Life and career
1975–1997: Early life and career beginnings
Sia Kate Isobelle Furler was born on 18 December 1975 in Adelaide, South Australia. Her father, Phil Colson, is a musician, and her mother, Loene Furler, is an art lecturer. Sia is the niece of actor-singer Kevin Colson. Sia said that as a child she imitated the performing style of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Sting, whom she cites as early influences. She attended Adelaide High School. In the mid-1990s, Sia started a career as a singer in the local acid jazz band Crisp. Sia collaborated with the band and contributed vocals to their album Word and the Deal (1996) and EP Delirium (1997).
In 1997 Crisp disbanded, and Sia released her debut studio album, OnlySee, on Flavoured Records, in Australia, on 23 December. The album sold 1,200 copies. Unlike her later albums, OnlySee was marketed under her full name, "Sia Furler". It was produced by Jesse Flavell. The song "Soon" was re-recorded by Sia as "Sober and Unkissed" and featured on her 2001 album Healing Is Difficult.
1997–2006: Zero 7, Healing Is Difficult and Colour the Small One
After Crisp disbanded in 1997, Sia moved to London, where she performed as a background vocalist for British band Jamiroquai. She also provided lead vocals for English downtempo group Zero 7 on their first three studio albums and toured with the group. On Zero 7's 2001 album Simple Things, Sia contributed vocals to two tracks: "Destiny" and "Distractions." The single "Destiny" peaked at No. 30 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2004, she provided vocals for Zero 7 on "Somersault" and "Speed Dial No. 2" (from the album When It Falls). In 2006, Sia again collaborated with Zero 7 for the group's third album, The Garden and hence she is regarded as the "unofficial" lead singer of Zero 7.
In 2000, Sia signed a recording contract with Sony Music's sub-label Dance Pool and released her first single, "Taken for Granted", which peaked at No. 10 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2001, she released her second solo album, Healing Is Difficult, which blends retro jazz and soul music and lyrically discusses Sia's dealing with the death of her first love affair. Displeased with the promotion of the album, Sia fired her manager, left Sony Music and signed with Go! Beat, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group (UMG). At the APRA Awards of 2002, Sia won the Breakthrough Songwriter category alongside Brisbane pop duo Aneiki's Jennifer Waite and Grant Wallis.
In 2004, Sia released her third studio album, Colour the Small One. The album employs a mixture of acoustic instruments and electronic backing to her material. The album spawned four singles: "Don't Bring Me Down", "Breathe Me", "Where I Belong" and "Numb". "Breathe Me" peaked at No. 71 in the United Kingdom, No. 19 in Denmark and No. 81 in France. "Where I Belong" was scheduled to be included on the soundtrack for the film Spider-Man 2; however, owing to a record label conflict, it was withdrawn at the last minute.
Dissatisfied with Colour the Small One's poor marketing and the album's struggle to connect with a mainstream audience, Sia relocated to New York City in 2005. During that time, "Breathe Me" appeared in the final scene of the U.S. HBO television series Six Feet Under, which helped increase Sia's fame in the United States. Consequently, Sia's manager, David Enthoven, set up a tour across the country to maintain her career.
2007–2010: Some People Have Real Problems and We Are Born
In 2007, Sia released a live album entitled Lady Croissant, which included eight live songs from her April 2006 performance at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and one new studio recording—"Pictures". A year later, she left Zero 7 on friendly terms, replaced by Eska Mtungwazi as the band's frontwoman. Sia released her fourth studio album, Some People Have Real Problems on 8 January 2008. The album peaked at No. 41 in Australia and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association.
It charted at No. 26 on the US Billboard 200, becoming Sia's first album to chart in the United States.
Some People Have Real Problems yielded four singles. The lead single, "Day Too Soon", was released in November 2007 and peaked at No. 24 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs. The second single, "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine", was made available in March 2008. The single peaked at No. 11 in the Netherlands and No. 12 in Spain; it additionally reached No. 8 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs. The third single from the album, "Soon We'll Be Found", was made available in October 2008. The Bart Hendrix Deep Dope remix of "Buttons" was issued as the final single from Some People Have Real Problems in February 2009.
In May 2009, Sia released TV Is My Parent on DVD, which includes a live concert at New York's Hiro Ballroom, four music videos and behind-the-scene footage. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2009, Sia won the Best Music DVD category for TV Is My Parent. She also received a nomination for Best Breakthrough Artist Album for Some People Have Real Problems.
In 2009, American singer Christina Aguilera approached Sia about writing ballads for Aguilera's then-upcoming sixth studio album. The final product, Bionic, includes three songs co-written by Sia. Later in 2010, Sia also co-wrote "Bound to You" for the soundtrack of the American film Burlesque, which starred Aguilera and American singer Cher. The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. In May 2011, Sia appeared on the inaugural season of the U.S. version of The Voice as an adviser for Aguilera, who served as a vocal coach and judge.
In June 2010, Sia released her fifth studio album, We Are Born. The release peaked at No. 2 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. The release of the album was preceded by three singles: the lead single, "You've Changed", was released in December 2009 and charted at No. 31 in Australia.
