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The magic of Marlon


From home in the portside township of Lyttelton, music has taken alt-country troubadour Marlon Williams around the world, from The Yarra Hotel of inner-city Melbourne, to The Troubadour in Los Angeles.

It was the latter where Bradley Cooper spied his Kiwi-born and bred talents, seeking Marlon out to appear in his 2018 Academy award-winning film, A Star is Born.

There have been several film and television appearances since and more still to come out in the New Year. But it’s making music that still has his heart.

Marlon’s new album Plastic Bouquet hit the streets on December 11, his first new music since 2018’s award-winning Make Way For Love, made post breakup from Kiwi folk singer-songwriter Aldous Harding.

Collaboration – a strong theme of Marlon’s career – has once again proven a winning formula, this time with Canadian folk duo Kacy and Clayton’s musical talents providing the
cumulative glue, with the three musicians finding common ground between a lifelong shared passion for western country, folk and troubadour traditions.

It was driving through Europe with his band when he came across the duo’s ‘Springtime of the Year’. “It was an incredible vocal performance and song and it was just one of those musical moments when you get stopped in your tracks,” Marlon says.

“From there I very overzealously reached out to them and asked if we could make music together. Within a couple of days, we had decided to make an album.”

He hopped on a flight to Saskatoon for Christmas 2018 and together they wrote and recorded the bulk of what would become Plastic Bouquet over the course of just three weeks.

“This year being what it is, even February feels like a lifetime ago. So it’s been almost two years to the day. It doesn’t normally take that long, but in this case it has, so we’re super excited to get it out.”

Every December, Christchurch enjoys the start of summer as Saskatoon begins to freeze over. But despite hailing from opposite sides of the world, there was an immediate connection between the trio. “We found a dynamic that worked well, because we all love old Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard and have the same sense of humour,” Marlon says. “We’re kindred spirits.”
If there was a theme to the 11-track project, it was the dichotomy of familiarity and strangeness, he says.

“It’s the idea that we both come from the same place musically, but obviously culturally and geographically from somewhere very different, having faith that everything would blend together in a way that makes sense.”

Music has been something that has always made sense for Marlon, whose career has been a natural evolution. “I’m not a well organised person,” he laughs.

“I don’t plan a lot and I don’t think about the future that often, life just keeps rolling on and now this is what I do; I don’t do anything else.”

But he admits there came a time in his third year at university when, with a tour on the cards, he had to make a call between committing completely to music and finishing his degree – the only caveat from mum, visual artist Jenny Rendall, that he take it seriously and commit as much time to his musical pursuits as he had been committing to university.

This lack of planning ahead mirrors his approach to making music as well. “I don’t go into it consciously with intention, unless I’m collaborating, then it might be more systematic.”

Right now, he’s driven by the freedom to explore. “I’m most thankful for this time in my life, being where I’m at right now I’ve got time to figure things out, make mistakes, try and give things enough space to go somewhere new.

“Simply put, freedom of creativity.”

Marlon has been hunkered down in his homeland during the global pandemic, which thankfully fell outside a big tour cycle for the singer, who spends eight to nine months a year on the road. He’s spent the time writing, reading, working on a film soundtrack and learning te reo Māori, the latter for an album he’s working on that will be exclusively in the language.

But for now, he’s enjoying some down time in Diamond Harbour before his New Zealand tour kicks off in February, that will take him from Invercargill to Auckland. He’ll be performing locally at the James Hay Theatre from February 25 to 27.


 

A Major success


She’s the self-professed “small woman with a big voice”, who went from a three-year-old country crooner to one of the highest accoladed performers this country has seen. But the high note of Dame Malvina Major’s 50-year operatic career is the foundation set up in her name that celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. Metropol catches up with Dame Malvina about her life’s work.

The seventh of eight children, Dame Malvina has been entertaining crowds since first clambering onto the stage to join her siblings at two.

Country music was the family remit. But recognising the big voice coming from the small Malvina, it wasn’t long before her mother was pushing her into opera, despite a personal penchant for Broadway.

“It was a career that happened because I had the voice to do it in the first place, not because I wanted to be an opera singer,” says Dame Malvina.

“I was kind of led along by the success of it and ended up in a place where I didn’t know I wanted to be, but I kept getting contracts and it became my life.

