RESOURCES: Breaking It Down

All the bits and pieces to help you with your performance, as well as a few wise words from people who have gone before you. These will be updated throughout the year.

Benee - Happen To Me


Harper Finn - Conversations (With The Moon)

Daffodils - A Leo Underwater

Paige - So Far

Ha The Unclear - Julius Caesar

Balu Brigada - Old Love

Marlon Gerbes (Six60) - Sundown

JessB - Bullseye

Devilskin (Paul, Jennie and Nail) - Sweet Release

Rodney Fisher (Goodshirt) - Fiji Baby

Cut Off Your Hands - Hate Somebody

The Beths - Mars, God of War

Jeremy Redmore (Midnight Youth) - Golden Love

Heidi Simpson (Laiika)

The local music scene in Auckland is really cool because everyone knows everyone. There are always heaps of gigs on and it feels overall like a really buzzy and exciting scene. It’s really fun working with lots of different people, everyone around is so talented and everyone is willing to look out for you and give you a helping hand. There are so many talented artists in Auckland so it is really cool to go to all of the gigs and listen to what other people are doing!

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Ryan Connaghan (Haven)

I think one of the biggest things I've learned is how important it is to be good mates with those who you work with. Playing music can only go so deep, you've gotta hang out, go out for some food, watch movies, go on walks... whatever you all like, as long as it's together. Haven were friends before they were a band, and I think that's one of our biggest strengths. Also, I don't think I realised how important it is to put yourself out there until quite recently. In many senses, I think you've gotta be your own biggest fan, and then people around you will follow suit. It could take some time, though, and that's why I'd tell young Ryan to be patient. Nothing's gonna happen overnight. Take each day at a time, relax a little, drink plenty of water, and hang in there, champ.

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Walt Robberds (The Butlers)

After I finished school I went traveling and spent a bit of time in Europe. I wrote a lot of music and played a lot of guitar while I was away. When I got back I was definitely no closer to knowing what I wanted to do, so I was enrolled to study teaching at Otago - but then after I saw a couple of the Dunedin bands play I got super inspired to start playing some original music! George, Brad, Jordan and I started playing together and started to practice a lot, so I pulled out of uni and got an apprenticeship in Christchurch. Jumping ahead to today - I think the highlight of my career so far would be playing The Butlers headline show at the Isaac Theatre Royal last year. The show was massive and it was cool to have our home town come out in full force to support us in our biggest headline gig to date.

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Jamie Hannah (Spawts)

I think it is really important to take a break and explore who you are outside of your goals. The biggest shift in myself happened around this time and I grew up a lot. When I started drumming again I was looking at it from a different perspective and felt like I had more purpose and freedom.

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Daniel Brown (Polaroids of Polarbears)

My earliest memory of music in our house is my Father playing guitar. Every night I was treated to him playing three songs to me while I was in bed…I was so naïve, I just thought everyone’s parents played guitar to them when they went to bed. It wasn’t till later on that I realised these songs he played me weren’t covers, they were his, they were little songs he had made up to sing me to sleep. The biggest gift he gave me was a love of music at this age, his songs made me feel safe, his songs give me safety even now…I can hear the melody and remember the words and I am back safely tucked up in my bed…music that resonates with me still has this affect, It transports you, it makes you feel...something….anything.

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Louisa Nicklin

I think I'd go back and tell myself not to get caught up in whether I am good enough at singing to be a singer. I never sang in public until I was about 22 because I always thought my voice wasn't good enough. But the thing is, when I started singing my voice got better and better as I was constantly learning how to use it. I think this goes for any instrument, or even just songwriting, you might as well try it, you will only get better the more you do it.

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100% the best part of my whole journey so far is the friends I've made along the way. The bond we have as a community is so special & I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I would describe our local music scene as the most innovative scene in the world right now. There is so much amazing music coming out of Karangahape Road, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in my life. I can't wait for the world to see it.

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I would say my local scene is world class! I feel very humbled and inspired by so many of my friends who are making amazing music that is unique and ambitious in a very positive way. I think we are punching above our weight here in NZ!

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Silas Futura

There was always music around when I was growing up! My parents listened to a lot of Aotearoa artists, a stand out was definitely the Nesian Mystik album, “Polysaturated.” I don’t remember ever making the connection as a kid that these guys were from Aotearoa. Same with Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga etc. We listened to them a lot, but at that point I didn’t really draw the connection to NZ, they were just great musicians. That’s kinda cool in a way.

