REVIEW: Hollie Smith – intimate London gig

Hollie lead FEATURE Photo credit: Stewart Marsden of SunPrints. Used with permission.

Kiwi soulstress Hollie Smith has performed an intimate gig for the NZ Society UK at London’s iconic Black Lion in Hammersmith.

The event sold out in two days, proving that the singer-songwriter is not as unknown as a solo artist to long-term expats as some might have thought. It’s testament to Hollie’s immense talent, as well as the significant career she has carved for herself in New Zealand – with many remembering her as a former singer with Trinity Roots. But Hollie has made a name for herself in her own right – her debut album “Long Player” hit number one in the New Zealand charts in 2007. She’s been a regular presence in the charts ever since.

Accompanied only by her bassist Marika Hodgson, Hollie performed roughly an hour-long set to 80 people. It was a good mix of some of her better-known tracks, a couple of covers, as well as some new material. “Walk Away” – a track she worked on with Anika Moa and Boh Runga – eased the crowd into what was to come. She performed a touching Billie Holiday rendition that had been a favourite growing up and that she had performed with her jazz band at high school. It was one of the first songs her music teacher had given to her, and it pulled on the audience’s heart strings when Hollie relayed the story of how he had recently shown up at one of her gigs and it had made her cry.

Hollie built a strong and intimate rapport with the crowd, cracking jokes throughout, which often provoked a roar of laughter from her audience. She oozed with a real sense of “Kiwi-ness” which endeared her easily to anyone looking for a taste of home.

Hollie finished up with her trademark and captivating performance of Don McGlashan’s “Bathe In the River”. She had remarked on how she was planning to return home and finally finish a new album. One of the fresh new tracks performed was (and I do apologise if I misheard her name any of them) “In Love Again”, which was one of the first songs she wrote for the new album. If the new material performed last night is anything to go by, her next album is shaping up to be a great one.

Spacific Music presented Hollie Smith at the Black Lion, and she is performing two more shows: in London tomorrow, Friday 11 July – and in Edinburgh on Tuesday 22 July. Tickets are available from Ticketweb.

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ARCHIVE: Interview with Ladi6

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It had been a long time since Kiwi Hip Hop Queen Ladi6 and her band had been in the UK, and fans here were looking forward to finally having her back. Fresh from releasing her critically-acclaimed third album, ‘Automatic’, Charlotte Everett managed to have a quick chat with Ladi ahead of her shows in London and at Glastonbury.

You’re back in London on 26 June. How do you feel about coming back?

Ladi: We were last there quite awhile ago. Perhaps the last tour we did there was Gil Scott-Heron’s last tour; we supported him throughout the UK and some of Europe. We can’t wait to test the London waters – and looking forward to reconnecting with some old friends, as well as making some new ones. It’s been a long time coming!!

How’s the vibe in London and how do the crowds differ here from those back home?

Ladi: I want to say that they do, but the reality is that they don’t really… we have so many expat Kiwis living in London as well, it is often not too hard to find a friend or someone you know through 2 degrees of separation! We look forward to the familiarity of London.

Your third album – “Automatic” – is out in Europe on 23 August. How much material from the new album will feature in the London show?

Ladi: Most of the show will be made up of songs from ‘Automatic’; we’re really enjoying playing this record out!

What can fans expect from this show in general?

Ladi: They can expect the goodness!

How did the new album come about?

Ladi: We approached a wish list of co-producers and at the top of our list was Waajeed. We were big fans of his work with Slum Village and Platinum Pied Pipers – we wanted to have that sound on this record. We connected with him, and he was up for it, so we flew out to the D (Detroit) twice to work through the record, and finished it off during a summer on a farm in New Zealand, in a small spot called Waiuku. It ended up becoming quite the perfect contrast and the album came together relatively quickly.

Are you likely to have any down-time in London, and how do you plan to spend it?

Ladi: Not at all, unfortunately this London date is just before we play Glastonbury, and part of a three-part world tour we’ve put together… Europe – UK – USA – NZ (YIKES?!!!#%&^?!)

Interview by Charlotte Everett – may only be republished with permission.
Adapted from the original interview published on NZNewsUK.

ARCHIVE: Interview with Six60’s Ji Fraser

Ji Fraser

Kiwi rock superstars Six60 were back on British shores in May, with gigs at London’s O2 Empire and Edinburgh’s Bongo Club. I had the pleasure of chilling with lead guitarist Ji Fraser over a flat white in London’s East End, ahead of the band’s much-anticipated return to the UK.

