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NewTracks New Artist: Billie

NewTracks New Artist: Billie

Cantabrian Billie Leiataua started out with classical operatic singing lessons at a rather young age. Nowadays the 17-year-old’s style swings more towards pop and RnB, something that shows through on her debut single, Mind, which made it onto NZ On Air Musics NewTracks compilation in September. She’s prolific too, already following that up with a new song, Nights Like These.

What high school or other music training was important to you?

When I was really young, I began singing lessons with Lois Johnston, a magnificent soprano opera singer. I was her youngest student, and I was extremely lucky that she decided to take me on! I was then passed down to one of her students, Jamie Ling, who was my singing teacher for many years. I credit these two women in essentially teaching me how to sing. Their lessons in technique have aided me throughout my singing career. 

However, as I grew older, I wanted to move towards the R&B, jazz and popular music genres. Two years ago, I discovered Nathan Phillips Vocals, a vocal and artist development company, and decided to sign up for lessons. It’s these guys that gave me the opportunity to record my own music. Without them, I truly would never be where I am today!

What other projects might we know you from?

I have performed around and about Christchurch in many competitions and shows over the years, but quite honestly, you’ve probably never heard of me!

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

For the longest time, I didn’t believe I could song write. I truly thought I was completely rubbish at it, so I didn’t bother much with trying. I only wrote my first song two years ago, and since then songwriting has come more naturally to me. As I grew older, I was able to move away from the cliches of songwriting and instead write music that expresses who I am as an artist.  

Why just ‘Billie’ and not something longer or made up?

Well, I have gone through most of my life with people mispronouncing and mis-spelling my last name, Leiataua, so I thought I’d make it easier and just stick with my first name, Billie. However, that may change!

What makes Mind stand out for you as a single?

I think the simplicity of Mind is what made it stand out for me. I felt it was a song that a wide audience of people could relate to and enjoy, making it a solid choice as my first single. The song is pretty chilled but still has that upbeat feel.

What is the story behind Mind?

I wrote Mind at the beginning of this year, after a much-needed summer holiday break. Essentially, Mind is a reflection on the vulnerable and emotional ups and downs of my past year. It’s about being unsure about the future and yourself and being stuck inside your own head and trying to figure it all out.

After writing the chorus, I started working on the song with Marley Sola, the producer of the track. He put the instrumentation and music together to which I later wrote the rest of the song too. 

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

‘Want me to open up and tell you about my day, share my feeling like I’m paying you straight,’ or, ‘Do I care? Pour a glass for a cynic’.

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

The amazingly talented Marley Sola was the producer of this track. I’ve been working with him since the beginning of last year, and he has produced all of my tracks. I recorded the song at Nathan Phillips Vocals in their studio. No funny stories that I can think of, unfortunately!

What is it that you want listeners to take away from this song.

I guess, whatever they want! I believe music is really personal to each individual listener and that people will take away different things from the same song. Some people just enjoy the sound of the music, while others will listen and connect with the lyrics of a song. 

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

I think a song that will relate and engage with a wide audience of people, as well as expressing who you are as a musical artist. Also choosing a song that you think will do well in today’s current music market and industry will only do you favours. I think when you’re writing music you always have favourites, so sometimes choosing is as easy as that!

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

Definitely! My next single, Nights Like These, is being released on September 27, which is very exciting! I will also be releasing an EP in early November. I am currently recording two new songs, which will be released late this year/early next year, so be sure to look out for those!

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

If you’re wanting some local tunes then these are some of my favourites: 

LadyMako Road
Grocery Shopping – Nat & Jono
GlitterBenee

Have any of your previous applications not been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there? 

This is my first single, and I am very lucky that it was selected for NewTracks! However, I know I won’t always be this fortunate, so my advice is to just keep trying, because you never know what could come from something or happen as a result. 

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? How did you work it out in the end?

From memory, I don’t recall any struggles with the application for NewTracks! It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. However, I know the criteria for NZ On Air funding is much harder. 

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

I love NPR Music and their NPR Tiny Desk Concerts – Daniel Caesar’s performance is truly breathtaking, I thoroughly encourage you to check it out! Also a big fan of BBCRadio1VEVO and the Live Lounge Covers. 

How can we find you on social media?

You can find me here:

Any last words?

A big thank you to NZ Musician magazine for this opportunity, a true pleasure! Thank you to Nathan Phillips and Marley Sola, without you guys this single wouldn’t even exist. And finally, thank you to everyone who has listened to Mind already, be sure to keep a lookout for future music very soon!