To say Sia is willing to poke fun at herself and is comfortable in her own skin is a huge understatement. The video for the song “Buttons,” the hidden track on her January release, Some People Have Real Problems, features Sia singing the pop tune while using props including tape, clothespins, plastic wrap, stockings and a condom to restrict her facial movements.
“I suppose the brilliant thing about Sia is that she really can, like that old show-biz saying, make them laugh, make them cry,” manager Tim Clark told Pollstar. “She’ll be saying things that are so irreverent and funny and then she’ll launch into a song of such extraordinary beauty and sing it with such amazing feeling that people really are left in tears. It’s a remarkable experience.”
Clark said “we fell in love” with her music and from the moment she “came bouncing into the office in her inimitable style,” he and his partner David Enthoven at ie Music said “we have to work with this girl.”
“We’ve been working with her for eight years and … we absolutely never doubted her talent.”
Sia, who is from Australia, got her first taste of stardom when she accompanied her dad’s friend, Men at Work’s Colin Hay, to the Grammys at the age of 11. Or, rather, she sat outside the Grammys in Hay’s limo.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is the shit. The car has got a TV in it, it’s got drinks and it’s got a guy in the front who talks to you for as long as you want.’ [After that] I was totally ruined,” Sia told Pollstar. Knowing a successful musician “probably inspired me to want to do that because I was a kid and I saw him getting a lot of attention,” she said, laughing, “which was really what I wanted.”
The June 16, 2008, issue of Pollstar.
Sia’s career began in the acid jazz group Crisp, where she soon learned that the industry wasn’t interested in the band but in signing her as a solo artist.
“That gave me a lot of confidence but I was fiercely loyal and I was like, ‘No, I’ll only sign if it’s Crisp,’” Sia said. But Crisp never got signed.
In 1997 she was in England “singing onstage at a jam when someone started running back and forth on the stage, saying, ‘You’re with me, you’re with me.’” And so Sia signed with her first manager and her first record label, describing herself and her then-management team as “very naïve.”
Eventually she left her first management for ie Music, which she says “haven’t stopped meeting [her] needs” since day one and “really are the best and I love them.” After working with an inexperienced management team, Sia said she was impressed when she saw ie Music’s office included “40 staff members and they had filing cabinets and telephones and all this stuff that was really grown-up.” Universal Island bought Sia from her first label but then dropped her after her 2004 album, Colour The Small One, didn’t fare so well in the U.K.
Then, with no label deal on the horizon, the HBO show “Six Feet Under” picked up the single “Breathe Me” to use in its series finale – a move Sia said “resuscitated my career.” Since then she has signed with Hear Music.
Clark said Island dropping Sia was “disappointing at the time [but] it’s been the most enormous blessing because it’s allowed her to really take control of her career and to make sure whatever is done creatively is done the way she wants to do it.”
In addition to “Buttons,” another one of Sia’s crazy ideas that has paid off is the Day-Glo element to her show.
“It’s kind of theatrical because we get dressed up [in the Day-Glo costumes] and then in the black lights we basically look like neon stick people playing our instruments and singing and dancing. It’s really good fun,” Sia said.
“It’s kind of interesting because they’ve taken real efforts to try to make the rooms, no matter what room it is, her room,” Paradigm’s Marty Diamond told Pollstar.
“For most people, on a club level, particularly in the development of their career, they go in and play the room, they go to the next city and they play the room. But with Sia and her management, they’ve obviously taken great lengths to make it more than that. … I think that will be really, really important in the evolution of her career. I think people will come to expect that there will be higher production value.”
Sia says she’s grateful to Diamond for negotiating the coveted night slots during festivals like Coachella so her neon light show can go on.
“I think he’s rad and he’s working really hard for me and he’s putting me in the right venues – and I’m selling out,” she said.
“He hasn’t put me in places that I’m too small for or I’m too big for. He’s pretty much hit the nail on the head every time. There’s been a good buzz around touring because of that.”
Upcoming dates for Sia include a spot at the All Points West festival in New Jersey and a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Diamond said Sia will be back in the fall and will be touring “pretty aggressively” from October onward.
“I think she’s going to be a star to be reckoned with. She has other things that she’s working on in the film and TV world,” Diamond said. “She is someone who is a multi-dimensional artist, who’s going to be a formidable presence for a really long time. And the fact that she has a voice that can knock you dead is just an added bonus.” –