“And in the finish, I loved it; the satisfaction of singing at that incredibly high-powered level, learning the required precision – that’s what stimulated me and I enjoyed that. Then after every mountain you climb you feel the rewards of reaching the top.”

Just before she reached the very top, with the world at her feet, Dame Malvina Major walked away.

A young Taranaki farmer, Winston Fleming, had won her heart and the couple married in 1964, before moving to England where their son Andrew was born.

Dame Malvina was poised for an exceptional international career, but it was home soil and family life that she craved, and, by the turn of the century, she was home.

“I was 15 years off the international scene and walked back in like it hadn’t happened. By then I had three children,” she says.

“When I look back at my career, I think of the words of Frank Sinatra – I did it my way.”

There have been plenty of highs throughout her career; she sang an outdoor concert at the pyramids in Egypt with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, she collaborated with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, she gave concerts to open and close the 2007 Rotary International Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and she performed at the Covent Garden where she replaced Dame Joan Sutherland in Die Fledermaus. She has sung for kings, queens, princes, princesses and even an empress!

But perhaps her proudest achievement is the foundation which bears her name. “Like a lot of things in my life, it happened by chance,” she laughs.

Dame Malvina had been talking with the New Plymouth West Rotary Club about how lonely she was heading overseas to establish herself at 22.

“I felt like I was in a distant far off place. I wanted to do something to make sure New Zealand students going abroad had a connection and didn’t feel the loneliness I had felt.”

The Dame Malvina Major Foundation was launched in 1991 at Premier House in Wellington, an event hosted by then Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, and his wife, Joan. Almost three decades on, the foundation continues to provide support for talented young performing artists to achieve their potential, through financial assistance, performance opportunities and professional guidance, helping them to prepare for professional careers.

Dame Malvina – who has been a Senior Fellow in Music at the University of Waikato since 2012 – isn’t resting on her laurels. “I’m supposed to be retired,” she laughs.

“I keep saying they have to rename ‘retirement’. I’m certainly not sitting at home knitting or playing golf, though I do that, too! I’m very involved with youth; their future and progress, masterclasses and helping young people, attending performances, helping with the foundation.”

She’s also busy working on plans to create a training school within the foundation that has been in the back of her mind for 20 years.

“The idea is to enable the foundation to become a steppingstone to the world, so rather than sending young people to other parts of the world to train, doing it right here in New Zealand.”

She’s also got 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren that play a big part in her life. “They’ve become hugely important to me and, as I get older, it’s even more important that I
see them and show them my love.”


 

Bic’s musical homecoming


Bic Runga is one of Canterbury’s finest entertainment exports. This summer she is set to headline two noteworthy local performances, Nostalgia Festival and Ōtautahi Together, a free concert to mark 10 years since the February 2011 earthquake. Metropol catches up with the talented musician ahead of a bumper summer season.

PHOTOS KAREN INDERBITZEN-WALLER

You have two hometown performances coming up. What does it mean to you to perform in your hometown and, for the memorial, at such a meaningful occasion?
“I always love performing in Christchurch, it’s always a really cool audience and I love playing in my hometown. I’m really looking forward to Nostalgia, I’ve heard it’s really great, and being asked to perform at the memorial is a huge honour for me, I was really humbled to be asked.”

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the February 2011 earthquake. What does this milestone signify for you?
“Ten years is a really long time, I found it hard to believe it’s been that long. Speaking to the [Christchurch City] Council about it, they want the concert to feel healing and positive and those kinds of things, because it is such a milestone for the city.
“In many ways, it’s given Christchurch a chance to rebuild in a way that’s modern and interesting and really represents how Christchurch has changed.”

Your Christchurch performances are two of many for you including your own Spring Tour, Rhythm and Vines, and Summer Sounds. Is this a busier than normal summer season for you?
“I haven’t played this much in summer in many years. A lot of international bands can’t come into New Zealand, so it’s kind of a big moment for New Zealand music this summer. A lot of bands are getting shows and festival slots which might have gone to internationals in the past. It’s such a good opportunity for New Zealand bands.”