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It’s an intuitive process. We discuss what makes sense and what sounds best. There’s no template or strict rules around this process. The one thing we’ve definitely learnt along the way is knowing when to let go of a song that’s just not working. It’s very easy to get attached, learning when to abandon attachments that no longer serve your development is important.

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Violet French

Just making sure you finish the song is all that matters. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be an award winner. The joy is in sitting back and saying "I actually made this" and feeling satisfied in your achievements.

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Have faith that the work you’re putting in will give you results even if you can’t see them yet. Consistency is key! And secondly, branch out - growth happens best when you’re outside of your comfort zone so go and talk to people, network and ask questions.

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Keep good people around you. If the people around you aren’t supportive or building you up when you feel like you’re crashing down, then they aren’t your friends and you shouldn’t waste your efforts. Also to be original, don’t follow trends just because other people are. Just be yourself and make the music that you want to make. At the end of the day trends faze out or die so why not start the next one. Give yourself time to grow, things do get better, anything is possible and don’t forget to love yourself. 

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James McDonald

I grew up in Waiuku, South Auckland. Growing up there was music around me, for sure. My family didn't play instruments, really, but my Dad was a big record fan, and would consistently play albums that I still enjoy these days. We had a neighbour who had a cheap casio keyboard, and after bashing on that enough times as a 8 year old, I think Mum decided sending me for lessons might be beneficial to both households.

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My writing process changed a lot after studying music. When I was in high school, my writing would start from fiery emotional outbursts where I'd be in my room with my guitar up really loud and just yell and cry. The crying part has stuck (haha) but now I have a much more methodical approach.

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Tomorrow People

When we write songs, we always begin with the music. A lot of times we would just be mucking around on the keyboard or guitar until a cool “riff” comes up. Then we would use that riff to create a “riddim” (beat). From there we would start humming melody lines and freestyling tunes.

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Imugi 이무기

I think a big thing we've learnt along the way is learning to say "No". From the start, Yery and I decided that we were going to pursue every opportunity that we could to grow Imugi. Playing shows for free, releasing our music for free, it helped us to grow our brand and make connections. But it got to the point where we felt like we were prioritising exposure over artistic integrity. We've both suffered from imposter syndrome, so it's really important to remind ourselves that our art has value

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Writing music is a huge processing outlet for me; whatever I experience, I write about. Writing from experience for me is easiest and most natural... plus it’s a huge de-stresser and helps really make something beautiful out of any situation.

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For me, my special moment has got to be performing Closer live for the first time which was at Cassette Nine. When we were playing it, I looked up and saw a lot of people holding their hearts and really feeling that moment. And after the show a lot of people messaged me and came up and said that song meant a lot to them and they were in love with it. Which is what we want people to feel with that song.

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Solomon Crook

If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I would say that being able to let go of ideas is hugely important. As a songwriter I think it's more important to be continually creating than getting strung up on the idea that you think will be the next big hit.

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Ryan Fisherman

I am from Christchurch. There was music around me growing up - for sure. I remember dancing to Michael Jackson with my twin brother when we were little. My father listens to a lot of music; he also used to play drums. I started playing drums when I was 12.

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Nat Hutton (There's A Tuesday)

Winning Rockquest alongside Minnie has definitely been the most rewarding experience! But there are many other special times that I am grateful for. Jono and I recorded our debut single ‘Constellations’ and EP with Lead singer of the band Nomad, Will McGillivray. He is a huge role model to me, and to have him produce/hum along to songs that Jono and I had written was really very special. To celebrate the release of the EP with Jono, and the next year to celebrate ‘There’s A Tuesday’s release of ‘Piñata Head’, we held release parties at our favourite Christchurch venues, Lyttelton Records and Wunderbar.

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Kaylee Bell

I am from a small town called Waimate, situated half an hour south inland from Timaru. There was absolutely music around when I was growing up; I started singing when I was four years old on stage with my older brother and sister in Country Music Competitions around New Zealand. We started singing and guitar lessons in Timaru with Sheryl Higgs and Alistair Bradley around the age of 8 through till 18. Pretty much every week without fail - kudos to my Mother for making the hour round trip every week!

