NewTracks New Artist: The Mitchell Twins

NewTracks New Artist: The Mitchell Twins

Inspired by the Topp Twins‘ recent battles with illness and separation, Southland’s The Mitchell Twins, Maegan and Nicola Mitchell, composed Find A River, a song that explores the deep bonds of twin connection, and pays tribute to the role music has played in the lives of both the Topps and themselves. Multiple 2022 AMA Tui-winner Tami Neilson had a hand in co-writing the delightfully personal song, as did te reo composer Kommi Tamati-Elliffe. NZ On Air Music featured the song on their NewTracks compilation this November.

What are your names, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Our names are Nicola and Maegan Mitchell, we are based in Gore, Southland. Nicola plays the guitar and baritone ukulele, and Maegan plays all things percussion.

Was high school or any other music training especially important?

Musically we grew up in the Gore Country Music Club and have been performing on stage with our dad and older sister Jenny since we could talk. We also learned a lot from the St Peter’s College Kapa Haka group that we now are very proud to lead and teach waiata to teina (younger/new members) in the group.

Any other previous (or current) projects we might know you from?

Last month our older sister, Jenny Mitchell, released a version of her album ‘Tug of War’ which we feature on a track called The Bush and the Birds. In 2020 we also recorded ‘The Grainstore Sessions’; a live EP we recorded with Jenny. 

What’s the background story of how The Mitchell Twins came to be a project? 

We have been singing together for our whole lives. After our touring experiences as well as the role models we have in our life, through growing up in a home that surrounds itself with musicians and music lovers, we wanted the chance to go into the studio and create something that represents the kind of music we love.

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

We have always loved performing the stories of other people’s songs that we could relate to but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago, especially with some extra time on our hands in lockdown that we began to write our own stories. Since then we have had advice and tips from lots of different writers. Earlier this year we received NZ On Air development funding, which gave us the chance to co-write and spend some time in the studio with Tami Neilson.

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

Earlier this year we went to Methven to sing at the Topp Friends Fundraiser. It was the first time that we got to sing Find A River (which was written to honour the Topp Twins) to the Topps themselves, and it was a pretty emotional experience for us.

What makes Find A River stand out for you as a single?

We wrote a collection of songs earlier this year and this felt like the right song to be our first release because it introduces our lives as twins, and the combination of Māori and English made the song feel particularly special to us.

And what’s the story behind Find A River?

Inspired by the Topp Twins’ recent battles with cancer and separation, Find A River explores the deep bond of twin connection and honours the role music has played in the lives of both the Topps and the Mitchells. According to the Topps, when distance and sickness keep them apart Lynda walks to her local river and Jools heads to the shore of the beach – to connect with one another through the healing power of water and nature.

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

Our favourite moment is the change from English to Te Reo Māori. To us that’s so important as a member of Tainui and as lovers of the language. Our favourite lyric in the song is, “And my love for you will bring you home/Mā te aroha koe e hoki mai”

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

The song was co-written by Tami Neilson and ourselves. We then collaborated with Kommi Tamati-Elliffe; a te reo composer based in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. The recording was done live at Loho Studios in Christchurch.

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

The idea that even when you miss someone finding something that you both love can make you feel a little closer even if you can’t be with them.

Who else is in your team?

The creative team behind the launch of Find A River were cinematographers and editors, Adam Hogan & Caleb MacDonald. Our recording engineer was Josh Logan and the song was mixed by Adam Hogan. We are working with Pippa Ryan-Kidd for publicity, and behind the scenes of most things we do are long phone calls for advice on things we didn’t know existed from Jenny Mitchell.

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

  • Into the East: How Could I Have Known
  • Jenny Mitchell: Make Peace With Time
  • Nadia Reid: Call The Days

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

NewMusic Development was the first grant that we have applied for but we found it great to not have the pressure of releasing something to give us the opportunity to develop as an artist. So we would highly recommend doing something like NewMusic Development.

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

For us, the biggest challenge was putting together our first application, mainly because it was a time-consuming process putting together things like a good bio. Thankfully NZ On Air’s Development grant is set up in a way that’s really achievable for going through your first application.

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

Nicola loves ‘Cocaine & Rhinestones’ which is a podcast hosted by Tyler Mahan Coe.
Maegan loves the ‘Deep in the Fallow’ podcast hosted by Fanny Lumsden.