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Ngaiire On Creative Expression & Exploring Her Cultural Identity Through Music

Written by Sarah Bellamy on December 19, 2019

Ngaiire is getting ready to release her third album. The album – which features recently released single ‘Shiver’ – is the follow up to 2016’s Blastoma, and her 2014 debut Lamentations.

The R&B singer-songwriter performed at Glastonbury in 2014, and at the opening ceremony for the Pacific Games in 2015. Her single ‘Once’ made it into the Triple J Hottest 100, 2015, which was notable as it was released by an unsigned artist on an independent label.

Next year will see Ngaiire playing Perth Festival in February, and commencing a national tour that same month. We caught up with Ngaiire to chat about playing Perth Festival, her upcoming national tour, and the research trip to Papua New Guinea that helped inspire her upcoming album.

Music Feeds: What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming national tour?

Ngaiire: I’ve really been enjoying just really stretching myself, creatively, at the moment, and at the moment, for the last tour we introduced a lot of things that we’d been working on like, video work and lighting production. I have one extra person in the band, I have three backing vocalists now, instead of just two. So, I just am really looking forward to the creative aspect of things and seeing people kind of, grow in the experience with us. [I] Kind of changed the narrative of the performances a little bit and become a lot more informative with the content. So, it’ll be interesting to see how people take to the journey at hand, I guess.

MF: So, it’s going to be quite different to your previous shows?

N: I think more of an extension. So, the idea is to keep growing and to keep just pushing ourselves with what we can do within the budget that we have and just because of the content of what this album is about, just figuring out new ways to present that to people.

MF: Cool! I was actually going to ask about that, because I know you’ve just released your single ‘Shiver’ in October… so, there’s a new album on the way?

N: There is! Hopefully, people will get that later next year, but we’ll see. Because there’s so much other content to release along with the singles, in terms of like, documentaries and visual projects and that kind of stuff, I think it’ll be a longer process, as opposed to the last two albums that I’ve released, which is exciting because it means more life is put into each release.

MF: What’s the documentary stuff you’ve mentioned?

N: So, each song basically is birthed from a research trip that we did to PNG, where I’m from. Two and a half years ago, I took like, a small creative team over there to just research for the next album. And PNG’s very diverse and very robust in terms of stories that we can tell and content and there’s just a lot happening there, so the challenge as an artist over the years has been, “how do I present who I am as a Papua New Guinean, but a Papua New Guinean who is Australian as well, and a member of the diaspora? How do I present that to my contemporary audience?” Which has always been a challenge for me, because I’m not this entirely… I don’t wanna say ‘marketable’, but just like… I’m not African American, I’m not Indigenous Australian, I’m not what people would consider… just what people see on commercial platforms as what a black person looks like, you know what I mean?

So, trying to tap into that in a way that people will kind of, understand, is an interesting journey at the moment, and so, a lot of the project is based on that, presenting unique aspects of my background and my upbringing and my experiences to people in a way that they can relate to as well.

MF: Do you have plans of when the documentary will be released? Will it be released before the album or after?

N: Hopefully early next year. So, there will be a couple of mini ones, there won’t be just one documentary, there will be a few mini ones that will inform, you know, whatever vehicle to release and inform whatever new music we release, so that people get more of an insight as to why and how the song or the visuals were created.

MF: What can fans expect from your set at Perth Festival next year?

N: I’m really excited about playing Perth Festival ‘cause they’re always packed with, really crazy, intense audiences for me! They’re probably [laughs], probably my scariest in the best possible way, ‘cause they really just bring the vibes. So, I wanna give them something special, I wanna give them something that we’re not giving to everybody else, just ‘cause it’s a long way to travel and they always are so generous to me, to support. But, it will be an extension of what the March tours will be, you know, fancy lights and costumes…

MF: Are there any new musical influences you discovered before the making of this upcoming record, that have kind of, contributed to it?

N: Umm, not really. I think when I work… so, I produced the album with a friend of mine, Jack Grace, and we’re both very… I think I’m very insular when it comes to working on an album or a single, like, I don’t necessarily seek out influences from other places, but it kind of, I mean, we’re all listening to music all the time and it loops in your brain, to the point where you come up with a melody and you’re like, “oh, where did I hear that from?”. I wouldn’t be able to tell you where the influences come from, but it’s more of the intimate process, me and Jack, we just kind of go where the songs or music takes us, if that makes sense?

MF: Is it going to be a particularly long album?

N: I’m not a fan of long albums. I think, you know, especially in this time where everything’s so consumable and very fast, with how fast people consume things. So, I’ve always loved 10-track albums. I think it’ll be like that, but we’ll have more interludes between songs just to control the narratives behind the project and behind the concept. But yeah, it won’t be that long, it will just be more of a… long rollout in terms of creating the story for people, with our audiences, but as a body of work, definitely not a long album.

MF: What are your New Years’ Resolutions for next year?

N: Oh my goodness, umm, New Years’ Resolutions… I don’t know if I… I’ve always tried to make resolutions every year, and my life’s kind of been pretty hectic the last two years and I feel like I’ve kind of, been forced to make resolutions and I have gone along just for quality mental health and life in general, but yeah, I don’t think I’ll be making one. I think that I’m on a roll of self-discovery at the moment that’s forcing me to make changes anyway, but I dunno. I think that I’m not going to make one!

Ngaiire will perform at Perth Festival’s opening weekend next year on Sunday 9th Feb with Emma Donovan & The Putbacks. Her national tour dates continue through February and March 2020.

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