Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Let's not call Wellington-based singer songwriter Nicole Andrews – originally from Portland, Oregon – an over-achiever . . . but she certainly achieves something over and above most of us.
She is a self-confessed lover of folklore, languages (she's currently learning Japanese), English literature and horror films, is a self-taught pianist raised by a family of artists and music fanatics who encouraged her passions and although she never took music lessons -- dropping out of choir twice when forced to perform solos – at 16 she was playing live in high school.
She moved to New Zealand in 2006 and heracclaimed debut album, In the Shallows, was recorded at the Surgery Studios with guest musicians including David Long (The Mutton Birds) and Andrew Bain (Fur Patrol).
The release attracted interest: “I even found this website in Spain doing a series of articles about strong women in music, all because of my song Just Another Female Vocalist,” she says.
For her new album, A Stranger, Andrews has delved into electronic music, pairing with Rhombus producer, Thomas Voyce, for production.
Drawing on influences such as Bjork, Goldfrapp and Massive Attack ,she has moved away from her previous “piano songs”.
A Stranger released today is a collection of 11 melancholic songs, centered around industrial beats, eerie synths, and raw confessional lyrics. With that new album and a tour starting May 10 (dates below) it was time for her to answer one of our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaires . . .
The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .
I remember sitting on the bus listening to like a mixtape or something on my Walkman and being completely taken by the female vocals in Send Me An Angel by Real Life.
Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .
I used to be such a massive Janet Jackson fan it’s not even funny. That was during like the Rhythm Nation and If days. I’m not so much embarrassed of that, as I am secretly still a fangirl. I typically just keep that info to myself.
Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?
Lennon, Nirvana, Madonna and um? Pass….?
If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
I used to joke about getting my doctorate in Vampirism, but in reality I’m actually such a big nerd that I would do it. Folklore is one of my main loves and I have seriously considered going back to Uni to pursue the field and become an academic. But honestly, I wouldn’t choose vampirism… The boogeyman is more my thing.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .
I feel like I want to be selfish and ask everyone to listen to my song Echo, because it’s one of my favourite songs on the new album, but it’s the last song, and I think people who don’t own the album or are the type of person just to listen to their favourites then they might miss it. Then after that I would say Goldfrapp’s Alvar and Indi’s Precipice. Those songs just get under my skin in the best way possible.
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home...
I own a black flying V ukulele, which is pretty rad. I bought it because of how it looked, but I have tried to play it a bit.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
I don’t read a lot about music, I’m more into reading novels or geeky folklore things. However, I did read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking when I was getting ready for my own crowdfunding campaign, and I found it interesting to hear about her relationship with her fans and how it’s a sort of shared experience.
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be?
PJ Harvey, and I’ve already tried to open for her. I was once told I would be added to the list of local support act considerations and I just about exploded. It turns out she wasn’t going to have an opener, but I don’t care. I was happy to think they might put me in some special little pile to look at later.
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
I quite a big fan of horror, so at risk of sounding like a creep, I would pick It Follows, Pan’s Labyrinth and I guess I’ll throw the Goonies in there because it was filmed in Oregon, where I’m from.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include...)
The last vinyl I bought was The Pixies Doolittle, but the last and more recent purchase was a download of the Kiwi band Womb, their album Like Splitting the Head from the Body.
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 . . .
I would personally like one of my songs to do that, but I think that’s not as exciting as picking someone else’s song. I’d pick Purple Rain, I could do with some Purple Rain royalties.
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
This is probably the hardest question, but Grace Jones Island Life is something that anyone would want to look at forever.
You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .
I’ll keep the one that I already have on my shoulder, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s a red dahlia.
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where and doing what?
I’d write and release two albums, because that’s plenty of time and that’s my favourite thing. Then I’d also jump on a plane every few months to go visit my family in Portland, but each time I come back I’d take a new route through a different country back to New Zealand. I’ve been learning Japanese, so I’d probably go Portland, Japan, somewhere else and then back to New Zealand.
And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”
Because it challenged me and pushed me past some personal boundaries, and that in my opinion always always produces your best work.
A Stranger’ New Zealand Album Release Tour 2018 - with special guests
10th May: Wellington: Meow
18th May: Lyttelton/Chch, Wunderbar
19th May: Queenstown, Sherwood
25th May: Auckland, The Wine Cellar