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Radio podcasts. Oh, one, two, one, two.
OK, no, that was my fault. Go on.
Hello, I'm Louis Thru and welcome back to another episode of my podcast series for BBC Radio Foregrounded Grounded with Louis Luther, in which I speak to people I've always been keen to meet, but do it remotely.
You've gone quite quiet, but as long as your phone is fairly close, your phone is super close, which means we can have intimate chats even when they're lying in bed on the other side of the world. In this episode, I speak to singer and songwriter SIA in Los Angeles. How are you doing? Oh, am I?
I was quite nervous beforehand because I got up to a bit of Twitter mischief and that's very unlike me.
It was also very strange too, because I'm not on anything that's dis inhibiting. You know, some of the medications I take sometimes they're just limiting.
She has hidden her face on stage for years now, but when it comes to conversation, she doesn't hold back.
What was your Twitter mischief? I just felt the injustice of the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.
You've really jumped in at the deep end. Well, we should.
I mean, this is all stuff we should talk about, but we keep recording already. Well, you know me too well.
Please do not be annoying them when you do a podcast and then they go, oh, great. And now let's get started. Yeah, exactly.
Now she's a director, too. I love it. Soft opening a conversation took place a few weeks ago before a minor social media frenzy around her new film's depiction of autism.
Along with strong language. We visit some dark places in her life, including suicidal thoughts.
And they might not always be appropriate listening for you or your children or even your children's children. What was your Twitter mischief? I was just curious about well, in my day, this podcast, so I wonder if it's pointless in talking about it, but I guess I'll just tell you, because you're my friend. You can edit it out if you like. I've had the displeasure of being in the same space as Amber Heard.
But what was the Twitter mischief that we you you you just basically I because I was just watching YouTube all day and it was just taking me in different places. And eventually it took me to Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's very long excuse me, I'm going to mute that argument that apparently they record to help their you know, as part of their marriage therapy. They used to like to listen back to it to see if they could, you know, figure stuff out, which seems like a kind of good idea.
And so I tweeted the actual just the conversation.
Did you do this on your normal Twitter account? I don't know.
I don't have private anythings, any social media that's detrimental to my health. And I made a promise to myself that as soon as I sent that, that I would not look at it for the next week.
That seems out of character for you in some ways. Yeah. To offer an opinion to wade into a high profile feud. I mean, we've all got opinions on that, right?
Cause the whole trial was absolutely fascinating.
I don't know. I just it was very impulsive. And unlike me, you're right. It was out of character because, you know you know me to a degree. Of course, let's put that to one side for now, that was a little insight into what's going on with you at the moment. Thank you for doing this. I'm excited to speak to you and excited to talk to you about your film. I think we are we're straddling time zones.
You're in L.A.. I'm in in London.
And it's just gone 6:00 in the morning here, which means it's thing that I feel sorry for you, Miss Fine.
I don't have children. I just have dogs. This is going to be great because you're also getting the best of me. This is where my pick ten o'clock. I'm taking them.
But do you think do you normally stay up quite late?
Yeah, I do. I'm I'm a night owl.
So you're a night owl. I'm an early bird. So I am you're getting you getting getting the best of each other.
You are getting maximum LTE. I'll be seeing so many funny things. I'll be very incisive. I'll be a cute. This will be like a therapy session.
What happens in an hour and a half when you start fading, you'll be getting a little bit drowsy.
You know, I have a projector that projects onto my ceiling and I love to watch television so much. It's my addiction that doesn't harm anybody. Yeah, I lie down and then, like, look at this little based. There's an animal, it's a coyote on your bed. Yeah, he's a huge beagle mastiff cross and he's called Dingess Does he watch the TV with you?
Oh, not really, no.
He's more interested in getting pets. And, you know.
Yeah, you just you just love on him.
I just love him. And he, like, pushes his body against mine and I feel safe.
And you projected onto the onto the ceiling and you just you recline and you look up. Yeah.
I just love watching documentaries and that's when you know how we met. We should tell people how we met.
That's what I was going to ask, what I was going to come on to. You know, I looked this up because I did a little prep for this conversation, believe it or not.
And I went through my emails and I was like, how did it all begin?
Back in 2015, I got an email from my cousin Justin, who is our mutual friend, and he said something along the lines of, I've got a couple of friends coming through London.
Would you like to meet up naturally? My heart sank and I thought, Oh.
Because I'm an antisocial person. Me, too, me, too. And I thought and because it's my cousin, I can't really ignore it, you know, and say I'm a busy guy. Plus, I had a small baby at the time. It was not long after our third son was born. Yeah. So I said, OK, no.
Yeah, that would be great.
I was you know, I was totally not there.
So that sounds amazing. Terrific. Let's hook it up. He said, cool. I like you guys. His name is Eric. His wife is the singer Sia. Their rad.
She actually wrote you a fan letter once.
You know, I do it when she made the three boys connection, they happened to be going to London today. I replied, Wowza, I love the quote from the chandelier, but it needs my pipes to warm up.
That was nice that, you know, it was in June.
Lace from the chandelier, OK, it wasn't in tune. That was in tune as well. I be shaping up to close to the mic, OK.
Want to swing from the chandelier? So your pitch perfect. Did you know that, oh, please, you're you're tickling my tummy. I'm having all kinds of confusing feelings.
Yeah, there's kind of a kind of. Sort of. Different feelings when you do.