You hold a special place in Cantabrians’ hearts – many people feel they have watched you grow up since your first album release at just 20. What has been happening for you off the stage recently?
“Well, I am so middle aged now. My kids are five, seven and 13…and I am just looking forward to being a little old lady making music – which doesn’t feel like it will be too far off. Lockdown was a positive time for our family in lots of ways, it showed me what matters and what doesn’t; there was no sitting in traffic in Auckland trying to get my kids to school, but there was lots of time spent together and that’s what’s really important.”

See Bic Runga perform at Nostalgia Festival on Saturday February 13 and at the free Ōtautahi Together concert on Sunday, February 28. Purchase tickets for Nostalgia online.


 

Ending on a high note: Ali Cat Productions


Award-winning Canterbury performer Ali Harper is not letting a year of pandemic postponements stop her. She is determined to end the year on a high note by performing two shows in December.

 

Photography: Emma Brittenden
Ali is wearing Repertoire (The Colombo)

 

The first show, Christmas Joy will be held on December 5, followed by four performances of The Look of Love on December 17 to 19. Both shows will be performed at The Piano.

In previous years, her Christmas concerts have sold out – and she promises 2020 will be better than before as she shares the stage with special guest and much-loved violinist Fiona Pears, Connor Hartley-Hall on guitar and 70 glorious voices from the Cobham Intermediate School Chorale all led by Musical Director and pianist Andy Manning.

“I adore this time of year and this year’s Christmas is focusing on love and gratitude,” she says. “The fragility of life has shown up for all of us this year. By creating a little bit of magic and lightening hearts through the beauty of music is what I think we all need at this time.”

Then it’s third time lucky for The Look Of Love – a musical feast for the heart and soul via the full spectrum of Burt Bacharach’s hit songs with muysical arranger Tom Rainey.

“Before lockdown Tom and I were able to record and release The Look of Love album and debut the show at Nelson’s Theatre Royal,” says Ali.

“Then our Christchurch dates had to be postponed due to Covid-19, not once but twice – but the upside is the songs resonate even more now with all that everyone has been have been through this year.”

The Look Of Love, captures the intimate Manhattan cabaret club vibe to transport you back through the ages, the ‘50s to the ‘80s, celebrating a long line of Bacharach muses, from Marlene Dietrich to Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick to Aretha Franklin and Cilla Black.

“Burt’s melodies are utterly gorgeous, timeless and abundantly beautiful whether they are about heartache or hope. I can’t think of a better way to uplift us into Christmas,” she says.


 

Making Paradise


We’ve long searched for paradise, that idyllic place or state where everything is perfect and now, thanks to Kiwi singer songwriter Anderson Rocio, there are plenty more reasons to love paradise – a million to be precise.

That’s how many Spotify streams Rocio’s latest song Paradise has had since the song made its global debut in a pivotal scene in season five of the popular Netflix series Lucifer.

And while the numbers – which are still climbing – are impressive, what is perhaps even more so, is the fact that it was written and recorded in her bedroom in less than a day.

“It is so inspiring. I never really feel like these songs come from me, just more ‘through’ me from somewhere else. But to know that people around the world are connecting to the art that I produce is, I think, an artist’s dream. It’s been my dream for a very long time!”

The 26-year-old half Spanish, half American beauty was born in Italy, grew up in the UK and sailed the world on a 13.4 metre catamaran for three years with her family and a Yamaha p60 piano, before they settled in New Zealand when Rocio was 14. After graduating with a Bachelor in Music, Classic Piano Performance from Otago University, she bought a one-way ticket to LA to pursue her music dream in 2017.

It took 18 months, but she was eventually signed to a sync agency called THINK Music Inc in August 2018 on the back of her first EP, Darkerside, Rocio had released earlier that year.

Occasionally THINK would send her briefs for “an uplifting, sweet song” or “something with the word forever in it” and last September there was a brief for a “happy, sad song”.

“The turnover was quick,” she says. “I had a day to see what I could come up with!”

Trawling YouTube news with the sound muted, provided the inspiration and Rocio managed to capture the dichotomy of the chaos taking place in the world, with the beauty of humanity. “I wrote, sang, played and recorded Paradise and sent it through without thinking a lot more about it,” she says.

Like many things in life, it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen… five months later, when the sync agency asked to approve the use of Paradise for the Netflix show Lucifer. Rocio said “Awesome!” and quickly forgot about it, again.

