music | 31st march 2017
Nadia Reid recently braved Europe’s frigid winter to woo the continentals with her sonorous voice and intimate, melodic brand of folk. I was fortunate enough see her perform in the dimly lit belly of a handsome red boat parked in Rotterdam’s harbour.
words: carter imrie-milne
photographs: steve gullick, harry harris & justyn denny strother
The venue provided the perfect atmosphere for her music - a fact to which the captivated crowd would no doubt attest. It was an eclectic audience, encompassing a variety of ages, styles and degrees of sobriety, but its members were unanimous in their enjoyment of what was, for most, their first encounter with Nadia’s avant-garde antipodean folk. Indeed, her performance alongside friend, bandmate and guitar virtuoso, Sam Taylor (looking suave in a tux and a Gore Country Music Club hat) surpassed even my lofty expectations. Songs were sung, deep and sweet. People swayed gently. Eyes focused and unfocused. Countenances grew pensive in the soft purple light. Awkward NZ charm was deployed to maximum effect.
Towards the end the show, Nadia asked if there were any requests. The unmistakable intonations of the Kiwi accent rung enthusiastically from somewhere the back and I felt as if it were Friday at Meow. A rare whiff of home, on a boat in a Dutch shipping port. Nadia took up her guitar again and played my favourite song, ‘Some Are Lucky.’ Those of us there that night certainly were.
Hi Nadia - thank you for talking to us here at Lo & Behold. Congratulations on all your musical success thus far! The 2015 release of your first LP, Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs, earned you praise from esteemed music publications like Pitchfork, MOJO and the Guardian. You have been recognised locally and abroad as a thoughtful and sensitive artist with a singular voice and a unique sound. On the back of all this talk, you’ve toured twice through Europe, the second trip drawing to a close in late February, and you gave produced a second album Preservation, which is at the time of this interview just a few days from release. In light of all that, how are you feeling, right now?
Nadia: I feel good. I’m currently sitting on a plane high up in the sky. It’s a nice time to relax and reflect. In the back of my mind, it feels like a busy year is approaching… but I feel happy to be busy.
Could you tell us about your new album, Preservation? In what ways does the record differ from your first LP? How have you grown since Listen was written and in what ways are these changes reflected in your musical development?
Nadia: I think the obvious difference is that time has passed. It took me ages to get into the studio for my first record. This time there was 2 years between studio time and I had more of a sense that making a record was the right thing to do. I guess you could call that confidence but I sort of see it as more of a ‘knowing’. Preservation was made with the same team. Ben Edwards, Sam Taylor, Richie Pickard and Joe McCallum. In the two years between records, I learned a lot about myself.
"it’s important for an artist to receive recognition, in whatever form"
The first album was a real slow-burner - initially self-released to relative indifference before being picked up by Spunk Records and ultimately earning you international acclaim and a devoted audience. How did all that attention affect you?
Nadia: Well, it’s nice to be reviewed by people who you feel understand your record, whoever they are, whether it's being interviewed by your local newspaper or by Mojo. It’s important for an artist to receive recognition, in whatever form. That helped me. It was affirming in a moderate way. When the reviews came in, I had limited understanding of the significance these magazines played and didn’t know immediately how it would affect my profile. In many ways it has allowed me to tour Europe once again, quit my day job and dive into full-time musician-hood, for now.
The Pitchfork review of that first album, while abundantly positive, seemed overly focussed on the melancholy aspects of your writing, going so far as to say that your outlook on love was “hopeless." Your musical meditations on love do have a sombre quality that could be mistaken for despondence, but you have talked of your frustration at being pigeonholed as a “bitter, down on love, angry, lonely woman." What do you hear in your music that was missed in that review?
Nadia: Well I guess I know intimately what those songs are about, how I felt when I wrote them, what I mean by them and so those words and the jist of that review didn’t sit well with me. I felt misunderstood. But people are entitled to take whatever they feel out of these songs. They become something for someone that is individual to them. That is a beautiful thing.
"it helps me feel OK in the world. like I am doing something useful and good. music is a beautiful and healing power. "
As an artist writing and performing such personal songs you are, of course, very vulnerable. Vulnerable to misunderstanding, as we saw, and judgment - both from those you know and those you don’t. What is your experience of this vulnerability? Do you see it as an essential part of why you create your music or is it simply a sacrifice you have to make?
Nadia: I feel like I am very used to it now. I tend not to overthink it, I think if I did think too hard, it could become overwhelming and at moments, it is overwhelming. But ultimately, I live for it. It’s become part of my being. It helps me feel OK in the world. Like I am doing something useful and good. Music is a beautiful and healing power.
Expanding on that - what are your primary motivations for making music? Can you imagine yourself doing anything else?
Nadia: The motivation comes from a natural urge to create music. Writing songs and writing in general is a natural outlet I can’t escape. It feels in many ways as vital as water to me. That’s not to say I feel incredibly inspired all the time. But without music, or the opportunity to perform/make records, I would be less of a person. I guess my ‘back-up plan’ would be a school teacher or midwife… I could do either
As we mentioned, you've just finished your second tour of Europe. What are your impressions of the continent? Are you getting the hang of travel and touring? Is there anything you really miss from home, while you’re away?
Nadia: I’ve had so little time on the tour this time that I’m writing these answers on the plane home but it’s been great. I’m constantly overwhelmed by how lucky I am to get to tour the world. There are certainly little tricks that you pick up on the way. This second tour feels easy, a little set up, so we just keep building and it should get easier and better. Touring Europe does make me realise how absolutely stunning our country is. Although, the Swiss Alps are very, very up there…!
"touring internationally changed me. changed my outlook. i can’t quite put into words how, but it did. do it!"
How important do you consider it for New Zealanders to ditch the islands and see the rest of the world?
Nadia: Extremely important. We are a tiny couple islands at the bottom of the world. Touring internationally changed me. Changed my outlook. I can’t quite put into words how, but it did. Do it! Any way you can.
NADIA REID - 'PRESERVATION TOUR'
Thur 30th March - Port Chalmers Town Hall, Dunedin*
Fri 31st March - Port Chalmers Town Hall, Dunedin*
Sat 1st April - Blue Smoke, Christchurch*
Sun 2nd April - Dharma Bums Club, Wairau Valley
Tues 4th - East Street Cafe, Nelson
Weds 5th April - Mussel Inn, Takaka
Thu 6th April - Meow, Wellington*
Fri 7th April - Meow, Wellington*
Sat 8th April - Tuning Fork, Auckland*
*with full band
nadia reid: Website
nadia reid: Bandcamp
nadia reid: FaceBook
nadia reid: @hellonadiareid
carter imrie-milne: @carter_arter
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