Record Rewind: Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White
It was high school in 2004, there was yet to be a Taylor Swift in the world of musical releases. What was a girl who experienced heartbreak daily to listen to? For me, that person was Missy Higgins, the Australian singer-songwriter with a penchant for unfiltered and personal lyrics delivered with genuine, raw emotion. The Sound Of White was Missy Higgins debut studio album that received much acclaim in Australia, (9x platinum to be exact according to the ARIA, an ARIA for ‘Best Pop Release’ and a win of 5 out of 7 ARIA nominations in 2005) and rightly so. With that perfectly imperfect sweet vocal ebb and flow that works so well with singer-songwriters (such a Miss Swift). Why? Because it feels so comfortable, so familiar, so relatable. And with the vocals focused more on telling a story, it sounds as if it’s being relayed to a friend or being written in a diary in real time, it just feels conversational enough to make you feel as though you are part of that world, and that the song is a part of yours.
Missy Higgins has since 2004 gone on to release On A Clear Night in 2007, followed by The Ol Razzle Dazzle in 2012 and then finally the most recent addition, Oz, in 2014, an album consisting of cover version of Australian compositions. It’s interesting to note that Missy Higgins very first song off her debut album The Sound Of White, was actually a song she wrote (for a school assignment, and as is usually the way, in the common classroom shuffle, was completed just hours before the deadline may I add) at the mere age of 15 by the name of All For Believing, a haunting piano/string ballad. In fashion for a talented songwriter, Missy got an A and performed it for her classmates, then sending it to a Melbourne record company who requested more songs. Missy’s sister then made the perfect move, and entered All For Believing into Triple J’s ‘Unearthed’ competition to discover new artists, which you can guess, won it, and then was added to the station’s playlist. I guess this is the moment you say, and the rest was history, it all snowballed from there. From that one song Missy landed a deal with record company Eleven, rejecting a deal from Sony as the fear was they would attempt to create her into a pop star, Eleven would not. The parallels between the origins of Miss Swift’s career and Miss Higgins is not exact, but there is some definite mirroring going on. The early start in school (Miss Swift wrote Our Song for a talent contest at school, which also ended up on her debut album), the rejection of a record deal for the sake of keeping authenticity, the innately uniquely personal song lyrics, and the acknowledgement from industry peers that these two teenage songwriters were natural talents (“Missy’s the only time in my career I knew after 90 seconds I really wanted to sign her.” is a direct quote from her manager) is uncanny. Missy Higgins for me was my Taylor Swift in early high school in similarities that would match other pre-teens during Taylor Swift’s album debut. Missy Higgins, Australia’s own Taylor Swift? Or perhaps we could say, Taylor Swift is America’s own Missy Higgins? Either way, Missy gave me that taste and craving for authenticity in artists songwriting and sense of self.
Scar, Ten Days and The Special Two were Missy’s subsequent singles to follow off The Sound Of White. Boasting of partners attempting to box and fit her into who they want her to be, (“he tried to cut me so I’d fit”) through the perky, witty, jazzy, Scar to the acoustic guitar yearning of Ten Days (And the only time I’ve touched you is in my sleep/Time has changed nothing at all/You’re still the only one that feels like home) to the rainy withdrawal and fight of Ten Days (I’ve hardly been outside my room in days/Because I don’t feel that I deserve the sunshines rays). The interesting thing with Missy’s songs as with the lyric, “I step outside my mind’s eye for a minute/And I look over me like a doctor looking for disease.”, is that she has the ability to look at a situation both through the eye of observer and casualty. And she can switch from both in the same song which creates a tension that is relatable, like the realistic friend telling you it’s over and the blind optimism of hope within yourself all in one. Missy has that ability. “And doesn’t that sound familiar?/Doesn’t that hit too close to home?”. Could a lyric be more indicating of an artists own songwriting, probably not.