New Zealand singer-songwriter Miranda Easten became known to Australian country music audiences earlier this year when she released ‘Cowboy Lullaby’, which jumped to number 16 on the Australian Official Top 40 Country Music Chart in April. However, Christchurch-based Easten is not new to the music industry – in 2014 she formed a duo called The Manuka Set with Vanessa Kelly, and they had three number 1 hit singles in their home country.
Easten has now released her second solo single, ‘Only One’. It is, she says, ‘an uplifting song about proclaiming an unbreakable love for someone, when it feels like no words are adequate or worthy enough. I’m a sucker for love and other people will find the song very relatable. It’s a classic love song.’
The song is instantly memorable and anthemic, and Easten has a fantastic country-pop voice that perfectly suits the melody.
‘Only One’ was recorded with Greg Haver at Roundhead Studios in Auckland and will appear on Easten’s debut album, which is set for release later this year. Written in under an hour, Easten says working on the track with Greg and the team at Roundhead Studios 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.’
Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube
Jody Direen is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who has spent quite a bit of time in Australia since she released her second album Shake Up in 2016, joining the Wolfe Brothers on tour and appearing at the inaugural Country2Country Festival last year. Direen is an exciting live performer who is also committed to managing all facets of her life in music, and that balance of professionalism and dynamism has won her many fans.
Direen has recorded a new album, Smoking Ashes, due for release in July, and for those fans the release is much anticipated – so they’ll be very pleased with her new single, ‘My Fire’.
Says Direen of the song, ‘”My Fire” is an empowering song with a global message; encouraging strength, resilience when life knocks you down. I wrote this over the past two years, pulling together and drawing inspiration from various personal experiences of hardships that we all experience. Coincidentally, this song’s release couldn’t come at a better time than now. To the listeners: I hope it helps instil strength and replaces any feelings of anxiety and stress (caused by the current global crisis) with that of no-fear and hope.’
‘My Fire’ is out now through ABC Music/Universal.
Listen on/buy from:
Apple Music | iTunes
Hannah May is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who’s now resident in Brisbane. She was one half of Mae Valley, who released an outstanding EP in 2016 and opened for Kelsea Ballerini, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood. This year May was one of the finalists for the highly competitive Toyota Star Maker competition (May is no stranger to competitions – Mae Valley placed highly on The X Factor NZ).
Now May has released the self-penned track ‘Passenger Seat’, which was produced by Peter Holz, who has worked with acts such as The Veronicas. May has a beautiful pop tone in her voice, and as her melodic sensibilities tend towards country music, country pop is a great fit for her. ‘Passenger Seat’ is a love song with gentle lyrics and a catchy pace that suggests. Its appeal is irresistible on two fronts – May clearly has the ability to write songs that become earworms, and also songs that you want to listen to because they make you happy.
May is working on some more new music, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we have more songs that make the day better simply by existing.
Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
There is a subgenre of Christmas carols that belongs to Australian creations, such as ‘Three Drovers’ and ‘Carol of the Birds’, to go along with Christmas-adjacent songs such as Tim Minchin’s ‘White Wine in the Sun’. What doesn’t come to mind is a joint Australian and New Zealand Christmas song – but now there is one, thanks to NZ artist Aly Cook and Kay and Buzz Bidstrup, who have created ‘Southern Christmas Stars’.
The song depicts the experience of Christmas in warm weather, as well as the joy of reuniting with loved ones. The lyrics were written by Kay Bidstrup to celebrate the Christmas homecoming of her son after a year living abroad, and Buzz Bidstrup and Cook put the music together while Cook was in Australia promoting her latest album, Caught in the Middle.
While December isn’t yet upon us, this song is a lovely way to ease into the festive spirit – and, perhaps, it will become your new Southern Hemisphere Christmas anthem.
Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell has impressed many people in her homeland and in Australia with her mesmerising live performances and her intelligent, heartfelt songwriting. From her album Wildfires she has now released ‘Troubadour’, a song that describes her life on the road. The word troubadour is old and Mitchell is an old soul, but she brings to this story her contemporary and hard-earned perspective on the life of an itinerant artist.
Watch ‘Troubadour’ below:
Wildfires is out now.
Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes | Spotify
Megan Sidwell is a New Zealand artist now living in Melbourne. Her debut EP, Forever on a Sunday, was released in 2013, prior to her relocation across ditch. Sidwell has certainly created an impression in Australia, taking out the Battle of the Bands at the 2016 Tamworth Country Music Festival and making the finals of the 2017 Toyota Star Maker competition. At the most recent Tamworth festival she played a remarkable 16 shows.
Sidwell now has a debut album due for release in 2019. From that album she has released the single ‘I Got You’, an irresistible country rock track with a lovely melody. It was written and recorded in Nashville, and produced by Sam Hawksley, who’s had his own multiple Tamworth appearances in the past.
Listen to ‘I Got You’ below or on:
Apple Music | iTunes |Spotify
I interviewed New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell late last year, but waited to post the interview until after I saw her perform at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, where, it’s safe to say, she had audiences spellbound. Her voice, her presence, her songs, her everything captivated everyone who saw her. She’s a fairly regular visitor to Australian shores, so make sure you catch a gig if you can. In the meantime, here’s Jenny talking about her new album, Wildfires.
