August/September 2016

by Amanda Mills

Kiri Eriwata: Sum Of The Parts

by Amanda Mills

Kiri Eriwata: Sum Of The Parts

She has released a number of radio singles in a diversity of genres covering  pop, folk, rock, urban Maori and soul. She’s shared the stage with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and sung backing for international stars like Bonnie Tyler, Leo Sayer and Sarah Blasko. On another tack, Kiri Eriwata has for several years lectured in songwriting, voice and music industry studies at Auckland University – and alongside that has been slowly compiling a debut album titled ‘Muse and Memorabilia’. Amanda Mills spoke with Eriwata ahead of the long time-coming album’s release.

Now focusing on education, Kiri Eriwata is  a self-taught musician and veteran live performer. She recalls music being the only thing that mattered in her youth.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do,” she smiles. “I tried drama and journalism and everything else, but that was just to support what I was doing as a songwriter.”

Parental concerns meant getting a day job, but that soon proved a folly.

“The pay was really bad, and I was making three times as much money going out and doing gigs at night,” she laughs.

The first band Eriwata was involved in was Acoustic Attitude, along with Aaron Carpenter and Aaron Neil.

“That was pretty much back in my hippie days. I was a bit of a flower child in the ’90s,” she laughs. “We did really well, pretty much working five nights a week back in those days… that was my kind of starting point going into those kinds of places.”

Taking some diverse career twists and turns since, and she has worked with a number of international musicians including Sarah Blasko, Bobby McFerrin, Jamie Cullum and Bonnie Tyler. She also collaborated with Kevin Mark Trail (ex-The Streets), which resulted in a Te Reo track Na Te Kukune, which came out of beats Trail gave mutual friend Huia Hamon.

“She would give them out to different artists to see if they could put anything on them. That was my first take of a waiata in Te Reo.”

Eriwata’s forthcoming album, the melodic and often experimental ‘Muse and Memorabilia’ is her turn to shine.

“This record is really more a collection of works than a consistent, cohesive album… I think my style veered depending on whom I was working with.”

Thus the bouncy country-ish pop of Get Back Home is followed immediately by the slow ballad lament Goodbye Chicago, a standout track.

“I think it’s not what it probably seems. It was written as homage to the life I had singing in the cover bands, which was a huge part of my career. It was an analogy for the glitzy life that I had on stage… about letting go of that kind of life.”

‘Muse and Memorabilia’ was recorded and produced by Neil Baldock, back when he was Roundhead Studios’ resident engineer, with mastering done at Kog Studios.

“We had several home studios set up and did a lot of pre and post work at home, as well as utilising Roundhead and Revolver to do the big stuff.”

A talented and creative cast of performers assisted with the album, including The Solomon Cole Band, Bones Hillman, Nick Gaffaney and Jol Mulholland.

The combination of Baldock and Jol Mulholland meant Mulholland’s weird and wonderful sounds found their right place on the record.

“In the end, that song, I Love You, But sounded nothing like how I originally wrote it, which was a very riff-based guitar track.”

Where possible Baldock used instruments already set up for other sessions in the Auckland studio.

“Neil was also helping to record a lot of those guys’ albums, it was a little bit of contra… I can definitely say the album is both Neil’s and mine… he was so much a part of it.”

Another path in her career led Eriwata to teaching music industry studies at Auckland University, lecturing in voice, the industry and songwriting, and more latterly private vocal teaching. Teaching also feeds into her network of industry peers, and with the help of Songbroker’s Jan Hellriegel her songs have featured on Shortland Street and Filthy Rich.

Eriwata says she has no plans to tour ‘Muse and Memorabilia’ in a traditional sense, preferring the idea of playing gigs on the beach, flash-mob style.

“I think I’m going to work on some music that doesn’t have as big a production,” she ponders. “I really like the idea of just peeling back and finding something a bit more organic. I’d like to just try some different things… I don’t want to end up repeating the same type of work.”