by Sam Smith

Emily Rice: Being Face to Face

by Sam Smith

Emily Rice: Being Face to Face

Brimming with excitement and speaking with the delight one has when they have a seven-week-old newborn baby, Emily Rice is clearly in a great space. The singer-songwriter, whose career spans folk duo We Stole The Sun and Aro, the Silver Scroll-nominated partnership with her husband Charles Looker, also has a new EP on the way and a new single Kanohi Ki Te Kanohi

Meaning face to face, Kanohi Ki Te Kanohi was inspired by a really beautiful poem that a woman called Emma Howan wrote on Easter Sunday last year.

“It was a reflective poem that I really loved, and I asked if I could use the poem as the basis for a song that I wanted to write.”

The song came about after Rice challenged herself to write a song a day during the Covid-enforced lockdown.

“Through April last year, I was part of a group called Auaha April. Auaha means to create. Throughout the month, each day they would put a topic up on the Facebook group page and then all of us would create something from that starting point.”

She says Kanohi Ki Te Kanohi is about being honest with who we are as humans.

“It is about seeing ourselves for who we really are. I am a lady of faith and so that is seeing myself the way I was made by the creator to be seen, which is fully beautiful. But sometimes it is not easy to see ourselves through that same lens so it is about stripping ourselves down and seeing the beauty in us.” 

The song is the first time in her solo career that Rice has sung in te reo Māori, despite singing in the language with her husband as part of the duo Aro where they released an EP entirely in te reo. 

“I had written the song and then I saw NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho had teamed up to make the first Waiata Takitahi funding available, and so I was able to submit my demo which ended up being successful. That was really cool to know that there is more importance and focus being put on getting mainstream Māori waiata onto our radio stations and stuff.”

Rice hopes people can get into the feel of the song, while at the same time through the lyrics appreciate how beautiful it is to be human.

“In terms of the lyrics, I hope it is a chance for people to stop and pause and realise how amazing it is to be a human and to see ourselves the way that we were created. I was going for a ’50s jazzy vibe with it initially, and then we turned it into this more dance house kind of groove. So I hope people feel that sense of wanting to groove along to it”

With Kanohi Ki Te Kanohi the teaser, the EP it comes from, ‘Auaha’, named after the group Rice got her songwriting inspirations from, will follow shortly in May. She says the songs have a jazzy vibe but within an electronic space, something she hasn’t ventured into with her music before. 

The songs were written in April 2020 and recorded in September and October with producer Michael Collier. ‘I sent him about 12 of the 26 songs that I had written and then we whittled it down to the ones that we were going to keep rolling with. He took it to a whole new level. I had ideas of where I wanted them to go and he had the skills to be able to produce them in a way that went in that direction.’

Rice has one more single, Red And Blue, due out before fans will get to hear ‘Auaha’ EP in full in May. 

Made with the support of NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho.