NEW YORK – Think it’s tough to catch a glimpse of Sia’s face during her performances these days? Try booking an interview with the reclusive singer.
The performer, who has risen in the pop music ranks thanks to writing hits for female stars and hitting the charts with her own tunes, has dodged press and even turns her head during live performances. The creative campaign for her latest album, “1000 Forms of Fear,” was a success thanks to radio airplay and its highly viewed music videos starring Maddie Ziegler of “Dance Moms.” Sia’s album debuted at No. 1 and “Chandelier” became a multi-platinum international success.
She even earned four Grammy nominations – though she’s not sure she'll attend the big show on Sunday.
“I know, it’s getting a little close,” longtime manager David Russell said in an interview last week (Sia, obviously, wouldn’t be interviewed for this story). “It remains to be seen what we'll do.”
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Sia and “Chandelier” earned nominations in the top categories, including song and record of the year. The Australian singer didn’t attend the recent ARIA Music Awards – the Australian version of the Grammys – though she won five honors, including album of the year. Instead, Sia filmed an acceptance speech starring comedian Carrot Top.
Russell, who has worked with Sia for more than a decade, said they didn’t see the commercial success coming.
“We didn’t anticipate that kind of reaction, but that fact that that’s come has been extraordinary,” he said.
Last year marked a breakthrough for 39-year-old Sia, who released her first album in 1997. After writing for a slew of singers, from Rihanna (“Diamonds”) to Beyoncé (”Pretty Hurts”), she finally saw her own Top 40 success with “Chandelier,” a song she originally thought she might send to Rihanna. The writing success came around the time Sia co-starred on David Guetta’s “Titanium,” a song the mega-producer had to convince her to do.
Russell says Alicia Keys was originally considered for “Titanium,” and even Mary J. Blige cut the track.
“It simply came down to David begging that Sia stay on the record, and wisely she agreed,” Russell said. “I mean, it literally happened like two days after she was like, ‘That’s it. I’m done making my own records. I’m just going to be a behind-the-scenes writer now.’ ”
Russell says at the time, Sia was becoming famous and it began to make her “feel really uncomfortable” and “really unhappy, so she wanted to put the brakes on that.”
But “Titanium” became a seminal moment for Sia, which was followed by another Top 10 hit, Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” which she also sang on and co-wrote.
“I was amazed by this woman, but she was definitely the less famous on the entire album, but still this record became like the biggest record and I’m so glad that we decided to keep her voice on the record,” Guetta said in an interview. “It makes me really happy and proud for her, because she’s so talented, to see how amazing she did. Like, she kept it really real to herself, to who she is without compromising.”
Sia also has written for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Kylie Minogue. She earned Golden Globe nominations for her work on the “Burlesque” and “Annie” soundtracks. And Russell says she is currently writing for other artists.
“I think she’s honed her craft over the years,” said Greg Kurstin, who co-produced Sia’s latest album and worked with the singer for a decade. “It’s amazing to see that progression. It’s sort of a gradual rise.”
Sia’s other Grammy nominations include best pop solo performance and music video for “Chandelier.”
“I never thought I would be performing for such a big artist …getting to kind of become her new face,” said 12-year-old Ziegler, who starred in Sia’s “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart” videos and has appeared on TV programs to perform alongside the singer.
Though Sia has been riding high on her success, the singer received some backlash for the video for “Elastic Heart,” which featured Ziegler in a nude leotard dancing with Shia LaBeouf and drew complaints because of Ziegler’s age.
“Obviously I don’t see any of the controversy that other people have called out on that video or ‘Chandelier' video. I think art is supposed to provoke thought and I think our videos did,” Russell said. “I think it’s insane.”
Russell, who wouldn’t comment on whether the Grammys invited Sia to perform Sunday, said instead of focusing on Sia’s latest video, people should pay attention to his client, “a woman who is 39 years old and isn’t trading on sex or accessibility.”
He also adds that Sia’s grown over the years, especially watching her get sober.
“Getting to a place of recognizing you have an addiction issue and then taking the strides, the major strides it takes to combat that issue, I can’t think of anything more important that she’s achieved than finding that spiritual center and finding sobriety,” he said.
The Grammys will air live Sunday from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.