The follow-up single, "Clap Your Hands", was made available in June 2010 and became the album's best-charting single, peaking at No. 17 in Australia, No. 10 in the Netherlands and No. 27 in Switzerland. "Bring Night" was issued as the final single from the project in September 2010, peaking at No. 99 in Australia. Producer Greg Kurstin worked with Sia on the album.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010, We Are Born earned Sia two categories won: Best Independent Release and Best Pop Release. Meanwhile, at the 2011 APRA Music Awards, Sia received a nomination for Song of the Year for "Clap Your Hands". To promote We Are Born, Sia embarked on the We Meaning You Tour, which visited North America and Europe in April–May 2010. The first show of the tour at the Commadore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada was cancelled after five songs when the singer had to retire due to heat exhaustion. She followed this with the We Are Born Tour, which visited Australia in February 2011 and North America in July–August 2011. In March 2012, Sia released the greatest hits album Best Of... in Australia.
2010–2013: Songwriting career and mainstream recognition
Following the success of We Are Born, Sia became uncomfortable with her growing fame. She later told The New York Times: "I just wanted to have a private life. Once, as my friend was telling me they had cancer, someone came up and asked, in the middle of the conversation, if they could take a photograph with me. You get me? That's enough, right?" She refused to do promos for her tours, began to wear a mask on stage and became increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol on the road; she considered suicide. Sia fired Enthoven and hired Jonathan Daniel, who suggested that she write songs for other artists.
She retired as a recording artist and began a career as a songwriter. She soon penned "Titanium" for American singer Alicia Keys, but it was later sent to David Guetta, who included Sia's original demo vocals on the song and released it as a single in 2011. "Titanium" peaked within the top ten of record charts in the United States, Australia and numerous European regions. However, Sia was not pleased with the success of the single: "[...] I never even knew it was gonna happen, and I was really upset. Because I had just retired, I was trying to be a pop songwriter, not an artist." From 2011 to 2013, Sia also co-wrote songs for many recording artists, including Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, Flo Rida and Rihanna. Her collaboration with Flo Rida, "Wild Ones", peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the tenth best-selling song of 2012 globally.
2013–2014: Breakthrough with 1000 Forms of Fear
In October 2013, Sia released "Elastic Heart" featuring The Weeknd and Diplo for the soundtrack of the American film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). Sia executive produced Brooke Candy's debut EP, Opulence, released in May 2014, and co-wrote 3 songs on the EP. In July 2014, Sia released her own sixth studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear. She again collaborated with Greg Kurstin. The album debuted at No. 1 in the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 52,000 copies. By October 2015, it was certified gold by the RIAA denoting 500,000 equivalent-album units sold in the United States. The record peaked at No. 1 in Australia and reached the top ten of charts in numerous European regions. It was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry and gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association.
By early 2016, the album had sold 1 million copies worldwide.
1000 Forms of Fear's lead single, "Chandelier" was released in March 2014. The song peaked at No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Sia's first entry on that chart as a lead artist. Elsewhere, the song experienced similar commercial success, ranking in the top ten of the record charts in Australia and numerous European regions. As of January 2015, the single had sold 2 million copies in the United States. "Eye of the Needle" and "Big Girls Cry" were released as the second and third singles from the album, respectively, in June 2014.
In January 2015, Sia released a solo version of "Elastic Heart" as the fourth single from 1000 Forms of Fear; it eventually reached the top 20 on the Hot 100. At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards (2015), Sia received four nominations for "Chandelier": Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video.
For live performances of songs from 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia chose not to show her face, either facing away from audiences or hiding it behind oversized platinum blonde wigs. In videos for the singles "Chandelier", "Elastic Heart" and "Big Girls Cry", choreographed by Ryan Heffington and co-directed by Sia and Daniel Askill, and in many of the promotional live performances, child dancer Maddie Ziegler performed as a proxy for Sia in bobbed blonde wigs similar to Sia's familiar hairstyle. The three videos have received a total of more than 3 billion views on Vevo. Sia explained to Kristen Wiig in an interview in Interview magazine that she decided to conceal her face to avoid a celebrity lifestyle and maintain some privacy: "I'm trying to have some control over my image. And I'm allowed to maintain some modicum of privacy. But also I would like not to be picked apart or for people to observe when I put on ten pounds or take off ten pounds or I have a hair extension out of place or my fake tan is botched. Most people don't have to be under that pressure, and I'd like to be one of them." The video for Elastic Heart "courted controversy and plaudits in equal measure", with some commentators perceiving it to have pedophilic undertones due to the relative ages of the dancers. Sia explained that the two dancers represented "warring 'Sia' self states", but she nevertheless apologized on Twitter to anyone who was "triggered". Gia Kourlas wrote in The New York Times in 2016 that Sia's collaborations with Heffington have "done more to raise the standards of dance in pop music than nearly any current artist integrating the forms".
In 2014, Sia contributed to the soundtrack to the 2014 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie. Sia, along with producer Greg Kurstin, wrote three new songs for the film as well as re-working songs from the musical. Sia, Kurstin and Annie director Will Gluck were nominated at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song for one of the film's original songs, "Opportunity".