Oh, my God, there must be some word for it, like actually, because I think that's an amazing song and well, you know, I think it like like the world doesn't I mean, everyone knows it's an amazing song. But either way, thank you for being polite about that, because I'd heard of you.
I'd listen to you back in the zero seven days, right? Yeah. And so I knew I knew you a little bit from then and then. fast-Forward, 10 years 2014. Shandilya was a huge international hit.
And I remember hearing on the radio thinking, you know, sometimes the song leaps out you like that isn't like a normal pop song because of its combination of kind of beautiful, compelling melody, dark lyrics about alcohol abuse. And I thought, that's such an amazing song. I'm going to look up who made it and I read up on you. So. So when Justin, my cousin, got in touch, I was excited to meet her. But the question I have is, is it really true?
You wrote me a letter? Yeah, absolutely.
I did. I, I wrote you on Twitter probably 15 or 20 years ago. Like I have been a fan since the beginning of your BBC documentarian years. I have watched every episode of all of your documentaries, including the ones that are just part of a series, including your Scientology documentary. Like when people said to me in interviews, who would you like to have at your dinner table? Like out of five people, I would always say you along with Elvis.
Oh my God. I'd love to be at a dinner with Elvis and with. Oh, she's so fabulous, Ruby something. She's English and she's got red lips and she's a comedian. And now I can't remember her name because I'll be wax. Yes. Because I've been gone so long. I was like, I want hurricane.
I just interviewed her the week before last. Oh, I loved her. That's right. She is American. That's right.
She's American. I interviewed her. This is unplugging my podcast on my podcast. What about so who else would have been there like Elvis me, Ruby wax you.
That was it for that time. And then, you know, as it evolved. But you never came off the list, dude. Wow.
So that's why I was so excited when Justin was like, I'm his cousin and I was like, what?
I was fascinated by you because I felt you you were always the same no matter what environment you were in, you were always the same.
And that was just something I guess was admirable and also something that I strive for. Is there a past like yours should be strove? I think you could either one.
They both work. I strove is a word. I think I strove for it. I was like, that's someone who has like enough confidence to continuously be himself. And I had kind of set myself up for failure by creating this like I'm quirky, I'm a quirky indie artist like persona that I could no longer maintain because I was suffering from terrible depression. And I had just retired like literally I was like, I'm not going to make any more albums.
I'm just going to. I'm just going to do what feels right. I just got sober, I moved to L.A. I was like, I want to write pop songs for other people.
That's what I was around two thousand and eleven.
I mean, I like it feels like it was about nine years ago.
Or maybe. Maybe it would be right, so because I was digging into this because I know, like a lot of people in recovery, you know, well, I know recovery in general, there are ups and downs. Right. And actually with mental health issues. Right. Yeah.
And and I know over the years there's been different things. You grappled with different diagnoses. The important thing is you achieved huge international success, like in the last five or six years with your own singing.
But that came out of you taking a break and kind of going behind the scenes.
Right. But now that you done five albums and had been successful as well. Yeah, I had.
I mean, minimally successful Lacassine, I if I had quit, I would probably make a teacher's salary for the rest of my life. And that's when I sort of retired from music. But then accidentally, David Guetta put out titanium with my vocals on it, which he hadn't asked me permission for. He just assumed everybody wants to be famous and she's going to be so excited that she's I left her on this track even though I wrote it for Alicia Keys.
And you were you were you were, you know, for a pop star at that point. Not very. Not spring.
No spring chicken.
I don't want to put it like that, but I'd be like, yeah, but I mean, like, fully, fully touring my guts out for like 14 years with very, you know, average success.
And you thought, I'm going to not I'm not going to perform anymore. I'm just going to write songs. Write hits. Yeah.
I met Jonathan Daniel, my manager, and I said, I just want to write a song for, like Eminem and a song for Beyoncé. That would be my dream. And he thought, this girl is wacky. And he decided to take me on because he just thought it was such a wild expectation. And since then he's supported me through this entire successful career.
So tell me how it happened that you had almost by accident you had a hit with titanium, OK, guy called Ben Moody.
He was like, oh, here David Guetta wants to work with you or hear some beats from David Guetta. Like, it wasn't about me at all. It was just I was a top line writer. Top line for those who are listening is just lyrics and melody. They played me like 12 tracks of David Gedda's, but they played me the guitar part of Titanium. And I said that one. And then I wrote the song. I sang it and I thought it was going to go off to Alicia Keys.
And then he approached Mary J. Blige. And then the record gets pre released. And I read that I'm on the album and I'm mad. I'm super mad because I've just finally just sort of sat back into, like, being behind the scenes. But then I realized that I had one more album I had to deliver to my publishers as myself, see the artist before I could be released from that publishing deal. And because I was starting to get I got the Flo Rida thing after that, thanks to Ben Mahdavi as well.
But I was really mad about it at the time because that wasn't the kind of music I was into. I'd spent I felt like I'd spent fifteen years trying to create this incredible kind of wordy word, the clever song. Right.
And Bohemian kind of jazz inflected style. Yes. Something. And then suddenly this big house, kind of archetypal house megahits.
Yeah, I hated it and I was like, so mad. But then Jonathan, he took me down. My manager, Jonathan Daniel, he sort of said, listen, they've already pressed all of the copies. It would cost them probably about half a million dollars if you say you really don't want to be on it. I think the album, this album, I think this is actually not a terrible thing. I think it could be really good for your songwriting career will make sure you're not in the video.
