REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.

Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.

Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.

The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.

Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together.  He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.

Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.

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INTERVIEW: Anika Moa

I grabbed the opportunity to chat with Anika Moa for NZNewsUK ahead of her recent London show on October 30.

Anika, you are one of NZ’s most iconic singer-songwriters. How did you get into music, and had it always been your dream?

Anika: Hi! Both of my parents are singers who travelled all over New Zealand, so I was born into it. I truly fell in love with music at high school because it was so much cooler than maths or science. I started writing at 13, and grew from there. Such a nerd! My dream is to write for other people such as Beyoncé. Haha! I wish.

You were picked up by Atlantic Records in the United States as a teenager. You were determined to stick to your own unique style of Kiwi-folk acoustic songs… did the record company have other ideas, and how difficult was it to remain authentic?

Anika: My record company were amazing. Not only did they want to nurture my needs, but they waited for me to grow a bit musically. I toured my first album all over America and it was so full on, I got homesick and had to come home… That is where I discovered that I had to do it in my own country before I went anywhere else.

You’re now mother to twin boys. How has it been, juggling family life with your music career?

Anika: Having twins is soooo hard but sooo amazing. My sons have inspired me to work harder and my heart is full of love for them. I write less but when I do, I really make the most of it!! I’ve released a baby album called Songs for Bubbas that I released last December and it’s been a huge hit – even more so than my actual adult albums. LOL.

You’ve been recording your fifth studio album. What can you tell us about it?

Anika: It’s simple, elegant and heartbreaking. The usual, but with strong beats and my producer Jol Mulholland makes it. We wrote the songs together and it was a slow, easy process. I will release it and then tour it everywhere I can! I hope you love it.

You’re playing Bush Hall in London on October 30th.  How do you find the vibe here in London?

Anika: I’ve lived in London so I’m happy to be going back to see all the old haunts. I love the live music scene and catching up with old friends. It’s super exciting being there – I also see my family in Gloucestershire, which will be fun, fun, fun!

What are you most looking forward to with the London show, and what can the crowd expect?

Anika: I can’t wait for people to hear my new stuff. I want them to swim in it and my voice, and to have a drink and listen to my intensely strange but awfully good stories – and to be taken back to life in New Zealand.

Will you have any “down time” in London – and how do you plan to spend it?

Anika: Downtime with friends and family and beer. LOL.

After London – what next?

Anika: Spain! Part holiday part music conference, then back home to nearly summer in New Zealand. Yay!

Interview by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission

INTERVIEW: Thomas Oliver and Louis Baker

Next week welcomes Thomas Oliver’s debut show in London, as well as the return of Louis Baker to UK shores. The singer-songwriter friends – who have burgeoning solo careers – are taking this opportunity to play a double bill show in London before their duo performance at the Edinburgh Festival, and solo stages at Sziget Festival, Budapest. I grabbed the chance to chat with them.

Thomas and Louis

Louis, you’ve made quite an impression the last couple of times you’ve been here – how does it feel to be coming back?

 

Louis: It’s a joy to be coming back to the UK. I am highly fortunate. I have an outstanding manager (Cushla Aston at Aston Rd), so things run smoothly and I’m always taken care of. Aston Rd is very supportive of my career, helping to make this trip possible. Last time I was over this way, I did shows at Field Days Festival, and Sonar in Barcelona, Spain.

Coming back this time with Thomas Oliver and Cushla is a fresh thing for us all, and we are super excited!

Thomas, this is your London debut. How are you feeling about it, and any expectations?

 

Thomas: I am really looking forward to finally getting a chance to try to understand the sheer size and depth of activity in London. It’s hard to comprehend from the mellow streets of Wellington. I really want to ingest as much of it as I can while we’re there – food, drink, live music, art, culture, architecture, history, countryside, everything! Our manager, Cushla, lived there for years, so we’re fortunate enough to have someone who can show us what’s up! There are also a few musicians and label owners over there whom I have collaborated with but never met, so I look forward to meeting them, as well as anyone else I can, and of course catching up with all our Kiwi friends living there. I hear it’s sizzling there right now too, so that will be welcome change from cowering next to the heater back home!

