Event sponsorship is another arm of local music industry support provided by NZ On Air outside of the more familiar funding and new release promotion platforms. Mostly that sponsorship takes the form of an opportunity to professionally record a single, which is precisely the background to Estella‘s Break The Silence – a heartfelt, flawlessly sung indie ballad you’ll find on the February 2019 New Tracks compilation. The singer/guitarist confidently represented the Nelson region (and Nelson College for Girls) in the solo/duo section of the 2018 Rockquest national final.
My full name is Estella Romagnoli, and I’m originally from Blenheim but have lived in Nelson for the past eight years – so that’s the place I consider home. I can play guitar, a bit of mediocre piano, some ukulele and one mind-blowing song on the banjo!
My biggest claim to fame was winning the solo/duo category of Smokefree Rockquest last year, which was why I got to record this single in the first place. I also got to feature on NZ Music Month’s Facebook page early last year playing two of my original songs.
The only other song I’ve recorded was with my school band, Equinox. It’s a murder ballad I wrote called Crown Of Honey Gold, but it wasn’t professionally done or anything. We basically put it on Spotify so that we could tell people we had a song on Spotify and feel somewhat important! Rockquest was obviously a large moment of personal success for me, other than that… let’s just say I’ve won a lot of school talent shows. I know, super impressive!
I started writing songs when I was 10, which was the same time I started learning guitar. Romagnoli is actually my step-dad’s last name, and one of the first songs I ever wrote was for his and my mum’s wedding. The main line in the song was, “It’s fun to be, a Romagnoli.”
I’ve always had a love of words, and of reading, language is as much of an art as anything else. I think my love of reading has largely influenced my songwriting over the years because I don’t want to just write a catchy tune, I want to provoke emotion in people, I want to say something. I think if you’re writing about something that’s real to you, that makes you feel, then it’s that much easier to press that emotion onto others.
I decided with my family and with the Rockquest people that my last name was just a bit hard to pronounce, while my first name on its own was still authentic enough to be recognisable.
I’ve been told that the way I compose and structure songs isn’t overly predictable and that I have a sound that is distinctly me. I like to think that it’s somewhat authentic, hopefully, you all do too. “Break the silence” is a line I repeat twice at the end of the song, and the name just seemed to fit what I was trying to convey throughout it.
I had someone close to me that I unintentionally hurt. I didn’t know how to fix it, and I felt bound by the silence between us. The song was an expression of my guilt, and my pleas to “break the silence” in the outro weren’t so much about them speaking to me again but more just wanting to shatter the thickness of the tension and the guilt that I was stuck in.
My favourite moment in the song is in the first chorus when the harmonies and vocal layering first come in. It’s all very bare and minimal at that point, and the way they were woven in gives it this lovely swooping feel. I really like what they did with it there.
My producer was Rodney Fisher from Goodshirt. Scott Seabright mixed it, and we had a few session musicians working with us as well. Nick Dow, Marika Hodgson, Dan Sperber and Sam Loveridge. We were at Roundhead Studios which is absolutely amazing, such a lovely place to work in.
In the room where Scott was doing the mixing, and where the majority of people there loitered around most of the time, there were four little screens showing footage from various security feeds around the building. A lot of the time when the musicians were figuring out what they were going to do on the track, or Scott was doing some mixing, I wasn’t actually needed, so my aunty and I went to play some ping pong in another room to pass the time. We had gotten extremely competitive and into the game, doing elaborate victory dances when one of us would win, before remembering that we were in one of the rooms shown on the security feeds where everyone was. Embarrassing to say the least!
It’s never too late to apologise, saying something is always better than saying nothing at all.
Break The Silence actually won Best Song overall in the Rockquest competition so that one was really a no brainer for me. It would have been rather foolish to ignore such a thing.
All songs and artists that I absolutely adore.
Well, I didn’t actually have to apply, as this opportunity was presented by rock quest.
I actually don’t meet a lot of the criteria I think. Seeing as I’m only 17 and still in school, I was able to get there through a competition. My advice is if you’re school-aged, try to go for something like Rockquest or Play It Strange, you’d be surprised of what can come out of it. I never thought I’d get into the top 10, let alone win it.
I made the video with Dave Thompson from Imaginary Friends and Christian Tjandrawinata. They’re both amazing at what they do, it was so much fun to work with them.