For someone who dreams of a full time career playing music, the decision to pursue it seemed suprisingly spontaneous for Aucklander Bekah Smith.
“One day I said to my friend, ‘Okay, I’m gonna sing something and you tell me if I can sing.’ She said ‘Yup’, so I’m like, ‘Sweet, I’m gonna be a musician,’ and that was that.”
Her friend wasn’t alone in recognising her talent. Upon graduating AUT with a Bachelor of Communications, Bekah was awarded an InterNZ Scholarship to Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where she spent eight weeks as an intern in 2014, then hired as a studio runner for the rest of the year.
“The studio runner is the person who makes sure that everything the client wants is there. If they have a specific kind of chocolate they like, or candles…we’d call it ‘vibing out the room’.”
Working with local producers Aaron Dahl, Rich Reitz and Scott Elgin, culminated in her recording a three-track digital EP, ‘LA Mixtape’, released in November 2014.
“The producers were working at Paramount as well, so we decided to get together out of hours and work on stuff.”
Their contrasting influences on Bekah’s soulful RnB sound are apparent on each of the tracks. Of the three she particularly gelled with LA-based Scott Elgin, who she’s continued to work with over the past year.
“We have quite a lot in common in terms of our ideals around music… we’re trying to develop a more authentic sound, less electronic.”
This is certainly evident in the contrast between ‘LA Mixtape’ and Bekah’s subsequent ‘Relocations’ EP, which she released in October 2015 after working on it with Elgin over Skype during the year. The stripped back beats perfectly compliment Bekah’s distinctive vocal tone, creating space for her narratives to unfold.
She says they have a pretty open approach to collaboration, with the songs on ‘Relocations’ coincidentally being put together in a different way, drawing from the likes of Outkast, De La Soul and Big Boy.
“Gifted was originally written on guitar by me, and Oh Hey was a beat he made randomly a couple of years ago that I just picked up. A lot of the time a producer will just send me a beat and I’ll choose one that I feel some sort of vibe or emotion about.”
Returning to NZ, Bekah felt compelled to continue developing the skills she had picked up in LA, enrolling in an electronic music production course at SAE in Auckland.
“I teed it up so that as soon as I got back I had class a couple of days later… I just didn’t wanna get slowed down, I wanted to keep moving. It’s hard because I’m not a super technical person… It can be frustrating when you can hear a song but you can’t make it, so it was basically just to facilitate my songwriting.”
With Elgin coming out to NZ to work on new material with her in April, she has a busy year planned, hoping to have at least two singles and EPs by the end of the year.
“I just want to build up more content. Make stuff, that’s the aim of the game I guess – making more music, making videos, things to look at, listen to, watch…”
“I want to be able to do music as a career. All of these part time jobs I keep taking aren’t things I want to do as a career, so I’m not really developing any other career for myself. I’m very hopeful and optimistic about this whole thing” she laughs.