You guys are friends from back in New Zealand – how did you meet, and how has this joint-tour come about?

 

Louis: Wellington has a close musical community. Thomas and I met at a show I was supporting him on at a small cafe down Cuba Street one night, where we played to around 20 people. This friendship flourished through our common love of music and musical taste. To this day he stands as a sort of musical mentor of mine, helping guide and connect me with some key people that I work with today. A tour together has always been on the cards. It makes me so happy that we now have this opportunity to play our songs for people in faraway lands.

Thomas: Music brought us together a few years back – the Wellington music scene is very tight-knit and supportive, so everyone knows everyone (almost). Louis and I really connected over our desire to create music with emotional resonance, and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve toured together many times, and played many shows on the same stages, but, for some reason, it wasn’t until recently that we actually started playing together. We got asked if we would play as a duo for a festival in New Zealand called Homegrown, on the Red Bull “Sound Lab” stage which was all about artists coming together with other artists and working together to create something new. And we enjoyed it so much that we decided to do some more of it! And we’re stoked to have the opportunities to do it on the other side of the world.

 

Thomas, you’re internationally considered as one of the leading players of the Weissenborn lap-steel guitar. What can you tell us about the instrument, and how did you become interested in playing it?

 

Thomas: Of all the musical instruments on the planet, the Weissenborn is my favourite. For me, it sits somewhere between an acoustic guitar and the human voice; a guitar because of its 6 strings and the hollow chamber, and the human voice because of its infinite intonation and its raw and distinctive character. I started playing when I was 17 as a result of being captivated by Ben Harper’s first album, Welcome to the Cruel World, upon my first listen. I stared at the stereo, trying to decipher what this sound was. It sounded similar to a guitar, but it was deeper and richer and scratchier, and I just had to know what it was! I soon learned that it was a Weissenborn, and soon after I had one of my own. But I never knew at the time just how deep my love affair with it would run!

 

You’re going on to play the Edinburgh Festival after London. Have either of you played Edinburgh before, and what can our readers there expect from you?

 

Louis: I can’t wait to get to Scotland and be immersed in its vibe! Edinburgh will be a new place to play for both Thomas and I, and the show will be a duo set as part of New Zealand Season at the festival. We have unique and distinctive sounds, and I think that people can expect nothing less than an all out, expressive, soulful and uplifting performance.

Thomas: We’ll be doing a full duo set in Edinburgh. We have a good time playing this way. Some songs are all about Louis and I just do what I can to make him sound better, and some songs are the other way around, and then some are just the meeting of our minds in real time. It’s a progressive dynamic that we both enjoy. I’ve never been to Edinburgh before, but I am eagerly awaiting our time there! As a kid, I had bookshelves full of books about castles, and I used to draw castles in the back of my school books when I should have been paying attention. I was probably the only 10-year-old who knew what crenulations were. Haha. However, despite my obsession, I have never seen a castle! So, whilst I’m sure many people over there are entirely accustomed to the idea of one of the world’s most amazing castles right in the middle of the city, it excites the hell out of me!

Any plans for how you intend to spend your time in London and Edinburgh, other than gigging?

 

Louis: Travelling is one of the most life-expanding things to do; I love it. There are places to go and people to meet! I think it would be rude not to get involved in the local food, nature, whisky, markets, sightseeing, and the arts.

Thomas: We plan to do a bit of driving to check out some English and Scottish countryside. I hear it’s remarkable. There’s a few clubs I’d love to check out as well (especially Fabric), and Cushla knows a few amazing restaurants which I’m sure we’ll make the most of! Aside from all of the things I mentioned above; the culture, the castles, the art, the history, I just want to feel a part of the place, alongside the company of my friends.

 

After your UK duo shows, you’re taking up solo stages at Sziget Festival in Budapest. How are you feeling about the festival, and what do you expect the crowds to be like there?

 

Louis: To be able to perform at a festival like Sziget in Budapest – playing musical creations of your own to people for the first time – is a dream come true. It has been an aspiration of mine ever since I was a young boy to play around the world so I am fizzing. In my limited experience, European crowds are very warm and receptive so I look forward to this very much.

