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This Album Changed My Life: Helen Shanahan on Missy Higgins’ The Sound of White

3 March 2022 | 12:28 pm | Mallory Arbour

We caught up with Helen Shanahan and asked her to tell us about an album that changed her life - The Sound of White by Missy Higgins.

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Perth-based singer-songwriter, Helen Shanahan will release her new album, Canvas, tomorrow, March 4, featuring the current single of the same name. Recorded in Perth with Jon Clements, and produced remotely by Brad Jones in Nashville, Canvas takes influence from the likes of Taylor Swift while still staying true to Helen’s country singer/songwriter roots. Helen will celebrate the album with a local launch show at Night Owl Studio in Morley, WA on March 5. 

Canvas is evocative of Ladies of the Canyon-era Joni Mitchell, Kacey Musgraves and Missy Higgins– what Helen shares with these impressive women is an innate understanding of song writing – how to weave a story and set it to the perfect melody, the most poignant chords. She’s at her best on Canvas; soft, acoustic guitar travels steadily beneath her unique, buttery voice. Canvas is a sad song, but introspective, reflective as well – like a person in their 30s may look back on their behaviour during their late teens. 

We caught up with Helen and asked her to tell us about an album that changed her life.

Helen Shanahan on Missy Higgins’ The Sound of White:

"The first album to absolutely change me for the better, was The Sound of White by Missy Higgins. From the stunning opening track All For Believing (written at age 15, sorry – what?!) to my favourite heartfelt piano ballad Any Day Now – every song will hit you in the heart.

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Missy has this ability to deliver a song with such honesty, and she really engages the listener with her unique voice and piano accompaniments. I am listening again (for over the 100th time) as I write this, and I think what gets me the most is the fact that this album is so ‘live’ sounding. I love the organic production, it’s like you’re in the room with Missy herself.

I remember getting the piano book and trying to learn all her piano lines, The Special Two still part of my limited piano repertoire! In that way, this album has been one of my greatest teachers. The chord progressions flow so easily, and she always has a hook that remains in your head.

Scar and 10 Days are my favourite kind of pop songs– not sickly sweet, but catchy and clever. Moments like Casualty and This Is How It Goes show off Missy’s versatility – I love the moodier moments such as this, and I have definitely been inspired to add more intensity to some of my songs in a similar way.

This album made me realise that to connect to the listener is to sing from the heart, and to be myself. Missy – thank you for writing this iconic album. I would not be the artist I am today if it weren’t for this masterclass in songwriting. The emotion, honesty, and the total ‘Missy’ ness of it all is why this album has impacted me so much, and I am forever grateful."

For more of our This Album Changed My Life series, go here.
Keep up to date with Helen Shanahan on her Facebook page here.