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Sia has been one of the biggest names in pop music in recent years, but she’s been quite conservative with her public life. However, in a new interview with Rolling Stone, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter kept it 100% real about a variety of topics. When the publication asked her how she avoids cliches in her pop songwriting, the Australian artist says that she thinks her pop songs are actually “terribly cheesy.” Sia explains that at the end of the day, she just wants to collect the checks from the songs and that they help secure her place as a pop songwriter. She also reveals some inside information on her recording process and songwriting for/with other big names like Adele, Beyonce, Rihanna and Kanye West, and how it’s not always a smooth process. As for her collaboration with ‘Ye as co-writers on the upcoming track “Reaper,” Sia discloses that she doesn’t care about the song because she is not emotionally attached to it. Check out a few highlights from the interview below and read the full feature here.
With that theme in mind, I feel like you’ve always been really great at not crossing that line of cheesiness when writing something that’s empowering. You avoid clichés …
Thank you. That’s hilarious to me, because I think that the stuff I write for pop music is terribly, terribly cheesy, but I’m coming from an indie background. I was like “Whoa” when I decided to crossover. For me, “Titanium” is very cheesy. And “Wild Ones” is definitely 100 percent cheese. It was quite confronting to start writing in that way. I never intended or wanted either of those songs to be seen because I felt like it diluted my credibility because I found them to be very cheesy. I wanted other people to sing them, and I just wanted to collect the publishing checks at the end of the day. It turned out that both of those songs really helped me in the end to secure my place as a pop songwriter, and that also the success of them helped erode my feelings of insecurity around how cheesy they were.
[After] watching the PS22 choir sing “Titanium” and then listening to the children being interviewed afterwards saying that it actually really impacted them — some of the kids were being bullied — I felt like I was jaded and cynical, and I felt like a bit of an asshole. I thought, “Why don’t you loosen up, you prick! This stuff that you think is cheesy is really impacting these kids around the world. Why don’t you stop being so judgmental?” [Laughs] I actually had that conversation with myself.
But I still believe I’m straddling the line between art and commerce, but I think that my visual work is art and my music is definitely commercial. I think I managed to trick people a little bit into thinking I’m more arty by making creative, artistic, visual work and applying it to commercial music. Maybe. I don’t know.
I was surprised when I found out that the song was co-written by Kanye. What were your writing sessions with him like?
Well, he wasn’t there!
[Laughs] No! They’ll entice me into a session by saying, “Rihanna will definitely be there” or “Kanye will definitely be there,” but it’s hilarious because I turn up and, almost always, they never come. So I went into the studio to write for Rihanna with Kanye and neither of them showed up and stayed for less than an hour. They had two tracks. They told me what they had wanted. There were notes from Kanye, and I can’t even remember what they were. I remember I just raced in and raced out, and I thought there was something about the chorus that seemed fun about this song, but I never thought it would see the light of day. My manager pushed for this song to be on the record, but I don’t care about it.
You don’t care about the song?
I don’t care about the song. I know in print that will look bad, but what I mean is I’m not emotionally attached to it. I thought it was a fun song. I think it’s a good, fun song, but I didn’t anticipate it being on the record. But my manager really likes it so I put it on for him.