Thomas: To be honest, it’s really hard to know! The line-up is so amazingly diverse. Everything from NOFX, to Deadmau5, to Louis Baker, to Queens of the Stone Age…I expect there will be a lot of open-minded music lovers there. And it will certainly be the biggest festival I’ve ever played at. I just hope I’m not playing at the same time as NOFX…Haha. I collaborated with Black Sun Empire a couple of years back, so I was stoked to see them on the bill, and I look forward to catching up with them again, as friendly faces will be most relished in a 400,000 strong festival!

What’s next for both of you after this tour?

 

Louis: I have a lot of plans for my career, and visions of where I’d like to go with it. When I get home I will be back into song writing, performing, working, teaching and more shows in NZ and Australia.

Thomas: I’ll be heading back into the studio to keep working on my next album. I’m about halfway through it right now, and I’m amped about where it’s heading and how it’s sounding. Come November, it looks as if Louis and I might be touring NZ together again, so I look forward to that. But for now, my mind is purely set on the UK and Europe!

Thomas Oliver and Louis Baker will play a FREE double bill show at London’s Bedroom Bar, this coming Wednesday 6th August (on stage at 8.30pm), and will feature in the NZ Music Showcase of the Edinburgh Festival on Monday 11th August (on stage at 10.15pm).

This interview originally featured on NZNewsUK.

I also interviewed Louis Baker when he was in London last year – you can check out the original feature here.

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.

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.

Interview with Don McGlashan – I chat to him ahead of UK tour with Dave Dobbyn

Originally published on NZNewsUK

By Charlotte Everett

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Two true Kiwi legends – Dave Dobbyn and Don McGlashan – have come together on stage for the first time, and this weekend sees the start of their UK tour. Don McGlashan took time out of their hectic tour schedule to have a cheeky chat with me ahead of their much-anticipated shows in Edinburgh and London.

Don – you are two of New Zealand’s most successful and best-loved songwriters. To have you sharing the stage together for the first time no doubt has fans all around the world excited. How are you feeling about it, and how has this finally come about?

There was a vague plan for us to do an acoustic show together in Edinburgh a few years ago, and although that didn’t happen at the time, the idea remained hanging in the air like the name of your favourite music teacher at Primary School, who you can’t quite remember, even though she looked like Ingrid Bergman.  Then a few months ago we were asked if we’d consider doing the now-established “Acoustic Church Tour” together in NZ this October. We jumped at it.

Your UK shows follow tours across New Zealand and Australia. How has the response been Down Under?

We got a great response to this show in New Zealand. We haven’t finished the Australian leg of the tour yet, but Melbourne was terrific, so I think it’s going to go well. 

 

What’s it been like working together for the first time?

Brilliant. Learning each one of Dave’s songs is like meeting an old friend.

Neither of you are strangers to the UK and Europe. How are you feeling about returning to the UK, this time together?

I seem to still have a fairly healthy following in the UK, both from when the Mutton Birds lived there in the 90s, and from my solo tours there in the years since. It’s always good to see old friends in the audience.

How do the London fans/shows differ from those back home?

No matter where you are, every audience is different; every night is unrepeatable. That’s why playing live matters so much.

 

Your Edinburgh show sold out, so you’re now doing another one. Did you expect as much? And how do you find the fans in Edinburgh?

I’m always surprised when audiences show up. You can’t take anything for granted in this business. But houses have been pretty full throughout this whole tour; I guess people realise it’s a rare occurrence, and they are interested to see how Dave and I bounce off each other musically.

Fans here know to expect a combination of classic tracks from both of you, as well as new material. How much of the content is new, and how has it been received so far?

We’re both playing a wide range of material across our whole careers, including one or two new songs.  The new ones have gone down very well.

Likewise, what old classics have driven fans wild on the tours so far?

Well, hearing ‘Loyal’ and ‘Anchor Me’ in the same set seems to wipe away any last vestiges of reserve in the audience.

Other than the shows, what else will you get up to in London and Edinburgh?

Eel and Pie in London; Haggis in Scotland.  Oh, and single malts. A lot of research needed there.