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A beautiful collision

3 July 2023
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The inimitable, magical, multiple-award-winning musician Bic Runga sways our way this month
while taking much-cherished 11-time platinum album Beautiful Collision on a 20th anniversary celebration tour.
Interview Josie Steenhart
| Photos Aileen Chen

Firstly I just want to say thank you for adding Christchurch to the tour! Yay! Ōtautahi is your hometown – does it hit differently to play here?
Christchurch has changed so much since I was living there 29 years ago. As a city, it’s a lot better in many ways but there’s something about the people that’s very down to earth and real, which hasn’t changed.
I’m proud to be from here. I know there’s something of my personality that is distinctly Christchurch, as in, even though I live in Auckland now, it’s never really felt like my home.

Do you get to visit much? And what do you get up to/where do you go while you’re here?
I don’t get to Christchurch as much anymore as my sisters and mum all live in Auckland.
I see old school friends when I’m here though, and my favourite thing to do is drive over the Port Hills to Governors Bay or Lyttelton.

There’s always a good new place for coffee to try out in the city, and I love how Christchurch has always been a good place for live jazz bands and outdoor music.
I love the Botanical Gardens and the Arts Centre and I have a real soft spot for the Canterbury Museum. I love how it’s barely changed since I went there as a kid.

In 2021, you wrote ‘No One Walks This Night Alone’ to mark the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake – how did that come about?
The Christchurch City Council asked me to write a song for the 10-year anniversary of the earthquakes, they had a very specific brief which was kind of about moving on from the trauma of what had been a full, arduous decade for everyone.

I tried my best to write something that captures that feeling, it was a real honour to do this, as it’s quite an old fashioned thing for a songwriter to be asked to do, to write a song to mark an event.
It was a shame we couldn’t perform the song with a choir, as we went into a Covid lockdown just as I arrived in Christchurch to perform it. But one day I hope it will be performed as a choral piece, as intended.

You’ve said Beautiful Collision is your favourite album…
Beautiful Collision brings back really good memories of when I was making it, I spent three years on this record. It wasn’t an easy three years but the things that are most difficult are usually the most personally rewarding and enduring.

And do you have a favourite track/s?
I still like all of the songs on this album, I was trying so hard to not write anything that I knew I’d find embarrassing later! That was my main objective at the time.

What is it about the album that you think resonates with people so strongly?
I was just trying to be really honest with these songs. I think when you’re being really honest and straightforward with yourself sometimes that speaks best to other people too.

You’re songwriting again, how has that been, and any hints on when we might hear something of what you’ve been working on?
I will play a few new things as part of the performance of the full Beautiful Collision album. It’s a good chance to show people where I’m at, it’s really fun to play new songs for the first time.

Has much changed for women in the New Zealand music industry in the last 20 years?
The music industry is simply difficult for anyone, but a recent APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) study showed that women and non-binary songwriters only make up around 21 percent of their membership. Songwriting should by no means be a gender-specific job of course, so perhaps there are obstacles that need to be addressed.

The biggest change of awareness I’ve noticed in this industry over the last 10 years has been the willingness to address mental health, sexual harm and systemic discrimination of all kinds.
I’m excited to have been able to hang around this long to see this happen when none of it seemed to be something anyone could discuss with you or help you with. There’s a lot of support now with SoundCheck Aotearoa and MusicHelps addressing these kinds of issues.

You’ve always been a supporter of New Zealand fashion, what are some local favourites? (You spent your first paycheck on a NOM*d cardy?!)
I kind of can’t believe how many awesome designers we have in Aotearoa. Penny Sage, Gloria, Entire Studios, Rory William Docherty, Zambesi, Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester, Kowtow, Mahsa, Helen Cherry; the list is endless.
I think with a lot of creative industries in New Zealand, we grow up aspiring to what we see out of Europe, Asia and America but with an outsider’s perspective that adds its own flavour.

Finally, since Chico is our coverstar alongside you, tell us a little about him?
My dog Chico is a little old man now, but he still seems pretty young and spritely. We got him as a puppy 13 years ago. People think of chihuahuas as loud and yappy but Chico has always been really mellow. I think he knows he’s the old man of the house, he’s very good at communicating with us after such a long time in the family.

I’m not looking forward to no-more-Chico, but I did recently see a chihuahua in the Guinness Book of Records who was 23, so there’s hope!

Bic Runga’s The ‘Beautiful Collision’ Tour plays
Christchurch’s Isaac Theatre Royal, July 21, 2023.

To read this story in our digital issue click here.

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