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Katie Thompson

I'm 5th generation West Coast - raised in Hokitika. Both sides of my family love music; on my Mum's side there was always country music and piano being played, and on my Father's side they all sung ‘The Irish Rovers’ tunes at Christmas. Dad would have rock music cranking and Mum would have the solid 80’s pop songs playing on the radio, so there was a very eclectic mix of music going on in my childhood.

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Josie Moon

I didn’t really study music in school at all. I did it in my first year of high school, but guess I was intimidated by the classical discipline that was required for the assessments. I didn’t revisit music academically until I started studying contemporary styles with my Commercial Music degree at Massey University. Since I knew I was behind a lot of other students in terms of studies, I just tried to focus on bettering myself and learning as much as I could about the areas I was most drawn to. Since studying music at university I’ve continued writing and releasing songs, and am currently working towards releasing my first album titled “Paint Me How You Need Me”. 

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Jed Parsons

I participated in Rockquest between the years between 2006 and 2010, in the Canterbury region. My friends and I never did well, but it was the only time of the year we'd actually get our act together and work on our craft. In my view and experience, absolutely nothing can teach a musician more about music than actually playing live, on a stage and in front of a crowd. Rockquest is so important for that reason - it's the first stage most young people will ever play on.

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Holly Afoa

I’m from Auckland, born and raised. I watched my older brother progress through a career in music: from Christmas in the Park, to National Anthems, to the West End in London. Otherwise, my only other inspiration was the Cheetah Girls movies. Lol. 

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Harry Parsons

How I begin writing songs is also something that changes, depending on what I'm doing at the time. Sometimes I'll be on a run and a great line might pop into my head. Then I'll voice memo it and use it as a catalyst for the rest of the song. Same thing if it's just a melody or a bass line. When I'm co-writing, it often will start with a chord progression or a beat, and then the rest follows.

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Harper Finn

I was born in Sydney but have lived in Auckland, New Zealand, my whole life. There was definitely an abundance of music around when I grew up, as my Dad would often be playing the piano or singing round the house. When I was around five, my parents asked me what instrument I wanted to play and I chose the piano. A lot of those early years were spent learning classical pieces and theory, but I’m forever grateful for that kind of music education; it’s become the basis of a lot of the music I make and how I play the piano.

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George After James

My writing processes changes a bit. If inspiration strikes, I go with it regardless of what form that takes. But the usual trend is starting with a guitar part, refining that, then humming along and forming words around the feeling of the music and what I want to say. Sometimes writing is more intentional, like writing about something specific, but many times it's more of an exploration and discovery.

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David Shanhun

My writing process changes all the time. Sometimes it starts with a guitar riff, sometimes with a vocal line usually with some sort of lyric, and evolves from there. I have things that I’ve written all in and on the day, and then things that have lived as a voice memo for five or six years when suddenly the time feels right to complete the song. I tend to sit with things until they feel complete to me. Like most things it’s a journey, and I feel I’m writing much better now than I used to - learning how to express myself better both musically and lyrically.

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Chris Scott (Sweet Mix Kids)

I started off very much in a niche electronic music / DJ landscape. Around age 13 some friends and I discovered electronic music; a friends’ older brother was a DJ/Producer so we noticed what he was doing and followed suit. By age 16 we were releasing music, and throwing all ages events that would attract crowds of up to 1500-2000 people.

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Brooke Singer

Lots of things inspire my songs - the human condition, how we relate to the world etc. If I look at the tracklisting of our last record, I touch on subjects and feelings I've been mulling over such as personal relationships, memories of childhood, politics (Feathers and Dreams was inspired by what was/is happening in Palestine, Hollow Bodied Friends was about apathy for our environment). Lyrically/metaphorically I'm very inspired by the natural world and landscapes.

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Brad Craig

I am a musician from Auckland, New Zealand. Growing up I was surrounded by music. Some of my earliest memories are tied to songs that place me right in a specific moment of my childhood. Live music has always been massively important in my family. My Nana always seemed to have her ukulele on her, and would often sing and play for me and my cousin.

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When writing, we start with the idea - our projects are typically themed to different natural elements. We’re fortunate in that a lot of stories about our natural environment have already been told. We’re just trying to find a way to communicate those gems in a way that others can understand whether they’ve heard the stories or not, and learn something from it.