“You never know until close to when the show airs whether or not they’ll actually use it,” she laughs.

When she received the air date and confirmation of use – she was over the moon, but still unaware of how prominent the song would be in this show.

The night before the screening, a close videographer friend put together some iPhone footage of Rocio at home in Queenstown during lockdown as a music video, in case anyone went in search of the artist behind the song.

And on Friday August 21, they watched in anticipation the fifth episode of Lucifer season five, screening on Netflix in New Zealand. And, rather than simply background music, the song plays during a pivotal scene featuring the character Mazikeen, played by South African-born Kiwi actress Lesley-Ann Brandt. Her phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the notifications haven’t stopped pinging since.

“It’s been amazing to see. For me, it’s one more step closer to getting to where I have always wanted to be,” Rocio says.

“It’s been a gradual climb with my music and this is the biggest milestone yet. I still feel like I’m daydreaming, so it hasn’t really hit… even now. But I have become a lot busier! It also kinda feels like my birthday every time I wake up to see what new news has come through!”


 

An acoustic ambition


At just 19, local singer-songwriter Amber Carly Williams is set to perform at the Bay Dreams music festival in Nelson this summer. Metropol catches up with the first-year Ara Music Arts contemporary vocals student about her musical journey.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR GENRE AND MUSICAL BACKGROUND?
I enjoy writing and recording my own music – it can often start off a certain feel and end up something completely different, but I tend to go for pop /indie. I like playing solo and using my loop pedal…but I’m also in the midst of forming a band for certain performances coming up.

WHAT DRIVES YOUR MUSICAL PASSION AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE CRAFT?
I first started playing guitar when I was 8-years-old, as I was always surrounded with music in the family. My mum passed away when I was young so seeing her do music was quite inspiring for me and I wanted to relate to that part of her. A few years down the track I started singing, just along with the guitar, but then my voice kind of took over and I realised I really had a passion for singing and that’s when song writing came in too. Being able to write my own music and express my thoughts and opinions has become something that has helped me through some challenging times.

WHAT PROJECTS HAVE YOU WORKED ON SO FAR, AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP?
I’m in the process of writing new music at the moment and recording it myself in my wee bedroom studio setup which is looking to result in an EP or maybe even a potential album. Over summer I’m looking into gigging more around the South Island in conjunction with my set at Bay Dreams Nelson in January. This will be the biggest performance I’ve ever done by a long shot so this is very exciting!

WHO / WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR WORK?
My dad [Peter Williams of Acoustic Architecture] is my biggest supporter and without him I would’ve had no one to take me to my music lessons and take me to all my gigs when I didn’t have a car and accompany me when I was underage. I take influence from solo performing musicians like Tash Sultana, and some of my favourite artists include Phoebe Bridgers, Jeremy Zucker and Lennon Stella.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM LISTENING TO YOUR MUSIC?
Something I really try to aim for is making sure that my music isn’t just a catchy hook. I love being able to put my experiences and thoughts into my music, and it’s important to me that when people listen to it, they can relate to the lyrics in some sort of way or something stands out and makes them think of a time something like that happened to them.


 

Born to sing


Delta Goodrem once told us she was, Born to Try. But to describe what this powerhouse performer has been able to achieve as simply ‘try’ would most certainly sell her short. Named after the Joe Cocker song Delta Lady, it seem Delta wasn’t Born to Try; she was born to sing.

 

 

“It was something that in my heart I knew was what I wanted to do,” she says of the career which will bring her to New Zealand next year for her Bridge Over Troubled Dreams Tour.

“Truthfully it was a feeling I had. My parents were so incredibly supportive of my dream.”

At the age of thirteen, Goodrem recorded a five-song demo CD, financed through TV commercials and minor roles in several Australian series.

Long story short, it secured her a record deal with Empire Records. But it was her role as shy school girl and aspiring singer Nina Tucker on Neighbours which made her a household name, launching her music career.

“I was so lucky to have had my parents. Nobody knew anyone in the industry; I was just a kid that wrote songs from what I was seeing in the world!”

Goodrem’s first ever headline tour of New Zealand will commence on 22 April 2021 at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, before moving to Auckland’s Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre on 23 April and hitting the Christchurch Town Hall on 24 April.

