The young Iris Guevarra was only seven years of age, yet heartbroken and crushed at what she thought was the realisation that her dreams could never come true…
“I joined the talent competition, and I didn’t get a placing. I remember vividly when I didn’t hear my name getting called out, and I was crying on my mum’s lap.”
But that was 11 years ago, and now Guevarra has gained not only first place in this year’s Smokefreerockquest solo/duo category, but also a life (so far) journeying through music and self-discovery.
Guevarra was singing covers while still young, and then moved into medleys where she discovered how much she enjoyed putting herself into the song. It wasn’t until she won a school talent quest in Year 8 and the principal encouraged her to make her own music, that she began to start songwriting.
“I don’t think I would have started if it wasn’t for him. Then he mentored me for the rest of the year. I was never in class because I was always in his office – but being good!”
However after moving on to Avondale College – a very large, intimidating school – Guevarra’s shy nature stopped her from seriously pursuing anything until a little later on.
“Moving from a Catholic school to a huge high school, I didn’t know where my place was, and then I slowly moved back into it. In year 12 I saw my friend’s band at Rockquest, and I was so angry that I didn’t join that year. So I thought, ‘Okay, next year I’m going to join.’ This year was my first and last opportunity, and I ended up winning!”
In the final Guevarra performed two songs she had written about two of her friends, Leilani and If Looks Could Kill.
“Usually, I always write about my friends, just how they’ve changed my life and made me grateful to be alive. I write about sad things too though, because I don’t think sadness is a bad thing.”
“New Year’s day I had this huge meltdown. I was like, ‘My songs don’t matter, I’m writing about things that don’t mean much to me,’ and ‘I’m making stories up.’ I wanted to change that. It’s been harder, I’ve had a writer’s block because I’ve changed so much. Because of my shy nature, songwriting has always been storytelling, it’s the only way for me to share what’s in my mind.”
Now that Guevarra has finished high school, she hopes to have more time to focus on music while she takes a gap year, working at a vineyard in Gisborne. With a passion for sharing her mind with the world more songwriting remains very much in her future.
“The most important thing about my music is I want to make sure it validates feelings. A lot of people suffering with mental health feel like what they’re feeling is wrong, and I just want to normalise that. I do that through music.”