How about it? And so I was like, OK, because I am not an asshole. I was like, I don't want to fuck David, get over with, like, costing him half a million dollars because he has to recall all his albums that have me on them. So I just was frustrated for a week or so. And then the same thing happened with Flo Rida and my management took Jonathan took full responsibility with that this time because he thought I was just being what he thought it was being inauthentic, that I didn't want to be famous and I didn't want to be on these songs.
And, you know, when it came out Flo Rida featuring Sia, I had said, OK, like they were like, can we keep your vocal? Can we keep your vocal? And I was like, no, put someone else's vocal on it. I don't shut down the club. And that's one of the lyrics.
What's the track? Called the Plowright a track, wild ones, I like the lab ones anyway, it's love it when you sing. Thanks.
Well, so then I was super mad because I'd said, OK, I can keep my vocal on it, but don't say it's me. Just say like for Radha and Anonymous Singer. And then it came out featuring me and I was so angry and I called my management and then he realized I was for real.
He realized I wasn't being it was no false humility that it was that I really was angry. But, you know, he did me the biggest favor in the world by accident because it really did kick off my songwriting career. And then when we realized I just had one more album to put out, I just that's why I put the blonde wig on the front cover of A Thousand Forms of Fear, because I thought, I'll just figure this out. It won't be successful, but I'll be out of my publishing deal.
And then she went bananas.
You really thought it wasn't going to be successful? Yeah, I was just like, it'll be another anything like what I've always done, that'll be like it'll sell like maybe 100000 copies. I really did. And how many did it so I have no idea. It's not like a million, right? At least a million. You know, maybe that's not my thing.
I'm not unhappy about it now. I have to say, I'm doing well. I'm doing fine. But I do believe that violence is a disease and we can come on to that.
I'm curious about that.
Before we let you let me jump in, because I think we need to deal in a focused way with with what happened, how you came to more or less retire from performing and then by accident almost kind of get dragged back into it and dragged kicking and screaming towards international fame and success.
So you'd been jogging along with your solo career? This is sort of through the late 90s. You started young, right? Only came out in 1997.
Your first album. I think I was 17 when you were 17.
And by the way, you know, I dug into this like, oh, that's good music, but there's some Australian guy rapping all over it. Oh, that's crisp. Only say it was just me and Chris Paul. You know, Chris was with the rapping, but and I was so loyal. I got offered deals and stuff. But I wouldn't leave Chris because they just wanted to sign me and I felt uncomfortable about it. Instead, I just went travelling.
The world ended up in England, ended up on a stage. And, you know, my ex-boyfriend had just died and I lost my virginity to him, would drink all of us in the house for drinking really heavily.
And you were living in London at this time? Yeah, I moved to London because they said I was on my way to visit my ex-boyfriend and he was killed by a hit and run on his birthday. And all his friends were so sweet. They knew I was coming and they said come anyway. So I did. And we were all grieving.
There was 13 of us living in a three bedroom apartment in Earls Court. And it's not Notting Hill. It's the one that sort of east of that Kensington, Kensington. And we were all grieving. We were all children, you know, 19, 20 years old. We all became, you know, very reliant on drugs and alcohol to sort of soften the blow of his loss.
But I had no idea what alcoholism was then or drug addiction or anything like that. I just thought, I'm 20 and I'm just like partying. I had no idea what I was going to say.
Like, it would be hard to distinguish alcoholism from being Australian in London.
You're one of the only English people that recognises that fact, right? I mean, that's the whole point. This whole pubs dedicated to to getting on Australia's longest walkabout in Shepherd's Bush.
It's not there. Yeah, I went there. We went there lots of times. I'm so embarrassed every time we went, I was like, look, let's get out of here, but I was like, not too precious to drink seven beers before we left.
I mean, speaking as someone you know me, you know that I drink. I'm pretty sure I drink too much.
And, you know, when it's gone too far, like you say, feel depressed, I guess, if the consequences outweigh the benefits. So if you have regrets, you wake up in the morning with regret. As soon as you feel uncomfortable emotionally, you want to have a drink. Right. But like we're only human. It's and it's legal. Alcohol is legal. It's you have to go to a psychiatrist and spend three hundred dollars a week to get Valium or, you know, Xanax if you've got anxiety problems.
But alcohol, you know, you can just go to the shop. But for me. The benefits of being sober far outweighed the deficits.
What was your drink of choice back in the day when I was with 07? It was, of course, the strongest and most sweet because I was addicted to both sugar and alcohol, so I would have a white Russian.
So that's vodka, rum and coconut. It's vodka, Cooloola.
Bisley's and milk, I think. Oh, that's what I was drinking. Anyway, it was like dessert in a cup.
You wouldn't need food if you drank that. That's how I felt about it.
And I lost a lot of weight. I thought I was just it was on the José González tour when he joined us on that tour. And me and Jose Gonzalez, we used to play for like pretend like we're in stock movies.
Is he a singer? I should say, yes, he is a singer. Yet you were right. And then one night I did a cartwheeling thing where I basically go cartwheel over his legs and he holds my arms. But I broke. And that same night the pianist broke a finger. And we're like we were considered the most like, I don't know, just elevator. He easygoing, smooth operators. And what you mean the music was.
It was sort of it was it was very high quality kind of wine bar music. Yeah.
That sounds judgmental but no not in the way the Shardey like I love Shardey.
I love, I love hip hop.