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Sam Cullen

I must’ve been about 14 when I began songwriting. All pretty basic stuff until I got my hands on a copy of Garageband a couple of years later. I just couldn’t get enough of the endless possibilities and having an actual recording of my own songs. As I got more serious about it I started getting a hand from friends on the production/writing front which changed everything for me.

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Lucky Boy^

I grew up in a town called Basingstoke in South Central England, however I have been living in New Zealand for the past 13 years – the majority of those in East Auckland. My memory is pretty shocking, but from what I can recall there was a lot of R&B and reggae music growing up, as well as a few of the classics (Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye etc.). My Father was a DJ for a period of time and my Uncle a producer, so there was always some degree of music being played around the house.

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Jarni Blair

I started in high school, where I entered into the Smokefreerockquest competition! I first entered it as a year 10 student and the songs I wrote for it that year were among my very first compositions. I subsequently entered it every year until I finished high school, and had written a few more songs outside of Rockquest by that point. Back in those early years, I predominantly wrote, and helped write ‘pop rock’ songs for my band ‘Thelonius’, which also contained some ‘funkier’ songs too.

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Henry Francis

Hi! It’s Henry here from Soaked Oats, I play guitar and do a little singing. I live in Dunedin, but grew up in South Canterbury on a farm near Timaru. The other three Oats went to school together in Christchurch, and Max and Oscar even went to primary school together. Soaked Oats formed in Dunedin towards the end of our university careers...

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I’m from Christchurch. My Dad is a guitar teacher and my Mum plays many instruments, but primarily the piano (there was always a Grand Piano in my house!), so there was constantly music around growing up. Interestingly, my Mum is a classical music nut so I initially started off playing the violin for 6 years. I also sang in church and school choirs a lot. I was about 11 when Dad started teaching guitar from home, so at that point there started to be more pop music floating through the house.

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Ash Wallace

Music was always around me when I was growing up, most prominently because my Grandfather was a jazz pianist and taught me on this beautiful old grand piano in his lounge. It was an awesome intro to music because his passion really rubbed off on me and he was so joyful when he was teaching me. My mum and brother are both huge music lovers too, and when my brother started learning guitar I thought he was the man so followed suit. I think I have them to thank for my start in music!

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Jesse Sheehan

I’ve played in bands since I was about 11 – my first band was called ‘Wipeout Fusion’. Fusion was part of the name because we figured what we were doing was ‘beyond genre’, which was strange considering our only two songs were ‘Weather With You’ by Crowded House and ‘Verona’ by Elemeno P. I then played in a band when I was 14 called ‘The Stray Dogs’. We hadn’t heard of the famous rockabilly band ‘The Stray Cats’. It was all a shitshow really. But music was always around from childhood into teenagedom.

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Emily Muli

I was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa – but my family are from the Kingdom of Tonga. Growing up I was always surrounded by music, especially at church. We grew up in a Tongan methodist church, so we were always learning songs for Sunday school, White Sunday etc. My Granddad was also a musician, and a lot of my dad’s friends too, so it was pretty normal for me!

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Bella Kalolo

After school I got a scholarship to study in Paraguay, Central South America. I ended up getting into the Paraguayan girls choir, and I was asked to stay back after my scholarship had ended so that I could compete with the choir in the 4th world choir comps in Rome. After that, I came back home and studied at the Christchurch Polytechnic for a year while working part-time at the Body Shop. Soon after that, I was asked to be a part of Mark Hadlows production of The Little Shop of Horrors at the Regent in Dunedin, and went on to do a second season with him in Auckland at Sky City Theatre.

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After school I started a degree in Environmental Science, I sort of went with the motions of everyone around me. After one year I decided I wanted to pursue music properly. Some of my friends had kept going with it and I felt super left out because it was still my favourite thing! I added Popular Music to my degree and ended up studying Environmental Science, music production and songwriting. That’s all done now but I’m also participating in a mentorship at Parachute Studios as a producer this year!

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Lydia Cole

I grew up in Hillcrest, on the North Shore of Auckland. But I feel more energy and belonging on the other side of the Bridge. Growing up, I remember specific songs learned in kindy and primary school, and some of the thoughts and feelings I had about them at the time. I started taking piano lessons when I was 7, before giving it up five years later when it all became very classical. I have four siblings so throughout the years there would always be someone in the house practicing guitar, piano or recorder.

