THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Mahoney Harris

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Mahoney Harris: We Didn't Feel Alone
THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITER QUESTIONNAIRE: Mahoney Harris

Waiheke-based singer-songwriter Mahoney Harris is well known to many in the New Zealand music industry (as someone who takes care of licensing, promotion and such through her Aeroplane Music company), so perhaps its no surprise to see the list of local musical luminaries who appear on her debut album We Didn't Feel Alone.

But frankly, you don't get the likes of Wayne Bell, Tom Healy, Matthias Jordan, Andrew Keoghan and Ben King unless you have something special going on in the music.

With her muted folk-pop, mature but intimate lyrics reflecting on love and emotional changes, and an understatement which is inviting, Harris brings something highly personal to the album which you can imagine others would want to be part of.

The album comes after a considerable career in music dating back to New York days in the Nineties, time in Sydney after '99 (where she recorded a debut EP Nowhere to Roam) and then a return to New Zealand to complete a BA at Auckland Uni, and after that back into music in 2005.

A second EP (But They Do) followed, then the business started and she assisted others in their careers.

Her debut album came from a PledgeMe campaign ("I was humbled by the response") and she launches it at the Wine Cellar in Auckland on Thursday September 18 with some special guests. And given her background they are probably very special.

Before then however we asked her to answer our Famous Elsewhere Songwriter Questionnaire -- and she is as interesting as we expected . . . 

The first song which really affected you was . . .

’Teenage Wildlife’ David Bowie from the Scary Monsters album. My Uncle had left the cassette lying around at my Grandma’s house. It had so much pathos and so many different sections to it. I was a teenager at the time, but ironically I didn’t even really know what it was about.

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

Madonna. I was around 13. Desperately Seeking Susan influenced me big time. I loved her attitude and her wardrobe, and ‘Get Into The Groove’ is still one of her best tunes.

The one songwriter you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?

Joni Mitchell. I never tire of her voice, melodies, incredible songs.

As songwriters: Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards; kd lang or Katy Perry; Madonna or Michael Jackson; Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson?

Lennon-McCartney, kd lang, I’m jumping ship now but Michael Jackson and Johnny Cash

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

Golden Lady – Stevie Wonder, I Believe in You – Neil Young, So Young – Ron Sexsmith

Melody first? Words or phrase first? Simultaneous?

Usually words but occasionally things happen simultaneously and I am delighted! Melody first is the most challenging for me but can be very satisfying if it comes off.

Tom_Waits_1369199fThe best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Low Side of the Road – A life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns. That gave me a great insight into how he started out, his pivotal relationships and what inspires him and drives him.

If you could co-write with anyone it would be . . .

Hmmm, maybe Gillian Welch. She makes it look easy.

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

Beck - Morning Phase; Mulholland’s new single and on vinyl – (though I don’t even have a turntable); Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey’s, African Electronic Music 1975-1982. I love this era of African music, plus the album cover is arresting!

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

Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney. It feels as if it comes from the heart and that’s good enough for me.

One line (or couplet) from a song -- yours or someone else's -- which you think is just a stone cold winner is . . .

"She said losing love is like a window in your heart, everybody sees you’re blown apart, everybody sees the wind blow"

– Paul Simon, Graceland

harrisSongwriting: what's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?

I would say 20/80. You have to harness the inspiration and craft it into a finished song. And sometimes the inspiration isn’t there, so you have to work to create an environment for the inspiration to come, and then craft it into a song!

Ever had a song come to you fully-formed like it dropped into your lap?

‘Give Me’ from my new album was a little bit like that. The chorus jumped out and I was able to work on the verses from there and volia!

And finally, finish this couplet in any way you like: “Standing at the airport with an empty suitcase at my feet . . .” (You are NOT allowed to rhyme that with “meet” however)

They took my shoes, my books and clothes, but the sun feels warm on the concrete


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