Music That Moves: Nadia Reid
Described by Dave Dobbyn as carrying a sound of “wonderful melancholy,” Nadia Reid’s distinctive voice has captured the hearts of a faithful audience, both in New Zealand and abroad. With two albums previously released (listen to Formation, Look for the Signs in 2015 and Preservation in 2017), Nadia has now completed three tours throughout Europe and recently returned from a trip to the United States. I spoke with Nadia after her return to New Zealand, where she has been performing at venues throughout the country, and ahead of her show at the Waimate North Showgrounds as part of the UPSURGE Bay of Islands Arts Festival in April this year.
Born in Auckland and raised in Dunedin, Nadia has moved frequently throughout her life, with time spent in both Christchurch and Wellington and, as her musical career has developed, an increasing amount of time overseas. Though she describes Port Chalmers in Dunedin as a place that she feels inherently connected to (and a place where she recently bought a house and finished writing her third album), she speaks of constantly finding inspiration in new surroundings. Nadia has been greatly inspired by travel over the years, referencing a sense of ‘newness’ as “a place where all the good stuff happens.”
When asked specifically about where she finds inspiration, she reflects, “Ah, it’s quite a mystery. I really don’t know how to put it into words. I feel inspired by all sorts of things. Travelling mostly and conversations I have with strangers on the bus, processing relationships, family… I tend to try and be observant as much as possible and reflective and grateful and I try to write as much as I can even if it never ends up in a song. The song is just a lucky bonus.”
From this collection of anecdotes, Nadia builds a unique sound; a timeless blend of acoustic experimentation, whimsical prose and soaring melodies. Expressing the need for time alone to build her lyrics and melodies, Nadia begins with words and expressions or chords on the guitar (it varies), then takes what she has created to her band.
Far from a lone creator, Nadia speaks fondly of her band, consisting of Sam Taylor (guitar), Richie Pichard (bass) and Chris O’Connor (drums), describing Chris as ‘an amazing asset’ and Sam and Richie as ‘big brothers’ who have known her through a lot of development and change. When asked about special moments during performances, Nadia refrains from naming specifics, preferring to describe it as ‘a random coming together’. There are subtle changes, depending on whether she performs only with Sam, or with the whole band which allows a more dynamic sound, but describes performing with endearing terms such as ‘a joy’ and ‘a treat’.
Nadia’s musical journey has not been without its challenges, however. Without funding for her first album, she sought crowd-funding in 2014 through ‘Pledge Me’ to get it launched, with a letter beginning “Dear friends, I am writing to tell you all about a collection of songs I have written…” As her career has developed, Nadia has been selected to play at prominent U.K festivals such as Green Man (Wales) and End of the Road (England), which she described as highlights of her 2017 tour. But though she is aware of the incredible privilege she has of being a paid musician, she expresses that touring overseas can be a difficult and stressful life away from friends, family and normality.
When asked about revisiting past albums, Nadia likened the process of reading old diary entries or gazing upon old photographs. She is conscious of her development as a person and the subsequent growth in the sound, with many of her lyrics deeply personal and introspective. However, whilst Nadia recognises that it is a special exercise to be able to document her life through music, she currently seems more forward-focused than on looking back.
And with good reason. Recently returned from Richmond, Virginia, Nadia has just completed the recording of a new album. Producers at Spacebomb Records had seen Nadia perform overseas and extended an invitation to her and bandmate Sam Taylor to collaborate with them.
Described as ‘a record label shaped around traditional models and time-honoured ways,’ Nadia described the invite as a ‘why not?’ a moment, and describes the experience as a positive one, incorporating different musical elements and new performers.
As she recalls, “It was great to work with new people in a foreign country… they were all such pros. It was slightly odd not having a prior connection with the players but I was grateful to have Sam Taylor there who has played on all of my recordings [and] by the end of making the album we all felt like family.” While the album title is still confidential, Nadia confirms it will be released later this year.
Having recently played solo at smaller town venues such as ‘St Peter’s Hall’ Paekakariki, ‘The Plant’ Blenheim, and ‘Mussel Inn’ Takaka, Nadia has been experimenting with the new songs, and as this issue of Gather goes to print, she has been looking forward to upcoming gigs ‘Future City’ in Hamilton where she will perform with Sam Taylor, ‘Milk and Honey’ in Auckland where she will form part of a strong female line-up to honour International Women’s Day and ‘Womad Music Festival’ in New Plymouth which she described as “a rite of passage” given its artist-focused, family-friendly approach.
But perhaps the most tender part of our conversation was when we touched on the essence of what music has done personally for Nadia.
When I quoted her in a previous interview describing the act of “falling in love with music”, she added honestly “[music] has saved me… I feel we need it as humans to feel connected.” Recalling a recent gig she had attended in Dunedin, she described her observation of the room and the audience’s relationship with the performer as “a special language that connects us on a deep level.” We spoke about being ‘in love’ with one’s career, where she described her constant gratitude of finding music as an outlet. Born to perform, she expressed that nothing would give her as much satisfaction and that the idea of not loving what she does is one that terrifies her.
Channelling this ‘love’ into a haunting sound of emotion and restraint, Nadia’s performance will be her first in Northland, with just one show at the Waimate North Showgrounds. As Bay of Islands Festivals Director, Sophie Kelly, states, “[Nadia] is quickly gaining national and international success [and] I felt it was timely to present her as part of the Festival, for Bay of Islands’ audiences to enjoy. Her voice is soulful and mesmerising and combined with her stellar band members, they will make for a stunning night in the characterful Waimate North Showgrounds Hall, bringing its historic rustic charm to life.”