Kate Miller-Heidke casts off songwriting prejudice to take collaborative approach on Child In Reverse

COMEBACK: Child In Reverse is Kate Miller-Heidke's first pop album since 2014 after spending several years working in the opera and musical theatre world.
COMEBACK: Child In Reverse is Kate Miller-Heidke's first pop album since 2014 after spending several years working in the opera and musical theatre world.

SONGWRITING workshops are all the rage in pop music.

Have you heard a banger on commercial radio or your favourite Spotify pop playlist from Post Malone, Ed Sheeran or Ariana Grande? The chances are a team of songwriters, beat producers or topliners were involved, and perhaps, they even composed the track in a songwriting workshop.

For a long time Melbourne alt-pop artist Kate Miller-Heidke was staunchly opposed to this method of songwriting.

Her hit albums Little Eve and Curiouser were written almost entirely by herself or in collaboration with her bandmate and husband Keir Nuttall.

"I had these antiquated notions about authenticity in songwriting," Miller-Heidke says.

"Some of my songwriting heroes from the '60s and '70s only wrote by themselves and it was more about being an auteur and pure, honest, authentic expression.

"That was part of the reason why I had avoided that method of songwriting in the past. I just realised I was using that all as an excuse because I was a bit scared to have a bad idea in front of people or scared it would be awkward and weird."

In August last year Miller-Heidke finally decided to face her fear and attended a weekend songwriting workshop on the Gold Coast. In a room with strangers Evan Klar, Hailey Collier and Tobias Kuhn, pop inspiration unfolded effortlessly.

Within a day Miller-Heidke, Klar and Collier had written the minimalist pop track Deluded. The second day brought a collaboration with Kuhn, called You Can't Hurt Me Anymore, and the three-day weekend finished with the emotional This Is Not Forever.

Kate Miller-Heidke - Deluded

All three tracks appear on Miller-Heidke's album Child In Reverse.

"I ended up having to get over myself and after the first hour or so it was so much fun and so much easier and spontaneous and more playful than I had expected," she says.

"It weirdly took me outside myself and that's the way I found my way back to myself. It gave me access to the record and what it should sound like."

Ultimately it helped the self-confessed procrastinator to work quickly, without second guessing herself.

"Sometimes I have a tendency to get lost up my own arse and can spend months and months on the one song," she says. "In that setting you have to have a song at the end of each day, there's no time to overthink it, no time for your left brain to come in and take charge.

"I had some brilliant collaborators. Some of the best songwriters in the world and they helped me refine my ideas and we worked quickly and I became totally obsessed with that way of working."

Child In Reverse is Miller-Heidke's first pop album since 2014's O Vertigo. However, the 38-year-old has been anything but unproductive.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Kate Miller-Heidke has constantly challenged herself with a host of projects.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Kate Miller-Heidke has constantly challenged herself with a host of projects.

In 2014 she was co-commissioned by Opera Australia to compose music for the operatic production of John Marsden's children's story The Rabbits about white colonisation. Next Miller-Heidke turned her talents to writing music and lyrics for Muriel's Wedding the musical and in between she welcomed the birth of her four-year-old son Ernie.

Last year Miller-Heidke performed to the biggest audience of her career when she represented Australia at Eurovision with her song Zero Gravity, written after overcoming post-natal depression.

Then this year she was the runner-up on TV show The Masked Singer as the "Queen".

Child In Reverse with its mix of programmed beats and synths could possibly be the most pop album of Miller-Heidke's eclectic career.

Art-pop artists like Enya and The Eurythmics served as the basis for the direction Miller-Heidke wanted to explore.

Motherhood also caused her to delve back into her own childhood experiences and memories for thematic inspiration.

"What I think is so intoxicating about pop music is the deceptive simplicity and effective simplicity is hard to do, particularly minimalism, which is such a big part of the pop aesthetic now," Miller-Heidke says.

"I think it can be such a potent hooky way to make music. But it's really hard to make a song that's compelling for three minutes using super minimal ingredients.

"It's like a Rubik's cube, it's endlessly fascinating this formula to nail the perfect pop song."

Kate Miller-Heidke's Child In Reverse is released on Friday.

This story Kate Miller-Heidke finds pop magic in collaboration first appeared on Newcastle Herald.