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NewTracks New Artist: Brutha Rodz

NewTracks New Artist: Brutha Rodz

You might well remember him fronting Whanganui band Cool Meditation, or the shorter-lived RTI Vibration, but reggae singer Rodney Te Tawhero has since taken up a new challenge, going it alone as a solo artist under the name Brutha Rodz. His song On My Mind is part of NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this May. 

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

My name is Rodney Te Tawhero, aka Brutha Rodz, and I am from the centre of the universe – Raetihi. I mainly sing but I play the guitar and keys as well. Just by ear! I’m not a master of any instrument, lol. But I mostly enjoy the composing and production and creation of a waiata!

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

I remember the first time I recorded a song in college in 2002 with a handful of bros. I learnt how to record way back then so that’s something I always remember fondly about music in my college days. Otherwise, there hasn’t been much music schooling or training. She’s all feel baby! Haha.

Any previous projects might we know you from?

Maybe… I used to be the lead singer and songwriter for Cool Meditation – a reggae band from Whanganui we started in 2014. We opened the reggae stage at the very last Raggamuffin Concert in 2016 after winning a nationwide talent search at the end of 2015. We also played at East Coast Vibes in Gizzy, 2019 and opened Day 2 at One Love two weeks later.
Or more recently, in October last year, I was a finalist in a songwriting competition called Korihi which aired as a 2-hour special on Maori TV.

How did the Brutha Rodz project come to be?

Brutha Rodz the performer only came about as a result of Covid-19. She locked us all down hard for a bit there and I had some decisions to make if I wanted to carry on with my music. Things with Cool Meditation had already been cooling down for a while – last gig being One Love 2019 – so I spoke to my hun and told her I was thinking of going solo and she was very supportive of the idea, and voila! Brutha Rodz!!!

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

I think I’ve tried to stick to the same kind of writing style since my first in 2009. I just try to keep my message real and raw, honest and upfront. Just a truthful insight of what I’m feeling so strongly about in song form. Reggae styleee! Cuh mi ah loooove reggae music!!!

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Brutha Rodz? I didn’t even come up with it, so nmo big spectacular story about it, lol. My mates and family and everyone have called me that for as long as I can remember! Especially in Whanganui! I suppose I just spelt it like that on my own though, lol. I just spelt it how I thought I could hear it.

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

As Brutha Rodz I’ve only played one gig to date, which was definitely a highlight. I played at the Kotahitanga Festival in February this year in Taumarunui. My first ever solo gig under my belt and I’m keen to start racking ’em up asap! My first two releases, My Hero and For The Children are also very big highlights, as is being featured in NZ Musician! Yayurrr!!!

What is the story behind On My Mind?

On My Mind is a snapshot of what was on my mind when my partner and I experienced a miscarriage. I was gutted, but my heart was broken more so for her. I felt so helpless, I couldn’t do anything to make either of us feel any better but all I could say/do and wanted to say/do was, ‘I love you, and I’m here for you.’

What makes On My Mind stand out for you as a single?

Mainly the message. Miscarriages are very regular occurrences and can be devastating and heartbreaking for some. For men especially it can be hard to express that! This is how I expressed it. It’s also a very powerful and comforting message. Miscarriages aren’t anybody’s fault. Our baby’s just had a bigger purpose to serve than the life we know.

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

I love the backing vocals in this song. Big up my Cool Meditation fam Stevie Collier, and Luke and Te Oranga Whanarere. Blessed love my brothers and sister! I also love the subtle little synth lead things in the verses.

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

I wrote the song on my own and made the whole beat on a MIDI keyboard using Logic Pro X. I sent the song to another of my Cool Meditation brothers – Tyson Tauri who laid down live drums and bass, added guitar and mixed the whole track again. It was then mastered by Nigel Mauchline at The Stomach studio in Palmerston North.

I’ve been sitting on this song for a long time now – and almost deleted it a number of times, lol. But my partner and I are stronger now so I felt good about releasing it and sharing it.

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

For those who haven’t experienced a miscarriage – awareness, compassion, empathy and knowledge. For those who have – peace, comfort, closure, strength and courage.

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

Every song is a good song and can be a good single! Every song has a tune and a message and has the potential to influence you! Music is love!! Share! Share! Shaaaare!

Anyone else in your team?

No team as such. But I can’t do anything 100 without the support of my partner who is pretty much indirectly my manager, tour guide, critic, wardrobe, agent, budget advisor, accountant and security… so it’s just us two! But we’re 1 so…

And in saying that I have sent all my new stuff so far to Caleb Haapu who produces, mixes and masters all my tracks before I submit them to Tunecore for distribution to the online and digital media platforms. Thank you my Sta! I love your mahi so much bara! 

Tbh: I don’t really do too much in the way of promotion and publicity. Just a young share and post on Facebook and Instagram, lol.

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

Yes! I have a new single coming out toward the end of June called Heart of a Lion, featuring my Whanganui awa brother Wiz Tokelau.

I am also aiming to drop a 6-song EP in September. I’m already done writing and composing, now I’m working on recording it before sending them all to Caleb for his touch of magicianship / musicianship and professional gloss. Hoping for some NZOA funding for both projects… hint… putting it out there…

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside yours?

Off the top of my head…

  • HerbsAlways On My Mind 
  • House of Shem & WizI Love Your Girl 
  • House of Shem – Anything You Ask For

Purely because they all share a similar message in the way of absolute love for someone! Plus I love all three songs and performers. Bit of a lovers’ playlist lol.

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

This is the first song I’ve submitted to NewTracks so I’m truly wrapt it got included. I missed the deadline for My Hero and For The Children, lol.

And I’m waiting for the next round of decisions to come out mid-May! I submitted my first few applications before the April deadline so we’ll see how we go later this month! Fingers crossed lol.

My advice would be to stay as busy and as active as possible early on. To meet that criteria asap. Then you can apply all the time.

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

I wish I was that technological but… not to be. No idea about any of that super stuff, lol.

Is there a music video to go with?

No video yet but… when NZOA makes their decisions in mid-May, there could be one soon after. Toes are crossed too now! But if it does get funded I’d most probably hit up my bro Te Oti Mareikura. Chur Biggie Blax!

Any last words?

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for the feature NZM! I hope to do heaps more in the future. Thank you, Aotearoa for supporting NZ music! God bless!

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