It was kind of you know, it was annoying to 07 is that so many times we were at restaurants. I remember once where and I beat them. We just on a little like gig and we went to a restaurant and the beginning of a song started and I was like, Oh, it's us, it's us. And I was super excited. And like, Sam was like, oh my God, don't do that.
It's not Lusia, it's it's er I was Moon Zafari because they was but they were so similar.
But if they were to do something like that.
Yeah exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That one that was it was that.
But that was a great putu to do with the like electric piano tinkling Look at you, that was a good album to listening to music.
Like we were like elevator music but also behind the scenes on a crack.
We were like Metallica behind the scenes. We were all getting super super shitfaced.
Did you need drink to get on stage? Was that part of a hundred percent?
I did one tour with 07 where I was sober and it was the hardest, just the hardest tour of my life. And that's when, you know, I realized, oh, I'm not built for this business. I want to be behind the scenes. You talked a lot about not enjoying touring. Can I put it like that?
You can, because it's and a lot of it was, I imagine, the promo and the grind the day after day and basically not being in a set routine or, you know, not being able to check out of the experience.
But I'm wondering whether the act of being on stage itself. To me, it seems like that might be fun and pleasurable. Right.
But I mean, if you're shitfaced drunk, it is I felt like I could be there. And in fact, you know, the truth of the matter was, is that without the drink, I was terrified. I was terrified. And I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do it at all.
When we left the anecdote, you were on tour jumping over. Someone's like getting a cracked rib on high on white Russians. I mean, were you quite a fun drunk, like.
Oh, yeah. Nobody would have ever told you that I was a drunk. I had to get addicted to opiates and benzoin before I was diagnosed as an addict because, I mean, my friends saw me as a fun drunk. I was like cartwheels and blowjobs and just like super fun. Dance, dance, party your face, Louie.
I was just thinking cartwheels and blowjobs would be a good title for your memoir. Maybe.
Yeah, OK. You know, Vol. one. Yeah.
OK, I'm trying to get that image of my not out of my head but put it to one side, although there was one time where I got so drunk that my boyfriend called me Spaghetti Woman and I was with Dan and what's his name who plays Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen, yeah, so and Dan, who do I know, does Dan I call him Cookie Monster, he's Sacha Sacha Baron Cohen's like he was his producer, his right hand man.
And I really did overdrink that night. And I remember feeling really embarrassed the next day because I was a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen.
This was in London. That was in London. You and Dan and Sasha were hanging out. Well, not really.
That was like 50 of us in a room.
But my interpretation of it was you'll read of it, something like that's quite an image.
You have a good time. And Sasha doesn't strike me as someone who would ever get shitfaced.
I don't know. I mean, I've met him since, but, you know, I've never had a proper conversation. He's more of a zipper, I think. Yeah. Sipping his wine. And and so you got. Absolutely.
Mullard and I was upside down in a chair asleep, and my boyfriend woke me up to get me home. And I literally that's when they started calling me Spaghetti Woman because my legs were so liquid underneath me.
I was probably twenty three. If we can make this about me again for a minute, because I read that part of the conversation when we were talking about how much you like my work.
Yeah, those were the days where you were in London.
So was that why you had seen my programs?
Yes. What year was your first BBC series? 98. Yeah, I was there. I was there from 97. OK, so I'm like a die hard fan from the beginning. Full die. Thank you for that.
It was just you mentioned Sacha Baron Cohen, and then I had a little pang of television jealousy, you know, then then you're in New York and you are I'm not trying to cleave to a narrative that.
No, but since we're on a the drugs took me down in six months, I you know, I was in a hot relationship. It was kind of toxic. So I would try and break up, but then I would be kept up for 11 or 12 hours until I was so desperate to go to sleep that I would just agree to stay in the relationship.
Then I was still in London. Or you're in New York. I know now I'm in New York and it's 2009 and you haven't.
Have you been sober or have you been.
Oh, no. I mean, off and on. But I didn't know it was sobriety.
But in fact, I wonder if I'd met you whether I would have spotted anything amiss. Probably not.
Right. I would have just five or it's great fun. We went out. We were cartwheeling.
Yeah, but. Yeah, but but I never left the house after I got addicted to drugs, so it wasn't like you hit bottom in London.
No, I mean, I feel like I hit a lot of bottoms, but I had no idea about alcoholism. But I was misdiagnosed with a panic disorder. But actually, I had Grave's Disease, which was a thyroid complication and that mimics mental illness. So the doctors kept prescribing me anti-depressants and more Xanax. And then I got a cough on tour and then my doctor prescribed me Vicodin because it's actually molecularly similar to codeine, but it's in pill form.
So he said to me, it travels better because you're not allowed to travel with liquids. And before I knew it on my day off on tour, I was like, Oh, I'm going to have one of those Valiums. And and then I come back from tour. And then I was like, I'm going to have one of those Xanax. And then and then I called the drug dealer and then I said, I want to have everything. And he delivered two OxyContin, which are the strongest.
And he said to me, Have you ever done this before? And I said, no. And he said, don't take more than one tenth of a pill. And within six months, I was taking two pills. Wow. And I was suicidal. I had written letters to people saying goodbye, the dog walker to if he would take the dogs. And then I got a call and I had to answer the phone had little to do.
