“When it comes to your own creative waka, you need to step up and be the leader, navigating your own way through.”
How would you describe what you do?
I am a singer-songwriter/composer, singing teacher, actor and voiceover artist. I also work for an arts management software company – I have worked in arts administration for the past 10 years.
What was your most recent project?
My most recent project was composing several songs (co-writing lyrics) for Season 2 of Darwin & Newts, an animated children’s TV show now live on TVNZ on Demand and screening on TVNZ2. Darwin & Newts is an international co-production between Whitebait Media (NZ) and Toonz Media Group (India)… Season 1 screened in 50 countries.
What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?
I am definitely most proud of my work on Darwin & Newts Season 2, as it brings together everything I am passionate about – I have an Honours Degree in Theatre & Film Studies in addition to my training and experience in music. It was amazing to get to work with the Darwin & Newts team at Whitebait – based right here in Christchurch – as they produce this series which has educated kids about science and the New Zealand environment and culture not only in New Zealand but also all over the world!
What is essential for creatives to have in their life?
If we refer back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, Self-Actualization is pretty close to the top of the pyramid. In order to be self-actualized, creatives need the rest of their basic needs met – that really involves money and lots of it! Money can buy time in which to create, network and make friends, space in which to create, tools to create with… study and retraining, which ultimately has the ability to buy success. There was a CNZ survey about 3 years ago which indicated the majority of creative artists rely on other sources of financial support to survive, such as another job or partner’s income. I do not have access to partner or family support or capital… and I will admit, I was in the situation just under a couple of years ago in which an opportunity to apply for a unique arts opportunity came up with a tight deadline right in the middle of another paid deadline arts project. By the time I had completed my two other day jobs (including music teaching) for the day, plus my work on the paid deadline arts project, my heart was actually pounding so fast out of my chest with no sleep that I missed the other deadline for the opportunity which could have been really good for me. I literally couldn’t push my sleepless body any further –a few years ago I met a musician who put themselves in hospital doing so!
What inspires you about Ōtautahi?
I am inspired by my family’s history here – which goes back 5 generations. My grandfather (who died before I was born) was an amateur photographer and took many beautiful photos of the city – which I would love to make a music project with some day. My favourite one is of the Edmonds Band Rotunda which is available through the Christchurch City Libraries photo database.
What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?
“Love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe” – this was a saying passed down from my Irish great grandmother. This might sound self-seeking, but really I think this saying is urging you to be constantly conscious of your own self-actualisation when it comes to your own creative ideas. Whilst you should be a positive team player in many creative waka, when it comes to your own creative waka, you need to step up and be the leader, navigating your own way through.
What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?
That it is worth 0.0001c per stream… or thereabouts. The streaming side of music is 100% broken and is not designed to reward artists equally per stream. I have had thousands of streams over the years– from which I have about $10 in royalties that can’t be paid out to me until I am over $40. I had just started to get going on itunes selling $500 worth of downloads in one month and then the advent of streaming ruined any chance of sustainability, virtually overnight. These days people say “oh yeah – but you can make quality music in your bedroom – you don’t have to hire an expensive studio”. My answer to that is yes, but you’ll need significant available time, a quiet room, sound treatment, a decent microphone, monitors, an expensive computer, expensive software, time invested in learning production skills… marketing… What the current streaming scenario does is create a culture of privilege in which only those who have the capital or other family/partner support – who can afford to make and release music – will do so.
What Christchurch artists do you most admire?
I really admire the work that Michael Bell is doing and has done, firstly with Orange Studio and then with Little Andromeda. I only wish I had the time to get more involved in opportunities and go to more shows. Michael is also such an incredibly talented musician and he has selflessly dedicated himself to strengthening the arts in this city – providing an amazing platform for emerging artists to try things out.
What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?
I really love Martin Creed’s work ‘Everything Is Going To Be Alright’ outside the Christchurch Art Gallery. It’s such a beautiful message of hope and comfort.
What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?
I wish I had known that the music industry would be so severely disrupted by streaming – when I went to Jazz school, recording my own music and selling it independently looked like a viable option and I just wasn’t to know. Therefore I would advise any young person entering any industry now to look at the potential impacts any advances in technology might have on their career.
What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?
Millbrook Reserve – a small serene oasis next to Hagley Park. Doesn’t take long to walk through and a car park right next door