The beloved vocal powerhouse heads north for a special return engagement
When you’ve got two concurrent careers, both of which require an enormous amount of commitment, you have every reason to be exhausted. And yet Kate Miller-Heidke is sounding downright perky – if furious at the current government, especially the proposed hikes to education. Although she also has a unique take on our Minister for Education.
“John Waters and I had to educate him about tea bagging backstage atQ&A,” she reveals. “He had no idea what it was.”
Was this illustrated via mime?
“Well. we didn’t really need to do that, John was very helpful, I have to say. He was pretty descriptive.”
She’s currently touring in support of this year’s O Vertigo, and then it’s off to New York in mid-September for her other job – performing opera, in this instance in The Death of Klinghoffer. Surely swapping between the two is exhausting?
“It’s a bit hard but this opera role is nowhere near as demanding as say a fully blown [production]. At this stage in my life I wouldn’t say yes to doing a Mozart Opera or a Verdi Opera or something like that.”
Klinghoffer is a modern American opera first performed in 1991, “and the aesthetic of it is modern and particularly for my role they wanted somebody with a pop aesthetic – I believe that they asked Bjork to do it before they asked me. Which is a strange idea! So yes, I have to sing in a giant theatre un-amplified but I’ve got quite a fair bit of freedom in that I don’t have to be technically amazing. It’s more about the characterisation.”
O Vertigo was the first album Miller-Heidke made as a completely independent arist after parting ways with Sony. You’d think that’d be a big deal, but the way she tells it the move didn’t really change anything.
“It felt very similar to the process of the album before, except that I was more aware of how much everything cost,” she chuckles. “I definitely had complete control over every aspect, but that’s something that Sony was actually always quite good about anyway. I know it would be a much better story if everything changed but in fact they sort of left me alone and let me do my thing.”
Money for the album were raised via crowdfunding, which was a record-breaking success – by February she’d raised over twice the amount she’d sought. And that did change things slightly, she admits.
“I felt a bit more responsibility to my fans than I ever had before because it would have been extremely awkward if they all hated it,” she laughs. “I made a record on the same budget that I would have had on a major label, which is kind of a miracle.”
The album features several guests including Megan Washington, who swaps lines with Miller-Heike on ‘Ghosts’. The pair go back a ways.
“We both studied at the Con[servatorium of Music] in Brisbane. It wasn’t the same time, she was a few years after me and she was in the jazz department anyway and the jazz and the classical departments didn’t mix,” she smiles. “But we hung out in similar circles and the Brisbane music scene is quite close knit and small. Actually, we first met at the Brisbane musical comedy competition when she was about fifteen and I was about eighteen and she beat me! So that was the start of a terrible friendship.”
So Miller-Heidke and Washington are actually locked in a never-ending lifelong rivalry?
“Well there is an aspect of that, but she denies it,” she laughs. “But for me there’s always been – or there was for several years – an element of competition just because she’s so fucking good and it’s very annoying for me! But at the same time I think we share so much and it’s really rare to have a friendship with someone that has so much in common, this whole weird lifestyle of making music in Australia.”