2015–2017: This Is Acting
Sia in 2016; she covers most of her face at concerts and on TV
In an interview with NME in February 2015, Sia revealed that she had completed the follow-up to 1000 Forms of Fear, entitled This Is Acting. The album was another collaboration with producer and co-writer Greg Kurstin. Furler said that she released 1000 Forms of Fear to free herself from her record deal and had planned simply to write for other artists, but the album's success spurred her to continue writing her own music. In May 2015, Sia's cover of The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" was released on the soundtrack of the movie San Andreas. The same month, alongside the digital deluxe release of 1000 Forms of Fear, she released a mobile game, Bob Job. At the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in September 2015, Sia announced that her new single "Alive" from This Is Acting was co-written by Adele and had originally been intended for Adele's third album.
In November, Sia collaborated with composer J. Ralph on the soundtrack of the environmental documentary Racing Extinction, co-writing and singing the song "One Candle". She also released two more songs from the album, "Bird Set Free" and "One Million Bullets". "Cheap Thrills" and "Reaper" were subsequently released as promotional singles for the album. In January 2016, eight days prior to the release of This Is Acting, she released "Unstoppable" as the final pre-release promotion single for the album. Eventually, the single "Cheap Thrills", featuring Sean Paul, reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Sia released two videos for the song, one of which features Ziegler and two male dancers, while the other, featuring Sean Paul, shows a 1950s style teen dance party; it has accumulated more than one billion views.
In April 2016, Sia gave a widely acclaimed performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that went viral online. Her performance received an effusively positive critical reception as "one of the greatest moments in Coachella's 17-year history", and it was consistently noted as one of the best performances of the 2016 festival. The performance was her first full concert since 2011. In May 2016, Sia made a surprise appearance on the finale for Survivor: Kaôh Rōng where she donated $50,000 to contestant Tai Trang. She donated another $50,000 to an animal charity of his choice, noting that the two share a mutual love of animals. The same month, she contributed vocals to a cover of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" which was featured on the soundtrack of 2016 Pixar film Finding Dory.
In June 2016, Sia gave a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, featuring Ziegler. From May to August, Sia performed in nearly a dozen festival and other concerts in America and European and Middle Eastern countries, including Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Lebanon and Israel. In September 2016, she released a single, "The Greatest", with vocals from American hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar. A video was released the same day featuring Ziegler – the dancer's fifth video collaboration with Sia and Heffington. The two performed the song with several other dancers, and also performed "Chandelier", live the next day at the Apple annual fall event, drawing media attention. The videos that Sia has posted to her YouTube channel have accumulated a total of more than 6 billion views, and the channel has more than 10 million subscribers.
Sia gave her Nostalgic for the Present Tour in North America from September to November 2016, featuring Ziegler. As at Coachella and subsequent live performances, Sia appeared at the back of the stage with her familiar wig covering her face, while her dancers performed Heffington's choreography synchronized with prerecorded videos played on big screens. The tour received a warm reaction: "She let her dancers own center stage, carrying out one skit/performance after another as Sia delivered the soundtrack. ... It defied all the regular rules of pop concerts, which are usually designed to focus every ounce of the audience’s attention on the star of the show. Yet, Sia's bold gamble paid off, resulting in one of the most daringly original and wholly satisfying shows of 2016." Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic described the show as "part performance art, part interpretive dance. ... [Sia] sounded amazing. ... There's so much raw emotion in her songs. And you can definitely hear that in her voice, but it becomes more visceral when you can also read it in the faces of her dancers, especially Ziegler. ... The entire performance was brilliantly staged, with one song flowing seamlessly into another". Sia released the deluxe edition of This Is Acting in October 2016, which includes three new tracks, a remix version of "Move Your Body" and a solo version of "The Greatest". She was nominated for three 2017 Grammy Awards. Sia contributed to the soundtracks for the films Lion and Wonder Woman with "Never Give Up" and "To Be Human", respectively. She also co-wrote and performed on a platinum-selling single, "Dusk Till Dawn" by Zayn Malik.
Sia performed in concert at the close of the Dubai World Cup in March 2017, together with her dancers, led by Ziegler. They gave a second leg of the Nostalgic for the Present Tour, her first stadium tour in Australasia, in late 2017.
2017–present: Everyday Is Christmas and LSD
In 2017, Sia moved from RCA to Atlantic Records. She released a new album, Everyday Is Christmas, on Atlantic and Monkey Puzzle on 17 November 2017. The album features original songs co-written and co-produced with Kurstin. She promoted it by releasing the single "Santa's Coming for Us" and by the track "Snowman", which she performed during the finale of the 13th season of The Voice and on The Ellen DeGeneres Show together with Ziegler. In November 2018, Sia released the deluxe edition of the album, containing three bonus tracks, as a Target exclusive.
In 2018, Sia collaborated with English musician Labrinth and American DJ/record producer Diplo, under the name LSD, to release four songs. In November 2018, these tracks were collectively released as an EP called Mountains on Spotify.