by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Nessie Oh

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Nessie Oh

Tauranga’s Vanessa-mae Scrivens, aka Nessie Oh, met Blindspott guitarist Brandon Reihana through their mutual interest in streaming on Twitch. After initially sharing ideas for music with one another online the two decided to collaborate in writing a song, which resulted in the stirring new single Ki Te Āo Mārama. NZ On Air Music featured the epic song on their NewTracks compilation this March.

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

Kia ora, my name is Vanessa-mae Scrivens but I go by the artist name Nessie Oh. I am able to play most common instruments, such as guitar, piano, drums, bass and even learnt a bit of violin. Nowadays I usually stick to singing!

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

My high school experience was very much based around music! Having a great music teacher was definitely a big part of why I pursued music,. I was awarded ‘top musician’ in my school a couple of times and then went on to study music after high school, gaining a Level 5 certificate and a Level 6 diploma in Music Production and Performance.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

Ki Te Āo Mārama is my debut single. I hadn’t released anything officially prior to that, though I have done many live performances and posted my music to social media!

What’s the background story of how Nessie Oh came to be?

Nessie Oh, is just me, a 24-year-old, Māori female with a passion for music and an appreciation for a wide selection of genres!

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

Writing music has always been a great outlet for me to express those big emotions that at times we just can’t seem to talk about. Five years ago I would say my music was certainly a lot more subtle in the way of production and lyrics, whereas now I’m able to almost let my emotions make themselves into music.

How did you come to choose Nessie Oh as your artist name?

Identity is important for me as I am named after a great violinist named Vanessa-Mae, and I feel like if I used my real name I could not have a separate identity from hers or just have the feeling of living in her shadow. My whole life people called me different things, bunches of different nicknames, like Ness, Nessa, Vans, Vaness. Just a bunch of shortened versions of Vanessa. So one day my mum and I had a chat about what would be a cool name for social media and she had given me all these great ideas and I said, “What about Nessie?” And she said “Oh” but with a disappointed tone and we laughed, and so it began Nessie Oh! Originally it was my Twitch handle, and eventually people started to associate my music with that name, so it stuck.

What makes Ki Te Āo Mārama stand out for you as a single?

Ki Te Āo Mārama, for me, is such a raw song. I think the realness of it has to be the biggest thing for me. The genuine emotion I felt while singing made me recognise the great significance that music actually affects us emotionally.

What’s the story behind Ki Te Āo Mārama?

Ki Te Āo Mārama is actually a super emotional song for me, something that I’ve held on so tightly to for the past two years while putting it together. I was sent maybe a 30-50 second snippet of the track as an idea over two years ago and at the time, my family was going through such a rough patch. We were losing my Nan, my mothers’ mother, someone that held our family together in love and life.

So with me being someone who struggles to open up about my emotions, this track was sent to me at a time when, coincidentally, I needed it most. I played the track and instantly started singing in my first language (Te Reo Māori) about what I felt, gratitude, love and also a lot of grief. And that’s where it all started.

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

I would most certainly have to say the bridge is my favourite part! The lyrics read:
Kua kī ngā kapua(The clouds are full) Ō Tawhirimatea (Of the God of weather) Heke mai te ua (Let it rain) Mai rangitūhāhā (Down from Heaven).
Which actually was inspired by one of my Nan’s favourite church songs that you would always hear her singing around the house.

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

Brandon Reihana (Blindspott) and I collaborated on this song. He was the one who sent me the snippet of it, not expecting much of it and told me he could see this song being great. We actually met through Twitch as we both streamed quite a lot and eventually began sending each other song ideas, which then resulted in Ki Te Āo Mārama.
All of this was done over the internet, we would send the tracks and ideas back through email. He would send me the tracks and I’d record my vocals at home and then send them right back for him to mix! A handy little system we have.

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

A lot of people in their life have dealt with grief, and from this song I would like them to take away whatever they feel they need to. I genuinely want people to feel those big feelings that they may struggle to talk about, for themselves and for the sake of their mental health. Losing loved ones is a big deal and isn’t an easy thing to overcome or process.

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

I think that the way a song makes you feel is a great way to determine if it’s good or not. You don’t want to create a song that isn’t going to resonate with people who may listen to them.

Who else is in your team?

My manager is Brandon Reihana who also doubles as my producer! He is very talented in the way of music and I’m very lucky to be able to have him guide me through a lot of this journey! I don’t know where I would be without his wisdom and great friendship!

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

I have a bunch of music that will be out this year that I am super excited to share with everyone! These songs are packed full of emotion and are also completely different to each other.

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

  • Aro: Taniwha
  • Maisey Rika: Tangaroa Whakamautai
  • Rob Ruha, The Witch Dr, Kaaterama, The Rū-cru: I Te Pō

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

This is actually the first song I have released, and is the only song we have ever applied for the NewTracks funding for, which is amazing! Brandon, my manager, actually took care of that and told me he had done it a while after which I was totally stoked about it!

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

I love to keep up to date on Youtube and Instagram with what’s going on in the world of music, watching Vevo performances etc, but I can’t say I have anything that I’m super into

Any plans for a music video for the track?

There is a music video coming out soon! It will end up on Youtube. In September last year (2022) I asked three great friends of mine, Alyse, Eden and Journey, if they wanted to represent their tīpuna (ancestors) in my music video and they were so keen. I dreamed about how it would go and wrote it all down, we hand made costumes and I did hair and make-up in a car park in the forest and we just went hard the whole weekend, driving almost two hours to the location each day. My great friends Derrin Richards and his partner Moira Lomas are the videographers, they helped me so much and had so much patience working with four young adults who couldn’t stop laughing and being silly.

I directed a lot of the scenes with help from Derrin. It was an absolutely amazing experience and I cannot wait for everyone to see what we cooked up!

Any last words?

I would just like to say that I am so grateful for all the love I have received. I love that I can represent my culture and ancestors and people embrace it and love it as much as I do. Ngā mihi.