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Jake Nicholas

I was really lucky to grow up in Mt Maunganui (The Mount), at a time where there was an abundance of local music. Be it through the Mauao Performing Arts Centre, in school, local jam nights or just playing with my family at home. I was surrounded by, and enveloped in music at every turn, and I wasn’t much good for anything else.

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Arjuna Oakes

I grew up in Titirangi, Auckland. There was a tonne of music around me when I was a kid. My parents and grandparents all play music, and they used to play for me and share their favourites with me. We used to listen to a lot of Otis Redding and Billie Holiday when I was a kid – they are my two favourite vocalists. We also listened to a lot of music popular at the time, such as Ben Harper and Coldplay.

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Georgia Lines

I am from Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. When I was growing up, there was always music around, always something creative too. I didn’t start singing in front of people until intermediate (but prior to that I was always creating shows at home, circus acts with my friends and somehow forcing their parents to stay and watch).

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I’m a kiwi, even if I wasn’t born there and I don’t live there anymore. I grew up in Titirangi, West Auckland. Growing up there were a few albums that were mainstays in our car CD player. Adeaze was a big one, Norah Jones’ first record too. The last in the holy trinity was the UK boyband Blue, with their album “All Rise”. Looking back it’s pretty funny how much these 3 albums have shaped my music.

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I’m from Auckland, New Zealand. There was absolutely music around when I was growing up! My dad listened to a lot of blues, folk and reggae (very guitar oriented music), as well as growing up in a church where the music was super important. I’m still based in Auckland, but a good portion of my work happens overseas or with people through the internet.

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I grew up in North Canterbury and went to Rangiora New Life School. Growing up I was in church a lot, so I was constantly playing with other people which was golden. All my way through intermediate and high school I was heavily involved in the music program at school.

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Geoff Ong

I’m from Auckland, and my family is originally from Malaysia. Looking back, there was actually quite a lot of music around when I was but a wee sprout. I grew up going to piano lessons like a lot of Asian kids did, and my Dad also had a great collection of music from his time living in London in the 1970’s! I remember him showing me everything from Tom Petty to Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin to Aretha Franklin. It was like having a time capsule of that particular era of music, and I’m still learning even now how much of an influence that classic song craft has had on my music.

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Adam Spencer (Summer Thieves)

Summer Thieves are a Tamaki-Makaurau based band, who originally got together while studying in Ōtepoti. Adam Spencer took the time to tell us about his journey as a musician, and how Summer Thieves write and record their songs. My family are pretty musical, a few cousins that are professional musicians who I always looked up to. My Dad was always playing music around the house and in the car, and that really shaped what I was into...

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I spent my first decade living in Wellington before moving to Auckland, where I’ve lived ever since. Though my family loves music, we grew up with dial-up, which basically meant zero internet. My main exposure to music as a kid would have been CD’s on family road trips (like Van Morrison, and fan favourite Creed, to satisfy our bogan roots), and then there was the Greek music at my Grandparent’s house. My first big musical inspo would’ve been Avril Lavigne when I was 7 and doing my best to dress ‘sk8er boi’. There was plenty more pop-punk to follow throughout my early teen years.

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I’m from Canterbury. Despite no one in my family being musical, we did have plenty of music around growing up. CD’s would always be playing at home and the radio would always be playing loud in the car. My mum loved listening to artists like Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Pink, Coldplay, and Britney Spears, so naturally I grew up listening to that music. I listened to a lot of Top 40 radio but also one of my favourite NZ artists was Brooke Fraser. There was always a mix in my family because then one of my brothers would get his turn at putting a CD in the stereo and it would be Green Day every time. So a bit of everything really!

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Adam Hattaway

I’m from Christchurch. My parents didn’t play music themselves apart from a little classical piano from Dad, which he taught me some of when I was 5-9. They introduced me to a big portion of the music that remains an influence today – Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan. My best friend growing up, Tommy and I started playing together all the time when we were 10 years old playing rolling stones almost exclusively – we’d force our parents and friends to sit and watch the horrendous little shows we’d put on in the lounge.

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Song Writing
Stage Presence




Old School Media
Social Media


Before Hitting the Studio
Recording at Home
Recording in the Studio
Finals Entry Video

Advice (General)




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