It’s not easy to stand out when everyone in your genre wants one of the few coveted spots on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation each month. This June Ny Oh ‘s Big And Yellow, a vulnerable sounding ballad around the thought that “the process of letting go of someone is accepting who you are now”, convinced Team NZOA as the only worthy song in the ‘folk & country’ category. It’s the latest single from London-based Bay Of Plenty songwriter Naomi Ludlow’s heartwrenching EP ‘Without’, released in the aftermath of a significant break up late last year.
Naomi Ludlow, born in the UK, raised in Tauranga. I’m a vocalist who plays the guitar, piano and percussion.
I grew up learning the violin by ear – my poor parents – I’m so blessed for their sonic sacrifice! My teachers at high school were very supportive of my songwriting and musical growth – they would pick me up from home in the morning to rehearse.
I had a vocal coach, Terri Collecutt, from the age of 14-17, who was like a surrogate mother to me in a lot of ways. She pushed me to see how limitless vocals can be if I’m disciplined. In general, I feel that growing up in New Zealand and having a passion is a special thing, there is space and freedom here to grow – everyone that saw how passionate I was about music was so willing to help nurture it.
Most recently I’ve been touring with Jonathan Wilson in his band. The last few times I was in NZ I was a part of Jesse Sheehan‘s band and I’m part of a songwriting collective in the UK called The Lyrical Nomads.
Ny Oh was originally Gypo before I moved to the UK at 18 and realised that’s a derogatory term for a Gypsy! Mum always called me Miss Ny, so Ny Oh was a blend of myself and this Gypsy, free character that I wanted to be.
It was a few years later that I found out that Ngaio, in Maori, sounds the same and means either a ‘tree with fruit’ or ‘reflections on water’; both of which feel very good to me and help me feel connected to home in a funny way.
A name is just a name though, I’ve not thought about it since its creation. It’s a weird juxtaposition that we worry so hard to label a project when most of the time the music is created from this desperate need to rebel against words.
Oh so s l o w l y. Ny Oh has always been about emotionally digesting situations I put myself in, learning from heartbreak, beating self-pity etc. The more I listen to myself, have honest and real conversations with myself, the better my songwriting is. You can always surround yourself with great musicians and songwriters and learn musically from their techniques, but it’s useless if you’re ignoring you.
The flip side of this project in terms of songwriting would be writing for, or with, others. It’s something that’s taken me a few years to build up the confidence to do… but I really enjoy putting ‘myself’ aside and trying on a new perspective to write from. i.e. What’s happening energetically in this room right now? How are people interacting with each other or certain objects? Who’s gonna make dinner? What’s it like to be a pumpkin? …. let the brain tunnels roll.
Because it was the one I’d kept humming on the train on the way back from the studio, or maybe because it’s simple… I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t feel like any of the tracks from ‘Without’ are very single singles. Big And Yellow comes halfway through the EP, so maybe it was a matter of feeling ‘warmed up’ to the recording process and the right flow was there.
July 2018, Eckington, UK. Tiny village, middle of the road, no streetlights, no souls stirring. 2:45 am. Just me and la Luna. Spliff in hand, headphones on, listening to Crazy, Stoned and Gone by Angelo De Augustine and trying not to beat myself up for accidentally deleting six songs of lyrics from my old phone.
I started dancing to try to shake it off and thought about how funny it must be for the moon to see this wahine, full of worries but also dancing. Then I thought about how sick it would be to be the moon.
I wrote it as almost a mantra to myself. When things felt like too much emotionally I would repeat, ‘I wanna be big and yellow’, and I wasn’t in my body anymore.
Hmmm. I’ve had many beautiful moments with this song. But one moment was realising after I’d written the first verse, that the process of letting go of someone is accepting who you are now and that right now you are made up of your family, your past, your future, every being you’ve met. To the moon, all of that knowledge means everything and nothing. So to me, it can mean everything and nothing and that’s acceptance.
I recorded it at my homie Leon Itzler’s studio (Kheda Studio), in North London. I was due to leave the UK for a long tour and wanted to leave these songs behind me in a sense. It was all very last minute, we had a few hours to get everything down. I was worried about accessing the emotion that I’d released when I wrote them (vulnerable barely covers it!), so Leon made a blanket den around me and the mics – no one could see me. It looked and seemed silly, but I felt safe to be sad in my den.
I’m going to waste my one sentence because we always take what we need.
I don’t think about bodies of work having singles, they usually just make themselves apparent.
In retrospect of singles I’ve chosen, I’ve noticed it’s usually the track that people come up with their own story of what it means… more than other the tracks in that body of work.
I’ve got another EP to release for Ny Oh later this year and also the first single from my new UK band Neon Gru. *shakes butt like dog wagging its tail*
If we’re wanting to keep the vibe going…
Finn Johnasson: There’s A Devil Creeping Up On Me
Tiny Ruins: Bounty
Sam Egli: Something Beautiful
I’ve been applying for funding for the last few years, to no avail. Being an artist is an exercise in relentless optimism. NewTracks was me trying a different door.
New Tracks was very straightforward in its application. As for funding applications in general… having a label, management deal or third-party publisher are just three examples of the many criteria I don’t tick. And how do I work that out? Well, you can’t stop me from applying :0
I’ve not got a go-to music blog (I’m very open to suggestions), but more go to labels. I enjoy picking up what JagJaguar, Dead Oceans and Secretly Canadian are putting down.
Youtube-wise, NPR (Tiny Desk Concert) and Colours Show are great channels.
Podcasts, nothing musical there… The Guilty Feminist, Serial… any good unsolved murder (WHY?!)
There isn’t one… I’d love to work with an illustrator on this one! (Holla at me.)
I’d love to thank you, Silke, for your unbiased view of music, for caring about people’s journeys and for our deeply honest email conversations (even when we were still strangers to each other).