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As a classical singer, she has won awards: Elizabeth Muir Prize (2000), Donald Penman Prize (2001), Linda Edith Allen Memorial Prize (2002) and Horace Keats Prize (2002). Her conservatorium performances were in Orpheus in the Underworld (2000), Venus and Adonis (2002) and The Pilgrim's Progress (2002). As an Opera Queensland Developing Artist, Miller-Heidke has performed as an understudy in productions, Sweeney Todd, Don Pasquale and Un ballo in maschera. In July 2005 she made her solo professional operatic debut with Opera Queensland in the role of Flora in Britten's The Turn of the Screw.
Miller-Heidke, while a tertiary student, from 2000 played in several Brisbane alternative pop bands. She was lead singer and songwriter with acoustic pop/folk band Elsewhere, which formed in 2000, and released a self-titled extended play of original songs before breaking up in 2003. She briefly played keyboards in Pete Murray's backing band, and started her solo career in 2003.
She performed at an annual event, Women in Voice, three times: in 2002, 2004 and 2005, where she shared the stage with Pearly Black, Margret RoadKnight, Jenny Morris and Chrissy Amphlett. Miller-Heidke became known in Brisbane from these performances and her 2005 appearance in Women in Voice 14 won her the Helpmann Award for Best Performance in an Australian Contemporary Concert. John Shand of The Sydney Morning Herald felt, "The young [Miller-Heidke] raised the bar with a witty rendition of David Byrne's 'Psycho Killer', part Peter Sellers and part mock-opera."
In June 2004 Miller-Heidke independently recorded and distributed her first EP, Telegram, for its seven tracks, five were written or co-written by the singer and two by her then-boyfriend, Keir Nuttall. Nuttall is the founding mainstay lead guitarist and vocalist in Brisbane-based progressive rock band Transport, which formed in 2001. Nuttall and fellow Transport members have also worked as part of Miller-Heidke's backing band since 2004. In 2005 she released a second EP with four tracks, Comikaze, however only 500 copies were made. It was later referred to as an "aborted comedy CD." In 2007 she explained that it was a "big mistake and promptly stopped pressing them."
Miller-Heidke was preparing to sing the role of Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance with Opera Australia in late 2005. Instead she turned from classical to pop music when "Space They Cannot Touch", a track from Telegram, became a hit on Australia's national youth radio network, Triple J and was named by station presenter Richard Kingsmill as his "pick of the week" in September. Radio support led to increased national attention for her music: not only did she gain thousands of fans, she signed with EMI Music Australia, obtained her first talent manager, Leanne de Souza, and her first agent, Dorry Kartabani, at the Harbour Agency. She then began touring Australia with her band.
As well as touring Australia she appeared at festivals in Woodford – where she was named Queen of the Woodford Folk Festival in 2002–2003 – and in Port Fairy and Blue Mountains. The artist was a guest panellist on TV shows, RocKwiz, Spicks and Specks and Q&A. She has performed on ABC TV's The Sideshow and Q&A, on Network Ten's Rove and Good News Week, Seven Network's Sunrise and The Morning Show, and on live broadcasts of the ARIA Music Awards.
Miller-Heidke was invited by Australian singer-songwriter Deborah Conway to take part in the 2006 Broad Festival project during August, with three other Australian female artists, they performed their own and each other's songs. Joining Miller-Heidke and Conway were Melinda Schneider, Mia Dyson and Ella Hooper.
Miller-Heidke released her third EP, Circular Breathing with six tracks, in May 2006 via Waterbear Records/Sony BMG. For the EP she provided vocals, piano and wurlitzer, with Nuttall on guitars, Emma Dean on violin and vocals, Steve Pope on drums and percussion, Scott Saunders on bass guitar, and John Turnbull provided a whistling cameo in "Jamie". Pope and Saunders are Nuttall's band mates from Transport. Eleven Magazine's reviewer rated it at four-and-a-half stars and explained, "It's very boppy and very light and carefree. The lyrics are a bit lacking, a bit like diary of a teenager kind of thing. Though, the acoustic element of the album, particularly the strong piano use holds it together." The album provided a single, "Apartment", also in 2006.
She followed with her debut album, Little Eve, on 26 May 2007. It was produced by Magoo (Regurgitator, Not from There, Gerling) at Black Box Studios, Brisbane. Aside from herself and members of Transport, the artist used strings by Zhivago String Quartet and Danielle Bentley, a choir/chorus of seven singers, and additional session musicians. It peaked at No. 11 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified gold in 2008 by ARIA for shipment of 35,000 copies. Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, felt it, "drew comparisons with Kate Bush and Tori Amos or 'like Nina Hagen, just with a much better voice'." AllMusic's Jody Macgregor gave it four-out-of-five stars and observed, "When she uses her deceptively gigantic voice to sing about these little lives, Miller-Heidke achieves something that goes above and beyond the simple pleasures of pop music – a genuine profoundness."
