Artist to Watch: Kate Miller-Heidke

"Nightflight" by Kate Miller-Heidke
“Nightflight” by Kate Miller-Heidke

I can’t believe I haven’t written an Artist to Watch post on Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke until now.* My wife and I saw her open for Ben Folds in Montclair, N.J., in April 2010 and instantly became huge fans of hers.

Miller-Heidke’s third album, Nightflight, has deservedly received very positive reviews from a number of music critics, and a article posted June 30 about her three upcoming shows at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall this month reminded me that I never wrote anything about her most recent CD.

I’ll be brief since my wife could go into labor with our first child at any moment now (which is also why we don’t have tickets to any of those three NYC shows or her July 15 appearance at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia), but the album is basically brilliant. Nightflight demonstrates Miller-Heidke’s range as a songwriter as well as vocalist. A bit darker and more mature than her previous work, Miller-Heidke still manages to seamlessly weave in bits of her humor and wit into the material, most of which—as mentioned in the aforementioned article—was recorded in the home of her music collaborator/husband Keir Nuttall’s recently deceased grandparents.

For example, the single “I’ll Change Your Mind” seems like a rather straightforward, upbeat pop song. But the lyrics—and accompanying music video (see below)—make it clear that it is from the point of view of someone with a rather unhealthy obsession with someone else whose feelings are not reciprocal.

In any event, even though my wife and I won’t be able to see her on her current U.S. tour, I strongly suggest you check out her tour dates and try to see this fantastic talent in person, because she is especially amazing live.

A classically trained opera singer with music degrees from from Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Queensland University of Technology, Miller-Heidke had been in a few bands in the early 2000s before embarking on a solo career.

When I saw her and Nuttall open for Ben Folds in 2010, she was promoting her second full-length CD, Curiouser, her 2008 release on Sony BMG that went platinum in her home country. After her set, my wife and I immediately went out to the lobby to buy the CD, which is something we rarely do for an opening act. Once we got home and listened to the CD, we were very glad we did because it is brilliant. Curiouser contains one great pop song after another, some witty and some very deep and emotional. And holding it all together is Miller-Heidke’s mesmerizing voice.

In 2011, Miller-Heidke and Nuttall released an album of mostly electronic music under the name Fatty Gets A Stylist that was absolutely brilliant. In addition to the experimental nature of the music, Miller-Heidke sang in such a completely different register than her normal voice on the CD that many of her die-hard fans couldn’t tell for sure it was her. The first single from the album, “Are You Ready?”, was used in a series of New York Lottery commercials in the United States. However, after the album was initially made available  on the U.S. iTunes Store in summer 2011, concerns about the side project’s name led to it being pulled off market and rebranded as a Kate Miller-Heidke album and re-released in the United States in October 2011.

Two Fatty Gets A Stylist tracks, “The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child” and “Let Me Fade”, have been rearranged and re-recorded for inclusion on Nightflight.

* While I had not written an Artist to Watch post specific to Kate Miller-Heidke, I had written one for the Fatty Gets A Stylist side project and also posted something after the FGAS album was rebranded as a Miller-Heidke album called Liberty Bell in the United States.

Related Links:

“I’ll Change Your Mind” (this has a rather disturbing ending…just wanted to warn you)
“Sarah” (performed live on Australia’s “Weekend Sunrise” program)
“Are You Ready?” (another disturbing ending that kind of comes out of nowhere)
“Caught In The Crowd”

“Are You F*cking Kidding Me? (also known as the hilarious, profanity-laced “The Facebook Song”)