by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Ra Charmian

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Ra Charmian

Coming from a background of session music and cover gigs, husband-and-wife duo Rā Toia-Booth and Hayden Booth have turned towards performing their original material that come with a chilled-out reggae infusion, under the name Ra Charmian. Their latest single, Te Aroha, celebrates “loved ones past, present and future”, they say, and NZ On Air Music included the song on their NewTracks compilation this March.

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

Rā Charmian Toia-Booth and Hayden Ross Booth. Rā is from Whangārei and Hayden is from Auckland. Rā sings, and Hayden plays guitar – and both dabble in any other instruments that need recording!

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

Rā: I sang overseas on the hotel circuit for a few years and I’m grateful for the training I received along the way from various agencies. They had a strong focus on learning how to engage the audience, which is always useful at any show.

Hayden: I think the best training has come from real world sink-or-swim situations; like getting out and playing gigs or taking on tough production jobs. I wish I had been braver and taken on more over the years, as you learn so much when under a bit of pressure.

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

Rā: You might know my voice if you listen to The Breeze as I was very fortunate to sing the latest jingle that plays around Aotearoa which also won a 2023 radio award.

Hayden: I’ve played in a wide variety of groups over the years, from obscure K Road indie bands, to pubs, to the occasional larger event. Other than that I’ve been mainly into production and you may have heard me strumming away on the odd radio or TV ad!

What’s the background story of how Ra Charmian came to be?

Hayden: Rā and I were lucky to be put together in an events band by an agency. We connected straight away, wrote a few songs and recorded an EP at Roundhead Studios called ‘The Closer I Get To You’, which we still love. It’s grown from there to include various friends to form a larger band when possible. Dixon Nacey, Finn Scholes and Adam Tobeck recently recorded a few tracks with us for our upcoming album, and the first song we released from the album, What A Wonderful World / Papatuānuku He Ataahua Koe is with that lineup.

How did you come up with the name?

Rā’s friend originally had the idea of having a band called ‘Charmian’ but we really liked the idea of the project having a person’s name, like Sade or Jethro Tull, so it became Rā Charmian in 2019 when we recorded the first EP.

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

We’ve tried various writing styles, but we feel our best songs have tended to be where one of us will come up with a main idea and the other will finish it off or add their twist to it. The original version of Te Aroha was written by Rā a couple of years ago, and we loved it straight away, but we weren’t quite sold on how to arrange it as it was more of a straight ballad. So we recently added that little twist to it (the pop-reggae style) and rewrote the verses down at our local beach, which gave us the final song that we’re really happy with!

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

Rā: It was really special for me to be on Māori TV to talk about our previous single, What A Wonderful World / Papatuānuku He Ataahua Koe as many of my whānau watch the programme we were on. And for the song to be on the Spotify editorial playlist Island Time alongside some big names was special too.

What makes Te Aroha stand out for you as a single?

It hopefully stands out as it captures a wide range of emotions, being the feelings we have when faced with the circle of life – thankful, sad, grateful, sorrow – but all tied together with the feeling of love.

What is the story behind Te Aroha?

The song comes from the love we have for people across the journey of life. It’s a song about caring for people in general and sending them love. The Manukau Harbour also played a strong role in the writing of the song, with different aspects of the harbour reflecting life’s journey. We spent a lot of time at the various beaches on the west Auckland side of the harbour, and the final lyrics came to us while down there.

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

Hayden: My favourite moment is the line, “I miss you when it snows, and I watch the river flow,” as it’s a reference to the Sam Hunt poem Snow Song, and Sam Hunt’s poetry in general. The sentiment of the Snow Song poem is something I carry around with me, so I was really happy to get that line in there. It’s in the Selected Poems part of the book Doubtless under Four Songs, but I first heard it on an old dusty Sam Hunt record up at 95bFM called Bottle to Battle To Death, which I took a copy of and have been listening to ever since.

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

We recorded it together in our little backyard cabin, with our cat keeping us on track. Whenever we need inspiration, we bring him in with us, and somehow he magically gives us the energy to carry on. (We’re not joking, he really does!) There’s a shot at the end of the music video of him bobbing along!

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

Life can be sad and beautiful at the same time.

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

One that is memorable would be ideal for a single in a general sense.

Who else is in your team?

Kate Orgias from Lil’ Sister is amazing to work with for publicity! Otherwise it’s just us, but we’d love to grow the team.

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

We are working to have the full album released in late September, with a release show at Big Fan in Morningside on the 5th of October. So please come along to that! It will be a full 5-piece band.

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

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

It was a really big thrill for Te Aroha to be included on NewTracks and be alongside some amazing names in NZ music. We’re looking forward to applying for funding and trying to reach and grow our audience. Building an online audience feels hard as there is so much content to compete with. I guess it’s about really trying to connect with people in a genuine way and offering them something they truly value to build your audience.

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

Dan Worrall ( and Produce Like A Pro ( are really interesting and useful music production YouTube channels.

Who did you make the music video with?

Ra and I made it together while travelling around playing gigs, a bit like a diary, and with some shots looking out over the Manukau Harbour too.

Any last words?

Thank you so much NZMusician!