Wellington vocalist Crystal Amor-Ponter failed music in high school, but that didn’t stop her from making it as a supporting act at gigs for years. As Crystal the artist has had a line of single releases – culminating recently with One Dollar Pizza. The singer-songwriter’s new single is an intimate and personal celebration of everything unique about New York City. Crystal’s track came to the attention of NZ On Air Music and it features on their NewTracks compilation this March.
My name is Crystal Amor-Ponter, I was born in Wellington and still currently live here. I can play a few chords on keys but primarily I am a vocalist and producer (making music on your laptop most definitely counts as an instrument).
I was in barbershop in high school and took music as a subject up to Year 13, but I failed that in my last year (lol). It wasn’t till I got to university where I studied commercial music that I learnt about music production, and had countless opportunities to perform in front of my peers, where I really started to develop and grow the confidence and skills to start my own music project.
Crystal is my first project.
I had been crafting a bunch of songs for a while in my spare time outside of uni and work. One of my closest friends whose music project is Jack Panther was putting on a flat gig for one of his earliest releases, and he invited me to perform.
Although I was hesitant at first, I agreed to it. From that gig and through word of mouth I guess, I started to slowly pick up more and more gigs, and that’s really how it officially began. I’m grateful that I was surrounded by supportive friends who believed in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone during that time. Those same friends are still by my side today. That gig was at the end of 2018, and I’ve been developing my project ever since.
I used to write songs without music at the very beginning. Everything was lyric-based, and I’d figure out the chord structure and melodies afterwards. As I’ve learnt production, my songwriting generally starts on Ableton Live. I will find a certain synth sound or splice loop I like, edit/create a chord progression and then develop my ideas from that.
Music is a very intimate and personal experience for me, so using my birth name, Crystal, stylised in capitals because it visually looked better to me, just felt like the right way to go. It was never something I had to think twice about, I always knew it would be that.
That’s a tough one. Hmmm, I think opening for Kian in 2019 was pretty huge for me. At the time, his single Waiting was blowing up online. He was touring NZ and Aus with his band and management, and signed to a huge label etc. Yet, here I am — no music released online, self-managed and produced, still studying and working a part-time hospo job. It was a super cool gig to get because it made me realise that anything is possible. You can be presented with amazing opportunities and be noticed if you work hard at your art and never give up.
The way it’s produced and written, it’s 100% me. It doesn’t sound like anyone else. It’s super emotive, and a lot of that does come down to the production, which really does intensify and accentuate everything I’m saying. Also, the song tittle is pretty quirky, but I think when you are making art it’s definitely a good thing to be a bit different.
It was written after a family holiday to New York City a few years ago – it was the first time I had visited as an adult. I was obsessed with Gossip Girl for a long time, and seeing NYC in real life felt like a dream; overwhelming but in the most exciting way.
Once we had returned home from the trip it was hard not to feel like life was mundane and my world, super small. At the time I had just finished up my first year studying commercial music and was starting to get serious about music production. I spent my summer writing lyrics and producing demos about my holiday experiences and how they made me feel because I felt so inspired. I needed to document everything while it was still so vivid.
One Dollar Pizza is a celebration of my love for New York City, and my yearning for escape from my hometown to something bigger.
My favourite lyrics are, “I’ve explored all the shops, the nightlife it all — nothing new anymore, and now I’m getting bored”. When you’ve lived in the same place your whole life, sometimes you have moments where everything feels so small and you just really want to get out. That line just captures completely how I was feeling when I wrote the song, and how I sometimes feel even now.
Because I write straight onto Ableton Live, this song was already being produced as I wrote it. Once I got the song to a rough demo state, I took it to my friend Alex McMillan (who I met at uni), and we spent some time on it together, refining the drum pattern and recording a bit of real guitar. We went back and forward for a while on it, which ended up being a couple of years; tweaking and refining.
I spent a lot of late nights on it in my bedroom, where it was all recorded, just trying to find the perfect synths, adding vocal harmonies and automating specific parts of the production (being a perfectionist doesn’t help). Early on I was getting songwriting mentoring from local musician Dylan Frater. Although this song is entirely written by me, he really helped with the structure of this song, and guided me to its final state.
This might sound lame but I would love for someone to listen to the song, and for them to feel uplifted, and just feel good. I mean, the song is about a strong love for something which is exciting and amazing, but can also turn into heartbreak. That’s super relatable. I hope people can connect to it.
In my own experience, I’ve chosen my singles based on what is exciting me, and inspiring me to create more. If I can listen to a song of mine a million times over and still get excited about it and love it, then I know it may be a single. A single just has a special kind of energy, you just feel it.
My team is predominately me! I am self-managed and do all my own PR. I do collaborate on music with my friends Alex McMillan and Nik Brinkman. For visuals/photography, I work with Mia Vinaccia and Ben Dickens. I’ve been working with Toby Lloyd of Tiny Triumph Recordings for mixing, and his friend Robin Schmidt (based in Germany) masters my stuff.
I am currently in the process of finishing up my debut project, as well as the visuals to accompany that. Keep an eye out on my social media for what’s coming…
I’ve applied for NewTracks previously for a different song but this is the first time I’ve been successful (very grateful). My advice for others applying would be to put your best foot forward and to always believe in yourself. If it doesn’t happen straight away, keep working hard and developing — never give up. Patience is key.
Yeah, there’s lots of criteria I still need to meet but I’m still establishing myself and I’m still super new to the industry. With time and experience, I think I will be able to secure what is needed to be able to apply for funding so I’m not too disheartened about that.
Use your Covid tracer app and be kind. Thank you so much :’)
New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.