Missy Higgins: 'I was a relationship addict for a long time'

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Jane Rocca

"I liked people who had experienced the dark side": Missy Higgins.

"I liked people who had experienced the dark side": Missy Higgins. Photo: Cybele Malinowski

Missy Higgins, singer-songwriter, 32, engaged

My dad [Chris] is a GP. He is a very gentle man, extremely kind and selfless. He is a great listener and very empathetic. He is terrified of getting old and says he'll work until they tell him he can't be a doctor any more.

He is a very sporty person – one of those guys who can't go on a beach holiday and lie around the pool. He wants to keep doing activities. My parents used to take us camping as kids and I remember getting bogged in our four-wheel-drive in the outback. He thrived on that adventure.

I have a brother, David, who is seven years older than me. He works in IT and does music part-time but when I was growing up, he was a musician in several jazz bands. I was in awe of him. He started songwriting long before I did and he's the one who encouraged me to get into it in the first place.

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I wanted to be a rock star from a young age. Dad always wanted me to go to university and get an arts degree. He said it was important to have something to fall back on. I was about to enrol at university when I got signed to a record company so that changed that plan. Dad agreed it was meant to be and that I should stick with the music and see how it goes.

Mum is an extrovert and Dad is more of an introvert. They've had their ups and downs but the majority of the time they have been really strong together. They always tell me it's important to have time away from the kids and to get away as a couple to remind yourself why you are in that relationship.

I never got to meet my maternal grandfather, but I do remember my grandmother constantly talking about him. She had a bust of his head in the hallway of her house and we had to say hello to him every time we went in the door. She had several boyfriends in her life and she made sure they all knew the importance of her husband and that she was still very devoted to him. Some men can have that sort of impact.

My first kiss was with a boy in grade one at Armadale Primary School. We hid under the table during our lunch break for half an hour. He kept saying he was going to kiss me and was too nervous. He waited until the school bell rang and pecked me on the lips and ran away. It was a bit of an anticlimax.

My first tongue kiss was behind the school with a boy called Chris. I was in grade four and we had the entire class cheering us on saying, "Tongue kiss, tongue kiss." It was so gross and I didn't know why grown-ups did it all the time.

I was a relationship addict for a long time. I had a boyfriend in every year of high school and when I left school, too. I kept dating the wrong people – artists and musicians who were jaded or competitive. I needed to find someone who understood what it meant to be creative and didn't have any unfulfilled dreams that they would project on me.

I was drawn to complicated guys and because I'd had depression, I liked people who had experienced the dark side. I felt more at ease with those who understood that side of me. But sometimes it created messy situations.

I remember being in a relationship with a guy who found my browser search history and saw I had searched "lesbian bars". I secretly wanted to go out and explore that world. He laughed at me. I was so embarrassed and cried. I felt so exposed and ashamed.

Emma was my first girlfriend, in my early 20s. When that ended I didn't want to be with anyone for a while. I needed to spend time alone to find myself. I wrote a lot of songs about how I felt.

When I started dating women, I found there were pluses and minuses. We could be on the same emotional page, but on some days that was the thing that was so tiring. There was so much talking in my gay relationships – I loved and hated it. Guys don't need to talk about everything, and that's what I love about men.

Dan [Lee, a playwright] is the right one for me. When I met him in 2013 he had quietened down and was very self-aware. He moved from Melbourne to Broome [where he comes from] to start again and to disconnect from the partying and drinking culture. He had a long hard look at himself and his priorities and needed to get away. It makes for a great relationship experience. He is very gentle and respectful. I didn't know if I ever wanted to get married before meeting Dan but it feels right with him.

I am yet to discover what it's like to raise a boy into a man. Our son Samuel has just turned one. I am reading a book called Raising Boys, about how the mother is the practice girlfriend, and I'm thinking, "Oh my god! That is so much pressure on me as a mum!"

Valentine's Day is a bit tokenistic but it's always nice to receive flowers and to say you love each other. It's never been a big deal to me if I get flowers on the day or not because Dan is the sort of guy who will write me a love note and get me flowers on any other day of the year and that means so much more. He loves a bit of romance, too.

Missy Higgins performs at Twilight at Taronga, Sydney, February 13 and 14; and Hamer Hall, Melbourne, February 17.