Missy Higgins’ fifth studio album, Solastalgia, is unveiled today. The beloved singer/songwriter has vaulted back into the spotlight this year. Her new singles ‘Futon Couch’ and ‘Cemetery’ ignited playlists everywhere, an impassioned appearance on ABC-TV’s “Q&A” provoked national debate about refugee policy, and a stadium tour as Ed Sheeran’s special guest ensured Australia fell in love with her all over again. Not surprisingly her headlining national tour – which starts next week – sold out faster than any in the last decade.
So 2018 marks an exciting new phase in Missy’s career but it also signals a fresh start creatively. She has clearly absorbed some fresh influences since her last collection of original songs, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle (2012), joined The Sound Of White (2004) and On A Clear Night (2007) in debuting at #1 on the Australian charts. The three albums have collectively sold over a million album copies in this country and earned her nine ARIA Awards but Solastalgia sees Missy exploring new frontiers. Synthetic soundscapes and drum loops now underpin the organic pianos and acoustic guitar tones that people typically associate with her, perhaps reflecting the addition of new production collaborator Pip Norman (Tzu, Troy Sivan) and mixer John O’Mahony (Vance Joy, Coldplay, Metric).
The album also sees some different lyrical approaches.
“I’ve always tried to write honestly about what’s going on inside my head and that’s still the case so in a way nothing has changed”, Missy explains. “When I was a teenager I was writing songs about early heartbreaks and other stuff I was experiencing but my life’s very different now. I got married. We had a baby. My priorities have changed and my thoughts are gravitating towards different things like, well, the end of the world!”
The title Solastalgia refers to the existential crisis people feel when confronted by seismic environmental change so as the word suggests, there actually is a bit of an apocalyptic theme that runs through many of the new tunes. “How Was I To Know” (co-written and produced with Adele collaborator Dan Wilson) literally contemplates “the end of everything” while “Hallucinate” is a tense and restless rumination on a fragile future. Clearly this is the same yearning and earnest songwriter who penned Australian classics like “Scar”, “The Special Two”, “Where I Stood”, “Steer” and “Everyone’s Waiting” but she has simply moved into a different phase of her life. She’s still grappling with finding meaning and sharing it in her work but the stakes are now even higher.
“I’m sure that subconsciously it was all shaped by having a baby”, says Missy. “For the first time I started thinking about the future more seriously and more personally. I started asking “what kind of world is my little boy going to experience when he grows up?‘. And if you stop and think about it like that it can be bloody terrifying. Just watching the news at night can make you want to cover your eyes. Plus I’d been reading some climate-fiction (cli-fi) and post-apocolypic literature so that also caused a bit of an existential crisis that shaped some of these songs too.”
But while the word “solastalgia” describes this exact fear it is actually a hybrid of the latin terms for both “comfort” and “pain” so the picture isn’t one dimensional. On tracks like the album’s first hit single “Futon Couch” Missy playfully recounts the story of how she met her husband at a Broome share house. “The Difference” sees her embracing the idea that things can be changed for the better while “Red Moon” (co-written and produced with Tove Lo and Broods collaborator Alex Hope) is an end-of-days romantic fantasy.
Her new single ‘Cemetery’ looks back fondly on a moment of youthful indiscretion and the music video for that song is also released today. Missy says, “I had a blast shooting this with my good friend and long-time collaborator, Natasha Pincus. She also directed my videos for ‘Everyone’s Waiting’, ‘Unashamed Desire’ and ‘Oh Canada‘. In other words, she’s bloody brilliant. This video was shot all in one take, and I have to thank the whole camera and lighting crew who put in so many hours getting their moves so perfectly right, so that I could just come in and sing the song. Then of course there’s the VFX (the little lights you’ll see as the clip progresses) which were done by dream-team GRAMM. I’ve never done a black and white clip, nor a one-shot clip before that was so stripped back and raw.”
In an era where albums are increasingly being sidelined by individual tracks Solastalgia is a defiant piece of work. It makes the case that a dozen songs in a row by one artist can fill a broader canvas picture that’s worth the time required to absorb it as one piece. While playlists can clearly be fun and there are songs here that can fit on them, this is a genuine album in the classic sense of that word.
“My loved-one said to me that this album feels like “a meditation on Time” – he’s a playwright so he gets to say profound things like that but I think he’s spot on. The notion of time has changed so much for me since becoming a parent. I’m now both imperative to someone’s survival while simultaneously obsolete in the grander scheme of things. I now look into the future and think about the world I am bringing my son into and what a debilitatingly huge responsibility that is. I think about the mistakes I’ve made and how I can try to make the future safer, for him and his children and their children and their children. At the same time though I think about the capacity for love I feel right now that I never knew was possible. That in itself gives me so much hope that maybe things will turn out OK after all. Especially when I think about all the balls of love out there in people’s chests, not just for their children but for each other, their friends, their family.”
“The forces in both directions just feel so much bigger and stronger now that I’ve literally got more skin in the game. It’s a huge journey, this album. Through hope and despair and ultimately hope (I hope!).”
SOLASTALGIA AUSTRALIAN MAY TOUR 2018
with special guest GORDI
(All shows, All Ages)
WED 2 MAY QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane SOLD OUT
FRI 4 MAY QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane SOLD OUT
SAT 5 MAY Empire Theatre, Toowoomba *SELLING FAST
SUN 6 MAY Anita’s Theatre, Wollongong SOLD OUT
MON 7 MAY Enmore Theatre, Sydney SOLD OUT
TUE 8 MAY Enmore Theatre, Sydney SOLD OUT
FRI 11 MAY Canberra Theatre SOLD OUT
SAT 12 MAY Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide SOLD OUT
SUN 13 MAY Palais Theatre, Melbourne SOLD OUT
MON 14 MAY Palais Theatre, Melbourne SOLD OUT