Why Kate Miller-Heidke’s son hates her voice
Singer Kate Miller-Heidke on how she is coping with the lockdown, her son's love of the limelight - and why she feels she can cope with anything after performing on Eurovision.
How are you coping with this weird state of the world?
You know, it's up and down - good days and bad days. I've had this new sense of calm settling over me. I've given up trying to control anything, which was always my default position before. Now I'm trying to surrender a bit.
How have you navigated sharing your work online during the COVID-19 shutdown?
I haven't done that much at all. I did do a streamed concert a couple of weeks ago and that was the very first performance I've done during this whole thing. The timing [of the shutdown] was kind of lucky for me because we had just played a whole bunch of festival gigs and I had planned on having a few weeks off after that anyway.
I didn't have any gigs booked until July. So this has been a beautiful bonding time with my family and I've been having so much fun with my son [Ernie, four], going on outdoor adventures with him most days. There's really a lot to be grateful for when I've got the presence of mind to be grateful.
Is Ernie enjoying having more of your undivided attention?
Oh, yes, he loves it. And he loves staying close to home and being in a regular routine, the most repetitive routine I think I've ever had in my life - at least since I was in school. I do feel this strange sense of calm… I've also been writing and working on stuff. And listening to new album mixes is an exciting, optimistic thing to do.
Your new single 'This Is Not Forever' brings a tear to the eye.
Thanks. It's good it made you cry, but I'm sorry.
You do have a knack for capturing the demons in our heads and expressing them through your songs.
I suppose all songwriting has that wrestle at its essence. This one is less about my own demons and more trying to comfort someone. It was written last year when someone close to me was falling into depression and I desperately wanted to be able to help them. Songs shapeshift depending on the context, and in this strange time [that song] took on added resonance.
How does someone sharing with you the brutal truth of what they're going through become a song you want to record and return to them as a kind of gift?
I did send the song to them, but it didn't make much of a difference, unfortunately. I suppose I am mercenary in a way, constantly looking for emotions or things in my life that I feel could be expressed in a song.
This particular song was written while at an APRA SongHubs writing camp on the Gold Coast. We were set up on a blind three-way date and that was the first time I've ever done that style of collaboration for myself.
We wrote this song on the third day when I think everyone was feeling a bit fragile. I've written for other people in that way, but I've never felt confident enough to go into that setting and write for me. That camp changed the whole direction of my album and was a watershed moment.
It's been just over a year since you represented Australia at Eurovision, which was of course postponed for 2020. How do you feel about it as you look back?
I do feel, having been through Eurovision, I can cope with anything now. It is a similar feeling to the one I had after giving birth. Everything seems a lot easier and less stressful after being on that bendy pole and having three minutes to try to impress the world.
And also, getting older and feeling more content with my own voice and my own process of discovery, I'm not feeling beholden or like I have to please anybody else.
Did Eurovision validate your instincts about the kind of music you want to be making?
More than anything I feel lucky. It was a big gamble for me and I feel lucky to be riding this new wave in my music career. It's a pretty rare thing, particularly for women above the age of 30. I pinch myself a bit. I have actually never watched my performance in its entirety, but I think I am ready to now.
You have also been busy curating the performances of the Song Of The Year nominees for the first virtual APRA Music Awards tomorrow.
It has been a challenge because people are having to perform in their bedrooms or their lounge rooms. So we don't have the scope right now to be able to put together the same collaborations we have in the past.
But there's something quite beautiful about that, too. It's been a lovely creative distraction for me. I've seen them all and they are bloody outstanding.
Is the rest of 2020 now all about your next record, or do you have 300 other projects to juggle?
Yeah, it is... although right now we were supposed to be in New York getting Muriel's Wedding ready for Broadway. That's obviously all on ice, but we are still doing Zoom workshops and rewrites.
[My husband] Keir [Nuttall] and I are working on songs for a Shakespeare play for the Melbourne Theatre Company, which is pencilled in for later this year. The idea of people sitting in a room watching a Shakespeare romantic comedy after all of this... when that time comes, it's going to be hard not to cry.
When can we expect a children's album from you?
I've got a lot of voice-memo songs in progress and so does Keir, obviously. So there are a lot of ideas. One day.
But Ernie is still not a fan of my voice. He prefers if I don't sing. At all. He said to me, "I love you, but I don't like you and I especially don't like your face."
So... yeah. He just likes having the spotlight to himself. He doesn't want to share it.
Kate Miller-Heidke's new single 'This Is Not Forever' (EMI) is available to download and stream from Thursday.
Originally published as Why Kate Miller-Heidke's son hates her voice