The star of a debut EP with the same name, Oni Kidman ‘s new single Screw Society sees the young country pop singer-songwriter from Tāmaki Makaurau confidently coming out of the gate with a strong message about the rejection of stereotypes. The EP was produced by Kidman’s father, acclaimed singer-songwriter and producer Rikki Morris, with funding from NZ On Air Music’s New Music Development program. Nur Lajunen-Tal caught up with her. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
Growing up in Auckland’s musically verdant North Shore suburb Devonport, Oni Kidman has been musically inclined since an early age.
“I grew up in a very musical family, and I just kind of fell into music,” she says. “When I was like four I would just make up random little mumbled melody songs that I would just write. I started playing ukulele about then, and I taught myself how to play other instruments. I learnt how to play guitar in music class when I was 12. Mostly I teach myself by ear and by watching videos and stuff. I would just sit at the piano a lot as a kid and just fiddle around, and that’s how I learnt. I started writing songs when I was 15.”
Her introductory EP statement ‘Screw Society’ was recorded at The Lab Studio in Mt Eden.
“My dad was like, ‘I’m gonna apply for funding, and see where this leads.’ We got accepted and were very lucky to be able to have recorded these three songs. We used the money to hire a band, and for my dad’s time, to hire the studio and stuff… we had two days. The first day was recording the band, the second day was my vocals.”
Written in 2020, the message of Screw Society is one that’s very close to Kidman’s heart.
“The song just means so much to me. I was feeling really insecure at the time, about my body and who I was. It’s one of those songs where it just kind of happened. It’s like I was this vessel that was holding the pen and just writing it. It’s one of those miracle songs, I guess, where it just flows out of me and happens.
“For me, it’s all about acceptance. I hate stereotypes. I hate that girls have to wear makeup, and girls have to have long hair. It’s just not true! I cut off all my hair when I was eight, and a lot of people just assumed I was a boy, and it was kind of sad. That song just means a lot.”
Kidman accompanied the song with a colourful music video, featuring her playing guitar and singing on a forest path, interspersed by clips of family and friends. The video was shot and edited by her brother Harry.
“I knew that I wanted the music video to be for Screw Society, just cause it’s such an important song to me, and has such an important message behind it, I think.
“I wanted inclusivity. I wanted lots of snippets of people that weren’t just me, and so we were lucky enough to have friends and family send in videos and little clips of them just doing what makes them happy, and what makes them feel like themselves. One of my favourite clips is of two little kids putting on makeup really badly, just like smearing it everywhere! You can just tell that they’re having so much fun with it.”
The EP also includes a song co-written with her father entitled Living Without You.
“I wrote it from my dad’s perspective, about his brother that passed away,” says Kidman. “I don’t know if it’s really how my dad was feeling, but I put myself in my dad’s shoes and wrote a song about what it would be like for me if I lost somebody that I care about a lot – just struggling to know what to do next without this person that meant so much to you and was always there.
“When I played the song for him, he initially thought it was a breakup song. Which I think is really cool about songwriting, that it can mean one thing for me, and something completely different for someone else. And then I told him the story behind it, and he was like, ‘Oh. Wow, okay.’ I don’t think he really knew what to think about it. And then, because he thought it was a breakup song, he came up with this melody for the bridge, ‘cos I hadn’t thought of a bridge yet.
“He came up with this melody that was very Rikki Morris. It was very ’80s, and so I drew inspiration from it and I came up with what it is now. So it kind of changed the meaning of the song a little bit, to kind of be more like what my dad was thinking, like a breakup. The song is just whatever people want it to be.”
Waited Too Long is a fictional story in the vein of Taylor Swift songs like White Horse, You’re Not Sorry and Should’ve Said No.
“I’d been watching a lot of TV and I just drew inspiration from the TV shows and movies and books I was reading at the time, and that’s where Waited Too Long came in,” Kidman explains. “It’s about someone who really liked someone, but that someone didn’t know, and then they just kept pushing them away. They wanted them to realise and understand but they couldn’t make that person they liked understand. And then they eventually just said, ‘You know what? I’ve waited too long, so I’m gonna move on!’”