“There’s nothing like being on tour and being with people face to face and to share in the magic of live music,” says Goodrem, who is heavily involved creating her shows.

“From day one when I started making music, it was important to me that the overall feeling had to come from my heart; being authentic is what people respond to and I deeply love putting on shows. Nothing gets me more excited than creating a world for everyone to come to.

“Visually, I love to make sure a tour represents the energy of what this new album embodies. There are going to be incredible musical moments in bringing to life the surprise elements of this new album and all of the favourites from my previous records. Anyone who has been to my shows knows that I like to have a lot of fun and this record and tour is no different.”

The singer-songwriter who has been in self-lockdown in Sydney also recognises the opportunity for fans to let loose. “I know many people are going through challenging times right now; come next year I want to invigorate and empower everybody in the room to have the best night of their lives and we’ll sing and dance through it all.”

It’s also an opportunity to allow her fans to connect with her new music and reminisce over the old – the ‘old’ including 17 Top 10 hits, four number one albums and selling more than nine million records worldwide.

The ‘new’ includes Let It Rain, released in January as Australia battled devastating bushfires, with proceeds donated to bushfire relief.

Keep Climbing was released in her social media Bunkerdown sessions in May.

“I’d like this song to remind people to not be afraid to find the strength when they feel stuck between where they are and where they want to go,” Goodrem explains.

“To find that part in you to keep climbing and to continue to believe that it will lead you to that next moment in your life.”

Continuing to let the music do the talking, she released Paralyzed on the grand finale of The Voice Australia 2020; a narrative of when your whole world stops and has to be reset.

“Sometimes we are forced to take the difficult cards we are dealt with in life, in our stride. Of course it’s a personal song, but it’s there for everyone who is asking themselves for patience and a chance to stop and rewind,” she says.

Forming what she describes as her “new era of music”, she’s since come to realise the powerful lyrics mean something unique to everyone. “So many people have experienced it.”

Seemingly busier than ever during lockdown, Goodrem has also been undertaking highly-acclaimed performances for global event One World: Together At Home and Music From The Home Front where she shone as one of four hosts, delivering a show-stopping duet rendition of the Men At Work classic Down Under with Colin Hay.

But a project that is even closer to her heart has been the launch of the Delta Goodrem Foundation, in partnership with St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

Established to help fund medical research into blood cancers and autoimmune disease, the foundation stands in recognition of her own health battle – one with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was just 18.

“I think [that experience] cemented for me that health is the most important thing,” Goodrem says.

“And also the understanding that someone is going through that fight right now; you don’t know what someone is going through. Part of my DNA is this huge empathy and compassion for someone’s journey.

“Being able to talk to people as a survivor is a real privilege.”

But it is perhaps the establishment of the foundation which has been the biggest takeaway for her and $1 + GST from every ticket purchased for the Bridge Over Troubled Dreams Tour will be going to support the foundation’s work.

So what do the next 12 months have in store for this powerhouse performer?

“Hopefully lots and lots of new music, I’ll be continuing to bring out new songs and heading out on tour see you in person. I’m truly looking forward to it.”

She may be Australia’s sweetheart, but she might soon be ours too.

METROPOL HAS ONE DOUBLE PASS TO GIVE AWAY TO DELTA’S CHRISTCHURCH SHOW! TO ENTER, HEAD TO OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS


 

Canterbury’s country crooner: Miranda Easten


Miranda Easten has been putting pen to paper since she was nine years old, but it wasn’t until she picked up a guitar that her poetry melded with music.

 

PHOTOS KONRAD KREATIVE

 

“Most of my best songs have started with a feeling,” the beautiful country singer says from the studio at SOLE Music Academy, a dedicated, world-class music hub headed by international platinum recording artist Sacha Vee on the ground floor of the historic Woods Mill Building in Addington.

While some of her songs are autobiographical, some are a means of expressing powerful topics that have ranged from climate change to a high-profile murder case.

But it’s not all doom and gloom; with a strong message of preserving hope through the good times and the bad.

“I love being able to turn feelings and emotions into something tangible,” she says.

Born and bred in Christchurch, Miranda gained singing experience by performing with the Christchurch School of Music, before going on to study Contemporary Music and Performance at Ara Institute of Canterbury Music Arts.


