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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Missy Higgins Conquered the (television) Airwaves

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Like so many modern adult-contemporary artists, Missy Higgins owes much of her stateside success not to radio, but television. Her music has been featured on shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "The Hills," "Brothers and Sisters" and "One Tree Hill," and her latest single alone, "Where I Stood," has been featured on no less than seven programs. For a singer-songwriter who professes not to watch television, she's benefited immeasurably from the medium.

"I know that I get a lot of exposure from these TV shows, but it still blows my mind how much reach they have," Higgins says. "My song was featured on one reality TV show called "So You Think You Can Dance?" and I received so many phone calls afterward, it was just so much exposure. I really underestimated the power of that."

Higgins' TV placements aren't just a happy accident, though. They're the result of a long, calculated push that began two years ago when Higgins moved from her native Australia, where she was already a formidable star, to Los Angeles.

"I knew I needed to place myself there so if an opportunity came up I wouldn't have to say no because I wasn't available," Higgins explains. "And opportunities really do present themselves when you're living in L.A. It's the hub of the music industry, so I'd always had this idea of moving there and networking.

"I knew that if I was going to be successful in America I was going to have to really commit to it because it's such a hugely populated country compared to Australia," she continues, "and I really had to make the effort, since I know that my songs aren't the usual number one radio hits; they're not that immediate."

Nonetheless, she was surprised by the scope of her competition.

"I see it especially living in L.A., the whole town is filled with people trying to get to where I'm trying to get to, people as talented if not more," she says. "So a lot of this business has to do with timing and luck and dedication. You've got to learn to sit comfortably with the fact that you're lucky to be doing what you do."

With Higgins' rising fame has come increased media attention, much of focused on her romantic life, which poses an obstacle for a singer-songwriter who prides herself in writing deeply personal songs about her relationships, but never expected this degree of scrutiny.

"It can be hard to escape the reality that people are going to be listening to the song I'm writing," Higgins admits. "I don't think songwriting would be worth it if I weren't being personal or honest, but at the same time anyone would be kidding themselves if they though they could really get to know me through my songs. I try to be really open and honest, because that's what feels best for me to write, but you only give away the amount of information that you want to give away. You keep things to yourself, and that's how you maintain a wall of privacy."

Missy Higgins co-headlines an 8 p.m. concert at the Pabst Theater with Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Nozuka on Saturday, March 14.

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