And that person I answered the phone, hello? And they said, squirrelly Italy do. And there was something about the world was a reflection of myself. I don't know what happened in that moment, but there was a part of me that wanted to live, obviously, and so I texted my dog walker who was sober and who had made it a point of mentioning it over the last year, because I think she really knew what was going on and.
And she said, what are you doing tomorrow morning, let's go to a meeting. So we went to an AA meeting and I finally saw myself in these people. I finally realized that I was just self soothing. I was autoregulating using alcohol, drugs.
You know, now I self soothe in autoregulate using television and communication code regulation, when you think about what it was that was putting you in that dark place, you were experiencing it maybe as what, anxiety or just depression or just a feeling of bleakness.
Oh. I'd say above it was a relationship ending, was there something else triggering as well was just a really tough relationship. But it was. It was. And we're really good friends now because we've both joined SLA, which is sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. And I realized, oh, you're the common denominator. You choose these people, you choose these people to corroborate the negative ideas you have about yourself. That's a hard cycle to break out of as well, right, because that means you have to do everything differently.
Now, I did turn it upside down, Louis. I went to SLA for four years. I'm less of the sex addict, more of the love addict. Selex dying and returning to painful relationships. It's like whatever like avoiding social things to masturbate at home or, you know, there's all sorts of things. You know, you just have to Google Celaya and Checklist.
You've been reading my have you been reading my diary?
Hello, me again. And this is just a reminder you're listening to Grounded with me, Louis, through a podcast for BBC Sounds and Radio. For my guest is the musician Sia and for a platinum selling pop star. She has always expressed a surprising ambivalence about fame. I was curious to know more about where that comes from.
I've been reading up on you. I don't want to sound that creepy. Look, on Wikipedia.
I'm the one that stopped you on Twitter for years trying to get to my imaginary, like, last supper.
No, it's a Last Supper. But you right, talking about this stuff, how are you feeling? Yeah, I'm checking in with you now. Oh, you're so sweet. No, I'm totally fine. Remember when we met at the juice store and I said, I have nothing to hide? I do, yeah, I wasn't lying, I mean, I was a messed up, really messed up person. Really? Yeah. I you know, this is me projecting, right, like, I envy your I'm in awe of your talent and, you know, your voice and your your musical ability.
And to me, the idea of being on stage and singing, I mean, you've heard me sing chandelier. I mean, it is good. It is good. It is. In its own way, amazing, but it's it doesn't it's, believe it or not, not the basis for a musical career. It is authentic to you.
It's very me, and so when I see you and I think, wow, if I had your ability, but I the idea of me in my fantasies, I'm a pop star on stage, singing and pulling.
You're pulling girls out of the audience. Yeah, that one. That one. That one year to me around. Yeah.
But on a serious note, though, to me that that seems transcend the idea of being making a connection in that way and being on stage. And I've done a little bit, I've done a few things on stage, just live events where I've talked.
And how does that make you feel?
Which it makes me very nervous before I do it. But when I'm on stage, I've loved it. And afterwards I felt amazing.
Yes, because you conquered fear and I take a beta blocker now before I go on and sing anywhere, I fear it. I'm terrified. I'm scared. I get stressed and then I take my beta blocker and then I get on stage and I do my job. About halfway through the set. I peek through my bangs and I think, oh, wow, this is crazy. Like there's all these people here I don't even know me and but they're so happy.
They seem so happy right now and it's meaningful. And then at the end of the show I feel, oh, that was meaningful work before. I wouldn't I couldn't accept that what I was doing was meaningful. I thought it was just like bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
But after, you know, reading some fan mail, which I'd never done before and being I don't want to say accosted, but being approached, being approached by fans who would tell me personal things that my music had done for them or their children, that's when it started to like make me feel valuable in a way, was really when a woman told me that her child, who was suffering severely low functioning on the autism spectrum, that my music was the only thing that had stopped him from killing himself.
When she told me that, I was like, I need to just get out there and do it. It's my duty. I believe, you know, the song I've just released is, you know, like I watch the news on TV and in myself daily.
I am afraid I have no purpose here.
And until now that has been true. And I wrote that song three or four years ago as part of my movie like World World. I want to leave you better. I want my life to matter. I am afraid I have no purpose here.
So I'm just starting at the age of nearly forty five to appreciate that. My purpose here is, is to just keep singing and writing those sort of like uplifting songs that I realize now are usually actually to myself to just keep me alive. I'm just singing to keep myself alive.
Till about a year ago I had a lot of suicidal ideation. After the divorce, I had a lot of suicidal ideation. I felt very duped and very, very devastated. I had loved him so much. Now I'm possessed significantly more self-esteem.
I'm realizing that if I save one life, that's my purpose. Which song was that you were just singing that was called Courage to Change? I did it at the Billboard Music Awards.
That was that was beautiful. And it amazes me. But I know it shouldn't that that you still struggle with that because I see you as so accomplished. And whenever I see you, I just I like to believe you're in a good place. So it makes me sad to think that I've seen you probably at times when you were really struggling.
And I know I would have told you, Louie, because I. I would never try to fool you. You're not someone I'm inclined to bullshit to like when I'm doing, like, casette them, I'm not going to talk about necessarily my personal life, my struggles with suicidal ideation, my children.
I'm not going to, you know, but you're I consider you someone I can trust. Well, I appreciate that.
And I'm sorry for everything you've been going through after the divorce.
Thanks. That was awful. That must be enormously painful.
And also that because you're in recovery. So it's not as though there's an easy fix. You know, you're already sober, so you've got to work through it.
