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Kate Miller-Heidke Interview April 2011

Catherine May


Kate Miller-Heidke recently wowed the country with her Ben Folds’ support slot and her solo show at Camden’s Monto Water Rats gave us a greater insight into the Australian Singer Songwriter. Here at MTTM we’re big fans, so caught up with Kate to talk about a third album, her operatic background and… Jedward.

MTTM: You trialled some new songs at your recent Monto Rats show, are these going towards a third album?

Kate Miller-Heidke: Yes. We’ve been writing a lot lately.  It’s always a buzz to play a new song publicly for the first time – the song takes on a new life somehow.

MTTM: You’ve been based in London recently but are about to head back to Australia to tour with Ben Folds. Where do you currently regard as home?

Kate Miller-Heidke: That’s a good question.  I still think of Australia as home, but I love London too.  In Australia all my friends and family are in Brisbane, but Melbourne is where all my furniture is.  We’re thinking of moving to the US after the next album comes out.  So yes, confusion and fragmentation abound.

MTTM: What are the biggest differences you’ve noticed between the Australian and UK music scenes?

Kate Miller-Heidke: I don’t really know much about the UK scene, besides the fact that it’s hard to break into.  I’ve heard that it has a trashy tabloid element (I don’t know if Jedward would have success in Australia), and that they prize youth and beauty heavily.  Then again, some of my favourite current bands are English – Everything Everything, Elbow.

MTTM: Your two studio albums both display a range of different styles, particularly with the variation between say Last Day on Earth and Motorscooter on Curiouser, do you prefer writing and performing upbeat tracks or the more emotionally-charged numbers?

Kate Miller-Heidke: I love ballads.  Keir called me ‘The queen of the open wound’ the other day, and I do think that a great ballad can represent the pinnacle of songwriting.  Songs like ‘Waiting for my real life to begin’ by Colin Hay, or ‘Book of Love’ by The Magnetic Fields…ah.

MTTM: You always seem to have one comedy/parody track in your live shows, are you working on a new one or do you feel Are You F*cking Kidding Me? (The Facebook Song) will be around for a while still?

Kate Miller-Heidke: There’s only so long you can continue doing any particular parody song before people get sick of it. We’ve got a few new songs that tread the line between comedy and folky-pop.  They might even make it onto the album.

MTTM: You’ve previously found inspiration from Keir’s school days and Australian writer Marieke Hardy, what’s currently inspiring your writing?

Kate Miller-Heidke: Bad talkback radio, booze, Peter Gabriel, Elena Kats-Chernin, Montmorensy, Richard Thomas, bogans (that’s ‘chavs’ in the UK), department stores, death, shame, joy.

MTTM: Your career really seemed to take off in Australia when LDOE was used on a Neighbours advert, were you expecting the reaction that you got after that? Any plans to try and get a song into the background of Eastenders?

Kate Miller-Heidke: No I really wasn’t expecting that reaction, but I was very grateful!

MTTM: You’ve managed to combine your operatic background effortlessly with pop melodies in your songs, do you feel that your formal training has aided you professionally? And having performed in Jerry Springer The Opera, and more recently in Sadler Wells’ ‘Shoes’, would you ever consider returning solely to your operatic roots?

Kate Miller-Heidke: Thank you very much!  It hasn’t really been ‘effortlessly’… I spend a lot of time thinking about how to tread that elusive line between the real emotion of a simple pop song and the drama of the operatic voice.  It’s not something that works very often.  I would never return to opera full-time, but I love the freedom that comes with being able to dabble in it occasionally.  It’s like a little frosted window into another world.  I love working with other people, being part of an ensemble and singing things that I would normally never sing. But I also love writing my own stuff and being my own boss, so I feel lucky I get to do both.

MTTM: You’re inevitably going to conquer the UK scene soon (your Ben Folds support slot certainly gained you a lot of new fans!) but is there anyone else we should be watching out for from Australia?

Kate Miller-Heidke: I love your confidence! We’d love to be able to spend more time here again.  There are many great Australian artists and bands making music now.  At the moment, I’m listening to Jinja Safari, Montmorensy, Jackie Marshall, The Boat People, Washington, Mal Webb, Bowser, The Bedroom Philosopher, Skinny Jean, Sarah Blasko, Clare Bowditch.  There are many more.