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She’s putting out her first new album in five years, Coming in From the Dark, featuring some awesome collaborations and some raw feelings. Singer-songwriter Hollie Smith strums out a few details on career highlights, The Mussell Inn, and not sacrificing small animals.
How has your sound evolved since Water or Gold? So much has changed and happened in these five years but also only feels like five minutes ago that Water or Gold was out and that nothing has changed all at once. I guess 2020 will do that! I don’t know how to be objective around the way my ‘sound’ has evolved. I evidently outdid myself on procrastination, however.
What aspects of your personality do you think come out in the music? I got taught a lesson very young about feeling a song opposed to simply singing it. I generally have to be very connected to what I perform and write. I’m pretty raw when I write and perform so what ya see is what you get. My incredible sense of humour often gets slightly lost though.
Tell us about your songwriting process. Generally quiet vibes in a quiet space and just mucking around on guitar or piano, finding a series of chords with me humming over the top until something clicks. A very technical process. Then I spend days agonising over lyrics.
What was it like self-producing this album? I kind of feel like my stuff just produces itself really. My band [Darren Mathiassen on drums, Daniel Hayles on the keys, and Johnny Lawrence on bass] are geniuses and have got to a point where they mind-read my incredibly inarticulate direction. The involvement of the NZSO changed the direction but also helped shape where the overall tone was going.
What are you looking forward to most about touring again? I am bursting to perform again! Throughout Covid and producing the record I’ve barely played live. Also we were expecting to release earlier than now so I had put off playing live to make sure the tour was in demand, so now put all that together. I’m looking forward to everything including lack of sleep, bad accommodation, cramped tour vans and bad food.
What’s your favourite place to visit on tour around Aotearoa? Honestly you can do a show at the same venue, same time, same types of people with the same set up and a Saturday night could be 100% different to the night before. So it really depends. I generally enjoy 95% of the shows I do.
Do you have any pre-show rituals? If I’m with the band we make sure we are all together, have a few laughs and a good warm up. Have a karakia just prior to going on stage to connect and have a moment. Nothing weird. We don’t like sacrifice small animals or anything.
What have been some highlights and challenges of collaborating with other artists on Coming In From The Dark? This whole album was a challenge in regards to jigsaw puzzling it together. I used most of the studios and engineers in the North Island, I think! The NZSO were obviously amazing to watch – I got about halfway through the day when I realised that was actually going to be on my record, got a bit lost in the moment. All my guests were super gracious and generous to come on board. Sol3 Mio are amazing humans and hilarious, Raiza Biza is incredibly talented and totally made that track, and Teeks well, it’s Teeks! Gorgeous.
What’s been your favourite venue to perform at? Too-hard-basket question! The energy and people really make a venue. In saying that, I do always love The Mussel Inn, Onekaka. It’s always an experience, there’s really not anywhere like it in the world. It only sits about 80 people or something so it’s like playing in someone’s lounge room. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend. And they have their amazing Mussel Inn beers.
What’s been the most surreal moment of your career so far? Where do I start? The Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada was a pretty epic moment. An amazing outdoor festival where we played to 50,000 people. That one was pretty wild.
What artist have you got on high rotation at the moment? Hiatus Kaiyote’s new album is amazing. Mara TK, a bunch of gospel stuff, Moses Sumney, Reb Fountain. This could take a while.