Friday, December 2, 2022


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

The Sound Of Missy Higgins

Caption: Photo credit: Emma Goodland

Missy Higgins is one of Australia’s most beloved singer songwriters. Classic songs like Scar, The Special Two, Steer, Everyone’s Waiting and Futon Couch, plus her unforgettable live shows, have made Missy an authentic household name. Earlier in 2022, Missy released mini-album Total Control, picking up themes of exploitation and female empowerment that run through the TV series of the same name and which also dominated real world headlines last year as a string of abuse allegations emerged from Parliament House. Sam had a chat with Missy before she brings her songs and her stories to Mackay for Legends on the Lawn in May.

Missy, going back to the start, how did the song ‘All for Believing’ come about and how do you think it winning triple j Unearthed affect your career trajectory?

‘All For Believing’ was pretty much one of the first songs I ever wrote, I was 15 or 16 in year 10. I wrote it about my boyfriend I had when I was in year 10, he was kind of my first love. It was a very tumultuous affair. I wrote it for a school music assignment and, as usual, I just didn’t do my homework so I did it at the last minute. I went into a room with a piano at recess on the day that it was due and I wrote that song and it just kind of came out. I was listening to a lot of Sarah McLachlan at the time so I can hear that on it. I recorded it and then a couple of years later, when I was in year 12, my sister sent the cassette of the recording to triple j and it won Unearthed. I didn’t even know what Unearthed was at the time but it was a really big deal and it ended up getting my song on the radio and I got a record deal out of that; it was really how the whole thing started, I have my sister really to thank for sending the cassette in in the first place, because I’m not sure how I would’ve got my start without that.

When I was in bands in high school, sending something to triple j was the absolute goal, what role do you think triple j and Unearthed plays in the Australian music scene?

I think it’s just a really great way to showcase Australian talent, especially regional talent. A lot of people from regional areas don’t have as much access to the industry bigwigs like they do in the city. Triple j is a huge national radio station with so much respect. Back in my day you, you only really heard the people that won or were the runners up but now there’s the whole section on their website dedicated to the lot of people who entered that you can discover yourself, so it really puts it into the hands of the listeners to find their own music, which I think is really great.

What was 15-year-old Missy Higgins’ song writing process compared to that of current day Missy Higgins?

I guess back then, I didn’t have much going on so I could spend a lot of time in my bedroom pouring my heart out. My process was like keeping a diary and when you’re a teenager you feel like you’re going through so many huge waves of emotion and life altering experiences because you’re feeling lots of things for the first time and experiencing things for the first time. All of that makes for really good song writing because it’s such potent emotion. It was just a way of processing the way around me. Now I’ve really got to make an effort to carve out the time because I’ve got kids now and that’s a bloody full-time job so I’ve just got to figure out how the hell to make the time for myself to write songs, so it couldn’t be more different, actually.

I read that music was your escape from the pressures of high school, was music always the plan at that stage?

Yes and no. I knew how much I loved music and I knew how much I always wanted to do music. My older brother was a musician and I just grew up watching him play in these bands, because he’s a lot older than me. I just wanted to do what he did and I also love jazz, I love singing jazz, so I just thought, ‘I just want to play music. I want to play piano and I want to sing. Either or and I don’t care how I do it, I just want to do it, I just want to perform.’ That was the extent of it, it wasn’t until later that I developed this longing to write my own songs and sing my own songs. I just wanted to perform, even it meant just singing other people’s songs. I knew it was definitely music for me, I just didn’t realise that my name would be on the front of the album.

Flash forward 20 years and you’re on the bill under Paul Kelly, which you have been many times before, on this huge tour before coming to Mackay for Legends on the Lawn, how excited are you for these shows?

I’m so excited. It’s just such an amazing group of people on this tour, most of which I know and love from over the years. It’s just so great to have such a big run of shows, I think it’s 26 or 27 shows with the same group of people so after a while you just become a bit of a family. You see them backstage every day and get to listen to each other and catch up with each other and most of us live in different cities so it’s the only chance we get to hang out with each other. Just to have these regular, consistent shows after a couple of years of the pandemic ruining live music for us and for everyone else, it’s a real relief and I think all of us are even more grateful than we ever have been to be doing what we do and to be able to play live shows

You’re no stranger to performing in the regions, are there any noticeable differences between performing in places like Mackay compared to the big cities?

It’s always really fun, going to the regional places. It’s a different vibe I guess because you guys don’t get as much access to live music as we do in the big cities, we get a bit spoilt. It’s always really fun, everyone’s super excited, it just feels like a special event and that’s just so nice. It feels really special to us but it’s even more special if we feel like everyone in the audience is super stoked to have us there.

Can you remember the last time you visited Mackay?

I think it was ages ago. I think it was 2014, I think I played at the Convention Centre. So, yeah, a really long time ago so I can’t wait to get back. I might bring my kids and go and have a look at the Barrier Reef this time, that’d be great.

Oh nice, yeah there’s plenty to see and do up here. And what can we expect from your Legends on the Lawn set?

I released an album earlier this year called ‘Total Control’, it’s a real feminist powerhouse album so we’re going to be playing a lot of songs from that album but we mix in a lot of old stuff too so there’ll be quite a few from the first album and a mixture of the subsequent albums and there’s always a few surprises in there too, we’re trying to work up a cover song at the moment, so it should be a lot of fun.

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