Since the release of her first EP Telegram back in 2004, Kate Miller-Heidke has remained something of a cult proposition. Her mix of operatic vocals, expletive-laden novelty songs and quirky alternative pop was always going to be a hard sell in a country that makes Delta ‘So Good’-rem a star.
But Miller-Heidke’s career has taken an unexpected turn in recent months when the gorgeous ballad Last Day On Earth, aided by its appearance on an episode of Neighbours, became a bona fide platinum-selling hit. Likewise her year-old album Curioser, which spent only three weeks in the ARIA charts when first released, now celebrates its first birthday inside the top 10.
All quite impressive — even more so when you consider that Miller-Heidke hasn’t even been in the country since the song took off. She’s midway through an extensive US tour supporting Ben Folds.
“I’m very stoked about it all, and it means that for the [Australian] tour we can come back and play lovely bigger venues that we’ve always wanted to play,” Miller-Heidke told Sydney Star Observer from New York. “And I have Neighbours to thank for that.
“It’ll be interesting to perform for people who might have only heard Last Day on Earth, which is only one side of what I do. Once people work their way in, though, I think they appreciate the diversity in my show. It’s all part of who I am.”
Miller-Heidke said she has no qualms about her songs being used in ads or on TV shows — particularly as she has struggled for radio play in the past.
“It sometimes seems radio people don’t want to take a chance on a song until it’s already proven that people like it, and I guess that’s where having your song in an ad or a promo can really help. There are so many examples of it happening in recent times — Feist and her iPod ad… Lisa Mitchell’s getting big in the UK because her music is in a laundry powder ad or something.”
While a good proportion of her recorded output consists of heartfelt personal ballads in a smiliar vein to Last Day On Earth (see also her previous single Caught in the Crowd), comedy songs are a mainstay of Miller-Heidke’s live shows. She’s retired Gaydar, a ditty about her propensity for falling in love with closeted gay men, since getting married (“I just don’t have the opportunity to go around falling in love with gay boys nowadays,” she sighed), but a newie, the Facebook anthem Are You Fucking Kidding Me?, has found its way into her shows. It’s also become something of an internet hit, the tale of a long-forgotten ex-boyfriend suddenly rearing his ugly head on Facebook clearly resonating with many Gen Yers.
“Novelty songs are dangerous, which is why I never record them. They stay as a special reward for people who make the effort to see me live,” she said.
So you use them for good instead of evil?
“Exactly. I love a good novelty song, but they rarely stand the test of time — don’t worry, I’m well aware of that.”

info: Kate Miller-Heidke plays the Enmore Theatre on November 20. Tickets through Ticketek.

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