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NewTracks New Artist: Personal Igloo

NewTracks New Artist: Personal Igloo

Taupō reprazents’ A Bit Nigel were Rockquest national finalists for three years on the trot, finally nailing the big prize in 2013. Vocalist and guitarist Hamish Nixon said then of the win, “We’ve been experimenting for three years and we finally found what the judges wanted.” Close on a decade later Nixon still displays that sort of smartly thoughtful approach to his music-making as alt pop solo act Personal Igloo. His most recent single, Piranha, brought him to NZ On Air‘s attention with a spot on their NewTracks compilation this February.

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

My name is Hamish Nixon, proud to be hailing from the great Lake Taupō but I have been up in the big smoke for eight years now. I label myself as a bedroom producer and songwriter, fiddling on the guitar, bass, keys, drum samples and production all myself!

Any other projects might we know you from?

I have been in two other bands before this project; A Bit Nigel which formed at high school and then led onto Lot.12. Both of which have music online that you can listen to!

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

High school was a huge part of my musical journey, not only in finding the passion for making music but most memorably winning the National Smokefreerockquest in 2013 with my band A Bit Nigel.

What’s the background of how Personal Igloo came to be? 

With my previous band Lot.12 parting ways in 2016, I was left alone with my thoughts, guitars and a 2012 MacBook Pro. With far too much self-fulfilment and pleasure from playing and writing music, Personal Igloo came about 2-3 years ago when I just couldn’t sit still anymore. I wanted to get my music online, I wanted to play live shows again. After several years of listening to some of my newly discovered favourite artists, it would be fair to say that Personal Igloo emerged as the love child to various alternative R&B and bedroom oop influences.

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

Traditionally, and I think vocally, I come from a more rock-orientated background. I was drawn to this style when I would write music as a teenager, but perhaps several years down the track, and to be quite honest – several blunt rotations later, I find myself very much drawn to the sonic bliss that is contemporary alternative RnB. You hear this in my production, yet my raspy, rocky voice is something that will never stray. I think it’s important to stick to your guns, and my voice is my most identifiable asset. I have just tried to subtly blend it into some more interesting instrumentation and production.

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

When people ask me about the name Personal Igloo, I often say, “What does it mean to you?” The usual responses are, “in your own head”, “isolation”, “inner sanctuary” or “comfort”.
Personal Igloo means all of those things, as all of those things have a deep meaning to me as a person.

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

Recently teaming up with Sam Horgan from Earshot Music as my booking manager and Benji James from GYROstream A&R have been some big highlights of mine. Two guys that know the biz well and have belief in my music. The odd play on George FM has been pretty humbling too!

My key initial focus as an independent artist was pushing my music out digitally as effectively as I could. I am over the moon to have already received a healthy amount of Spotify editorial playlisting, that’s getting me some good streams and putting my music in front of new fans.

What makes Piranha stand out for you as a single?

I wrote and composed Piranha in the nationwide lockdown of August 2021. Like many other artists I saw the lockdown as a great opportunity to really crack down on some new songs and ideas. The easiest way to put it would be that Piranha simply flowed the best for me. I felt like I was in a good flow state writing it, and I actually really enjoyed the process of making this song. So many songs end up getting stumped at 75% completion, then you are already on to the next idea. Not Piranha, whatever was in the water that week, that shit got done quite easily lol. Also…I kind of just like the vibe of it?

What is the story behind Piranha?

Piranha is meant to symbolise the importance of taking the time away to recharge your social battery. Unlike many Kiwis, the 2021 lockdown was actually an amazing time for me, and after spending so many months away from close friends and our usual antics, I was simply raring to go socially. Piranha is a bit of an “introvert anthem” so to speak. I guess the process of making this song was quite an insightful tool for my own mental health and positive outlook on life.

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

I produced all of the instrumentation before even tackling the lyrics, I often do that with my songs. I was very much vibing to the music, so it felt like I was on the right track which evoked a sense of confidence with my lyrics. My favourite lyric however would have to be the final line of the chorus ‘…one small bite is enough for Piranhas’ – a metaphor for getting just the right amount of your social dose.

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

As I was in lockdown, I actually wrote and produced the entire song myself. It was an incredibly fulfilling process. I then passed on the stems to my good mate Hayden Taylor who I have worked with in the past, and who did a lovely, clean mix and master for me.

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

I’d really like listeners to get a feel for my authentic self as an artist with this, but also try and incorporate their own experiences into the lyrics, as all good songs do. It’s not a bad groove for head nodding along as well…

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

I guess you can just sort of tell…outside opinions are pretty key as well though! I did feel this song was a direction I really wanted to start taking my music in, and I want people to understand that.

Who else is in your team?

Other than myself, as chief/selfish songwriter, vocalist, producer and performer, I have had a lot of help from all these different Sams! I can’t get rid of them. My good mate Sam Isaacs who has a background in audio engineering and production has helped me with several tracks and my first EP. He also plays keys in my live band. My other great mate Sam Marshall slaps the bass when we play live, and I recently teamed up with Sam Horgan as my new booking manager. Sam Horgan is booking manager for the likes of Sachi and Baynk, so very excited to be teamed up with him.

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

I have a sophomore EP in the works, following my debut ‘Phone-in Serotonin’ in late 2020, so that’s exciting, but I am really looking to take my live show to new heights this year. It’s already been a niggly year with red light restrictions, but I know in my core that playing live is going to be the most effective way to convey my music to people and get new fans, and I’m very excited about that.

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

Also just anything from the bro Skinnyandsoft.

Have any previous NZOA applications been accepted? 

My track Material Girl which I released in June 2021 was picked up for NewTracks. This was by far my most commercial track to date but still felt authentic to me and my sound. It perked the ears of a few programme directors which was nice. I guess the direction I took with that song was a bit more intentional to appeal to a more pop audience.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in this application? 

One of the specific criteria was I didn’t have a feature until late 2021 when I released a tune called Cash My Jaw with the talented Skinnyandsoft. Stoked to have that tune out for your listening pleasure.

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

I have familiarised myself and read up on many blogs over the past 18 months, largely due to the fact I have been reaching out to them with my new music. But I do really enjoy the podcast Song Exploder, I guess it’s just refreshing and interesting to hear some big artists take on their own songwriting process. I recommend it to independent musicians.