Before he became a chart-topping singer, Benny Tipene was a hopeful entrant on the first New Zealand series of global talent show The X Factor. For his audition in front of the panel of judges — including singers Stan Walker, Ruby Frost and Daniel Bedingfield — Tipene works his understated, folky magic on Outkast's 2003 party hit, 'Hey Ya'. It more than does the trick. Tipene would eventually come third; but he impressed enough to get signed by Sony Music and released a platinum selling solo album in 2013.
The Rickshaws owe the completion of their line-up to an ad placed at the Rockshop on Auckland's K-Road; 'desperately seeking singer'. Enter, Rita Steel and the five-piece punk rock funksters were ready to roll, releasing their first EP in 2007. Debut single 'So Free' produced by Chazz Hill-Hayr (The Rabble), followed. In a titular riff the band describe themselves as "quite literally a vehicle of human strength".
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.