Learning to get drunk with SiA
Singing sensation SiA has made a big impact overseas but she remains a relative unknown in Australia. Strange really considering she is Australian. SiA is currently in Sydney to launch her first Australian single, ‘Taken for Granted’ from the forthcoming album ‘Healing is Difficult’. ITM were given the pleasure of getting to chat to a very frank and open SiA. ITM’s Lucette goes one-on-one with the bubbly singer, as ITM’s Marcus struggles to take down the notes…
Lucette: I’ve been doing a crash course on Sia-ology to find out all about you. How come it’s taken till now to know about you here?
SiA: Nobody was interested!
Lucette: You mean the listening audience or..
SiA: Record companies! I was the lead singer in an Adelaide based band for 3 years, “Crisp”, touring Australia.
Lucette: That’s your home base, right?
SiA: Yes, my family come from there… but we just weren’t thought to be interesting enough, nobody wanted to pick us up. It was a ‘jazz funk explosion with hip hop overtones’…
Lucette: Well that would explain it… a bit too out there for the mainstream…
SiA: Yeah, well, a friend of mine was on holiday in London, so I thought I’d go there.
Lucette: At about what time was that?
SiA: I think it was 1997… 1998
(I interrupt to ask Marcus if he’s keeping up, we’re doing the interview pre-tech today, no recorder, just pen & paper)
SiA: …I’ll keep it mono-syllabic. (Hearty laughter from both of us)
Lucette: Have any of the Crisp members found success too?
SiA: Well no, but we haven’t really discarded Crisp, it’s still out there, but they’re doing their own thing….
Lucette: Were you thinking, “I’ll go to London to be a star!”.
SiA: Well no, not consciously, but I guess it had to be in my subconscious to give me the courage, you know, dutch courage. And a few beers gives me lots of courage.
Lucette: What’s your favourite beer?
SiA: Some Stella and Coopers Ale. You can’t get Coopers here. Well it was that, dutch courage and beer, that got me where I am today. (More laughter).
Lucette: So you got to London and then what happened?
SiA: My friend, he was killed in a hit and run. That spun me out for 5 months, and with friends we just grieved and got drunk.
Lucette: A situation like that can really affect someone, so did that influence your creativity?
SiA: Yes, it did. My first album, ‘Healing is Difficult’, released in the U.K., stemmed from that moment in time and was an observation of how we all coped and grieved. I wrote a lot of poems, more than I’d ever written in my life.
Lucette: So how did the moment arrive when it all just started to roll?
SiA: Another friend of mine, Tom, who’s an angel as he never recieved or wanted anything out of my success, rang me up and asked “don’t you sing?”. It was like “Oh, yeah, I’ve forgotten about that!” He asked if I had any money. “NO”, so he just said “come and have some beers and I’ll introduce you to some friends”. So he took me to a dodgy place ‘Cobdan Working Mans Club’ in Kensall Green.
(Sia spells Cobdan out for Marcus, who is writing feverishly and furiously)
The next thing, I’m up on stage, and having no idea of the lyrics, just improvised, making up my own lyrics, but somehow picking up on the beat, you know, I connected, I just knew where it was going. The audience went wild! And there’s this real Cockney guy running along the front of the stage shouting “She’s with me, she’s with me!”.
Lucette: You mean like a girlfriend?….
SiA: No, to manage me. Nigel. It was like when the two geeks got together in ‘Pretty In Pink’. He introduced me to Sam who produced most of the tracks from my album. He became my manager for the next three years. He tried shopping around but record companies were mainly interested in a developmental deal, which Nigel didn’t feel I needed. Nigel introduced me to Tunji who used to manage Jamiroquai and The Heavies, who in turn was best friends with Kevin from Long Lost Brother Records. Kevin also got involved in shopping me around. Finally on my birthday, 18th December, he said “Happy Birthday, I’m going to start my own record label and I want you to be my first signed artist!” We just did bibs and bobs though.
Lucette: So you weren’t making any money then?
SiA: No, “Taken For Granted” wasn’t released until May 2000, where it went straight in at no. 10 in the UK charts and no. 1 on the R&B charts.
