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When Missy Higgins had children, she and her husband made a promise that's held their family together.

Something’s changed in Missy Higgins‘s music over the past few years. It’s motherhood. From her first hit songs like ‘Scar’ and ‘Steer’ back in the early 2000s, to her most recent album, Solastalgia, in which she grapples with a climate-change choked planet and sending two more people into a future forsaken…

It’s as if, since having Samuel, 4, and Luna, five months, Missy has looked up, looked around, and taken a deep breath in.

Her fans can hear it, feel it, and so can she. Speaking to Mamamia, the nine-time Aria winner described having children as “a shift at the core of your being”, something deeply humbling.

“I’m less interested in myself now and less interested in my own emotional angst, and I’m more interested in, well obviously, them but also the world around me,” she said.

“I think that’s one of the things that motherhood does; it makes you a bit less selfish, which is a good thing when you’re used to being such a navel-gazer. And especially being part of the entertainment industry, which is very ego-driven, it’s nice to have that bit of that ego, kind of, chipped away at. When you have kids, [ego is] unhealthy, I think.”

It’s not that Missy pulling back from the industry. Far from it.

In the past 12 months, she’s released two albums, including one featuring her greatest hits, supported Ed Sheeran’s Australian tour, and now, with a few hours sleep and two children in tow, she’s about to head of around the country to perform with fellow Aussie music legends, John Butler Trio.

“I haven’t been getting much sleep, so I’m going to need a strong coffee before I get on stage,” she laughed. “I mean to be honest, it’s the adrenaline gets you through, and I love performing so much. All the endorphins are flowing through your brain when you’re up on stage.

“And my crew and my band, we’re like a little family. So they’re looking forward to having a baby on the road.”

 

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Yes, music is her job – one which she’s earned three number one albums and a swag of awards. But it’s always been something more; now, as a parent bursting with love and feeling the weight of her mortality, and in the early days, as an outlet for introversion, for the depression she was first diagnosed with in high school.

“I think my mental health stabilised a lot in the last few years, which has been really good,” she said. “I have gotten to a place where I know what works and what doesn’t work for me and I’m in much more of a stable lifestyle than I used to be. I don’t really party anymore, and I don’t travel as much, and I stay healthy, and I think those journeys are all about, kind of, figuring out how far you can push yourself and then hopefully you can settle into a bit of a pattern.”

If that emptiness does begin to settle down upon her, it’s her husband, comedian/playwright Dan Lee, whom she married in 2016, she credits with helping her through.

“We check in on each other and allow for each other to go through these little moments, and just kind of hold each other in that space, and make sure that the other person knows that it’ll only last for a moment and that we will be there on the other side,” she said.

“When you have kids, now more than ever, you and your partner need to be there for each other because it’s such a difficult thing to navigate and you’re exhausted on top of everything else. It’s kind of easy to forget each other. And that was one of the things that I promised myself. We had kids and we promised each other not to forget each other and not to forget to nurture our own relationship, because that’s the thing that holds the whole family together.”

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That partnership has seen Missy ease from angst-ridden songs like her 2004 hit ‘Scar’, into love songs like 2018’s ‘Futon Couch’:

“Oh I feel I’ve met you before
Something inside me is trying to remember a story
Oh I think I’ve loved you, I’ve loved you before
Something is tugging my sleeve like a secret whispered from the future
Maybe this is us now
Maybe this is us.”

There are songs about Samuel too, and when she has a moment to rest – “hopefully in March” – she’ll likely write one about Luna.

That they will grow up listening to music about their mum’s love for them and their dad is something that brings Missy immense joy. Though lately, it’s Samuel’s music that the family’s been listening to.

“He’s always making us sit down and pretend we’re the audience and perform for us,” she said. “We actually got him a little microphone for Christmas and pretty much every evening he likes to do a little performance when he goes to bed. It’s very, very cute…

“I’m yet to see if he has any actual talent,” she laughs, “but he’s definitely enjoys it.”

Would she be happy for him to enter the music business some day?

“Oh my God, I’d love it!” she said. “Because I’d be able to help them you know, give them advice and help them navigate through that world.

“That’s one of the things that you really want to guarantee is to be a part of your child’s world and not be shut out of it and be useful to them. So the thought of being useful to him when he grows up is a really nice thought. I’d be very proud to see my son following in my footsteps.”

For more information about Missy and John Butler Trio’s Coming Home tour, visit missyhiggins.com/shows

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