When Crush Management's Jonathan Daniel first met Sia Furler in 2010, the Australian singer/songwriter was not in a good place. Recently diagnosed with Graves' disease (an autoimmune disorder stemming from a hyperactive thyroid that leads to anxiety and fatigue, among other symptoms), Sia's chronic health concerns were keeping her from creating and performing music the way she'd like, and she was seriously considering giving it all up.
"She said to me, 'I don't know if I want to do music anymore,'" Daniel says. "And I was like, 'But you're a great artist, you can't do that.' We decided to try to do some small things that could make her happy."
Those "small things," like attempts at pop songwriting, impromptu studio collaborations, an appearance on a now -hit TV show-amounted to something big. This week Sia (who uses only her first name professionally) moves 19-12 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Wild Ones," her current hit with Flo Rida, which is set to appear on Flo Rida's upcoming fourth studio album, "Only One Rida" (Part 2) (Atlantic). Meanwhile, "Wild One Two," a remix featuring only Sia's vocal and credited to Jack Back (DJ/producer David Guetta and producer Nicky Romero) has been sitting atop the charts at dance-dedicated DSP Beatport since it arrived on Atlantic's dance-focused Big Beat imprint on Valentine's Day, and "Titanium," her collaboration with Guetta and the fourth single from his 2011 album "Nothing But the Beat" (Capitol), debuts on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart at No. 22 this week.
"I'd love to say I'm a genius, but I didn't plan any of it," Daniel says. "It's such a crazy irony for someone making music for 15 years as an artist to have this type of success now, in such random ways."
Until recently, Sia's bell-clear, campfire-warm voice has mostly been applied to her own elegantly quirky creations: five solo albums since 1997 (four on Astralwerks), winning her a small but dedicated legion of fans. In 2010, she co-wrote three of the standout songs on Christina Aguilera's coolly received "Bionic" (RCA), a decision that might have come as a surprise to her fans, but not to Daniel.
"Sia loves straight-up rhythmic pop. She loves Beyoncé," he says. "She wrote 'Titanium' for Alicia Keys. But I told her, 'No one is going to take your voice off of that.'"
Indeed, Guetta heard the track and decided to produce it with Sia's vocal performance intact, giving "Beat" its most triumphant moment. The project got Sia into Guetta's powerful inner circle, including Atlantic Records director of A&R Ben Maddahi, who connected her with the Flo Rida team, yielding "Wild Ones." But even Daniel doesn't know where the Jack Back remix project came from ("Sia didn't do anything for it"), though he suspects Guetta had something to do with it. "He is a DJ," he says. "The reimagination of the record came from how he sees the world. He sees everything forward, what's coming next."
During the past year, other moments of happenstance helped push Sia further into the mainstream. Aguilera tapped her to serve as a mentor on the first season of NBC's "The Voice." "I Love It," a collaboration with Australian hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods, has gone platinum in Sia's native Australia, according to Daniel, and teenager Jonah Mowry recently used Sia's "Breathe Me," from her 2004 album "Colour the Small One" (Astralwerks), to back a YouTube video in which he uses handwritten flash cards to describe his own experience with anti-gay bullying. The clip has attracted national media attention and logged nearly 9.5 million views, causing a massive spike in "Breathe Me" downloads, according to Daniel.
These assorted hits and moments have of course provided invaluable exposure, but they've also managed to showcase Sia's unique ability to create emotional connections and her powerful voice, both as a songwriter and as a singer.
"When she says, 'I want to shut down the club with you' [in "Wild Ones"], it just sounds so cool," Daniel says. "She always is who she is, no matter what."