Game-Changing Women of Australian Music – Missy Higgins Pt 2.

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Steer (M Higgins) and Where I Stood (M Higgins) 2007 and Everybody’s Waiting (D Wilson/M Higgins) – Missy Higgins 2012.

Following the success of her debut album the Sound of White, Missy Higgins toured and performed at benefit concerts for Wave Aid and Vanguard in Sydney. In 2006 she relocated to Broome, on the northwest coast of Western Australia initially to work on the movie musical Bran Nue Dae, and during a six- month sabbatical there she composed songs, connected with the vast and remote landscape of the Pilbara, and met her future husband, Broome playwright and comedian Dan Lee.

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Missy’s second studio album was On A Clear Night, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Mitchell Froom who had previously worked closely with Neil Finn and Crowded House, Higgins and her manager John Watson were now focused on international success, particularly in the US, where she had received mixed reviews for her records to date.

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Locally the album was a hit, climbing quickly to #1 as did the first single released, the more upbeat acoustic guitar pop of Steer, in which the lyrics capture the sense of emancipation, empowerment, and self-control that Higgins now felt about herself. She had to physically, and geographically, isolate herself, in the country’s remote north-west, to find her direction, the power to steer her life and career on her own terms.

“Feel it falling off like clothing/Taste it rolling on your tongue /See the lights above you glowing/ Oh, and breathe them deep into your lungs”– uplifting and heartfelt.

Steer is not as angsty as her previous hits, her vocals are more relaxed, playful and she uses pitch and tempo changes to sustain interest, the promo video was quirky. Higgins is depicted as a real- life car test dummy, driving vehicles into walls as part of a destructive testing process supervised by men in white lab coats. She escapes the boffins and drives off into the sunset, so metaphorically, she was no longer prepared to keep bashing her head against that old familiar brick wall, fame and fortune would only be an option on her terms.

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Her second single off the album was Where I Stood, a return to the more morose piano ballads of her early hits, albeit with more obvious orchestration and use of strings, it charted #9 locally and would be her last top forty single success in the decade.

A stunning, casptivating, haunting, breakup song, that rates up there with the heart-wrenching I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.” You meant more to me then any one I’ve ever loved at all but you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you, this is what I have to do”

Songs from the album had been placed by her record label with such US TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Brothers and Sisters, Smallville, Lipstick Jungle, The Hills, Men in Trees and So You Think You Can Dance, and Missy toured the US throughout 2007-08 promoting her new record, but the album climbed no higher than #193 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Missy Higgins was well-regarded in her domestic market, but not yet an acquired taste offshore, she was still dealing with depression as well as writer’s block after her second album. In 2008 she informed her manager John Watson that she wanted out, to explore other pathways in her life. Below L-R Sara Bareilles, Sara McLachlan, Tegan Quin, Sara Quin, Missy Higgins, Lilith Fair 2010.

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She completed a year of indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne, travelled, and accepted an invitation from her idol, Canadian alt-pop singer Sara McLachlan, to join her all-female touring festival known as Lilith Fair in 2010. Her main stage performances were well-received, her confidence was restored, she would go back into the recording studio in 2012 to put down her third studio album, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle which would take her back to the top of the charts, for her third consecutive #1 album, which sold 70,000 copies

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The first single lifted off the album was Unashamed Desire which failed to make the top 40, but the second release Everyone’s Waiting was a devastatingly personal expose of why Missy had chosen to virtually abandon her recording career after two successful #1 albums. She was conflicted about her sexual peferences and felt harassed by media speculation and probing, she subsequently talked about this period and the creative music video which used water as a metaphor for her life, that was developed around the song Everyone’s Waiting deals with a real inner conflict I went through regarding music, so to personify the water as both my nemesis and then my saviour is pretty spot on when relating to the meaning of the song. I feel honoured to have worked with such an incredible film-maker.” Melodically charming and emotionally affecting, Missy Higgins warmth and sincerity is exemplified in her vocals, “I know all the lines to say/ The part time I’m expected to play/But in the reflection I am worlds away…/And everyone’s waiting/ But it’s getting harder to hear what my heart is saying/’Cause everyone’s waiting”.

Missy riding the currents of life and the riptides of emotion – at Byron Bay.

The song would peak at #11 in 2012 and would be the last single Missy would take into the top 40, she would however continue to release successful albums – Oz (#3 in 2012), and Solastalgia (#3 in 2018) and in 2018 she would release The Special Ones, a compilation of her hits. Missy and Dan Lee would marry in 2016 and have two children Samuel (2015) and Luna (2017), she continues to evolve as a performer, as has learnt to become more unpredictable with her music, how to unnerve, surprise and challenge her fans and herself. To strike a balance between the earnest self-analysis and introspection that had characterized her early songs, while embracing broader themes, issues and causes about which she is passionate; using an expanded palette of musical sounds and genres, to enable her to realize her great potential as a singer/songwriter. Below Missy and husband Dan with their children Samuel and Luna.

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