This NZBC profile finds singer/songwriter Shona Laing as a 17-year-old in the seventh form (now year 13) at Hutt Valley High, distracted from study by an impending music career. Laing had shot to national prominence with her performances on the Studio One talent show, had a hit with her Henry Fonda-inspired single '1905' and supported American singer Lobo. She is already a guarded interviewee while her school mates are unsure what to make of her success. Lobo is effusive in his praise and there are performances of '1905' and Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softly'.
The artists profiled in this edition of the TVNZ Māori show share a heritage and the vicissitudes of life as professional musicians, but their fields and approaches to making music differ markedly. Entertainer Bunny Walters is rebuilding a career that became derailed after initial success with his hit 'Brandy'. Opera singer Richard Haeata is looking to make his way in a largely Pākehā world which he finds alienating in its individuality. And singer-songwriter Mahinārangi Tocker celebrates her gender and Māori identity but has little use for the music industry.
Singer Moana Maniapoto discusses her evolution as a Māori musician in this episode from a series for high school music students. After first singing in public on the marae and learning to harmonise at school, she paid her way through university by singing in nightclubs. She describes her epiphany in a Detroit church as she realised that she needed to sing Māori songs rather than keep trying to emulate American soul and r'n'b divas. An acoustic performance of 'Hine Te Iwaiwa' (from her Toru album) is followed by a demonstration of traditional instruments.
California born, singer songwriter Reb Fountain arrived in NZ by boat with her family aged 11. After playing in bands in Dunedin and Christchurch, she headed overseas where she studied jazz singing in Seattle and lived in New York and London. Now based in Auckland, she released her first solo album Like Water in 2006 and her second, Holster in 2008 (which included 'January's Well' — a preliminary finalist in the 2008 APRA Silver Scrolls). In partnership with director Anton Wood, Fountain has produced a series of distinctive music videos.
Love Soup was a high school duo formed by singer-songwriter Bic Runga and guitarist Kelly Horgan. After coming third in the Smokefree Rockquest, they were picked up by Trevor Reekie’s Pagan Records. This video is one of the only things Love Soup did, as they were overtaken by Runga’s burgeoning solo career. Shortly to be signed by major label Sony, her debut hit single (and APRA Silver Scroll winner) ‘Drive’ was just months away. Aged just 19, Runga already looks and sounds remarkably assured as she sings about a lost friendship, to a mystical CGI cipher.
Branded as a musical genius by his peers, Darcy Clay's flame flared briefly, but left a lasting impression on New Zealand music. Clay (aka Daniel Bolton) recorded the now classic single 'Jesus I Was Evil' in his bedroom on a four-track tape machine, just months before his untimely death. The Auckland singer-songwriter only played five gigs during that time, including a support slot for Blur (released as live EP Songs for Beethoven). But his pioneering talent and "country-fried punk rock" are testament to the cult-like figure he's now become. Clay committed suicide in March 1998, at age 25.
Singer-songwriter Greg Johnson made his recording debut in short-lived duo This Boy Rob, before forming his first band with the remnants of 80s synth-pop act Car Crash Set. A fixture on the early-90s Auckland club scene with lounge act Bluespeak, Johnson has recorded a string of albums in his own right. He is a five time APRA Silver Scroll finalist and winner of the 1997 songwriting award for 'Liberty'. Now based in Los Angeles, he returns to NZ regularly, where his performances have included the popular Cocktail Club concerts.
Northern English transplant Paul McLaney has released several solo albums and collaborated with artists from Fly My Pretties to SJD and Anika Moa; Gramsci is the band moniker of the genre-crossing singer-songwriter, whose constant in his travels has been his guitar. “I’d wake up, play guitar. Have breakfast, play guitar. Go to school, play it some more and during lunch, then I’d come home. Play more guitar.” Gramsci has spawned the electronica-infused folk pop of Permanence (2000) and Object (2002), and the epic guitar rock of Like Stray Voltage (2005).
Gin Wigmore was a teenager when her song 'Hallelujah' beat off 11,000 budding stars, to win the 2005 International Songwriting Contest, making her the youngest Grand Prize winner in the competition's history. The achievement caught the eye of Universal Motown Records in the US, who signed the raspy-voiced Wigmore in 2008 and released debut EP Extended Play. Back on Kiwi soil the following year, the singer-songwriter released jaunty hit 'Under My Skin', and teamed up with Smashproof for the record-breaking 'Brother'. Wigmore's 2015 album Blood to Bone was her third to top the NZ Music Charts.
Acoustic singer-songwriter, Sarah Brown, seduced Blenheim as a teenager (recording her first demo at 12, writing her own music at 14 and then securing regular local gigs at bars and wineries at 17) before taking on the rest of the South Island and the world. In 2001, aged 18, the South Islander won the Ovation Rockshop songwriter of the year competition. Brown toured the country extensively afterwards and realised her "lifelong dream" in 2006 with the release of her self-titled debut album.