It’s hard to believe that only a year ago I was swimming in the Auckland harbour everyday at sunset and repeatedly repairing my beloved 1962 Morris with Clive. Travelling to a foreign land – leaving behind everything I knew for a chance to chase a dream – wasn’t on the radar.
I’m not one to say ‘no’ much. I’ve always liked to give things a shot and be immersed in them until I feel it’s time to move on to the next adventure. Having already been a ballroom dancer, a creative assistant in a design studio, an actor, a photographer (a pretty bad one at that) and a live-music venue manager in Kingsland, I found myself stuck in a rut with an old, broken-down car, a couple of boxes of clothes, one guitar and an offer to go to Berlin (which presented the opportunity to scratch an itch I’d had since writing a song for the 2008 Play It Strange competition.)
One evening in early 2013, Rachel Watson (Spinn 33 and Base FM) brought Matthias Müller from Crazy Planet Records (Berlin) to the Portland Public House, where I was running the music and playing impromptu cover sets. A few weeks later, Mike Chunn – whose Play It Strange competition got me into music in the first place – recommended that my next move should be Berlin…
So, after quickly wrapping up my life in NZ, and with the help of Matthias and Crazy Planet Records, I boarded a plane for Deutschland. Heading into the unknown was initially pretty daunting, but I was comforted by the fact that my sister and brother-in-law were already based in Berlin, and would be ready to help me get into the flow of life in this new city.
My timing was perfect. As well as arriving at the beginning of summer, I was also just in time for the Christopher Street Day parade. Two hours after touching down I found myself in the middle of thousands of colourful people, dancing, drinking and throwing confetti all over the main streets of Berlin. I knew I’d made the right call.
One of the privileges of living in a city like Berlin is the ability to take advantage of the incredible creative scene. Every day there is something different and new happening in the city of the bear and sometimes I need to force myself to give my brain and body a rest! I’ve seen countless shows including some of my favourite artists, RY X and James Vincent McMorrow. There are endless art exhibitions and theatre performances to check out.
Although Berlin can be pretty wild sometimes, she provides a nice balance with BBQs in the park and strolls through the many markets as mainstays of the city. My favourite place to go for ‘me’ time is Schlachtensee. This stunner lake is the perfect spot to go for a swim and to knock back a cold pilsner. Surrounded by nature and away from the bustling city, it provides a great spot for some writing as well as relaxation.
Some of the highlights from my first year in Berlin include having beers with Elijah Wood and Mikkey Dee (Motorhead), getting to meet the stars of The Hobbit at the German premiere, and getting to write and record songs with some truly talented musicians and producers. I’ve loved having lots of Kiwi visitors and getting to show them the full spectrum of sights, sounds and scenes of Berlin. It’s also been great to connect with renowned NZ musicians as theyve passed through Germany, including Six60, Ladi 6, Neil Finn and Jesse Sheehan. It’s a real boost for me to see NZ musicians cranking their German concerts and giving Berliners a taste of our country.
The best part of this Berlin experience overall, is the incredible musical voyage I’m on. From the first day I walked into their offices, the team at Crazy Planet Records have counted me a part of their tight-knit family and have pushed for opportunities that can and have advanced my music. They provide a huge support system for NZ musicians in Germany, including folk duo Charity Children and Cornerstone Roots.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to German indie-pop band Abby soon after I arrived. They have been an amazing support in helping me find my feet and my sound in this new city. The band produced my first single 13 Lords, which was released earlier this year, and I’ve had the privilege of opening at their shows in Hamburg, Dresden, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. It’s been an awesome experience touring for the first time and is helping to build my confidence and experience.
In December last year, I signed a publishing deal with BMG Rights Management Germany. Thanks to this partnership I’ve been able to develop my sound over the past six months, with the guidance of many great producers in both Berlin and London. I’ve made two successful songwriting trips to London so far, and it,s been so awesome to explore and experiment with so many different genres.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with DJ Alle Farben and electro-swing king Parov Stelar. I recorded the feature vocals for Parov Stelar’s The Sun from his ‘Clap Your Hands’ EP and Alle Farben’s She Moves (top 10 radio charts in Germany).
My first show with Alle Farben in Munich is high on my list of epic experiences in Europe. Performing in front of 1600 techno-pumped Germans was definitely something I didn’t think I would be doing a year ago. We also recently shot the music video for She Moves, which was an inspiring first for me. But at the top of the highlights list thus far is hearing my voice on the radio! This has been a dream since I first picked up a guitar, and it was a great moment that I was able to share with my manager Matthias.
This summer I’ll be touring with Alle Farben to some of the biggest festivals in Germany, as well as more opening sets for Abby. I’m currently working on my debut EP that we hope to release at the end of this year. I’m also aspiring to get my Deutsch to a level where I can have a reasonably decent convo with a German without the sweating and stuttering.
I’m planning a trip back to NZ in December, which I am super excited about! Berlin is incredible, but sometimes I get a pang of homesickness and long for the comforts of home – mostly food and coffee. I imagine it will be hard to leave Aotearoa for the second time around, but I’m hoping I can keep up regular trips over the next few years, to share my Berlin experiences and sounds with my homeland. Kia ora.
Crazy Planet Records is an independent touring company based in Berlin, who work primarily with NZ artists. www.crazyplanetrecords.com