Multi- tal­ented Kate Miller- Hei­dke finds her nat­u­ral voice, writes Noel Men­gel

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - NIGHT­FLIGHT ( Sony) Out now

On the record

KATE Miller- Hei­dke is back in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, play­ing songs from new al­bum in the theatre at Bris­bane’s Pow­er­house.

She’s seen lit­tle of her home city in re­cent years, but here she is per­fectly at ease in the duo mode with song­writ­ing col­lab­o­ra­tor and hus­band Keir Nut­tall as they have played in hun­dreds of shows.

As she re­veals one ex­tra­or­di­nary new song af­ter an­other from the in­tensely per­sonal to the dark folk tale you start to re­alise the breadth of her mu­si­cal range.

Miller- Hei­dke was a clas­si­cally trained opera singer from the Queens­land Con­ser­va­to­rium of Mu­sic who in­stead went on to be­come one of Australia’s best­loved singer­song­writ­ers.

She still has ties

Night­flight In the Dark The Devil Wears A Suit in the opera world, hav­ing just re­turned from per­form­ing in

for the

The Death of Klinghof­fer English Na­tional Opera.

But on stage in her own shows Kate also has a keen sense of comic tim­ing, not to men­tion a fund of sto­ries and rib­ald hu­mour that could make a shearer blush. Her ca­reer has had its play­ful elec­tro- pop mo­ments in sec­ond al­bum

and last year’s syn­th­driven side project Fatty Gets A Stylist. But much of is emo­tion­ally stark, shad­owed by in­ti­ma­tions of mor­tal­ity. It is cer­tainly the most pow­er­ful and com­plete state­ment she has made on record.

Af­ter two years spent mostly on the road, in­clud­ing 80- plus shows sup­port­ing Ben Folds in the US, Miller- Hei­dke and Nut­tall des­per­ately needed some­where they could un­pack their bags. That came in Nut­tall’s home city of Toowoomba in the house that had been the home of his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents, who died within a short time of each other. The feel­ing of be­ing there among these mem­o­ries and pos­ses­sions is de­tailed in

which be­gins: ‘‘ This car sits where he parked it, no more clicks on the clock’’.

‘‘ The house was sit­ting there empty, a gor­geous old place with these amaz­ing views,’’ Miller- Hei­dke says. ‘‘ We




In the thought it would be the ideal place to tie up all the threads and fin­ish writ­ing. There is def­i­nitely a stain of sad­ness that left its im­print on the record. That sense of mor­tal­ity came through in the songs.’’

They also hap­pened to be there dur­ing the Jan­uary 2011 floods that hit Toowoomba and the plains be­low so hard. Open­ing track Ride This

Feel­ing came from be­ing lit­er­ally driven to drink on that first night of the dis­as­ter, and then the iso­la­tion in the days af­ter as they watched friends’ Face­book up­dates.

Clos­ing track Fire & Iron is told from the point of view of a ghost watch­ing her child­hood friend walk her chil­dren.

At 30, Miller- Hei­dke’s voice has ma­tured, as re­vealed in songs such as The Tiger In­side

Will Eat the Child, where she sings in a lower reg­is­ter but uses her op­er­atic voice as an­other colour.

‘‘ I think I’m get­ting a bet­ter grasp at that, keep­ing it taste­ful, but still try­ing to make some­thing as ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble,’’ she says. ‘‘ Phys­i­cally your voice does change when you pass 27 and I lost that baby­ish qual­ity I used to have.’’

She is also de­lighted at be­ing able to jug­gle her in­ter­est in opera with her ca­reer.

‘‘ The Death of Klinghof­fer was such a pow­er­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. I had to let go of my ego. I’m not used to be­ing told what to do so I have a nat­u­ral re­sis­tance to be­ing di­rected. But the peo­ple work­ing on the opera were bril­liant.’’

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