Spotlight on Sia

Spotlight on Sia

The Tunedly Team
Sia’s immense success as a songwriter flies in the face of everything pop stardom is about. From chart-topping albums and singles to selling out shows and receiving numerous accolades, the singer-songwriter has racked up an impressive resume as a pop legend, all without fitting the usual stereotypes.

Responsible for millennial party favorites such as “Chandelier,” "The Greatest," and “Elastic Heart,” Sia is neither a youthful pop starlet by today's standards (she celebrated her 43rd birthday a week before Christmas Day 2018) nor much into partying. Instead, the hit-laden songwriter limits her social appearances to a minimum and, for public outings, often keeps most of her face hidden behind a giant black and white wig with a bow.

Such a combination of obscurity and scarcity would probably sound a death knell to the career of any aspiring songwriter at a time when music listeners are increasingly looking to engage with music creators, both online and in public. Yet, Sia has managed to rack up hit after hit and keep millions hooked onto her music, nearly a decade after storming onto the mainstream stage.

In fact, the Australian is among just a handful of musicians to have scored a Billboard number 1 after the age of 40 (with "Cheap Thrills" featuring Sean Paul) and constantly has songs placed in some of the top films and TV shows. In a time when music success seems to be based on popularity by any means and continuous interaction with the public, Sia has shown what is possible by just making good music that hits the right notes with the audience.

We decided to turn the spotlight on Sia in light of a number of Tunedly readers sharing their respect and adoration for the songwriting machine who has penned hits for the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce, Adele, and Britney Spears to name a few. Also, with her most recent Grammy nomination as part of LSD and songs from her Christmas album, Everyday is Christmas, currently blasting the airwaves, it seemed an opportune time to talk about the woman born Sia Kate Isobelle Furler and how she overcame adversity to become one of the world’s most prolific songwriters.

A quick look at her journey shows just what is possible for any songwriter who never quits despite the challenges that might come along. Having battled with depression, drug and alcohol addiction, as well as suicidal thoughts, Sia has managed to come out on top of it all.

Born on December 18, 1975, in Adelaide, Australia, Sia has had a long journey to the top that was often filled with dead ends and detours. She started her career in music as a singer for a local Australian group called Crisp, which has been described as an acid jazz band.

In her early twenties and with her eyes set on the stars – as with most young musicians – Sia released her first album titled OnlySee. The project failed to take off. And when her boyfriend died tragically soon after, drinking alcohol and taking drugs filled the void. However, she also found inspiration for her next album – Healing Is Difficult (released in 2001) – from that low point in her life.

Although sparking a top 10 hit on the UK charts, that second album wasn’t adjudged to have done well either due to poor sales. Ditto for her 2004 release Colour the Small One, save and except for the single “Breathe Me,” which turned out to be her first real taste of success. “Breathe Me” shed some light on Sia’s talent for writing deep, thought-provoking lyrics when it was included in the final episode of the TV series Six Feet Under.

The writing was on the wall but it took a while before Sia finally achieved the level of recognition she was after. In between, she became hooked on anti-depressants such as Xanax, as well as alcohol, and attempted to overdose and even wrote a suicide note.

But her love for writing songs is what saved her. Having focused on creating songs for A-list artists, Sia soon had a string of hits under her belt, even though she was not in the spotlight. And when her voice winded up on the final mix of David Guetta’s “Titanium,” the curiosity of the public was sparked enough to encourage Sia to step from out of the shadows – but only just. She would go on to add her voice to Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” before launching hits of her own, including the monster smash “Chandelier.”

Nowadays, Sia’s top songs thrive among the most-streamed on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. Her talent and unique persona have made her into a global brand, straddling not just music but show business in general. Among her latest projects include a film to be released in 2019, aptly titled Music, which is a musical she is directing that will feature her young dance prodigy, Maddie Ziegler.

Sia has also lent her songwriting prowess to the soundtrack of the successful movie Vox Lux. Lead actress for that movie, Natalie Portman, might have actually kicked off her pop music career with a Sia-penned track titled “Wrapped Up” taken from the soundtrack.

If that wasn’t enough, Sia’s Christmas album was also racking up serious airplay during the holidays, blaring out of speakers in every Starbucks outlet we visited and providing serious competition to holiday staples such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” The album, which was originally released in November 2017, got a further boost with three brand new tracks on the release of its 2018 deluxe edition.

Sia’s also part of LSD, the supergroup she formed with famous musicians Labrinth and Diplo, and which won an award at the 2019 Grammys for "Audio (CID Remix)". And while Sia has never taken home an individual Grammy (she’s been nominated nine times), she continues to stake her claim as one of the most acclaimed songwriters of the past two decades. She keeps on pushing the boundaries and showing what’s possible for songwriters who dig in for the long haul.

If you want more inspiring stories about songwriters making it despite the odds, check out our post about success secrets for upcoming songwriters, as well as our feature on what some musicians were like before they became megastars. Enjoy!