Kate Miller-Heidke’s latest record is her first independent record since she broke free of her major label contract with Sony, and it sounds like an artist basking in the big, wild, musical freedom of independence. (The story goes that she walked into the Sony offices one day, asked to leave and, unusually, they simply said ‘OK.’)
“I wouldn’t say it’s a super coherent record,” says Miller-Heidke of O Vertigo. “It’s kind of an eclectic, mixed bag, really. But if I had to pick one theme I’d say it’s about asserting yourself really. And that’s what I was feeling.”
If Miller-Heidke is asserting anything with this record, it’s a confidence in musical contradictions. An opera-trained, award-winning pop songwriter who loves hip-hop, she somehow has the knack of making it all work together.
Miller-Heidke and her partner in song writing and in life, Keir Nuttall, won the 2007 International Song writing Competition for their song Caught In The Crowd, and she says, “There’s nothing that compares to that feeling of working on a song and finishing a song and creating something out of nothing.” While studying opera, she says, “By the end of my degree I became pretty aware of how low down singers were in the pecking order. You have to do what you’re told basically, by the director, by the conductor, and I guess I had a bit more of a bolshie attitude and wanted to make my own choices.”
In her case, those choices are likely to be unpredictable: like a collaboration with rapper Drapht, who appears on the track Drama on O Vertigo.
"I’ve been a fan of his stuff, and I’ve always really appreciated the word play and the poetry of hip-hop and the storytelling aspect of it. You can cram heaps more lyrics into a hip-hop song, so they can tell quite vivid stories. That song Stan by Eminem reminds me of a mini opera in a lot of ways. Keir had the song Drama lying around and it wasn’t quite taking off so I just asked Drapht over Twitter if he’d like to have a crack at making music with me and we just emailed back and forth. We’ve still never met!”
Miller-Heidke is well aware that she occupies a very distinctive space in the Australian musical landscape. “I see myself as a bit of a niche artist in a lot of ways, which is part of the reason why I didn’t need a major label. I really just need a few people who give a s---. And although saying the word ‘niche’ implies small, at the same time I think I’ve got quite a devoted and loyal fan base and that’s what sustains me.”
Since leaving Sony, that fan base is literally what has sustained her financially. O Vertigo was funded through an online Pledge crowd funding campaign, a process she found strengthened the bond between artist and fans.
“Nowadays it’s very easy not to pay for music. So if people make the choice to actually spend money on it, it’s like a gesture of support for the artist. This Pledge campaign, it sort of started to feel like a bit of a club, and people like to feel part of a club, and like to feel like they’ve helped something come to life.
"It’s almost as though paying money for music now, you’re taking a moral stance.”
When: 7.30pm, August 23
Where: Canberra Theatre
Tickets: $61.50 + BF available from canberratheatrecentre.com.au