by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Bridges

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Bridges

Tāmaki Makaurau singer-songwriter Rachel Hamilton is already fully embedded in our local music industry, both on stages and behind the scenes. With a debut EP under her artist name Bridges scheduled for October this year, NZ On Air Music picked the melancholy but energetic Gone for their NewTracks compilation in August.

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

My name’s Rachel Hamilton. I grew up in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) but am now based in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). I play the guitar and sing!

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

I learnt violin for six years as a kid – this was super pivotal for me in training my ear, and I think has helped me a lot as an adult in music. I studied a Bachelor of Music at UoA, which is where I honed my craft and developed the kind of sound that I felt best represented me as a musician and songwriter.

What’s the background story to Bridges the artist? 

I’d been performing under my own name for a long time, as an acoustic singer-songwriter based in Ōtautahi. When I left the South Island and moved to Tāmaki Makaurau I was on a bit of a self-discovery quest. I also had a lot of healing to do after a few traumatic years as a teenager. To me Bridges signifies the transition ‘over’ (bridges – geddit 🙂) and ‘to’ a new place where I feel like me.

I came up with the name in 2018 when I was searching for a word that felt like a new beginning for my music. I liked the idea of a bridge being a metaphor for a transition from one place to another – which is where I was heading as a person – and was initially going to use it for a song. But then it kind of just felt like it was bigger than just a song; and so the whole artist project became Bridges!

The music I put out under Bridges is all about the journey – it’s emotive, messy, heartbreaking, joyful, and above all else, honest. The only other person directly and consistently involved in Bridges is Rāwiri Waters, the producer I regularly work with, who helps me articulate my feelings into sound.

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

As I’ve grown as a person throughout my 20s, my songwriting and music has grown too. I’ve discovered emotions like anger, bitterness, and regret, and heaps more, so my music has evolved into something more layered and expressive. I’ve always been super honest in my music; I’m just doubling down on that even more now and leaning into it.

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

Big highlight was opening for Aussie breakthrough act Teenage Dads recently at The Tuning Fork. It was my first all-ages show, and so much fun to play for a different audience than I usually get to be in front of.

What makes Gone stand out for you as a single?

That chorus! Love a good chorus.

What’s the story behind Gone?

Gone is about going through the motions of a break up; from reflective and melancholic grieving, through to proper confusion over how it could end like this; all the way to anger and a full-blown release. It’s a song I wrote to process the loss of my first relationship – he was someone who was in my life every day – to suddenly just not at all.

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

I’m a huge fan of a solid bridge in a song (another reason I chose the project name Bridges LOL), so my favourite moment of Gone would have to be the bridge – both lyrically and musically.

Who did you wrecord/produce the single with and where? 

I wrote Gone on a particularly melancholic night, alone on my bedroom floor. I was writing the verse and feeling super moody about it, then got stuck on the chorus. So I went to brush my teeth before bed, and BAM! the chorus basically wrote itself. Years later I recorded it at my home studio, with Rāwiri Waters on production. James Goldsmith mixed the track, and Brian Lucey mastered it.

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

Hopefully, a feeling they didn’t know they felt, or hadn’t had permission to feel before.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

My singles so far have been songs that are too important to me, lyrically, not to give them their own release as a stand-alone track. Along with that, they’ve also got to have the strongest melodies and structure out of anything I’ve written.

Who else is in your team?

My team is Rāwiri Waters (production + live band), and Bray Jefferys and Sam Nash (the rest of my incredible live band). NicNak Media are my wonderful publicity team, and DRM handles distribution. Also, shout out to my cat Snazzy who is always there for emotional support 😀

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

  • Alayna: Meteors
  • Robinson: Nirvana
  • Georgia Lines: My Love

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

Absolutely! I’ve applied for NZOA funding many times and not received it. There are so many incredible songs up for consideration in each round; so my advice would be try, and try again. Keep applying, and keep working on making your music better and better. Plan to put out music as best you can on whatever budget you have, and do it because you love making music. Then if you happen to submit the right song in the right round, the funding or NewTracks support is an awesome bonus to give what you were already doing a big boost.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggle with in applications? 

Probably getting those streaming numbers and social media follow numbers. I got those numbers up to where they needed to be by leaning on my friends and family to share my music and support me! It was a good push actually, to get over any fear I have of ‘putting myself out there’, and start the ball rolling in getting people to share my music.

Who did you make the video with?

I made the lyric video with Rāwiri Waters.

Any last words?

Thanks so much for the chat! Appreciate all that you do at NZ Musician to support local music.