They say to be a successful writer, you must write what you know. Fortunately for Sia, songwriting subject matter is something in which she is well-stocked and well-versed, as she has come to know much in her 40 years of life. Unfortunately, the most popular songs often come from the raw and rugged terrains of the human soul, and only the artists who have lived them can wear the crown of fame.
If anyone were to earn that crown, it would be Sia Furler, a feminist hippie from Australia with a voice too big for her town, who probably never imagined that the darkest of roads would lead to the limelight of Top 40 radio.
From David Guetta’s “Titanium” to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” (which Sia wrote in a short 14 minutes), much of the hits over the past few years that bear Sia’s lyrical fingerprint were written in what she likes to call a “victim to victory” style, expressing a high-spirited celebration burning upon the coals of heartache and hardship. Sia definitely has much to celebrate, with over 25 million copies of her songs sold—not including her current solo work—but that’s not at the top of her to-do list. For Sia, it’s all about the art of overcoming. Life has taught her that without a difficult uphill journey, there’s rarely enough celebratory fire for a standout melody or captivating lyric to begin burning.
This was never the plan for the songstress, who was born to a peace-loving musical family in a creative bliss of nonconformist ideals, yet this seemingly idyllic paradise was not free from failure. After her unmarried parents separated, the young Sia Furler did not maintain a strong relationship with her blues guitarist father, who left her with inherited musical talent and moved to Sydney.
At the age of 17, Furler began singing in hip-hop and soul bands around Adelaide, yet it was clear that her one-of-a-kind, unearthly voice was not accompanied by a socially-confident persona nor an extroverted nature. The quiet songbird relied on alcohol to make it through live performances, leading to a season of alcoholism and depression. Years later, her heartbreak only grew when her boyfriend at the time was killed after being hit by a taxi in London.
As Furler began to find soberness and strength, her fame-caused depression landed her the hit songs that brought the singer even further into fame itself. It may seem like a vicious cycle, but this process refined Furler into a chart-topping queen, though one who still prefers a quiet life in the shadows.
As Sia the pop artist, Furler captures the essence of hidden pain and closeted struggle, painting the depth and darkness of her lyricism with upbeat and cheerful melodies. Her 2014 breakout song, “Chandelier,” screams the haunting confession, “I want to live like tomorrow doesn’t exist,” over a danceable tune that almost seems like a disguise for words that are much heavier when written down and read in silence.
Her current album, This Is Acting, shows a hopeful Sia who has discovered that the best lesson to be learned from the past is to have faith in the future. The anthemic track, “Alive,” is shockingly powerful for a woman with such a weathered heart, but that is why Sia—to her possible chagrin—will continue to reign as one of today’s most prominent songwriters.
Be sure to catch the dimensional Sia’s Nostalgic for the Present Tour on October 30 at Amway Center in Orlando.