Its lead single, "Words", released in the same month, reached the top 50 on the related ARIA Singles Chart. ARIA's Ian Wallace observed, "Although traces of her operatic style are recognisable in her songs, [she] has since decided to shy away from the opera circuit and make a dash for the pop scene." At the ARIA Music Awards of 2007 she received five nominations, Best Female Artist, Best Pop Release, Breakthrough Artist – Album for Little Eve and Producer of the Year for Magoo's work on Little Eve, and Breakthrough Artist – Single for "Words". A re-recorded version of "Space They Cannot Touch" (originally on Telegram) was issued in March of the following year as her third single from Little Eve.
Miller-Heidke's second album, Curiouser, was released on 18 October 2008, which was recorded in Los Angeles, she worked with co-producers Nuttall and Mickey Petralia (Beck, Flight of the Conchords). The tracks were mostly written during a two-month period with creative collaborator and now-husband, Nuttall. The album's lead single, "Can't Shake It" debuted on the ARIA Singles Chart at No. 38 in October 2008, making it her first top 40 song. Curiouser was her first top 10 album: peaking at No. 2. McFarlane called it her "major breakthrough." In April 2009 Miller-Heidke returned to operatic works and won critical acclaim for her performance as Baby Jane in Jerry Springer: The Opera at the Sydney Opera House.
Miller-Heidke and Nuttall co-wrote "Caught in the Crowd", which was issued as the album's second single in February 2009, which peaked at No. 33 on the ARIA singles charts in June. They were awarded the $US25,000 grand prize in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition for its composition. They were the first Australians to win the grand prize. It was used by Australian secondary schools for anti-bullying programs. "Caught in the Crowd" was re-released in November and was accredited as a gold single in 2010.
Her following single, "The Last Day on Earth" (July 2008), reached No. 3 in Australia, her first top 10 hit. It had been used in promos for TV soap opera, Neighbours. Due to that single's popularity, Curiouser re-entered the top 50 in August 2008; it also reached No. 1 on iTunes for three weeks. The track later peaked at No. 1 on the ARIA Australian Artist Singles Chart. "The Last Day on Earth" and Curiouser were both certified platinum by ARIA for shipment of 70000 units. Curiouser gained critical praise in the United States: Sasha Frere-Jones from The New Yorker, wrote "I got lucky last week and found a gem in the pile; Curiouser. If your favourite American pop star is coming across slightly washed out, you will want to hear Miller-Heidke. Curiouser is a big clutch of pantone swatches."
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2009 in November, the singer performed and was also nominated four more times, Single of the Year for "The Last Day on Earth", Best Video for "The last Day on Earth" (directed by Mark Alston) and Best Female Artist and Best Pop Release for Curiouser. Miller-Heidke toured throughout the US, United Kingdom and continental Europe as support act for Ben Folds. Folds explained, "she's one of those people that actually does deserve to be called a unique talent." She released her first music DVD, Live in San Francisco (October 2010). "The Last Day on Earth" received another nomination, for Most Popular Australian Single, in the newly installed public-voted categories at the ARIA Music Awards of 2010. Through 2010 to 2011, the artist played at international festivals, Coachella, Lilith Fair, Rifflandia, Byron Bay Bluesfest, Southbound and Peats Ridge Festival. She also featured on UK singer, Passenger's album Flight of the Crow (2010).
On 24 June 2011 Miller-Heidke's side project, Fatty Gets a Stylist, released a self-titled album. She had formed the project as a short-term, alternative pop duo with Nuttall. The album was written and recorded on a lap top over several months, with Nuttall producing, in different locations in Australia, South East Asia and West London. It reached No. 90 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Its second single, "Are You Ready?" (June), was used in a New York Lottery ad on US TV and in promo for the Seven Network's shows, in which actors from various shows mime to the words while walking, ending with Alf Stewart from Home and Away yelling the final line, "Let's go!". Fatty Gets a Stylist, was credited to Miller-Heidke as her third solo album, Liberty Bell, outside Australia.
When English opera director, Tom Morris, saw Miller-Heidke in the role of Baby Jane back in 2009, he had asked her to audition for his production of John Adams' opera The Death of Klinghoffer for the English National Opera (ENO) at the London Coliseum. Following two months' rehearsals, she sang the role of British Dancing Girl for a two-week run in early 2012. The singer performed the role again at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in October 2014.
On 13 April 2012 Miller-Heidke's third Australian studio album, Nightflight, was released. It had been recorded at two studios in Melbourne and another in London: Nuttall co-producing with Lindsay Gravina (Jebediah, the Living End, Thirsty Merc). AllMusic's Ned Raggett gave it three-and-a-half stars and declaimed, "[it] doesn't surprise so much as reinvigorate, with [her] working of sometimes familiar tropes turning into one strong song after another. Caught somewhere between cleanly energetic rock, piano-led moments, and [her] sometimes swirled vocals, the result is a remarkably enjoyable melange." Rave Magazine's Josh Donellan observed, "It's still built on catchy pop hooks and melodies and will undoubtedly find itself at home on a few commercial radio stations, but the songs on this album also reveal a darker side to her songwriting."
