December/January 2023

by Richard Thorne

Fresh Talent: Greta O’Leary

by Richard Thorne

Fresh Talent: Greta O’Leary

Perhaps it’s a function of the (mostly) slow pace and deliberately sparse backing, but there is a real fragility in Greta O’Leary ‘s songs.

The Wellington folk artist’s voice itself is not fragile, as the collection of five intimate tracks brought together in her debut EP ‘Treasure Horse’ proves, often carrying the melody over the simplest of picked guitar notes and instrumental washes.

Billed, maybe misleadingly, as an alt-folk artist, on ‘Treasure Horse’ O’Leary inhabits a similar space to the likes of Tiny Ruins or Nadia Reid, taking deliberate time in exploring ideas of grief and solitude that can sometimes seem at odds with the beauty of her voice.

She says she has drawn inspiration and courage from them and many local artists, that watching others achieve helps her feel brave and right in stepping forth as she now has.

“As a younger person, I felt quite displaced and unsatisfied with what lay ahead, so I left home and spent a few years flinging myself around the world looking for more meaning and belonging. It was a deeply formative time, especially my time living in Victoria, Australia and it has shaped me as a person and an artist.”

With the benefit of NewMusic Development funding ex NZ On Air the album was produced by two established Wellington treasures in Charlotte Yates and Toby Lloyd. It’s a project of two parts, as she explains.

“I connected with Toby Lloyd around Christmas last year and we started working together on the first two songs (Outnumbered and Body, Now). Then I got news that Charlotte and I got the funding and that really opened up ‘Treasure Horse’, being able to form in the way it did throughout this year.

“We took the next three songs into the studio (Mountain Tip, Honey Babe and The Birthday Song), and then the EP was born. Toby mixed all the tracks so he‘s been involved in some way for the whole project.”

O’Leary admits to growing up debilitatingly shy, and so it has taken her longer than most to find her voice and a path she has belief in. Carving out the sound that is truest to her is of critical import. Likely that’s the ‘treasure’, though she finds it hard to convey the meaning the album title holds for her.

“There’s wildness and freedom encompassed and delicate specificity. ‘Treasure Horse’ is me stepping forth bringing dark and light, balance in a way.

“Bodies of work are important to me and how I choose to receive music personally. These songs were all written in a particular time in my life and they’ve always very clearly belonged together.