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Kate Miller-Heidke is ready to return to her element

WORDS BY WILL BREWSTER

“This album is a reflection of some emotional truths that are at the heart of my personality in many ways.”

Kate Miller-Heidke is a bonafide pop talent unlike any other. A classically trained vocalist with a background in opera, her songs flirt between shimmering Top 40 and esoteric chamber-pop, with flamboyant vocal runs and vivid, heartfelt lyricism residing at the heart of her songcraft.

She’s an incredibly gifted vocalist and an award-winning songwriter, but above all, Kate is a live performer – a sentiment that she’s first to attest to.


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In 2019, she wowed international crowds by belting out an inspiring performance of her song ‘Zero Gravity’ for Eurovision – on gigantic stilts, nonetheless – and to date, she’s the only artist to have ever performed at the competition, with the New York Metropolitan Orchestra and at Coachella. All of which makes her upcoming national tour behind last year’s Child in Reverse all the more enticing for audiences and Miller-Heidke alike.

“This tour was actually planned for a year earlier, to coincide with the release of the album,” Miller-Heidke remarks, immediately addressing the COVID-sized elephant in the room. “First and foremost, I’m a live performer and that’s always been at the heart of what I do, so putting an album out without a tour kind of feels like putting it out in a vacuum for me.”

Despite the immense wait, Miller-Heidke does admit that the delay has helped her achieve a newfound appreciation of Child in Reverse, noting that she’s looking forward to reworking the record’s effervescent arrangements to play live with her six-piece band as they travel around the country for 15 shows this September.

Her frustrations, however, are all too relatable for any worker in the Australian arts sector over the past 18 months. “I normally put out a record, and a few months later absolutely hate it and think it’s shit,” Miller-Heidke says. “[With] this one, I haven’t got to that point in the process yet.”

“Everything’s kind of just stuck; it’s like it’s been pickled or something. I really need to play these songs live and feel them in my body with other living humans, and I’m yet to let them properly be born in that way, without sounding too whiny.”

Child in Reverse, released a glaring six years after Miller-Heidke’s last album Oh Vertigo! and penned in the wake of a period of significant personal upheaval, marked a stellar return for the Brisbane singer-songwriter.

The record – perhaps her most unabashedly ‘pop’ project to date – is a sensational collection of major key bops that showcases her trademark vocal acrobatics atop of warm keyboards and tight, electronic grooves.


Beneath the record’s bubbly exterior, however, rests some seriously poignant lyricism from Miller-Heidke. As its title implies, the preeminent theme of Child in Reverse is that of youth and new life, with many of its songs being written about Miller-Heidke’s own childhood as well as the birth of her own first child.

“This album is a reflection of some emotional truths that are at the heart of my personality in many ways, and obviously, every experience you go through directly informs that,” she says.

“Like many new parents, I had a young child and it made me reflect on my own childhood. It made me remember what it was like to be a kid and to be that vulnerable, which was the impetus for me to kind of go back and examine some formative experiences that I maybe hadn’t thought about before.”

Miller-Heidke credits much of the record’s organic timbre to producer Evan Klar, who handled the majority of the instrumentals, as well as songwriter Hailey Collier. Initially mired by her own misconceptions of artistic authenticity, Miller-Heidke notes that she was at first apprehensive towards the idea of working with co-writers prior to recording Child in Reverse with Collier and Klar.

“It’s a style of pop songwriting that’s incredibly common, to work with three people in a room and come up with a song in a day, but it’s something that I’d always been scared of,” she confesses.

“I had these weird notions about authenticity in songwriting; this romantic idea that songwriting should be one person alone in a room, pouring their feelings out, so I’d always avoided that.

“After coming back from Eurovision, I was just feeling a bit stuck creatively and wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in, so I tried an APRA Song Hubs songwriting camp and met some amazing people, including Evan Klar, who I ended up working with on the rest of the album.”

Miller-Heidke suggests that another contributing factor to Child in Reverse’s buoyant sound came courtesy of some serious romantic chemistry between Klar and Collier during the recording of the album.

“The first day I met Evan, we were in that songwriting team at the camp with Hayley, and there was this weird tension between those guys,” Miller-Heidke says gleefully.

“Sure enough, by the end of the camp, the love chemicals were well and truly in the air, so we actually made this record while those two were in the first flush of total love hormones. I’m sure that’s not why they were so lovely to work with though; I’m sure they’re normally lovely as well!”

When discussing matters of music with a local artist, it’s incredibly difficult to not touch upon the turbulent allegations against Sony Music Australia that have rocked the music industry as of late.

Reports of harassment, abuse, misogyny and toxic work culture have swept through – but unfortunately not surprised – the record biz, and Miller-Heidke, who herself was a former Sony artist, is all too aware of its issues. She recognises the need for change and addresses the complacency of those who retain leadership roles in the industry and prompts them to do more to ensure Australian music is a safe space for all.

“I was always kept at arm’s length from the workplace cultures but I’ve got a lot of good friends who I made during those days that have worked at Sony. I’ve heard a lot of stories, and I don’t think these revelations come as much of a surprise to most people in the industry, I’m sure you probably agree that everybody has known,” Miller-Heidke says.

“It’s healthy that we’ve finally come to a point where victims can feel like they can speak about it openly, and hopefully come to some kind of healing place. I think that the music industry, at a systemic level, certainly needs to be listening and responding right now.”

Kate-Miller Heidke is touring Child in Reverse across the country from September to December 2021 – visit Frontier Touring for tickets and details.

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