It was pretty dark. Oh, I'm sorry.
Super spooky. But, you know, I have, you know, a whole team around me to, like, help because of just being hypersensitive person. So I have like a therapist and MVR therapist, a psychiatrist, somatic experiencing therapist. Like, I needed it to stay alive after the divorce because I felt so betrayed. But all of it I needed all of it just to survive the last four years. You've said that you replaced your alcohol and drug addiction with TV addiction.
Yeah, I have. And I sometimes get the impression you you're more interested in TV and film than you are in music. I totally am. What do you get out of TV and reality TV in particular?
I guess I feel like I'm there. But without having to be out there and in danger, you know, safe social interaction, yeah, sort of.
I mean, my so I've come a long way in terms of my self-esteem and in terms of. Making loving choices around myself and others, so titanium's an amazing song, right, you'd agree with that?
No, really. I mean, I think it's a decent pop song. Maybe I've got bad taste, literally. Do you mean the production or the song itself? Both you don't like and also I'm not a huge fan of EDM, but even I. Can get down with that. Can you buy it looks like most so can most of the world, even if they're not into EDM, because when I work with David Guetta, it's like some magic potion, because whatever we do, no matter how sturdy it is, it is successful.
It's like I will sing something so whatever over what he sends me and he can polish a turd, I swear, like this last song we just did. Let's love, like I said. And I was like, this is bad. I'm sorry, but I was in a hurry. And so I sent it to him and then he turned it into basically a modern day love is a battlefield and it's like no one will over the place. What's it called?
Well, it's love. I don't think I've heard that one.
That's love. That's where there's no like, seriously that is polishing a turd.
Right. Because that is there's nothing interesting about that, about either the melodies, all the lyrics.
I always you know, when you make things in general in the creative industries, the rule of thumb is like, just do it authentically, do it from your heart, like speak your truth, do the best you can, make something you think you'd enjoy.
But what I hear from you is like much of your greatest success has come from, in a weird way, writing down, like doing stuff that you think is disposable that you could have done.
And you have to I mean. Well, I feel like I have to dumb it down to a degree because then it'll all make it broader, less specific, because then I can appeal to more people. They can project their shit onto it much more easily. So don't be specific because then that alienates 70 percent of the world.
Well, something specific, like I was married to a guy who is obsessed with golf, right?
Exactly. So instead you say, I loved you, you hurt me.
And you don't mention the golf at all. No.
You just make it so that everybody's, like, can project onto it their own experience. Because the more because once you ride it and you let it put it out, it doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to the listener. They project whatever they want onto it. What music do you like?
Kind of listen to music. Louis, you've said that to me before and I. I find it amazing there's a there's a profile of you where they say the only music you have on iTunes is. I can tell you right now, it was like it's Abha, it's like Jimi Hendrix, the best of the best of The Pretenders. Stevie Wonder, Grace by Jeff Buckley and madness, Wings of a Dove y Wings of a Dove. I want that song played at my funeral.
Yeah. Now, when I was growing up, Complete Madness, which was a greatest hits compilation, that was the album and that had on it embarrassment. It must be Love, a track called Shut Up Night Boat to Cairo. This was before Wings of a Dove.
Come on. You just recollecting photographic memory?
No. You know how when you're young and you listen to records, they mean so much more to you because you don't have that many and you listen to them over and over and you learn the rice.
Was that for me?
So it was the time when I had maybe five cassettes and that was one of them. And that was probably my favorite one, unless I could trust it was a brilliant my goal as well. But the point being, I don't even think Wings of a Dove would be on my top 20 favorite songs.
I mean, I love our house and all that sort of as well. But there's something for me about on the wings of a dove that is uplifting.
And if and I want my funeral to be got an awkward key change in it as well, which I mean, two of the key changes back Louie.
Oh, well, the wings over the O on the wings of a dream.
Yeah, that's my favorite part. I'm a cheese bag. I'm a cheese bag, Louie.
But how can a cheese bag make such amazing music? I just don't think it's nothing to do with me. I just get out of the way and then it comes the melody just channeled. And then the lyrics sometimes come in through the channeling like, oh, my mouth sounds and they all turn into lyrics. The first time a member listening to a track and recording it. But I always the first time I ever hear a track that someone wants me to sing over.
I always press record and I sing along to it. I know this is a special gift because I'm a musician. Friend of mine told me is that my predictor of where the chords are going to go is like unreal.
And so I tend to be able to write the melody in the first time I ever listen to the song. And then if I'm really lucky, words will flop out as well.
Like I'm bright, like a diamond that one did that flopped out. Then the only time I have to use my intellect is writing the lyrics is the content. But the melody is pure channeling. I just get out of the way. What's your favorite of your own songs, hmm? I think I really I mean, obviously, I love Shandilya because it was meaningful. True, and it brought me together with Mattie, who is Siglo, the dancer, because you'd had seen her on the show.
Well, that's another story. So should we talk? Should we.
Let's go, Maddie. Maddie's like, you know, the best thing in my life. Like, I'm so grateful to Shandilya because I'd seen her on Dance Moms. I thought, who's this little girl with this emotive face who's doing terrible choreography but who moves me?
Dance Moms is a TV show.
Dance Moms was a TV show that was about the moms, but really it was about the girls and their dancing and and I felt bad that I, I didn't get her out sooner. She did, I think another three seasons after she'd done Shandilya of Dance Moms.
