By Stefanie Fischer
After a 5-year hiatus from the music industry, Australian indie singer/songwriter Missy Higgins hit the ground running last Sunday at The Old Rock House, promoting her comeback album, “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle.” When she took that stage, it was hard to believe that there was ever a time when she put her guitar in the corner and walked away from music. Any apprehension she may have had from the past seemed lost as she received a warm “welcome back from fans.”
The combination of Higgins’ humorous banter, jokes and lively performances made for a playful atmosphere for the evening. Variations of, “We’ve missed you” and “I love you’s” were shouted out to Missy and she passed the love right back to St. Louis fans. People laughed, swayed and bopped to the beats throughout the night. As a long-time fan, I could tell that Higgins’ newest songs are some of the most inspired and different music she’s delivered yet. However, those who favor the ballads featured on her earliest albums, “The Sound of White,” or “On A Clear Night,” were not let down, either. For years, her staple has been highly personal and sometimes highly emotional music, which made the lineup with tunes like “Warm Whispers,” “Scar” and “If I’m Honest.”
The vocal stylings of opening musicians Katie Herzig and Butterfly Boucher warmed up the crowd early in the night. Later, they joined Missy on stage for several songs, staying true to the indie and folk-inspired style they have in common.
Just hours before Missy performed, I was thrilled to sit down with her and have a little chat about all things music, and her interest with our St. Louis Arch.
ALIVE: Do you have anything planned while you’re in St. Louis?
Missy Higgins: Yeah! We found out there was a rock climbing gym, so we might do that in between sound checks. We also may go for a walk to that big Arch. I’ve heard that you can actually go up in it—it must be huge!
ALIVE: What’s it like being on tour and constantly on the go?
MH: Well, I’ve been doing it for so long now that I guess it’s just part of my life. It’s a mixture of really exciting and kind of crazy and hectic, but there’s a lot of downtime as well. It’s a lot of sitting on the bus and waiting for the guys to set up sound checks, so that can be a little weird if you don’t have anything to do. I find I need a book to read or do some “jewelry-ing” or something just to keep my mind active.
ALIVE: What are you reading right now?
MH: “The Game of Thrones”! It’s really good. Really big books, but it’s kind of perfect for the tour.
ALIVE: You started playing the piano at age six. Did you always know you’d be a musician, or was it something you grew into?
MH: When I got into my early teens I decided that I wanted to be a singer. My older brother was in a band and he used to get me to sing with the band over the weekends when I was 14ish. From then until about age 17 I was kind of singing in bands around Melbourne. I never thought that I’d be a singer-songwriter, like a performer of my own songs. I didn’t really hit my stride until I was 17 or 18. I just really loved singing and performing—even if I was in a cover band, I’d be fine!
ALIVE: Have you had any “ah-hah” moments where you truly felt you were a musician?
MH: Oh, there’s plenty of those moments. I had a really great time in Nashville where I ended up writing some of the songs from this album and recording it. For the first time, I was in a community of songwriters, because there’s just so many musicians there. It was the first time I had been amongst so many people who were doing what I was doing and really treated it as a legitimate career. I’d never really felt that before. I think that was one of the first times where I said, “This is a proper job.”
ALIVE: How would you describe your music to others?
MH: Usually I say its vocally-driven acoustic pop. But it’s hard to describe my music, in a way, because there are so many different genres that I draw from with every album. More so this album than the last two I think. There are definitely a couple blues-y influences and folk-y influences and straight pop influences.
ALIVE: What is your favorite song to sing on stage?
MH: I’m really enjoying singing “Watering Hole” from the new album, because it’s really different. It has a gospel and deep south feel to it—also, we get to do animal noises on stage! We get the audience to participate, which is a really fun thing to do.
ALIVE: You’ve returned after a five-year hiatus. Was music still a big part of your life while you were taking a break?
MH: It was for periods, and then not at all for periods. I went through phases of playing a lot of instrumental piano music by myself, because I found it really calming. But then, there were times where I just couldn’t even look at my guitar. I was having trouble writing songs.
ALIVE: Was it easy to come back?
MH: It was when things finally clicked for me. I did Lilith Fair and I performed a few shows for the first time in years, and I realized how much I’d missed it. So, yeah, it was really easy because it felt like everything else that I’ve tried to do over the years in between albums had not really ever made me as happy as music did.
ALIVE: Is there any story or special meaning behind your latest album titled, “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle”?
MH: It came about because my friend in Nashville, who I collaborated with on a song, recorded a demo and sent it to me, and “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle” was the subject title. I thought it was kind of an appropriate name for the album, because there are songs on the album that talk about the entertainment industry and my struggle with reconciling the entertainer side of my life with the personal. I guess my difficulty with the “razzle dazzle” side of the industry.
ALIVE: Butterfly Boucher and Katie Herzig are touring with you. Did they contribute to the album?
MH: Butterfly co-produced it, and I wrote a song with Katie called “Tricks” that went on the album, too. We approached it as…we are good friends and musicians who like each others music, so we said, “:et’s just have fun and see where it goes.” So we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves.
ALIVE: If you could perform with any other musicians, who would you choose?
MH: I’ve always been a huge fan of Patty Griffin. Oh, maybe Gillian Welch—that would be pretty amazing too.
ALIVE: What inspires you to write a song?
MH: I guess when I need to figure something out. It’s a great way of processing [something], and also makes it easier to deal with by putting it in a 4-minute bracket. It’s some sort of closure.
ALIVE: Are you here to stay in the music industry?
MH: I think so! I mean, I am taking it a day at a time, and I can’t promise a fast follow-up album. One thing I’ve realized over the years is that music is a really important part of me and I don’t think I want to ever be without music. It’s just going to take me a bit of time between each one, because I’m one of those people that wants to be able to live a little in between tours.