Lucette: I really liked the Prokofiev licks on it. What was the inspiration for that? Are you classically trained?
SiA: No, not at all. I didn’t come up with the track, I just added the lyrics. And the Prokofiev estate got 100% of the royalty! I was about 3 years too early! But it got me a good publicity deal with EMI.
Lucette: It brought up thoughts of Romeo & Juliet. You must be a romantic?
SiA: Yes, definitely, I am. (She gives a huge grin.)
Lucette: Was this around the time of love in Copenhagen? But we’ll come back to that in a minute! So what happened after the success of ‘Taken for Granted’?
SiA: Everything went pear shaped after that. The record company was so interested in getting a licensing deal, they forgot to release a follow up single for five months. It was a remix by Marco Nelson, from Young Disciples fame. It was a bland mix and it flopped. So I came home to Adelaide. My profile had just about disappeared.
Lucette: Time for some nurturing? I believe your parents are in the music industry?
SiA: Yeah, my dad’s in country & western. He comes up with names like Chuck Tantrum! Huge raucous laughter from all of us. I contributed two songs to Zero 7’s ‘Simple Things’. One track was supposed to be on my album, but they liked it so much they asked to keep it on theirs.
Lucette: How did all that come about?
SiA: Nigel! He used to play football with Zero7, and he showed Sam some of my work. After the release of my single “Little Man”, I just had a gut feeling about Nigel and Tunji and sacked them. You know that feeling you get when you are in a relationship which should have ended six months ago?
(We all nod in agreement with that one)
Lucette: That must have taken a lot of courage, to take that risk.
SiA: It was the scariest thing I’d ever done! Nigel was angry and upset and played on my insecurities. You know, calling me a primadonna, saying “no one will want you”, “you’re not that talented”. But I called some friends and asked for a list of good managers. hehhehehehehehehehe. They said “we can’t give you a list of good managers, but we can give you a list of ones to avoid”. So we sat down with a list and crossed off all the managers we didn’t want and came up with a short list.
Lucette: Can you tell us who they were?
SiA: The managers for Moby, Manic Street Preachers, Portishead, Sneaker People. My press guy, Dave Woolf sent out kits to all of them. I got a reply after four weeks of sending my demo to Sneaker People’s managers, but received a reply the day after sending a tape to Robbie Williams manager. I had a meeting with them, they just asked a few questions, I told them the truth and asked them “do you want to manage me?”. They just sort of sniggered and said “Yes!”. I’m sure Robbie Williams makes them enough money, so they can afford to take me on.
We all loved that one and happy laughter pealed off again.
But what’s this about love in Copenhagen you mentioned? How do you know about that?
Lucette: Ahhh, I have my sources. But you tell me, what is it all about? You fell in love?
SiA: Well, I can’t say too much about it or who. It’s unrequited. But it did move me to write a song, I’m still working on it.
Sia juggles around with a few lyrics, and just a hint of THAT voice whispers out of her mouth. I am trying to encourage her to reveal more of this work in progress, but time is running out and Sia has to move onto another interview soon.
Lucette: So what’s the connection with Sony and your visit to Sydney now?
SiA: Well I am in a bidding war with three record labels. But I can’t say who. And I have licensed my upcoming album ‘Healing is Difficult’ to Sony and they have brought me out here for the release of “Taken For Granted”.
Marcus: Can I ask about ‘Different Gear vs Sia – Drink 2 Get Drunk’ Single, which has done extremely well in UK.?
SiA: I didn’t like it, thought it was boring. You know, 4/4 repetitive beats, they bore me. I prefer the white label release of the Wookie’s remix ‘Little Man’, which did really well.
Lucette: Your singing style is so different. It just doesn’t fit into any of the genres that are around. Do you have a name for your eclectic style?
SiA: Yeah, I do….
Lucette: Come on, tell us then!
But too late, Sia is whisked off away. Sia, A really giving person, who with all the headiness of success and promotion, still has time to be interested in others. A rare quality, but listening to Sia and her singing/song writing talent, one realises that rare is a standard word around someone like her.
Find out more info on www.siamusic.net