good food and loads of thick healthy grass in the back yard to walk bare feet over.  

If you could turn back time for one day, would you?  If so, what would you change?

No, changing the past would only change the present and I’m fine with how I’ve ended up!

What are two of your favorite guilty pleasures?

Tim Tams and Reese Peanut Butter cups. End of story. 

Main Photo Credit: LeAnne Mueller

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Sarah Toce