Touring in support of her new album, O Vertigo!, Kate Miller-Heidke performs at the Astor Theatre on Friday August 1. KRISSI WEISS reports.
Kate Miller-Heidke – a classically trained, pop luminary who can break your heart with a melody as quickly as she can have you crying with laughter during a quirky, cabaret-esque song – has toured this country countless times and circuited the globe just a few as well.
Whether packing a festival tent or an intimate show Miller-Heidke is a Pied Piper of eclectic audiences but despite her success thus far, there has always been just a whisper of dissonance to her sound. Her previous releases have had a lot going for them but the present can often shine a light on the past. Reconciling her operatic craft with her pop music skill has always been a challenge never entirely mastered until now (not that her audience ever seemed phased).
Her latest album, O Vertigo!, is nothing short of a triumph for Miller-Heidke and it is in its flawless execution that you become aware of the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s only when you hear her get it so sublimely right, that you really notice anything was ever slightly amiss before.
Having just wrapped up a run of stripped-back shows and a stint at Sydney’s ever-impressive Vivid Live festival, Miller-Heidke is working out the finer details of her upcoming tour and how she plans to bring this mammoth sounding album to life.
“The new album is so harmony-centric – the harmonies are such a big part of the songs – I’m still working out how I want to tour for August,” she says. “I know I want a rhythm section, I know I want to play with drums and bass but I’m not sure what else… there’s something about adding rhythm that’s like stepping into a V8 and going, ‘Fuck yeah!’.”
O Vertigo! is Miller-Heidke’s first release since parting ways with Sony Music. Choosing the crowdfunding route, it took just three days for her to reach her target on Pledge Music. So does this return to independent release bring with it fear or freedom?
“Well actually, freedom I’d say,” she offers. “The fear would come from the fact that I’ve put out my hand and asked people for money and I might put out something that they might not like. That was the only risk, really. But I felt confident enough with the material and the songs that I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t hate it. I mean, I’m sure some of them do and that’s a shame, but I’ve had a pretty good response to it. It was an amazingly liberating feeling to be independent after such a long time.”
While the majority of her music to date has been, in some part, written with creative (and life) partner Keir Nuttall, Miller-Heidke chose to tackle the creative space of this album independently as well.
“This album was scarier for me because I was working without my long-term collaborator,” she says. “It’d been 50/50 with Keir for the first few recordings and even for the side project, Fatty Gets A Stylist, so this was the first one I’d written close to entirely myself and co-produced myself without him at all. He came and played guitar for a few songs, but that was it. I guess I felt a bit older and more comfortable in my own skin, so I was more comfortable to reach out to musicians and ask them to be involved.”
As far as cohesion goes, this album has it in spades. For Miller-Heidke there were many risks taken but the end result is an almost perfect representation of each and every one of her musical strengths.
“For me the challenge has always been, ‘how much can I get away with in the studio without sounding irritating or without it sounding like a gimmick yet while still staying true to the song?’,” she says. “It’s been a long journey for me, literally and metaphorically, to find my voice – what my real – voice is. I’ve sort of reconciled myself to the fact that yes, I have this classical background – I used to be ashamed of it and I thought it was working against me in my songwriting – but now I’m a bit older and feeling more experienced with my voice what comes with that is more playfulness. With this record I was pushing the boundaries in the studio; it always made sense to push those boundaries live, but not as much in the studio as before this.
“A studio recording is a different medium. You know some albums you love and you see it live and it’s really fucking boring? Or you hear someone live and their album is disappointing? I think I’ve often fallen into that latter camp? This record felt more confident than others.”
Pic: Jo Duck
Kate Miller-Heidke performs at the Astor Theatre on Friday August 1.
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