Interview with Bic Runga
Who or what have been the greatest influences on your musical career?
When I was first starting out, Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn welcomed my as support for them, which was incredible! They are so professional and lovely, and just interacting with them and watching how they worked taught me heaps about how to be on the road.
Tell us a little bit about being a parent and how you balance that with a music career?
It’s all about balance, and balance is hard! I took a couple of years off after I had my first daughter, and getting back into the flow took a while. But kids are so cool, and music is my passion, so we find a way to make it all work together. My kids play music and it’s exciting to hear what they come up with. I work really long hours to be flexible for my kids, but I can also call on family when I need it.
You have an iwi connection to Ngati Kahungunu through your father, tell us about that connection to this region.
That’s right but I also identify with Ngati Rongomaiwahine in the Mahia peninsula They are two associated Hawke’s Bay tribes, Kahungunu was the man and Rongomaiwahihe was the woman. I’m going to be doing a songwriting workshop in the Hawke’s Bay to learn how to write songs in Maori next month which I’m excited about.
Relating to the previous question, how have you developed Te Reo in your song writing, is that a language you were connected to through your father?
Learning te reo Māori has been such an amazing journey. It feels really comfortable, even though my dad didn’t speak to us in te reo at home. I’ve been so lucky to have Sir Timoti Keretu and HInewehi Mohi helping me rework Sway into Haere Mai Ra and with my pronunciation! I’ve also taken an immersion te reo course, but I have such a long way to go. It’s such a beautiful language, and I am writing more songs in te reo for my next record.
And your connection to your Malaysian family, yet being brought up in New Zealand, a wonderfully bi-cultural mix, how has that influenced your music?
My mother is Malaysian and was a professional singer in Malaysia before I was born so she taught me how to sing. There wasn’t much of a Malaysian cultural influence while I was growing up. I think her major influence is more that she used to sing around the house, and we had to practice our instruments all the time. Music is so important to her, and she has passed this down to me and to my sisters.
Tell me a little about your role as a mentor for young musicians.
The music industry is a really hard place to be. There are so many voices competing for space to be heard that it can be overwhelming. I want to be a positive voice for people who are trying to figure out their way through songwriting and producing their own music. I manage my own career, and it’s important for evolving musicians to learn more about the business side of their music, so they can make good decisions. I’ve had people helping me throughout my career, and I want to empower young people to be confident to succeed in music. It’s my turn to help!
The performance that you are doing is part of the Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival and a small New Zealand tour, when was your last time performing in NZ and what are your future plans?
My last actual New Zealand tour was three years ago, celebrating the 20th anniversary of my album, Drive. We only went to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and I’ve been wanting to get out to other towns in New Zealand for a long time. I am particularly excited to play in Hawke's Bay, as I recently learned a lot more about my father and my iwi.