NewTracks New Artist: Chase Woods

NewTracks New Artist: Chase Woods

With his debut album scheduled for early December and his few previous singles having flown under the radar, October was a perfect time for Te Papa-i-Oea artist Wirihana Nikora aka Chase Woods to get a track included on NZ On Airs NewTracks compilation this November. He’s an artist who, for the time being at least, is seeking to speak very much from the heart by telling the stories of his own life in song.  

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

My name is Wirihana Nikora and I’m from Te Papa-i-Oea! Unfortunately, I can’t play any instruments – I’ve tried to learn but never had any success, haha!

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

I never did music in high school. I think I was too shy, but I wish I did. I haven’t had any music training.

Any other music projects we might know you from?

I released my first song Date Night in 2021. I have a few other singles out but probably nothing you would recognise. I’m very new to the scene at this point.

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

I moved back to Te Papaioea, my hometown, from Kirikiriroa, leaving a lot of my friends and immediate family. At the time, I saw Palmy as a roadblock for my music and couldn’t seem to find inspiration. It wasn’t until I was watching Rick Rubin’s Broken Record interview with Kendrick Lamar that I realised I could tap into all the great childhood stories my brother and I have. The project is a journal full of excerpts from my upbringing. It’s based on things that are all completely true, things we saw and did as kids.

My producer Josh Crosland, aka Shush, really helped me bring those stories to life with nostalgic instrumentals and beats. The rest of the team I have around me specialise in creating content and they help to bring the visual side of the story to life.

How has your writing evolved from your first songwriting to now?

I actually have things to talk about now which has really helped. My writing process has changed a lot since I started. I now write down the concept/idea I want to talk about, the overall whakaaro I guess you could say. Then, I pick it apart piece by piece before I finally put it all together. This helps me keep the narrative through the whole song and also helps me structure the song. I think I still have a long way to go before I am where I want to be, but I am learning more every day and with every song I make.

How did you decide to go with Chase Woods as your artist name? 

A big thing for myself, but also Māori as a whole, is our land, our whenua. So to me, Chase Woods is about trying to reclaim that. It’s about chasing those little moments that have so much meaning, like being in a forest, looking up at the trees around you and becoming transported somewhere else mentally.

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

Has to be my first gig, Hometown Hustle in Kirikiriroa. My whole whānau came out to support and they were there front and centre in the crowd, along with my friends. I was also able to get my brother up on stage to perform some of my songs with me – an unreal experience for us to share. For me, that was the moment that confirmed that what I really want to do is perform.

What makes Landlords stand out for you as a single?

The storytelling. I only ever write from a place of experience. All the stories in the song are true. I think in this day and age a lot of people talk about things that they haven’t yet experienced, or on the other hand, maybe they aren’t as honest about the experiences they have had. Landlords is a truly authentic recollection of stories and I think that’s what makes it special.

What is the story behind Landlords?

On its surface Landlords is a recount of various stories of my childhood, the things I saw while growing up in Palmy. At its core, the overarching story of the song is that 100 kids could grow up in the same way and end up in totally different places in life. I grew up with kids that now own their own homes, businesses etc., but I also grew up with kids who are now in gangs, prison etc. The Monopoly theme was specifically chosen to encapsulate this.

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

“Time don’t stop for nobody, there’s no sorry on a clock.”

Time can be nostalgic, it can move quickly or slowly. There is beauty in time, but it can also be scary. So to me, this line is like the old cliche which rings so true, ‘time stops for no one’. So you really do have to get out and make the most of every moment and every opportunity it offers.

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

The song is produced by Josh Crosland and written by myself. I wrote it in my bedroom/home studio in Te Papaioea. It was recorded in Sector 22, our studio in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. The funniest thing about making this song was recording the first demos and then asking my partner if she wanted to hear it, to which she replied, “I’ve heard it about a million times already, at all different pitch levels while you were recording it.”

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

No matter where you come from, you ultimately control your future. But also, don’t take it for granted that the future will come, make the most of each moment.

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

It starts with a feeling. Once I have that, I send it to a few people in my team and to a few people in my whānau, all with different tastes and preferences. If they like it and I like it, it’s a single.

Who else is in your team?

I am so lucky to have the team I do. Producer – Josh Shush Crosland. Managers – Nathan Blundell, Willson Kim and Sarah Thompson.Photographer – Jamie Leith

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

The team and I are currently doing a rollout for my debut EP ‘Terrace End Tapes’, set to be released on December 9. It will be made up of five songs, all produced by Shush. Landlords gives you a taste of my upbringing, but the EP gives you the fuller picture. You can expect more childhood excerpts, innovative songs, and relatable lyrics, especially for Māori.

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

  • Rhys Rich: No Confetti 
  • Avantdale Bowling Club: Still Feel Broke
  • Diggy Dupé feat. Sam V: Got Mine

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

We are very fortunate that this was our first time submitting. As far as advice goes, I would say just do it – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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

I think we only just met the standard for most of the criterion. We were discouraged because of this, but ultimately just did it anyway and hoped for the best!

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

Rick Rubin’s Broken Record. Kenny Beats on YouTube. Sniffers.

Any last words?

Ngā mihi nui to NZ On Air for accepting our NewTracks application! To any small or local artists who feel discouraged about sharing their art, don’t be – what do you really have to lose? Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei.