Face to face
When two of our most accomplished singer-songwriters get together, who needs an interviewer? wonders ‘If anyone had told a 13-year-old me that one day I’d be touring with you [Bic Runga], it would have been in the outlandish, space odyssey kind of realm o
Between them they’ve won just about every New Zealand music award possible, sold more than half a million albums, and given birth to four – soon to be five – children along the way.
Currently touring New Zealand with fellow singer-songwriter, Benny Tipene, on the 10th nationwide Winery Tour, Bic Runga and Brooke Fraser sat down for an interview – sans interviewer – to talk about ‘‘being artists, flawed humans, working mums, and women in music’’, as Fraser so eloquently put it on Instagram. ‘‘We also talked about clothes and grey nail polish.’’
Hi everyone – I’m here with a New Zealand legend, Bic Runga.
And I’m here with a New Zealand legend, Brooke Fraser. We’re going to interview each other – we couldn’t afford a journalist.
Times are tough. Don’t just stream, purchase, people, purchase.
So Bic, we were really fortunate to grow up here in New Zealand, and growing up my ambient memories of music are of a lot of strong Kiwi women – Margaret Urlich, Annie Crummer, all these amazing women. Then when I was 12, I started writing songs, and that same year Bursting Through came out…
When you were 12? Just throw me under the bus why don’t you!
You weren’t that much older than me though – but I had this memory of being at intermediate, and at our assembly every week we sang songs that were on the radio. I got to go and accompany on piano, so one of my clearest memories is of learning Bursting Through so I could go and play it while our whole intermediate school sung it. I felt so fortunate as this young woman discovering music and songwriting, and that I had these women to look up to – and you were a huge part of that.
That’s really nice, thank you. Just thinking about when I started, there were lots of women before me – Jan Hellriegel, Fiona McDonald, and Sharon O’Neill – and now you are a part of that too, and it’s pretty cool.
So what are you listening to now? Are you still inspired by other female artists?
Brooke: Bic: Brooke: Brooke: Bic: Brooke: Bic: Bic: Brooke:
Yeah, definitely. It’s funny – you go through cycles of forgetting albums and music that have been important to you and then you kind of rediscover them. So I feel like I’ve gone around in a circle and I’m starting to go round again, rediscovering Edie Brickell and some of those artists – and, of course, Joni Mitchell is like a constant, she’s always on the wheel.
I remember when I was first signed, one of the things that was on the cover of maybe Q Magazine was PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, and Bjork, together – that really inspired me.
You know, I live in America now, and I’m having kids in America, and my daughter is American – and I listen to the radio and I sometimes feel a bit forlorn about some of the examples my daughter has to look up to in terms of women. I feel like in New Zealand we had it really good – I feel like female musicians in New Zealand, they weren’t sexualised, you know – not in a degrading way if that makes sense. I feel like the women I looked up to growing up as musicians, most of them were writers, so when they were singing it was with their own voice, their own thoughts, their own consciousness, and I really appreciated that. So who are some of the female artists you think are continuing that tradition?
Well, we have Lorde, which is really amazing . . . we’ve had a long generational awareness of what feminism is, because obviously we were the first country to give women the vote, and I think it’s quite deep in us. I think someone like Lorde could have only come from New Zealand, because her understanding of feminism was really ingrained – it wasn’t just something she said because it was the cool thing to say.
I have another question. Last year you were awarded the New Zealand legacy award at the New Zealand Music Awards, you were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, you have the New Zealand Order of Merit, you are a decorated icon of New Zealand music – you’ve just been hugely influential in music in New Zealand. Are you aware of your public impact, and is that something you think about, something
Bic: Brooke: Bic: Brooke:
you engage with – does that affect the way you make art, or why you make art these days?
I guess when I was young I had quite a good run over three albums, and it felt like everything was going really well – but then I’ve had quite a big absence as well. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years in New Zealand, but I’ve only made five studio albums – I’m quite slow – so I feel like the legacy award was quite a nice recap of what I’ve done, but it really made me want to do more, and I felt sort of regretful that there was this big silence. It was actually mostly because I was having a family – which is something I’ll ask you about too. But I’m quite hungry to do more, and I feel like I’ve