And so it was the same people week in, week out prancing around. Yes. There were six girls I think, or seven girls and there was a pyramid and you had to like compete against each other to be on the top of the pyramid. And it was extremely stressful.
Well, let's talk about your movie because it's fantastic. And I feel I wish I could take some credit for it, because early on you sent me a script and I think I gave some totally unhelpful notes.
And I didn't say was the genius part of of of saying actually, maybe this should be a musical. Right. Because what happened was it started life with something else. Right. What I what I read was not a musical.
No, it was a narrative based starring childbirth as a recovering like a sober drug dealer who suddenly becomes responsible for his teenage sister, who's severely low functioning on the autism spectrum. Once I kept losing him because of sobriety issues and insurance issues, I got Jonah Hill in the park for about five minutes.
And then Qalibaf, who I had directed previously, who appears famously in one of your last year.
Yes, that's right. Yeah. Which only has about two billion streams on YouTube.
So I said, help me.
Chandelier has two point three billion.
Wow. Well, and heard somebody said to me, don't be an idiot if you don't make it a musical. It's like having a blank Scrabble chip and not using it.
That's a good metaphor because actually it really lifts it from being a kind of beautiful indie film into something more universal, I think.
And I said something more brightly colored, candy colored and Busby Berkeley ish.
It's more commercial and it's more, I think, identifiably me.
You know, like just to make the point, though, that there's a lot of people on the spectrum who are nonverbal. Right. Which with real challenges and they can't all memorize phone books.
You know, I think that was the man while a valid movie.
But it kind of gave people a misleading idea like, oh, you have autism or you're autistic. You yeah.
Sometimes it's savant like savant capabilities and other times it is not. If you went and met everybody in the world who is on the autism spectrum, you would never find to the same. And that's what they say, they say if you've met one person with autism, then you've met one person. Yeah. Is that that Australian moisturizer? Oh, yes. Poor. Nancy made me get that when I was in Australia for appointment.
It's good for everything. Every mother should have it. It's for Burns Boyle's. Chafing oils cuts, you putting it on your boils? I didn't think I'd go gracefully. I had to boil ever, although I was slightly obsessed with pimple popping, buboes carbuncles.
Oh, my goodness. I've been enjoying the pandemic. We another night literally barely gotten out of bed free.
I was looking at Dingess now Dingess was paying attention and then he looks like George, he's come down. Yeah. Yeah. Obviously, I'm not a total dickhead pop star that doesn't realize that it has caused a lot of death, panic, death, fear, destitution, financial insecurity for people.
But so I you know, I've donated shit so that I wouldn't feel so guilty about like. Enjoying not having to ever see anybody, because I feel I do feel guilty about the fact that I'm such a like all I want to do is be like in bed with my with my dogs.
So basically, for you, it's just been a case of watching in a case of what I needed my entire adult life, which was to just put myself into a little burrito and self care for like two or three years.
That is what I've been doing. And I you know, with the help of because it turned out I'm not bipolar, really, I'm I have PTSD, complex PTSD from early trauma and I'm way.
Yeah. And other. So you were misdiagnosed? I was.
So it was the PTSD from I could tell you.
You want me to know if you don't want to tell you the bits I tell you it's uncomfortable.
It sounds like it's up to you. Yeah. No, I'll tell you that it's uncomfortable with. So there's some childhood trauma just because my mom had postpartum depression.
My dad is a very eccentric person and he had like an alter ego called Stan, who when he got angry, he would turn into Steve said, oh, Stan showing up.
You say sorry for Stan's behavior. And we've had a very good repair recently, which is fantastic. But I also was sexually abused at the age of nine. And then I said, what else?
Then the boy I lost my virginity to died.
He was knocked over by a hit and run. Did they catch the guy who did?
I never did. Then I had I had a neighbor in London. Yep. And at some point he was banging on the door and he said, Why don't you want to be friends with me? I want to be friends with me and. And he stepped in front of a train. You it myself. OK, so that was one bad thing. And then. I was on my way back from a gig I've been to at Shepherd's Bush and this group of children run up, smack this guy in the head, and I saw him with blood just coming out of his head like this.
And I smacked him and he'd fallen on to a guardrail.
And I called the police. I called an ambulance like the ambulance people were telling me what to do, like do this, do that to try and keep him safe until the ambulance got there. And then I had to go to court to try and identify the kids. And I saw after I testified and they read out my home address in front of the perpetrators, and he just looked at me and he said, your next. It was just really scary.
So there's that and then there's getting famous is, I think, a traumatic event. What do you think?
You've spoken quite a bit about the trauma of or the problem with fame and fame as a poison generally.
Yeah. Do you believe that?
I do, because I'm still exactly the same person. I still have exactly the same insecurities. This has done nothing for me.
And that's when I started to realize that the disappointments of fame that I thought it was going to rescue me and it didn't rescue you from feelings of of maybe.
Yes, you can say it worthlessness. And then and also because when the paparazzi start to follow you, it is like being prey, they they're like it's like their cameras are guns and you are a deer. I think it activates some sort of primal primordial was the right word, primordial experience in the brain.
Your brain releases lots of neurochemicals that are like you're under attack.
Yeah. Plenty to be traumatized about. Yes, so that's why they say I have complex PTSD because of all of those things. Well, can I just say for my part that it's been a, you know, such a pleasure getting to know you over the last few years and, you know, whatever ambivalence you have about fame. I understand. And at the same time. You've given a huge gift to the world with your music and even digging into the the catalog write the music you've made in the past.
