Feb 21, 2008
The Australian-born singer Missy Higgins, who first took to the piano at the age of 6, has discovered a new instrument to write songs: the guitar.
For her latest work, “On a Clear Night,” Higgins composed the majority of her tunes on the stringed instrument and from the first notes you can hear the emergence of a new direction - in terms of tempo, lyrical content and a newfound sense of clarity - as compared to her last work “The Sound of White.”
“I usually sit down at the piano when I'm feeling somber and I feel like writing a ballad, and I usually pick up the guitar when I want to write something a bit more angst-ridden because you tend to write with rhythm when writing on a guitar,” said Higgins.
The Melbourne native actually wrote most of the songs for the new album while on the road in support of “The Sound of White” and had only the portable guitar to express her musical ideas.
“I wanted these songs to tell a story in the most beautiful way possible,” she said. “All of my songs have a sense of a narrative to them, I guess, and I wanted to really put that in the forefront and allow the songs to build and allow the songs to kind of speak for themselves.”
Higgins, 24, has had much success in her homeland where “The Sound of White” was Australia's best-selling album in 2005.
“There's something really great about starting from scratch in a new country where I don't have a name for myself over here,” said Higgins about playing in the United States. “The people who have come to my shows so far have been those who have heard of me through word of mouth and not necessarily from the radio or an advertisement. So at the moment, I'm just really enjoying playing these intimate-style shows and playing to people who don't know my stuff as well.”
In her earlier days, Higgins took a break from the piano for the guitar over a period of a few years and joined her older brother's band around the age 13. She won a national songwriting contest sponsored by a local alternative radio station while still in high school. Two years later, following a backpacking trip in Europe, Higgins put out an EP that shot up the indie music charts in 2003. The Los Angeles independent station KCRW got a hold of her music and began playing it, which led to a record deal in the States. By 2005, Higgins was touring America and the United Kingdom, opening for Ray Lamontagne, the Finn Brothers and Howie Day.
By September 2006, Higgins was working with producer Mitchell Froom - known for his work with Elvis Costello, Crowded House and Paul McCartney - in his Los Angeles studio. One result of the new record is the varying textures of sound due to Higgins' interest in experimenting with new instruments.
“The last album was completely acoustic, but I wanted to experiment a little bit while still keeping the songs very raw and stripped back,” recalled Higgins. “It was kind of the idea to put in little things that you might not necessarily hear the first time around but on the second or third you kind of discover more and more about the songs.”