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Charlotte Yates: Think It Through

Because Wellington singer-songwriter Charlotte Yates has been busy helming the adaptation of words by the writers James K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare and Witi Ihimaera to music with various all-star casts , her own career seemed to take something of a backseat in the past decade or so.

Yes, there were albums . . . but her latest Archipelgo is a real departure because with co-producer Gil Eva Craig she has been nudged towards subtle electronica. There are also some stellar but discreet guests, and the songs are consistently strong throughout.

So given this album is quite a step up and into different territory it was time for Charlotte Yates to answer our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire. 

The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .

Away in a Manger - I was three and I was inconsolable, finding the lyrical content consuming…..

Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .

Gloria Gaynor – ‘First I was afraid…’

Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?

Jagger – trouble and groove, referencing all the right folks – not bad for a white guy

Nirvana – the songs the songs the songs

Madonna – pop queen still reigns supreme

Jacko - tragic but genius

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .

my original choice was veterinary science…I got sidetracked.

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .

TB Sheets – Van Morrison

Down in Splendour - Straitjacket Fits

Poptones - Public Image Ltd

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

My late uncle’s embossed brass gong picked up when he was army padre in Singapore late 70s

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo – strangely connected and revealing indepth interviews

Closely followed by The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis. ( all is explained and it’s all in our heads)

the_unbearable_lightness_of_being_movie_poster_1988_1020468992If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

Joni Mitchell. Rhythm guitar/bvs to her Blue, Hejira and Hissing on Summer Lawns albums

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

Thelma and Louise, The Last Waltz and The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man, on vinyl – thanks Slowboat Records

(Long Tall) Marcia Ball - wonderful blues pianist and singer ‘Peace Love and BBQ’ album

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . . .

Mambo#5 ( everyone needs a little bit of Monica in their lives)

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

NZ artist Elizabeth Thomson – who does the most detailed and anatomically correct installations of leaves, insects and all good things in nature in large and beautiful ways.

You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .

My epitaph – ‘Wine, women and song’

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where, doing . . .?

On cargo freighter cruises round the Pacific the the Galapagos through the Panama Canal and on to Europe and back for a year, then the next four parked up at the bach in Waitarere Beach with the goat/chickens/cats/guinea pigs/bees and my lovely partner, Emma, while her girls go and do wonderful things with lives, and report back regularly for roasts and bbqs…a nice way to sign out!

charlotte_yatesAnd finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”

It’s a co-production with the multi-talented producer/instrumentalist and sound designer Gil Eva Craig so the songs sound better – more ear candy. It’s well supported by Universal Music who picked up my compilation CDs to Baxter, Tuwhare and Ihimaera so less stress.

It’s a mixture of first takes and re-writes, fullbodied folktronica and fragile acoustic tracks so it takes more risks. I play more instruments and sing more parts. I play and sing better. It’s littered with wonderful guest artists from Greg Johnson (via tracks sent from LA) to drummer Darren Mathiassen (Shapeshifter) to string players from Orchestra Wellington to Phoenix Foundation’s Tom Callwood’s big beautiful gutstringed double bass.

Yeah, it ain’t perfect, but it’s a step up.  

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