I know you're getting emotional upset you because you're being nice to me to kind of laughing, crying. You feel ridiculous. I moved. Well, I really.
And I bought you Louis. No, I really mean it. And but I'm kind of embarrassed because. So here's the sting in the tail. You're my favorite album of yours is your Christmas album.
I love that because it's it's it's it's every track on that.
It's superb. It's brilliant. And it's kind of but it's got heartbreak. It's quite a sad album in a weird way.
And it touches all the themes because it's one about alcohol abuse.
It's got love songs and everything on it.
But even going back to the older stuff, which I wasn't as familiar with your let me get my notes. Sorry for the second time. So sorry.
I'm just like the new album you made in 2005. Oh, I knew I should have looked at my notes.
It's got a plaintive it's got a sadness to it when they have briefed me on it.
Yes. Yeah. It was before I realized I could sing like before I realized I could really sing. Well, it still holds up.
It's a beautiful album and so. Thank you. Yeah. So I just wanted to say, you know, when I talk to someone who's incredibly talented as you are, sometimes it surprises me, you know, any hint of insecurity, obviously you think.
Well, but you're see like you're you're amazing. And and at the same time, I totally I understand that you don't wake up, go around thinking like I'm sick, I'm amazing.
Which maybe is part of what makes you a nice person.
But sometimes that. Means that you don't value yourself to the full extent and really getting there, Louis, I'm really getting there like I'm really starting to like I build a house.
Where is it? Up in the in the hills, somewhere in Beverly Hills or somewhere like.
No, no. But no, that's exactly not where I would ever build. And I can't wait for you guys to come visit because it is it is so amazing. It made me cry. I went into the panic room. Yes. This is the sentence. I went into the panic room, which has like hand embroidered dog wallpaper. And I cried for 20 minutes the first time I ever went in there once it was finished because I just thought, oh, my God, this is what I have been working for my whole life.
It's so wonderful. And there's a room for Madie there and room for Kansi, her little sister. No room for audio.
My God said let's look forward from I should probably wrap things up. I know that you you're just hitting your stride.
I can sense it right the whole way through. But so, so but I'm aware that we're going to have to bring this down to a reasonable length at some point. And and we can't make Sarah Jane's job too difficult. So before we finish up, shall we talk for a minute about what the next few months look like for you?
Like no one really knows because of the exact covid rampaging around. But I know I know you're moving down a bit. Supposed to come out a few months ago.
Yeah, but IMAX is going to put it out. So it's called music not to confuse anybody.
And did I read that you've got an album coming out next year as well? Yeah.
If it's like doesn't interrupt my soundtrack. And then I also have another album that I'm working. Title is Reasonable Woman will do to those. I don't want to. I might have to, but if I do I would just make sure it's the most. Now finally I'm at in a place where I can actually bring some friends with me, like I financially like I could bring my best friends with me so that I feel comfort and homely, like I'm home and I'm safe.
I can bring on my dogs.
So I think it'll be less confronting because I'll have a lot of my safest people around me, because a lot of artists and singers and performers are saying, oh, I just need to get back out there in front of my audience. And yeah, that's not me.
Christina Aguilera said that when we were working together, she was like, I live for this stage, like I feel alive on the stage. And I was like, oh, it's weird. It's just not me. Like, I like singing. I want to be on the stage. I would I could go out and I could lip sync like it. You could be in the wings. We could tour the Christmas album.
Oh my God. You could do that for me. I would be so grateful.
You willing to fly underneath the Christmas lights. The Christmas lights.
Oh, so you can do a will you maybe no lip synching just like Louis does. See. Yes.
Underneath the Christmas lights. Oh you probably don't even know which one I'm singing.
No, I do know you're like it's off the Christmas album. I'm just not sure which tracks.
Ho ho ho ho. I call. OK, so OK. That was a bridge too far. And do you know where she gone that they actually hacked? You've been listening to ground it with me, Louis, through my guest in this new series, has been the extraordinary and talented singer.
My computer died. I'm sorry.
Oh, my goodness. It's recording. Sorry, dude. Well, yes, it is a to be continued, no doubt.
I am going to close up this stop my computer charger in here.
That's how Luddite I am. Tune in. I'll do some of those things that you're supposed to do just in case you need them.
Hi, this is Sia and if you're interested in tuning in to me and Louis there is getting into it. Yeah. Listen up. Something like that.
You know, this has been a mind house production for BBC Sounds and Radio for the program was stitched together remotely by Catherine Mannan and Sarah Jane Hall.
Bye bye, love, love, love.
Next week, it's the turn of reality TV star and presenter Rylan Clark Neil.
But if you can't wait till then, there's always the first series to catch up on with everyone from Miriam Margulies and Lenny Henry to Helena Bonham Carter and Rose McGowan.
Just search for Grounded with Louis through wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe.
Hi, sorry for the surprise, but I wanted to catch you after your regular part to tell you about a new podcast from Radio four called The Orgasm Cult.
So I'm just going to break the ice for us. OK, my topic is female orgasm.
I'm Nestor and have a Khaleefa, and for the last year, I've been investigating a Californian company called One Tast, they used to offer classes in something called orgasmic meditation, but maybe turned out to be a sex cult. And now the FBI is asking questions, finds out more on the orgasm cult subscribe now on BBC Sounds.