What a wonderful album. You must be very proud of it.
I am very proud of it, I feel like a proud mum. It’s awesome to be on that side of it. The pressure and stress beforehand is quite colossal, so I’m happy to be celebrating it now rather than worrying about it.
I guess it’s that nerve-wracking thing where you know you’ve done good work but then you don’t know how people are going to receive it.
Yes. You want to have everything as well organised as you possibly can. You want to do as good as you can for your product when you know that you’re really proud of it. So I did feel worried about having all the right things in place and how are people going to hear it and all that stuff. But I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a great team and I think we’ve done a good job.
You’ve done a very good job! I didn’t actually notice whether you’re with a record company or not.
No, I’m not. I’ve opted for this one to stay independent because I just feel that right now where I am in my career, it’s not possibly the best time to sign up with a label, but I don’t know what will happen in the future. It’s really my label, which is called Little Acorn Records.
Continue reading “Jenny Mitchell sets the world ablaze”
One of the most impressive emerging country music artists in the Southern Hemisphere is New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell. She recently released a new album, Wildfires, and before that the title single. She’ll be appearing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and is currently on tour in Australia; if you need a reason to see her perform, simply watch the video below. I spoke to Jenny recently and found a clear-eyed artist and performer who is passionate about music and working hard to bring it to audiences on both sides of the Tasman.
You’re nineteen years old and you’re already about to release your second album, incredibly. When did your musical life start?
My dad is like a real traditional Hank Williams, Johnny Cash man. So when I was growing up my life soundtrack was the Dixie Chicks and stuff like that. My first on-stage performance with Dad was when I was four. So it has always been something that we’ve been involved in. In 2013 I did New Zealand’s Got Talent, so that kind of started a whole new sort of chapter … I think it’s a really hard transition from being sixteen and having it as a hobby to fulfilling it and saying, ‘Actually, I am going to try to do this.’ So it’s been an interesting time.
At four years of age you were probably too young to be nervous, but at thirteen, what was that like going on a national TV show?
I think it was really good. I think probably if it was a few years later, I would have been really stressed about the big picture and worried about all that stuff, but at the time I remember some of my biggest concerns was things like the different outfits that I didn’t like, and my friends at school will think I’m such a loser and stuff like that. So, I think it was almost good that it was so young, because it one, prepared me for those nerves, [which] were quite horrific. You don’t know what the judges are going to say, so I think it was quite good because it kind of put me through the boot camp of learning how to deal with stress and now I’m like, okay, nothing is as bad as that.
Continue reading “Interview: Jenny Mitchell”
If you’re looking for an excellent start to the week, the new single from New Zealand singer-songwriter Jenny Mitchell can help you out. ‘Wildfires’ is a cracker of a song and the first single from Mitchell’s next album, to be released later this year.
Mitchell has a terrific voice, and on this song it’s married with a snappy beat and snarling guitars to match the tale of a toxic relationship. ‘Wildfires burn so easily’ she sings, and we believe her.
The gift of this level of talent and skill on a song is that the listener is immediately on the hook, as you will be as soon as you listen to ‘Wildfires’.
Mitchell is a graduate of the CMAA Academy of Country Music and melds country, folk and Americana into her own unique style. She’s a rising star in her home country – but she’s going to tour here soon. Dates below.
Listen to ‘Wildfires’ on:
Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
Friday 26th – Sunday 28th October – Tablelands Folk Festival – Yungaburra, QLD
Wednesday 31st October – The Spotted Mallard – Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 1st November – Caravan Music Club – Melbourne, VIC
Friday 2nd – Monday 5th November: Maldon Folk Festival – Maldon, VIC
Wednesday 7th November: Ararat Live – Ararat, VIC
Thursday 8th November – Porch Light Sessions, Petersham Bowling Club – Sydney, NSW
Friday 9th November – The Acoustic Picnic – Brookvale, NSW
It’s good to mix things up on a country music website – although, as Elvis Presley was a bluegrass performer at least some of the time, interviewing an Elvis performer is not mixing things too far.
After over 20 years of performing Elvis tunes, New Zealander Brendon Chase earned himself the title of ‘Australasia’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Act’ in 2017. He is one of the world’s premier Elvis performers – not to mention the busiest in New Zealand, by the sound of it – and he is appearing on Cruise N Groove, with the theme Elvis Meets the Legends. The 2018 Cruise N Groove music festival at sea departs from Sydney on 6 November and runs till the 13th. I spoke to Brendon recently.
How old you were when you discovered Elvis?
I would have been seven years old, I guess.
And was that because your parents were playing Elvis music?
No, it was the Elvis Aloha concert beamed around the world and I watched that in 1973.
Is that a distinct memory, seeing him for the first time?
Yes – it blew me away that he was such a cool dude and I thought I want to be cool like that one day.
So, given that you were so young and you get exposed to a lot of music over a lifetime was Elvis like your favourite artist as a child and a teenager?
Yeah, for sure. And probably Motown was my next, but Elvis is up there with the best of them.
Continue reading “Interview: Brendon Chase on Elvis and Cruise N Groove”