Although singer-songwriter Missy Higgins is a star in her native Australia, she's little known in these United States. So prior to the U.S. release of On a Clear Night, a CD that's already successful back home, she relocated to Los Angeles — and the move has taken some adjustments. In Melbourne, where she grew up, she often bicycled to the beach. But if she tried that from Silver Lake, the funky L.A. suburb where she settled, "I'd be fearing for my life the whole time," she admits.
Her willingness to make lifestyle sacrifices represents a change from her early days in the limelight. She won a major tunesmithing contest while still a high-schooler, thanks to "All for Believing." Record-company representatives came calling shortly thereafter, but she'd been looking forward to spending a year backpacking through Europe and didn't want to cancel her plans. "It was interesting to see the ones that were encouraging of that and the ones that didn't really approve of it," she says. Brushing off entreaties from folks in the latter category, Higgins hit the road, only to learn that Santa Monica's KCRW had started spinning "Believing," sparking American label interest. So she flew to L.A. for a showcase and then continued her trip, only signing an international deal with Warner Bros. upon her return.
Higgins didn't exactly have a stockpile of compositions ready. She'd planned to pen some ditties during her travels, but after completing one, she admits, "I lost my guitar. I left it on a train in Spain." Nevertheless, The Sound of White, her full-length debut, released domestically in 2005, and Clear Night, issued in Australia last year, eventually earned her a gaggle of music-biz awards, as well as fame of the double-edged variety. (She eventually put unwanted speculation about her private life to rest by revealing her bisexuality.) Here, though, the commercial high point thus far has been the appearance of her single "Where I Stood" on Grey's Anatomy. Hence her residency in L.A., which she's enjoying in part because she sees it as temporary. "My heart is definitely in Australia," she says.
With Brett Dennen and Mason Jennings, 8 p.m. Thursday, May 22, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue, $23, 303-830-8497.
No wonder, since biking to the beach there doesn't require a brush with death.
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Visit Backbeat Online for more of our interview with Missy Higgins.