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Sia - No Problem

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Monday, 13 October 2008

3D’s Carlisle Rogers chats with Australian alternative pop musician Sia, most famous for providing vocals for Zero 7, whose new album Some People Have Real Problems is out now.

Sia Furler, already known as that voice from Zero 7’s three albums, also has three solo albums under her belt. The third one, Some People Have Real Problems, is a wistful, fun, explorative piece of work that serves as much as a vehicle for her voice as anything else.

Sia’s cant is delicious at times, though sometimes almost so good it becomes part of the aural furniture – like listening to Whitney Houston while shopping at Target, it loses something of its grandeur with saturation. On the phone, though, she laughs like a child, coyly demurring.

“On this album,” she purrs, “I was trying to make an album that you won’t be able to date. I didn’t want to make anything that was contemporary or avant-garde or retro, just something that you couldn’t place, full of good songs played well on live instruments. I had a fantasy that if I’m going to be playing them for another 30-40 years, then I wanted them to be played live for the rest of my life without dating.

“I write all the lyrics and all the melodies, but Henry or Greg, a couple of co-writers I work with, will come up with a melody that is good and I will steal it from them. For the most part, I write lyrics and the melody and on occasion I’ll write the horn-line or string-lines, sometimes little hooks and then sometimes they will bring me a song that is perfect whereas other times I’ll hear a different chord at the end and we change it. It’s all collaborative. I always co-write, so the process is pretty much the same. With Zero 7 it’s just them producing the whole thing whereas with me, I write with a lot of different writers and then I choose a producer. The process of writing is the same but the end product is different based on the production.”

One thing which has caught the attention of many potential fans is Sia’s presence, and popularity, on YouTube. Her video for Buttons, which involves her staring at the camera and singing while clothes pegs are attached to her face, cling film is stretched around her head and tape is applied variously to her face, all a bit self-effacing (and sexy in a creepy way) has become another YouTube sensation – perhaps half from the song and half from the pseudo-kink of it all.

“That was really fun, but it really hurt though,” she says. “After the pegs thing on the eyebrows and the lips, I had to go upstairs and take ten minutes to regulate my breathing while the natural opiates took over. That was hardcore.

“I think I’m still a bit insecure about embracing the cheese. I used to try and make really credible music and I never really succeeded despite how hard I tried. My videos sucked and then I got smart and made a couple of good videos and made friends with a couple of great directors and stopped caring about whether my music was cheesy or credible and fully embraced the cheese. But then I think there is a part of me that still tries to make a music video that has a sense of humour so that I’m not totally lost in the music.”

For a small-town girl (yes, Adelaide, you’re a small town) from Australia to go all the way to New York via London for a decade is no small feat, but Sia’s recent fame hasn’t completely gone to her head. She’s still that same Aussie girl, with just a little bit of weird accent slipping through.

“I guess to some degree I’m losing touch with reality. I’m writing more about other people or personal relationships or personal politics and less about the frustrations of catching the bus,” she says. “I’m writing more about survival and storytelling about other people’s lives. I haven’t been back for two-and-a-half-years. I’ve been away for 10 or 11 years. Before that I lived in London for eight years and then LA for two-and-a-half years and I’ve been in New York for one year, and I did come back for Christmas every year during the first eight years and I’m planning to come back this Christmas for a bit. I miss it and I always say I’m Australian, but I call New York home now.”

Sia says an Australian tour all depends on how the new album goes, which means if you want to see her in the flesh, you’d better start buying her album.

“If it is well received, then that will mean I can afford to tour down there. I’m in an 11-person touring party, so it is very expensive to fly everyone out and put everyone up in hotels. I can’t afford to do that if I’m going to be playing 300-seater venues. It just depends how the album does and if I can play in big venues to recoup my expenses, then I will come down and play.”

WHO: Sia
WHAT: Some People Have Real Problems through Monkey Puzzle / Inertia
WHEN: Out now