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by Kat Parsons

Aacacia: Don’t Keep Her Waiting

by Kat Parsons

Aacacia: Don’t Keep Her Waiting

The last days of July saw the release of Aacacia ‘s self-titled debut album, a remarkably composed release that belies the fact Acacia Walker is a young artist more from a rural background, and still very new to the pop music game. The guitar-playing singer-songwriter only released her impressive debut single Bend in 2020, and despite all the challenges of the times now offers ‘Aacacia’ as a showcase of her diverse and exciting talent. Pre-release, Walker chatted with Kat Parsons about the album’s feature track Alone, relatability and her personalised Doc Martens kick drums. Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.

Hailing from Taupō and still new to the NZ music scene, Acacia Walker is already collecting accolades including playlistings on Spotify’s RnB Connect and Fresh Finds (US), and opening for both Six60 and Drax Project. She also featured on the latter’s single Firefly with Fetty Wap, which made it onto the NZ Top 40 singles chart last year.

With delay after delay due to the global pandemic, the now Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist is finally able to share her debut long-player collection ‘Aacacia’. The project boasts writing and production contributions from some local legends including Marlon Gerbes and Matiu Walters of Six60, Drax Project, producer Imad Royal (Doja Cat, Chainsmokers), and Neil MacLeod.

“It’s been a very long time coming,” Walker smiles. “It will be quite a surreal feeling getting this out. I’m excited for people to finally get to hear a proper body of work from me. Just to see what people end up gravitating toward, I think will be the most exciting part. I worked really hard and it’s a huge milestone for me.

“I’m not deeply spiritual, but I definitely like the idea of being able to make music that people can have some sort of release too.”

The album’s focal single, Alone, was co-written and produced by Marlon Gerbes with help from Jordan Masters. An emotional rhythm-propelled track, it highlights Walker’s vocal chops but also shows a vulnerability through the lyrical content.

“I’m surprised the song has become the feature of this whole release,” she says. “It’s kind of got a rock element to it, and I have no background in rock music. I guess the song actually kind of exposed me to listening to a bit more rock music because it has that element in it.

“It started with a guitar – that’s kind of how it normally starts with me and Marlon. We got the bones of the song with the melody first and then we spent the next day putting words over it. Marlon built the beat and I took charge of doing most of the wording, but he helped a lot with that too.

“I like it when a song can be interpreted in different ways because then people can take what they want from it,” she conveys. “For me, Alone was more about a mental health thing. When people are struggling, they kind of put themselves away and don’t want to interact with anyone. When you’re dealing with stuff you should be around people, even if you’re just doing nothing, you should be in good company. So that’s where I was coming from when I wrote it, but when you listen to it you can probably pick up many different things.

“We actually had a hard time figuring out the production. The first demo wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be. We had an idea of what we wanted it to be in our heads, but it was quite hard to translate and hear it in real life. So we gave it to Jordan Masters and he ended up kind of putting sprinkles on the top of it! We wanted to feel that real stumpy, strong bass line. We had a lot of reference songs that we were trying to draw from and then we passed it off to Jordan – then we finally felt like it was complete.

“I did have something to do with the production,” she adds grinning. “I used my Docs for the kick! I stomped my feet on the ground and Marlon put a microphone at my feet, and that was the kick sound!”

Richly adaptive and strong vocals are pivotal in her musical direction, and recording the song proved a catalyst to further stretching her range.

“I do vocal warm-ups every day, so it makes it quite easy when I’m entering the studio because I’m living and breathing it I suppose. To be fair, Alone is the lowest that my register goes. My voice was not as developed as it is now when we made the song, and in the first verse, it goes really low. So that was an interesting challenge.”

The single is accompanied by an attention-grabbing black and white video directed by Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou. Utilising light and movement to captivating success with few props, the video highlights the track’s sultry, edgy feel whilst also emoting the melancholy lyrical content. It too stretched the future star’s known boundaries.

“I was a bit gobsmacked when I saw the first edit,” gushes Walker. “I just couldn’t believe it was me to be honest because I guess I grew up on a farm – I’m pretty rugged! I’m definitely a Kiwi girl and I would probably consider myself quite down to earth. My favourite part about that video was discovering different elements of myself and what I’m capable of for the future.”

Despite struggling to keep up the momentum throughout the Covid pandemic, and changing her approach to looking after her wellbeing, the fresh-faced artist is still drawn to make music and wants to use her skills and talent to facilitate emotional connections with her listener.

“It’s just relatability for me,” she says, contemplating her attachment to music. “We all get to feel a certain way when we listen to music and I guess it draws out emotions that you can’t really get from anywhere else. You can read a book or watch a movie, but I feel like the sensations that you get from music are kind of unearthly. It’s a whole other ball game when you’re making music too. I get a real kick out of trying to make people feel how I feel when I listen to music.

“I think going through Covid, I realised how much I attached my happiness to music, which I don’t think was a very good thing – especially when it all got taken away from me for so long. I had to develop a structure that didn’t include music for a while, you know, being around friends and family and doing things that made me happy like exercising, eating good food – that kind of thing. Now that music’s back I just feel like I’m ‘me’ again, but I’m also glad that I’ve developed some protection for the future if this ever happens again…

“It feels like we’re coming out the end of the tunnel, which is a really exciting feeling.”