Adelaide-born Sia Furler, one-time voice for UK band Zero 7 and now quirky singer-songwriter in her own right, can offer great insight into the bizarre nature of the record industry.
Take her “new” album, We Are Born. She delivered it to her label, Universal, after her melancholic breakthrough album, Colour The Small One, five years ago. “They weren’t ready for it,” she laughs down the phone line from Montreal, where she is currently touring. “They had me pigeonholed as ‘downtempo’.”
Stubbornly, she stuck to her guns – and Universal dropped her. End of. Except, it wasn’t. Her sublime Breathe Me from Colour The Small One featured on the final episode of funereal-drama Six Feet Under and Americans went crazy for her. She hotfooted it to the US, got a licensing deal with Astralwerks and started to build an audience.
Sony outbid all the other majors to take on her fourth album, We Are Born, in a bidding war that even had Universal back in the running “for the album they didn’t want five years ago!” The deal is worth £1.6 million, so what is it about Sia that inspires such industry confidence?
Well, it helps she’s a songwriter of some note, with a Grammy nomination and Aria awards to her name; she also co-wrote Christina Aguilera’s new album, Bionic.
The Strokes’ guitarist, Nick Valensi, also features on the album. “These were the most guitar-driven songs I’d ever demo-ed and I’ve always been a fan of his,” she says.
Sia takes her dogs Pantera and Lick Lick on tour with her, but struggles with fame. “The newer fans are very needy,” she says. “I call them the ‘I wanties’.”
Her time spent with Aguilera reinforced her negative view of the fame monster. ”She can only go out with security. I felt sad because that’s not what I want for myself. She loves it, loves performing, what it provides for her and her family. It works for her.”
Then Sia drops this little bombshell: ”Actually, after this record I’m just going to write songs for other people … you get all the benefits of being a pop star, all the money, but you don’t have to deal with fame, and you don’t have to tour – that stuff is hard, especially for a 34-year-old woman who has two dogs and wants a baby!”
That said, she does enjoy performing and encourages heckling to break the monotony of touring. “It’s way more fun,” she gushes. “Sometimes they say ‘show us your tits!’ I reply, ‘they’re just like your mum’s’.”
Or fans throw her presents. In San Francisco, one girl flung a prosthetic limb, complete with stripy sock and Camper shoe, on stage. “I thought, ‘This is the best present ever! Oh, hang on …’ The girl was hopping in the front row and I was like, ‘You can’t actually give this to me, can you?’”
» At Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8EH Chalk Farm
(0844 482 8008). Thu, May 27. £18.50. We Are Born out
Jul 12 through RCA
Interview: Alison Grinter