Tune Tales

Tune Tales: The rise of Missy Higgins and John Butler

Beloved Australian singer-songwriters Missy Higgins and John Butler Trio are hitting the road together this February, and to celebrate we're taking a look at the defining moments of both of their careers.

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Honest, rich storytelling drenched in a classic Australiana style with a modern twist is a thread that ties singer-songwriters Missy Higgins and John Butler Trio together. This February they’re set to reunite on the live stage and bring their songbooks together once more.

The careers of both Missy Higgins and John Butler have intersected at many pivotal times over the years. In 2004, Missy was supporting John Butler Trio in Sydney on the night that her debut album The Sound of White went to number one. The pair also won their first ARIA Awards as Best Male and Best Female artists in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and even shared their first Rolling Stone cover together.

While they’ve both featured on the same bills many times since, this will be their first national tour together in nearly 15 years and to celebrate the occasion we’re taking a deep dive into their most pivotal musical moments.

Big breakout

Missy Higgins – Scar

While singles All For Believing and Greed For Your Love introduced the country to a young Missy Higgins, it wasn’t until breakout single Scar – the first from her debut album Sound of White – dropped in 2004 that everyone really started paying attention. It debuted at #1 on the ARIA Charts, going on to win Best Pop Release at the 2004 ARIA Awards, and came second in that year’s triple j Hottest 100. In 2005, the song won two ARIA songwriting awards for Song of the Year and Breakthrough Song and even featured in American cult teen TV show One Tree Hill. It’s still a universally loved song, and has remained a quintessential part of the Missy Higgins songbook 14 years later. That’s the mark of a true classic.

John Butler Trio – Betterman

Triple j has been pivotal in launching the careers of many Australian artists over the years, and John Butler Trio has the radio station to thank for putting his name on the Australian music map. In April 2001, John Butler Trio released their second album Three and relocated to Melbourne to promote the record. The album peaked at #24 on the ARIA Charts, while the album’s lead single Betterman was added to high rotation by triple j, bringing JBT’s folk sounds to national ears. The single also landed at #5 on the station’s Hottest 100 in the same year.

First album

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Written throughout 2002 and 2003, The Sound of White was released in Australia on 6 September 2004. It entered the ARIA Album chart at #1, stayed in the top 50 for 85 weeks and was certified nine times platinum. As well as giving us Scar, it also produced three more singles; Ten Days, The Special Two, and title track The Sound of White. In total the album scored six ARIA Awards and has been noted as one of the best Australian albums of all time.

John Butler Trio – John Butler

1998’s John Butler set a solid foundation for what we’d come to expect from the trio for most of their career. Commercial success didn’t come until the following record, but his self-titled effort is not forgotten. The 12-minute jam that features on it, Ocean, is still a live performance regular.

The big hit

Missy Higgins – Steer

Missy’s songbook is rich with beautiful hits, but we had to pick a standout. Her only other number one single, Steer, comes from Missy’s second album On A Clear Night. After the huge success of her debut, anticipation for a follow-up was huge, so when she dropped Steer as a lead single it became an instant success.

John Butler Trio – Zebra

After starting his career as a busker in Fremantle, John Butler released his first self-recorded cassette, Searching for Heritage, in 1996. From there, the project grew, becoming John Butler Trio in 1998 and releasing two more albums – including the ARIA Award winning Three. But it wasn’t until his 2003 single Zebra that the world focussed in on John Butler Trio. In 2004 the single won Song of the Year at the APRA Awards and was nominated for Single of the Year at the ARIA Awards. It also landed at #8 in 2003’s triple j Hottest 100.

Sweet return

Missy Higgins – Solastalgia

Last year’s release Solastalgia was the first body of original music we’d heard from Missy in six years. Following the release of The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle in 2012 and a covers album called Oz in 2014, Missy released a string of standalone singles and projects, but with Solastalgia we truly welcomed a new era. Venturing away from the acoustic pop sound she has always been known for, Solastagia sees Missy trying her hand at electronic production, adding another layer to her catalogue without losing any of the storytelling.

John Butler Trio – Home

John Butler Trio surprised many on their first album in four years. Similarly to the tale of Missy Higgins’ return, Home showcased a very new and very refreshed JBT. Layered synths, trap-inspired beats, and thundering toms are elements you’d ever think would describe a John Butler Trio album, but here we are – and best of all, it works. The familiar rootsy sound is still in the bones of every track, only know it’s been rejuvenated..

John Butler Trio and Missy Higgins tour dates:

  • Friday 1 February – Kings Park, Perth
  • Saturday 2 February – Kings Park, Perth
  • Thursday 7 February – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne
  • Saturday 9 February – All Saints Estate, Wahgunyah (A Day On The Green)
  • Sunday 10 February – Stage 88, Canberra
  • Saturday 16 February – Bimbadgen, Pokolbin (A Day On The Green)
  • Sunday 17 February – Park Beach Reserve, Coffs Harbour (Summersalt 2019)
  • Friday 22 February – Riverstage, Brisbane
  • Saturday 23 February – Tolosa Park, Hobart

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