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April/May 2015

by Matt Herrett

Industry: Behind New Plymouth’’s Singer Songwriters

by Matt Herrett

Industry: Behind New Plymouth’’s Singer Songwriters

Ask anyone in New Plymouth where to get a gig and they’’ll likely answer with the simple phrase, ‘Anand Rose’. In the last 10 years Rose has made a name for himself as a promoter with a different take on bringing live music to the masses.

“He’’s unlike anyone else I’’ve met in the industry,”” reckons Chris Dent of Auckland alt-country rockers Albi and the Wolves. “His drive brings people together in a huge way.””

Rose is an Irish import, following his sister to Taranaki 14 years ago. In 2005 he started a humble monthly acoustic open mic night simply called Singer Songwriters. It started in the Basement Bar, known then mostly for its heavy rock and metal scene.

“I wanted to bring the traditions of the Irish music session to an audience that I knew existed here in New Plymouth,”” he explains. “In Ireland, there’’s a respect for musicians of all levels. There’’s no hierarchy –– everyone gets a turn and the audience has to be quiet and respect the musician that’’s performing on that stage.””

Of course controlling how an audience behaves in any situation is no easy task.

“Music is fragile,”” Rose reflects. “I worked hard to create a safe environment for it. I made sure there was good seating and I made sure it was all pointing towards the stage. I made sure that we used candles and low lighting and made sure I asked for quiet between sets and enlisted shushers –– people in the audience to call gently for hush when required.””

It worked. That was a decade ago, and after moving to the larger capacity Little Theatre, the monthly event has developed into a well-recognised and respected brand, with the release of five album compilations showcasing the regulars, as well as special slots at the Festival of Lights and a 10th anniversary event coming up at the TSB Showplace. Singer Songwriters continues to be one of New Plymouth’s most popular regular nights out, both for the audience and the playing community, and rarely is the place not filled to capacity on both sides of the curtain.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Rose has used his success to put himself amongst it, networking like a pro, working every music event he can get himself into – WOMAD, G-Taranaki, the Festival of Lights, the Parihaka Festival, the Arts Festival. Not to mention the hundreds of smaller gigs he’’s put on in the region, showcasing and promoting acts ranging from the fresh-faced locals to well known international acts.

He runs a radio show showcasing local talent and “relaxes” every Friday night down at the Hour Glass, where he’’s pulled together a loose collective of musicians that jam late into the night.

“I feel strongly that community is where it’’s at. You have to encourage solidarity between musicians. It should be fun and uplifting. The friendships that form when you put musicians together are the basis for a strong music community, and collaboration brings the magic. Anyone has potential, and careers can be launched at any level –– I get a kick from that.””

It’’s clear that Rose’s support for musicians of all levels is gaining recognition outside of the region.

“He’’s maybe the greatest corner man in folk music,” says The Eastern’’s Adam McGrath, himself much admired for his supportive ways. “He’’s Cus Damato, Angelo Dundee and Drew Bundini Brown all wrapped up in one. He wants you in the ring. He believes in the alchemy of song, sees what it can do for you and he’s gonna set it up so you can make it happen.””

Strong words indeed from the charismatic McGrath, and he’’s not alone –– Irish songstress Sive recently flew into the country for a tour.
“It’’s about coming together to share our ideas, our creativity, and our experiences. It’’s about expression and being open. The New Plymouth music community embodies all of these things and Anand is a big part of that.””

It’’s that community spirit that’’s driving his latest venture –– house concerts. Whilst the concept is not a new one, the idea has yet to take hold in New Plymouth and Rose sees a gap in the market.

“Pop-up gigs are a fantastic way to bring music to people. You can avoid the politics and cynicism of the traditional venue model, and as a musician, you can get to know your audience whilst they get to know you.””

Is that important?

“Absolutely. After 10 years, I know that the market for live, intimate music is a niche one. I know there are maybe a thousand people out there in New Plymouth right now that are interested in what we want to show them. I want to get to know them personally. I want them to feel involved and part of the community. House concerts work because they bring the musician to the audience in a natural, social context.””

It’’s obvious that Rose works hard with promotion, utilising all mediums.

“Look, the word on the street is that you can have your best or worst gig here in New Plymouth. The scene is there, but it’’s still very underground. You have to get out there and ask the audience to be involved. You have to advertise every gig. It’s bloody hard work! I have to plan ahead – give myself time to get everything lined up for a show – but I’m much more relaxed about it these days.

“You know, it doesn’’t matter if it’’s an open mic night, a house concert, a stadium show, a high profile touring act or a major festival –– if the heart’’s in it, it’’s gonna work.””