Released in February this year, her debut single Cowboy Lullaby from her upcoming album has already been met with acclaim from critics, quickly rising to #16 on the Official Top 40 Country Music Chart in Australia, where the country genre enjoys a higher profile.

In 2010, Miranda charted on Christchurch radio station The Breeze, singing a cover of Till it Feels Like Cheating by Jewel, who has been a major influence on her sound and style.

Just two years later, she featured on the Voices of Country compilation album, released by Compass FM.

“If I couldn’t put pen to paper or emotion to song, then I would be thoroughly lost,” Miranda says.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to write about powerful topics and tell a story through music.”

In 2014, Miranda formed a duo called The Manuka Set with Vanessa Kelly, who had three #1 hit singles in New Zealand with Deep Obsession.

The Manuka Set has created several songs and music videos which illuminate current events and social issues.

Their latest music video highlights the peril our oceans face due to plastic and other synthetics.

Her new single Only One has just been released. Produced by world-renowned producer Greg Haver (Melanie C, Kimbra), and recorded with New Zealand band Tiny Ruins at Roundhead Studios, the song is an “uplifting song about proclaiming an unbreakable love for someone, when it feels like no words are adequate or worthy enough”.

Written in under an hour, Miranda says working on the track with Greg Haver and the Roundhead Studios team was amazing.

“I had to keep pinching myself,” she says.

“I had a lot of input into the single and, even though it was the first time we had worked together, Greg knew how I wanted it to sound. We worked really well together; he’s very funny!” she says.

With huge support coming from Australia, there are big plans in the works, which include setting up a band and touring our neighbouring country.

She’s co-writing with Brisbane singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson and they’re working towards a late-January release of new music.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to observe the world and write about it. I’m so privileged to be able to do what I do.”

On 25 July, Miranda will be performing at a SOLE Showcase, alongside other local performers. For more information, find the event page on Facebook or for tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com.


 

Wig-ging out


Gin Wigmore is using her extraordinary gravelly voice to speak up for the underdog. She tells Melinda Collins about a cause close to her heart.

 

Gritty, powerful and just a little bit badass could equally be used to describe Gin Wigmore’s music or her aesthetic and, while singing is still her first love, the Kiwi powerhouse who wrote her first award-winning song Angelfire at just 14 is now using her distinctively raspy voice to speak out and speak up.

Free for the first time of the constraints of a major label since her debut album, 2009’s Holy Smoke, the Auckland-born, now US-based singer and songwriter is “elated!”

“Truly elated. It feels like I have come loose from the pack to ride on my own. And I love it!”

Symbolising the milestone, her newly-released single Hangover Halo, is about finding contentment in one’s self, its inspiration drawn from “The lessons I have learned from youth into adulthood and in turn having a reflective moment on how simply being granted the opportunity to be born and exist on this amazing planet is one of a humbling and wonderful experience,” she says.

“So for that alone, I must raise a toast to being alive.”

Putting money where her mouth is, a portion of the proceeds of Hangover Halo are going to support Panthera – an organisation solely devoted to the conservation of the world’s wild cats and their ecosystems.

“For this specific single I am focusing on big cats, specifically tigers, as they are facing near extinction,” Wigmore explains.

“On a real basic level, I just think tigers are super rad and I don’t want them to die out due to human exploitation. If we are the problem, we are also the solution. We must be vigilant in their protection against poachers. We must be vigilant in protecting their natural habitats and making room on this planet for all other beings so we can co-exist in freedom and peace. And this is exactly what Panthera does; they work to protect the natural habitats for these beautiful animals as well as implement intensive training programs to prevent and apprehend poachers.”

The rest of 2020 will see Wigmore release a stream of music which will also support and highlight different endangered animals of the world and the animal charities that will be set up for donation in support of them.

But supporting the underdog has recently taken a literal turn for the long-time vegetarian. “I actually took the next step into a fully vegan lifestyle just a few months ago,” she says.

“For me, being vegetarian was not enough. Dairy farming is equally as cruel and f***ed up in its treatment of animals to be able to satisfy the demand on a global scale, so I decided I wasn’t going to be a part of that demand any longer.”

Singing was always her first love and despite now adding ‘hotelier’ to her list of professional credentials with the purchase of a hotel in the desert in Palm Springs, it is singing that still has her heart.

