After nearly two decades performing abroad, Nadeah Miranda is at last hitting her stride with her first solo album. The Australian-raised singer-songwriter discusses her journey through drug abuse, mental illness, loss, and having to start over and over again.
It’s the evening before the So Frenchy So Chic festival at Werribee Park and Nadeah Miranda is terrified of losing half her deposit for a small Parisian apartment. And with good reason: she has $25,000 cash hidden in rolled up complimentary airline socks in her hotel room. Her father, (‘a gambler or something’) produced the money from a series of 60s-era Flora Margarine tubs last night after her Perth show. ‘I just need to get to a bank,’ she frets, as the other performers on the bill enjoy a pre-dinner glass of sparkling on the immaculate Werribee lawn. Given Nadeah’s history of losing passports, visa violations, and her own eccentric personality, it is an alarming – but not inconceivable – prospect that the money may not make it into her mortgage account.
After completing Year 12 at Sandringham Secondary College in 1995, Nadeah bought a ticket to Paris on the pretence of pursuing a modelling career. What she really wanted to do, however, was sing. She quickly self-sabotaged her modelling prospects by compulsively eating to deal with her fraught situation: she’d left her passport on the Eurostar, had no friends in Paris, and didn’t speak French.
Nadeah lived by her wits, busking to earn just enough to live and introducing herself to ‘boys who looked nice’. This combination of charisma, ballsiness and good looks repeatedly resulted in her capturing the attention of connected male musicians. With the first, Art, she moved across the Channel to Brighton, England and established the alterna-punk band, The loveGods. The group garnered a big local following and were, for a time, ‘in development’ at Island Records. On the verge of being the next big thing for several years, a series of personal and professional calamities – including Nadeah being refused re-entry into Britain for visa violations – meant she had to start all over on her own in France. ‘It was like my baby died. I couldn’t get up for a year.’
But get up she did, writing and recording a new album, Venus Gets Even, with collaborator and new partner, classical arranger, Nicola Tescari. (The pair met at a bar where a desperate Nadeah worked briefly as a coat check girl). She also started touring with highly popular French covers group Nouvelle Vague, performing bossa nova versions of punk classics.
The lush orchestration and carnival mood of Venus Gets Even jars with the intensely dark lyrics. While the subject matter of Nadeah’s songs is bleak and shot through with irony, she felt compelled to lighten her music through instrumentation and her voice. ‘Even Quadriplegics Get the Blues’ is about Dave, her high school boyfriend who taught her how to play guitar and suffered calamitous injuries after a car accident in 2005 (he died later in 2008). There is also ‘An Asylum on New Year’s Eve’ in which Nadeah sings:
Number 24 looks at me knowingly/Says ‘Involuntary?’/‘Yes,’ I say with pride, ‘I’ll take some good advice.’/‘Beyond these walls/A thousand eyes are watching for your sweet demise.’
And in ‘At the Moment’, accompanied by jaunty piano and snare drum, she croons about packet of Nitrazepan pills and ‘how lovely it would be to take that suicide ride’.
Six years ago Nadeah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Previously she had attributed her rebelliousness and romance with illicit drugs to perpetual adolescence. Her insomnia and manic energy levels she thought just made her ‘function better than everybody else.’ Though she is now on a low dose of prescription medication – which dampens her ‘religiosity and grandiosity’ – she believes it is music that really keeps her alive.
Nadeah has also ‘cleaned up’ her stage persona. To her, ‘punk rocks suits really young people,’ so she’s trying to keep herself composed – and play her instruments properly. This has disappointed some of her long-term fans who complain she no longer goes ‘mental’ onstage. Channelling Patti Smith, Nadeah now prefers to hint at being on the edge, rather than routinely going over it. ‘That’s the annoying thing, though,’ she concedes, ‘it is exciting to watch people go over…but you’re not going to stay alive. You do expend your life force.’ Instead, she’s trying to engage her audience with humour. ‘If I say something funny, or if I show some of my vulnerability hopefully we’ll cut through all that and then you can receive the music and get more from it.’
Nadeah’s 30s era Paris apartment with its original cage lift will be waiting for her while she tours France, England (including a performance at the Royal Albert Hall), Austria, Germany and Switzerland. And yes, that $25,000 in cash did safely make it into her mortgage account.
Madeleine Hamilton is a part-time historian, part-time writer, and full-time mother of two little girls. She is the author of Our Girls: Aussie Pin-ups of the Forties and Fifties and co-author of Sh*t on My Hands: A Down and Dirty Companion to Early Parenthood. She blogs at shitonmyhands.tumblr.com.