In the second episode of the new series, singer-songwriter Sia talks to Louis Theroux about being catapulted to superstardom, the Aussie drinking holes of West London and her lockdown addiction to reality TV. Plus Louis gets the chance to sing Sia some of her most famous songs…
Sia wrote Louis a fan letter... plus Louis sings some of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’
Louis: 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 ugh, because I'm an anti-social person
Sia: oh me too me too.
Louis: I said oh so that sounds amazing, terrific let's hook it up. He said ‘cool, I’ll link you guys, his name is Eric, his wife is the singer Sia they’re rad, she actually wrote you a fan letter once…’
Sia: I did!
L.T: ‘…and flipped when she made the Theroux boys connection, they happen to be going to London today.’ I replied, ‘wowza, I love Sia.. (Louis sings) From the chandelier..
Sia: Oh Louis.
L.T: but it needs my pipes to warm up.
Sia: That was nice. You know it was in tune at least
L.T: (sings higher) From the chandelier….Okay, it wasn’t in tune
Sia: No that was in tune as well, I wouldn’t bullshit you
L.T: I think I’m too close to the mic… (Louis sings again) I wanna swing from the chandelier, the chandelier
Sia: So you’re pitch perfect. Did you know that?
L.T: Oh Please, you're tickling my tummy, I'm having all kinds of confusing feelings,
Sia: yeah there's kind of a, sort of different feeling when you sing it... from when I do..
L.T: I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, you know sometimes a song leaps out and you’re like that isn't like a normal pop song because of its combination 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 when Justin, my cousin got in touch, I was excited to meet. But the question I have is, is it really true you wrote me a fan letter?
Sia: Yeah, absolutely. 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 aren’t 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 out of five people? I would always say you, along with Elvis.
L.T: oh my god, I'd love to be at a dinner party with Elvis
Sia was ‘so mad’ about being on Titanium, but didn’t want to ‘f*ck David Guetta over’
Sia: I sort of retired from music but then accidentally David Guetta put out, Titanium with my vocals on which he hadn't asked me permission for. He just assumed, everybody wants to be famous. And she's gonna be so excited that I left her on this track, even though I wrote it for Alicia Keys.
L.T: And you thought I'm not gonna perform anymore. I'm just going to write songs, write hits?
Sia: I wrote the song, sang it, and I thought it was gonna 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 being behind the scenes… That wasn't the kind of music I was into. I felt like I'd spent 15 years trying to create this credible kind of wordy, word-smithy clever song..
L.T: Right... indie, Bohemian kind of jazz inflected style? And then suddenly this big house archetype, mega hit
Sia: Yeah, I hated it. And I was like, so mad. But then Jonathan, my manager said listen, they've already pressed all of the copies. It would cost them probably about half a million dollars if you say I really don't want to be on it. I think this is actually not a terrible thing I think it could be really good for your song writing career, we'll make sure you're not in the video, how about it? And so I was like ok cause I’m not an asshole, I don't want to f*ck David Guetta over, costing him like 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…
Sia on when she was in Zero 7
L.T: Did you need drink to get on stage?
Sia: Yeah 100%. I did one tour with Zero 7 where I was sober and it was the hardest, just the hardest tour of my life. And that's when you know I realised oh I'm not built for this business I want to be behind the scenes.
L.T: You talked a lot about not enjoying touring, because a lot of it was I imagined the promo and the grind, day after day and basically not being in a set routine … I'm wondering whether the act of being on stage itself, to me it seems like that might be fun and pleasurable right?
Sia: I mean if you’re shit faced 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.
L.T: Were you quite a fun drunk?
Sia: Yeah, nobody would have ever told you that I was a drunk. I had to get addicted to opiates and benzos before I was diagnosed as an addict. Because, I mean, my friends saw me as a fun drunk. I was like cartwheels and blow jobs and just like super fun dance party.. your face Louis!
L.T: I was just thinking cartwheels and blow jobs would be a good title for your memoir, maybe.
How Sia has found the pandemic
L.T: Have you been enjoying the pandemic?
Sia: Louis I love it, I love it. I have literally barely gotten out of bed for a year.
Obviously, I'm not a total dickhead pop star that doesn't realise that it has caused a lot of panic, death, fear, financial insecurity for people. I’ve donated shit so that I wouldn't feel so guilty about, like, enjoying not having to ever see anybody. Because I do feel guilty about the fact that all I want to do is be in bed with my dogs.
L.T: So basically for you it's just been a case of watching..
Sia: For me it’s been 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.
Episode 2 of Radio 4’s Grounded with Louis Theroux, series 2 is available on BBC Sounds from Monday 7 December. Series 1 is available to listen in full on BBC Sounds.