It was music through which Wigmore first connected with her now-husband, musician Jason Butler, who heads artist-oriented collective 333 Wreckords, and released Wigmore’s latest music.

“It’s very comforting to be in a creative collective that I love, respect and share similar beliefs with,” Wigmore says.

“I can 100 percent focus on my art without compromise and then completely trust the people working with me for their guidance, constructive criticism and approach to it all. It really is an awesome crew to be in.”

Together Butler and Wigmore have been heavily involved with the #BlackLivesMatter protests recently. “It has been a very big and monumental moment in time on all fronts!”

“LA is showing me what it’s made of right now,” she says of her new homebase.

“It’s loud, it’s free and it’s very powerful. The diversity, the perseverance for growth and change, the public outcry demanding justice for all and throughout all of this, there is a true feeling of community amongst the city. This is the precise reason I moved to LA and the reason I will continue to enjoy living here for many years to come.”

Wigmore has always packed more into her life than most.

On top of the hotel and music-making, she’s balancing a two-year-old, a newborn and an incontinent German shepherd rescue dog she added to the family just before the US went into lockdown.

“It made my world shrink overnight,” she says of lockdown.

“It made me realise, almost instantaneously, the seemingly mundane outings were the ones I took for granted the most.

Something as simple as a walk along the beach to see the horizon and the expanse to our lives was taken away; something as easy as popping into the store to grab a loaf of bread was now a fear-inducing exercise of patience, rules and restriction.

“It has been tough mentally more than anything, but it has provided me with a huge amount of gratitude for my two healthy boys, loving husband, awesome dogs and generous friends.”


 

Gray Matter


We’re all pretty familiar with the line that there’s often several years of hard work behind an overnight success; plenty of stars of their fields have filled us in on this very fact.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: DERRICK SANTINI

 

But there’s an even more magical twist to the success of UK singer-songwriter David Gray.

Although there had undoubtedly been the stock-standard six years of solid hard work behind his success, it’s the fact that his first three albums, recorded under the professional guidance of a record label, were instantly superseded both in popularity and in sales by White Ladder, made on a budget in Gray’s bedroom, that is perhaps the most powerful plot twist here.

The tidal wave of success that has seen seven million copies sold and spawned a string of classic hit singles like Babylon, Please Forgive Me, Sail Away, This Year’s Love and My Oh My first started in Ireland.

After another 18 months on the road, Gray broke into the UK with what would become one of the biggest albums of the 21st century and it has remained in the top 30 best-selling British albums of all time.

Here in New Zealand, it would go three times platinum and 20 years on, we can still sing along!

“It was a moment of reckoning, a moment that was me flipping all the negative energy into a positive,” Gray says of White Ladder’s success.

“After three records I could have blamed the world, blamed the critics, everyone but myself, but I decided I needed to make a better record, needed to give it more, not just time and effort and concentration, but more courageousness, more open-heartedness.

“We went in and did this thing. We didn’t do it in a self-conscious way; it’s a genuine thing, it has heart. People related to the stories, the melodies, the emotional centre. People connected to the album as a whole.”

Although part of 2020 has a “giant question mark hanging over its head”, Gray will hit the New Zealand leg of his tour late this year.

Bringing together the album’s original band members and original equipment to “recreate the record in its entirety” on stage, it’s set to hit Auckland’s Spark Arena on 28 November, Wellington’s TSB Arena on 29 November and our very own Horncastle Arena on 1 December.

“It’s like listening to the record but live,” Gray says.

Despite some big songs on there, Gray says White Ladder as a mellow, low-key album when it was first recorded and it has been “beefed up” in recent times for modern audiences.

The tour however, gave the band members the opportunity to honour the original sound.

“It was home recorded so we didn’t have the budget or means to make it sound big. It’s a mellow listen, but we’ve recreated the music for this tour. It’s really sweet to hear the songs the way they were then; it’s lovely to return them to their original.”

It’s the story of DIY success. “It was extraordinary how it happened,” Gray says.

“We weren’t blessed by big music companies, it was a word of mouth kind of success that came from nowhere. The music has stood up really well because we made it to be not like anything else and that still holds up today.

“It’s an incredible thing that happened and it’s a special record. Touch wood we’ll be with you at the end of the year, with big smiles on our faces!”