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by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Keren Mara

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Keren Mara

Former Ōtautahi music student Keren Enright performs under the name Keren Mara, a derivative of her first two given names. After working as musician and touring stage manager she’s now started releasing her own material. Her folky, sometimes Stevie Nicks-esque second single Under The Wind featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this May.

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

Hi, my name is Keren Enright and I live in Christchurch, NZ. I originally grew up In South East Asia, but have relocated along with the family back to my mother’s home town in the early 2000s. I play acoustic guitar and I sing and write songs =).

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

Definitely Ara Music School (formerly the Christchurch jazz school). It was at Ara where I had the first ever music training, technical and otherwise, and it was really life changing. I studied there from 2017 until 2022, doing a certificate in contemporary performance and then the Bachelor of Music Arts, graduating in 2022.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

Nothing really notable. I have been actively on the local music scene for a few years, playing covers at markets etc. And also did a stint touring on a fair last year as their stage manager/musician which was a really cool experience!

 

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

I think I definitely have always written in the same way, very intuitively and from the heart and emotions. I have specific things I hear in my head musically as well that now it’s awesome I have the ability and skills to be able to record and produce what I imagine! My music has been very much self therapy and it took a while to build up the confidence to share it with the world.

How did you decide on Keren Mara as your artist name?

Well, my middle name is Maria so i just took out the ‘i’, lol…I also like the Maori meaning of Māra being ‘garden’, or something. It really represents who I am and my connection to nature and Papatūānuku. So it’s really just a shortened version of my actual name. And yeah it’s just stuck!

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

Definitely touring with the travelling fair, as I got to do two things I love the most (although there were challenges), travel and music.

What makes Under The Wind stand out for you as a single?

I think all the right elements just came together. The right people were involved and it just worked. I think with music you can get really stuck in your head trying to perfect something, and you get so stuck in it that you lose the big picture perspective – and what people actually want to hear, or the vibe that is right. So I was lucky to have had the right people around me to help me with keeping on track.

What is the background story to Under The Wind?

This song took its time to come to fruition. Originally writing it in late 2022 and recording it in early 2023, I produced it alongside musician Harry Finlayson-Hood. But at the time I wasn’t ready to release it, and other things weren’t really working out, so I shelved it for a year.

It was really written randomly as I thought writing some new material would be easier than learning some new cover songs lol… But as I was writing it I really felt that there was something special there. Reflecting back on what I wrote, it was about inner strength and how you know life isn’t always going to be smooth, but it’s about learning to savour those moments and find that calm within yourself despite it. It’s really about inner strength, and me realising actually I am strong enough to overcome what I was going through.

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

My favourite lines are in the second verse…”but I might be the ivy, mighty and wild”…and then the guitar lick following those words. That my absolute favourite part, it captures the emotion of the song. The whole second verse, really!

Where did you work up the single? 

I’m pretty boring with my songwriting it’s just a thing I do in solitude at home in my simple home studio and as a form of figuring out my emotions etc..

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

I’d like the listeners to feel peace and know that they are stronger than they think and whatever you are going through, you aren’t alone.

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

Because I’m very new to the music industry I’m still figuring it out. But there definitely is a vibe or a feeling with a special song and I had that feeling with Under The Wind before recording it.

Is there anyone else in your team?

So I record in my vocals and guitar and then add in some midi harmonies and arpeggios that I’m hearing in my head that could work with this song, and this helps inspire Harry’s parts that he adds after. He’s great, he’s got a great ear for what works in each song as well, and often comes up with stuff based off what I’ve already done. Also worked with engineer/producer Jackson Levi at Levi Recordings for the first time with this song ( he mixed & mastered), and I will continue to collaborate with him for future songs.

I worked with PR company Lilsister for this song, and they have been great to work with. I think I got lucky with the people that have been involved with this project.

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

Yes actually, I am currently working on another track to release in June. This one is different, it’s a lot more emotional and heart-wrenching, and artsy! =)

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

  • Anika Moa: Falling In Love Again
  • Goldenhorse: Maybe Tomorrow
  • Brooke Fraser: Deciphering Me

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

Yeah,I hadn’t applied prior to this one and wasn’t sure if I qualified as I’m not well known and don’t have 1000 followers, but I think touring is what helped me meet the criteria. To be honest, I actually forgot that I applied and had already done one video shoot but hadn’t paid the videographers yet, haha. So that was good timing, and also so stressful as I had to backtrack and try to jam everything into a shorter amount of time! But ultimately a huge blessing and the funding is really what made this song get the attention that it has so far!

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

I love learning new things, so anything about culture I’m super into at the moment. Hmm, also anything about neurodiversity etc. Also business, lol – my interests are very broad.

Who did you make the video with?

Filmed by Neato Productions and it features the musicians who helped me with the recording and production. Nick Jackman on the harmonica and Harry Finlayson-Hood.

Any last words?

Thank you so much for this interview and opportunity to share my music. I hope to help someone out there in a way that music has helped me!