Given that the band had been based in Europe last year, many of the Six60 faithful in this part of the world may have hoped that their six months living in Berlin would have become a more permanent thing. Yet moving back to New Zealand has not meant that the boys will be spending less time up here – quite the opposite in fact. And with Ji’s girlfriend living in London, perhaps we may even be able to seduce them back to this side of the world on a more permanent basis.

That being said, “It’s hard to base yourself anywhere”, Ji remarks. “We travel so much. I mean, even though we had the house in Berlin, during that time we were in the US, we were in the UK… we were everywhere. It doesn’t really matter where we’re based. I’d say we spend at least quarter of the year in New Zealand, but the rest of it would be spent in different places, touring.”

So how do they find the scene in Europe?

“Good! It’s funny, when we first came to London, our first show was at The Forum and we sold that out – it was like 2,500 people, and I was like: this is it! You know, I really didn’t realise it was like the second biggest Kiwi city in the world. But yeah, it’s good. I guess we’re quite spoilt in New Zealand and Australia – you can play anywhere from 1,000 up to around 6,000 people in a night. Just recently, we did 6,000 in Dunedin and then 10,000 in Wellington – and then you go to Frankfurt and do 500 people! But it’s good – it keeps us real.”

I was curious to know how many fans in places like Frankfurt are actually Kiwis. “Yeah they’re definitely not all Kiwis,” Ji explains, “but there’s quite often some kind of connection. That being said, to be fair, in Germany it is becoming quite organic; they’re really starting to take a bit of ownership of us – which is what we want really. And we want to go to the States and have people there that have that same connection with us like the Kiwis do… they start to say: ‘You’re our band’. We want that all around the world. And I feel like that’s really already happening in Germany at the moment. The more we can do in Europe, the better. The bigger the shows we can do, the more time we can spend here, rather than having to go home to do the big shows in New Zealand to be able to afford ourselves the opportunity to come over here. It’s definitely happening though. I definitely feel like we’re getting there.”

Ji action

It’s quite an achievement when you consider that the band has only been around for five years. Ji agrees, “I think part of the key to our success is that we are so critical of our own achievements. We’re constantly trying to achieve more, and yeah, it is great, but we’re always trying to see how we can get ourselves to that next level. I think that’s been paramount, and how we’ve risen so far so fast. People often forget that we’re still in our mid-twenties. I was in Germany and I was talking to this lady who was saying they’d had Fat Freddy’s come in and sell them out the previous week, and I was like, yeah, but they’ve been around a lot longer than us, and she was like: ‘Noooo, they haven’t.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, they have. I know because I’m from New Zealand – I was at school when they were playing.’ She was still insisting, ‘No, you two are the same age!’ But all she was trying to say really was that we’ve been around a long time. But I think it’s good to remind people that we have only been doing this for five years, and that there’s still a lot more to come from us.”

So on that, when can we expect a second album?

“There’s a certain amount of pressure – second album syndrome,” Ji explains. “We gave ourselves a grace period of a year to tour, and the two-year mark has just passed, but if we look at it honestly, we’ve actually been writing for the past year and a half. We’ve re-written the material two or three times over, but we’ve been wanting the right ingredients and the right people to come on board with us so that we can take it to the next level this time. It’s just been a preparation thing, making sure that the songs are good and that the quality is there. But it should be ready in a couple of months I’d say. And then we can get recording and get the roll-out ready for the New Zealand summer.”

So with a new album in the pipeline, what can fans expect from this UK tour?

“Going from what we’ve just done in New Zealand, it’ll be a totally new thing again. We started this thing in New Zealand where we just started giving away guitars – I don’t even know if we’ll be doing that with these shows, but yeah, we were just buying them, signing them and giving them away. We’re always looking at making things a little bit better and a little bit bolder, a little bit more exciting. And we’ll be playing some new songs off the new album as well. Probably four or five new songs – we’re really looking forward to playing them for everyone. So yeah, there will be some new songs and probably some giveaways of free stuff! The tour in itself is different every time. We bring as much as our team over as we can, and we really try to take things to the next level. Every show we do, you can definitely see the appreciation in the crowd. We can even be playing a sold out show somewhere like New York, and you’ll spot in the crowd the Kiwi guys who have probably driven four hours to get that little piece of home. That’s really special, and definitely something we notice in the crowd. But what we want, is that feeling for everyone. That feeling that Kiwis get, we want that feeling for everyone who comes to our shows – the locals – without exception. And we want more of you guys – London and Edinburgh – to take ownership of us.”

Reviewed by Charlotte Everett – article may only be republished with permission.
Photos courtesy of and copyright Ji Fraser.
Interview adapted from and originally published on NZNewsUK.