NewTracks New Artist: Tia Ward

NewTracks New Artist: Tia Ward

Tia Ward is fairly new to the public eye but can already boast having worked with heavyweights such as Josh Fountain and Warren Maxwell, all the while still studying music at Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s Massey University. Out just in time for summer, Ko Wai Ahau features on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this December. 

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

Kia ora, ko Tia Ward ahau. Ko Taranaki me Ngāti Maniapoto tōku iwi engari e Te Whanganui A Tara. I was born and raised in Hawkes Bay but moved to Wellington in 2020 to study music at Massey and pursue a career in music.

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

I was blessed to have singing lessons from five years old with my kaiako Winston Pitt. He taught me everything I know about singing and controlling my voice.

Any other previous projects we might know you from?

I started to release music last year with my debut single Paint Dry produced by Josh Fountain. In 2022 I have released an EP titled ‘Me & Me Too.’

What’s the background story of how this project came to be?

I chose to release a waiata Māori as a part of my final university major project. My project was about pre and post-colonial waiata Māori. I was lucky enough to have a poem gifted to me by Matiu Tahi from Tuhoe. I then constructed the poem into a waiata that would fit into a post-colonial waiata structure. I was also blessed to be mentored by Warren Maxwell. Once the waiata was written I jumped into the studio and Toby Lloyd then produced the track!

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

I remember the first ever song I wrote was when I was about 8 years old and I wrote a song all about the days of the week and what I had on each day after school. My writing process has definitely developed over the years. I used to write very literally, whereas now I like to create metaphors about very specific moments in my life.

What made you decide to go with your own name as artist name?

I kept my name as my artist’s name as a thank you to my parents. They have given me everything I have ever needed and the best way I could say thank you to them was to keep my artist name as my real name. Also my name is a taonga and I want everyone to know who I am and where I come from.

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

Having the opportunity to work with Josh Fountain in Auckland on my first-ever release. It was the first time I ever stepped into a recording studio and it was an awesome start to the studio life and how it all works. I was lucky as well to have my mum come with me on this journey and it was an absolute blessing!

What makes Ko Wai Ahau stand out for you as a single?

It is my first ever waiata Māori. This track was the first step I have taken upon my reconnecting with my Māoritanga and whānau. This has been an incredibly humbling experience and I feel this waiata stands out as a single as it has made an impact on not just my life but life of my whānau.

What is the story behind Ko Wai Ahau?

Ko Wai Ahau tells the story of one receiving their moko kauae and how much of a taonga it is to receive one. It speaks on the process before and during one goes through. I then related the poem to myself by asking ‘who am I?’ Moko kauae tells the story of one’s whakapapa and their life journey so the kauae is the answer to ‘Who am I?’

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

“Waihoki taaia koe hai hoa orange mo Hineataahua,” meaning, “You were put in place as a friend in life for Hineataahua.”

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

I hope that anyone who listens to this waiata who doesn’t feel ‘Māori enough’ or isn’t in touch with their Māori side as much as they wish they were that it’s okay! And you should not feel whakamā about it. We all have a different way of reconnecting and for many of us it takes many many years and again that is okay. I hope that this waiata also encourages more of our Māori people to start the process of reconnecting with their Māoritanga.

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

I tend to play each track I make to either a few of my close friends or my whānau and see what sticks in their heads. I will know what makes a good single based on whether I can hear them still humming the song in their head a few days later.

Who else is in your team?

Producer: Toby Lloyd Tiny Triumph Recordings
PR Promotion: Lil Sister/NicNak 
My biggest support system and biggest fans: My whānau

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

I plan to have lots of gigs next year and I will be continuing to write and release singles gearing up for my first album release in 2024.

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

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

My two fav podcasts are the Mai FM Mai Morning Crew Podcast and On Purpose with Jay Shetty. Next year I will be starting up my first-ever podcast called the Girly Swirly Podcast, so stay tuned for that!

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