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