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NewTracks New Artist: Becca Caffyn

NewTracks New Artist: Becca Caffyn

These days based in the big smoke of Auckland city, Becca Caffyn has spent a year writing songs and developing her sound through the Parachute Artist Development Programme. She knew gentle folk-pop tune Stair Kids was going to be her debut single from the moment it was born, and NZ On Air Music has noticed its catchiness too, adding the single to their NewTracks compilation this June. 

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name’s Rebecca Caffyn on paper, but I’m better known as Becca Caffyn. I’m 19, originally from Hamilton, and I play guitar, as well as a little piano.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

My time on Parachute Music’s Artist Development Program was invaluable for me, musically and personally. I can’t explain how much it helped me grow as an artist and as a human, getting to work with people who are so great at what they do and so willing to help me be the best that I can, so that was definitely important to me.

Doing guitar lessons in high school was great, and my teacher encouraged me to write, so I’d show him things I was working on and we’d chat about how I could make them better. Every piece of training or advice I’ve picked up along the way has contributed to what I know now, so I’m really grateful to anyone who has helped me in that way. 

Any previous projects might we know you from?

I don’t think so! Recently I’ve done backing vocals for my good friend Benjamin Mack, so if you’re a fan of his you might recognise me. Otherwise, there’s probably nothing you’d know me from yet. 

What’s the background story of how Becca Caffyn came to be? 

It’s hard because there isn’t one moment when Becca Caffyn became Becca Caffyn. I’ve always found joy in music, and I really want to write great songs, so I decided to pursue that. It’s as simple as that. My music is just me, my stories and experiences so far, and hopefully my stories for years to come. 

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

The way I approach writing has changed since the early days, which I like to think has made me a better writer. In the beginning I relied on sporadic bursts of inspiration, hypothetical situations, and what I thought a song should be. Now it’s more of a habitual practice, where I work on ideas and come back to things, revisit and refine them. I tell my own stories, and tend to write with the mindset that no one has to hear it if I don’t want them to, which takes away the constraints of what I think I should be writing about and lets me write about whatever I’m thinking, or feeling, at the time. 

What made you decide to go with Becca Caffyn as your artist name?

Honestly, Becca Caffyn is my artist name because I couldn’t think of anything better. I like artist names that sound like real names but aren’t, but it felt wrong to call myself a name that wasn’t mine. Using your real name also has the added bonus of not confusing people who already know you by that name. 

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I played a really good opening gig in my hometown, a while ago now, when there was a cancellation at the venue and they needed an opener for the act that was going to fill in. I hadn’t played a lot of longer sets and a lot of people in my life had never seen me play, so my mum and I invited anyone we could think of to pack the venue out with friends. It was the summer before I moved away from home, so it was comforting knowing there were people who cared about the things I wanted to pursue. 

What makes Stair Kids stand out for you as a single?

I think Stair Kids felt like it had to be a single. A good single to me is a song that’s really strong on its own, that people can enjoy and connect with if they already know and love what you’re doing as well as if they’ve never heard you before. I knew pretty soon after I wrote it that I wanted Stair Kids to be my debut single. A lot of the first people to hear it also liked it a lot. It’s a bit more upbeat and catchy than other things I’ve written, while still being something I love, so I thought it would be a good introduction to me. It just has a chorus that gets into your head and stays there. 

What is the story behind Stair Kids?

Stair Kids was written the year after I left school, reflecting on how me and my friends changed when we were all given the freedom to make our own choices. It’s a huge shift to suddenly be in charge of all your decisions, and understandably people go in different directions, so it’s about that transitional period and finding your place after high school. 

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

There’s a distant cowbell ringing going into the first chorus that was played by me, so I always love pointing that out. We had a lot of fun playing with the synths Will has in his studio, so I think it’s really cool when the synth layers come in during the later choruses. But my absolute favourite part of the song is when everything drops out and it goes to a single vocal right at the end. 

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where?

Stair Kids was written with Joshua Chatfield and Sophie Bialostocki at Parachute Music’s Song Week in 2021, and just came out of the conversation we were having in the room that day. We ate mini Toblerones and talked about high school and how much we liked Motion Sickness by Phoebe Bridgers, and ended up with this song that we all really liked. Sophie produced the demo version, and then I was lucky enough to fly to Christchurch to finish the song with Will McGillivray. I’d never met Will before but he’s so lovely and talented, and his studio has this couch that gets the best afternoon sun for a quick post vocal tracking nap! 

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

You can love people and still grow out of them. You can enjoy a part of your life and still move on from it. Stair Kids is about accepting the way times and people change, appreciating things for what they were, and being okay with growing out of the spaces you used to love fitting into. 

Who else is in your team?

I’ve been so blessed to be able to work with really talented and hardworking people over the past year and a half. My official team is just me, but I’ve had a lot of support from the team at Parachute Music, particularly Jane de Jong, who I have learnt so much from. Holly Arrowsmith is also my mentor, and she’s given me so much great advice. Though I still feel like I’m at the very beginning, I’m loving the process of learning how to manage every aspect of my career, and feel really lucky to have people who I know I can go to at any time when I need support.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

There definitely are! I plan on releasing more music later this year, so keep an eye out for that. I’m also hoping to do some shows near the end of this year to play those songs live, and I’d love to catch you there 🙂

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I’ve never applied for Single Funding or New Tracks before, so I’m really grateful to NZ On Air for including me on New Tracks. I did receive a New Music Development grant from NZ On Air to work with Noah Page at Depot Sound in Devonport, which I am again so grateful for! My advice to anyone applying for funding or New Tracks would be to just keep refining and reapplying, and ask someone who knows more about the funding process to look over it for you and give you feedback if you can. You never know when you’ll submit something that resonates with a member of the panel.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

I’m actually not eligible for single funding from NZ On Air yet, so I’m working on ticking off a number of the criteria! Looking at the criteria has been really great in helping me to create realistic goals and determine what I’d like to achieve next to help set myself up for a sustainable career. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’ve been listening to Song Exploder recently; so fun to hear some of my favourite artists chat about how their songs came to be. 

Any last words?

Nothing much to add except a big thank you to anyone who has ever listened to Stair Kids, shared it with their friends, played it in their car, or added it to their playlists. It means so much that other people take the time to listen to my song. Also a big thank you to NZ Musician, and of course NZ On Air for including me in the New Tracks compilation.