Nightflight peaked at No. 2 – equal highest chart position with Curiouser – and provided three singles, "I'll Change Your Mind" (April 2012), "Sarah" (February 2013) and "Ride This Feeling" (July 2013). However, none of the singles reached the top 50. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2012 she was nominated for two more public-voted categories: Best Video for "I'll Change Your Mind" (co-directed by Miller-Heidke and Darcy Prendergast) and Best Australian Live Act for her tours in support of the album and related singles. "Ride this Feeling" was selected as the promotional theme for the "Visit Brisbane" TV ad campaign in 2013 by Brisbane Marketing as part of the Brisbane City Council's Economic Development Board.
Miller-Heidke sang the screen-role of Amber in the world premiere of Michel van der Aa's opera Sunken Garden for the ENO in April 2013. In September Miller-Heidke left Sony Records, which she described as a "corporate juggernaut". She started work on her fourth Australian studio album, O Vertigo! (14 March 2014), and sought crowd-funding via PledgeMusic to record it independently, as well as donations for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. She broke the record on Pledge for the fastest target achievement: in three days the album was paid for and donations for the reef continued. O Vertigo! was produced by John Castle for UK-based label Cooking Vinyl and reached No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart. It was also nominated for the ARIA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album in 2014.
Miller-Heidke was co-commissioned by Lyndon Terracini of Opera Australia in late 2014 to write an opera, The Rabbits, based on John Marsden's children's novel of that name, to be performed in 2015. The Rabbits was premiered at the Perth Festival in February 2015, to critical acclaim. At the Helpmann Awards of 2015 she won two more categories for The Rabbits: Best New Australian Work (shared with co-writers Lally Katz and Iain Grandage) and Best Original Score (shared with co-composer Grandage).
She took on the role of "female protagonist" in van der Aa's interactive song cycle film, The Book of Sand (June 2015), based on the short story of the same name from 1975, by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. In November 2015, she issued a non-album single, "I'm Growing a Beard Downstairs for Christmas", featuring comedy rock group, the Beards. The charity single was used to raise funds for bowel cancer research. She also debuted as a TV actress in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) comedy opera miniseries, The Divorce (December) in the role of Caroline. She also sings on the related soundtrack album, The Divorce: Original Cast Recording. At the 2016 ARIA Music Awards she was nominated for Best Original Soundtrack, Cast or Show Album with The Rabbits: Original Live Cast Recording (April 2016) and Best Comedy Release for "I'm Growing a Beard Downstairs for Christmas" (shared with the Beards).
In August 2017 a live album, Live at the Sydney Opera House, was issued by Kate Miller-Heidke and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She received two more ARIA nominations in 2017: Best Classical Album for the album and Engineer of the Year for Bob Scott's work. Miller-Heidke and Nuttall co-wrote new music and lyrics for the musical theatre version of Muriel's Wedding, which was directed by Simon Phillips and adapted from the 1994 comedy-drama film of the same name – both written by P. J. Hogan. It premiered at the Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay, Sydney by the Sydney Theatre Company and ran from 6 November 2017 to 28 January 2018.
A documentary, Making Muriel, including interviews with Miller-Heidke and Nuttall, was broadcast by ABC TV in late November 2017. At the Helpmann Awards of 2018 she won Best Original Score (shared with Nuttall) and was nominated for Best New Work (shared with Nuttall and Hogan) for work on Muriel's Wedding. During 2019 the musical toured to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Miller-Heidke and Nuttall also co-wrote the music for Phillips' 2018 production of Twelfth Night for the Melbourne Theatre Company where they were performed by Colin Hay. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2018 Miller-Heidke sang alongside Missy Higgins and Amy Sheppard on their rendition of "Ain't No Little Girl" in honour of that year's ARIA Hall of Fame inductee, Kasey Chambers.
In early 2019 Miller-Heidke was one of ten candidates to represent Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 with "Zero Gravity" at Eurovision – Australia Decides. The track was co-written by Miller-Heidke, Nuttall and Julian Hamilton and was short-listed for the APRA Song of the Year of 2020. She won the Australian candidacy, in February, for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The singer was joined onstage by Israeli backing singers. "Zero Gravity" won the first semi-final, before placing ninth in the grand final in May with 284 points. Miller-Heidke received the Marcel Bezençon award in the Artistic category, given to the best artist as voted on by the commentators of the contest.
In October 2020 the singer released her fifth studio album, Child in Reverse, which peaked at No. 9. It was recorded and produced in Melbourne by Evan Klar for EMI Records. The Music AU's Guido Farnell, observed, "eleven nuggets of finely crafted pop tunes that are soft, dreamy and impossibly silky smooth whilst moving to compulsive grooves". Staff writers for scenstr.com.au, noticed that the tracks were "sculpted into 3 and 4-minute shots of love and fear, memory and empathy, rage and redemption". In the same year she participated in The Masked Singer Australia as the "Queen" and was the runner-up on the second season of the show.
Miller-Heidke appeared in episode 2 of the 2021 ABC TV comedy show Preppers as herself and a fantasy character, the Penrith panther, singing her song, "I Am My Own Panther Now". She and Nuttall collaborated again in 2021 with the Melbourne Theatre Company and Simon Phillips, writing music for their production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. The couple composed in collaboration with Connro D'Netto the monodrama The Call for Opera Queensland and Brisbane Festival 2022, featuring soprano Ali McGregor.