The first place that Aussie pop star Missy Higgins went to in the Twin Cities was the Mall of America.
“My friend from Australia who lives over there now, she’s like, ‘They’ve got the biggest mall in the world. It’s the kind of monstrosity that everyone must see once before they die,’” Higgins recalled. “She brought us to it, and I was very overwhelmed. Of course, we lost our car in the car park and spent a couple of hours looking for that.”
On a Clear Night
(Reprise; US: 26 Feb 2008; UK: Available as import)
Parking ramps notwithstanding, Higgins, 25, is growing fond of the Twin Cities. “Minneapolis is probably at the top as far as the city that has warmed up to me most in the U.S.,” she said last week from Cleveland. “I’ve always had a really good response there. There’s a certain kind of electricity.”
A big star in Australia, where she has won six ARIA Awards (that country’s Grammys), the pianist/guitarist/singer moved to Los Angeles in February 2008 upon the release of her second CD, “On a Clear Night.”
Since then, she’s had a great deal of success getting songs on TV shows - “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Smallville,” “The Hills,” “Lipstick Jungle” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” to name a few.
“I have one friend who works on ‘Smallville’ and someone from another TV show saw me play a concert and they came up and said they’d love to put it in their show,” Higgins said. “That’s the good thing about living in L.A. You get an opportunity to be heard by a lot of people in that industry.”
The best thing about living in the States, she said, is that the audiences are open-minded and “really want you to succeed.” The worst thing is trying to find vegetarian food in small towns while on tour. “Their idea of vegetarian is fried chicken,” she moaned.
Besides her family and friends, the thing Higgins misses most about Australia is the humor - “dry and sarcastic and very self-deprecating.” She returned home in November and December to shoot a movie, “Bran Nu Dae” with Geoffrey Rush, which will debut at the Melbourne Film Festival this summer.
“It’s basically an aboriginal musical movie, with a road-trip, coming-of-age, going-back-home theme,” said Higgins, who sings a couple of songs in this adaptation of an early 1990s musical. “I play a pot-smoking hippie who is hitchhiking around Australia and is picked up by a German van driver and then we run into this little aboriginal boy who has run away from boarding school and is trying to make his way back home. We give him a ride and have all kinds of adventures along the way. It’s a really, really beautiful story.”
Meanwhile, Higgins’ music - imagine Sarah McLachlan with a slight Aussie accent - is gaining momentum in the States. “Where I Stood,” a track from her second CD, has even landed on the karaoke machine at her favorite karaoke bar in Los Angeles.
The song was sparked by a breakup.
“I was lying in bed one night about 4:30 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep; I had a lot going on in my head,” she recalled. “I picked up the guitar and I strummed a couple of chords and the chorus of that song was the first thing that came out without me even having to think about it. It was more a subconscious purging of emotions.”
While many musicians save their big hits for the encore, don’t expect it from her. That’s contrived, says Higgins, who got sold on a no-encore policy after seeing the Arctic Monkeys play a seemingly short hourlong performance in Melbourne.
“I thought it was really, really powerful because the second half of the set they played all their strongest songs,” Higgins said. “It was like bam, bam, bam, goodbye. Houselights up. Everyone was just left there with their mouths open. I really, really like being left with that intense feeling.”