by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Britt Rion

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Britt Rion

Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, NZ On Air Music‘s monthly compilation of the upcoming local releases for broadcast use is these days called NewTracks. One sure proof of new-ness is that there are always tracks from artists we’ve previously known nothing about. NZM’s NewTracks New Artist gives such artists a chance to introduce themselves and their new song. Meet Aucklander Britt Rion who created one of the stand-out tracks of the February 2018 NewTracks compilation. Her debut single CHIMA is self-written, self-produced and to top it all off, Britt also directed the video herself. 

What other projects might we know you from?

Probably none. I was very good at hiding away(!) and more focused on my guitar.

What’s the background story to this project and the music?

Well… there’s quite a bit to it, but basically for most of my life I dreamed of playing guitar for someone else, for a big artist on their world tour. So I studied guitar after I finished school and my brain only fathomed that possibility, of playing behind someone else.

I’ve always been told I’m very shy & quiet, so that was where I placed myself within the dream of music.

Then at the end of 2015, I had my heart broken for the first time, which shook everything up really – I hadn’t seen it coming, I was very naive at the time. That experience left me in a place I’d never been before, where I was truly giving up on my music dream and no longer knew who I was. I didn’t know what I was meant to do with my life going forward. I was unemployed and I spent a lot of days just crying and writing in a journal in random places, like.. in a paddock with the cows, in a bush out the back of the house, in my car…

All in efforts to escape the experience or try make it pass quicker. To distract myself I thought I’d make an EP full of guitar instrumentals. But as I went to make stuff on Logic, I was putting in words from my journal, and I realised I was writing songs, so then I was like, ‘Crap, I know in my soul I need to try to sing this…’

I’m now thankful for that experience because really, I think it happened for a reason to show me who I was – I never fathomed that I could be an artist before because of the quiet and timid labels that were placed on me, but since then it’s all really become apparent to me that this was who I was all along – when I look back over my life, I was always making ideas on Logic and recording little things into my phone, but I never thought anything of it.

So that whole thing really kicked me into gear, and awakened me to my true self. Finally.

Is Britt Rion your real name? 

It’s kind of my real name, but kind of not. My real name’s Brittany Ryan. When I was thinking of a stage name I felt weird going under something that completely isn’t me, like a random word in capitals that a lot of artists do these days, but then I also felt weird using my real name. So I changed the spelling of Ryan to Rion – so that it’s like ‘lion’, but with an R. I did that ‘cos lions have a special meaning to me, and I’ve always seen them in dreams and stuff, ever since I was little.

What makes CHIMA stand out as a single?

I guess it stands out for me because it’s my first! So I think it’ll always be special to me because of that.

I wrote CHIMA when I was still quite fresh out of the heartbreak experience. I made the drop at home in my room and then I wrote the rest of it when I had my first time alone in a studio over new years 2017.

CHIMA’s a bit of a conversation – some lines are me talking, some aren’t. It’s also about sitting defeated on my bedroom floor, and that place being one where it feels the absolute worst, but in a wonderful way is actually the best, because you’re in a process of being shown more truth.

So I’m writing about being in pain, but at the same time trying to make it a war chant / anthem song for all of us confused and broken humans. To say, ‘In the midst of all this, I’m being shown who I am, and now I’m stepping in to my true self’.

And this revelation was really surprising to me because it seemed so backwards, discovering your whole purpose in the midst of something that was making no sense to me at the time and that I hated.

I guess writing CHIMA was a way of expressing that everything I regretted was finally making sense.For the music video concept, it has some hidden meaning to it in relation to the song’s theme and a storyline, but I think I want to keep that more of a mystery for people to figure out!

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

Ooh, it’s a little nerdy but there’s this part at the end of the second drop, where I brought in an extra bass synth on top of the normal one, and the bassline goes to the 1 then the 5.

The whole time during the song before that, the bass only ever went to the 6 – but it goes 1 to 5 and hearing that small change with the the same vocal hook over the top always gave me feels.

You notice it more when it’s played really loud through some good headphones. Oh and the guitar solo… I love guitar solos.

Did you write, record and produce the single with anyone else?

I wrote it by myself, and my first idea for it was the drop – I heard it fully produced in my head one day, playing over and over in my mind so clearly, so that was the first part I made.

The high vocal sound you hear in the drop is actually my first demo take with the reverb bounced out as one stem, I never re-did it.

Then I found that pad sound that plays in the very beginning and formed the verses around that vibe, and added in random tribal sounding drums I liked, and I was downloading ambient samples of the city at night, and samples of planes taking off to use as risers, and putting all those in there too.

I had it all written and produced, and then went in to the studio at Parachute with Rory Noble. Rory has all these high-quality plugins to choose from, so we replaced the kick sound with something more oomphy, found that tribal voice sample that plays in the chant, and added a synth in the last chorus to fill it out.

Rory was an awesome person to be in the studio with because he wasn’t weird about me just taking my time and looking through sounds on his laptop. He was super chill, and I feel like we get excited about the same sounds, production-wise.

We would get carried away just talking about music and production a lot of the time. We both like trying to make things sound different or have an element of magic. Then Rory mixed it for me while he was in Atlanta. He’s gonna be a famous producer, I reckon. He’s so good already and he’s only 21.

Describe in one sentence what you want listeners to take away from the song.

I would like people to take away the encouragement that whatever crap situation they’re facing right now that they never asked for, I encourage them to not give up, and that joy will chase and fight for them always.

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

I haven’t really got that down to a fine art yet… I think I’m still too fresh to this. Songs that I like have often been songs that others on my development team wouldn’t have picked first, so I’m still learning.

For CHIMA I sort of just knew in my heart that I should put it out first, sounds deep – haha.

I will be putting out more music! And I’m really big on visuals so I want the visual for it to be magical too. There’ll definitely be more creations this year.

Can you think of three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

  • 26 hours In LAX by Rory Noble – except it’s not released yet haha sorry guys! but I hope he puts it out soon because Rory makes really magical stuff under his own name. It sounds like you’re in a portal to another world and he made it entirely out of sounds sampled at an airport he got delayed in one time. Magic.
  • Human by Kimbra – I love her, it’s so good.
  • I really like It Won’t Hurt by The Venus Project, it takes you on a journey. I’m keen to hear the rest of the album too.

Any final words?

Thank you! And I would like to say that I’m stoked to live in NZ where we have such a supportive and nurturing music community and things like NZ On Air. Not many countries have these systems. NZ sets a great soil for growing its artists and I’m really thankful for that.