Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Some people rebel against their parents and become musicians, the only way a young Olivia Foa'i could have rebelled would by saying she was going to be a real estate agent.
She grew up with music in the Te Vaka family of singers, dancers and songwriters, the waka/vaka helmed by her father Opetaia Foa'i.
The Te Vaka story is extraordinary: taking a vision of pan-Pacific music to the world via small then medium-sized selling albums, leaving New Zealand for the richer pastures of Australia and elsewhere, and getting global attention for their music on the award-winning soundtrack to the Disney mega-hit Moana.
This was a phenomenally gifted group (Sulata Foa'i who established herself as a solo artist became part of it) and these days they are not just performers but producers, actors . . . Elsewhere followed them from their beginnings and there are album reviews and interviews starting here.
And Olivia was there the whole way.
But now she has stepped out with a subtle, almost understated debut album Candid which brings together soulful and contemporary r'n'b with electrobeats and log drums, acoustic guitar and Pacific harmonies.
Candid (reviewed at Elsewhere here) is an album which deserves a wide hearing, especially as the days get warmer, because it speaks to us in this part of the Pacific in a voice which comes from us . . . and the songs are just very, very good.
Our pleasure then to introduce solo artist Olivia Foa'i and have her answer a few questions . . .
The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .
I can’t remember a specific song but, as a toddler I was a huge fan of Johnny Clegg and I still remember that immense feeling of joy dancing along to the songs on this VHS we had of him.
Your first role models in music were . . .
My Dad, Opetaia and my Aunty Sulata. Aunty is the original female vocal of Te Vaka, still total legends to me.
Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?
Lennon, Nirvana, Madonna, Jay-Z
If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
A film director or editor, huge fan of filmmaking.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .
My song, “Grounded” is probably the song I’m proudest of, Johnny Clegg’s song, “Asimbonanga” about Nelson Mandala and “Aivoli Taoa” by Dad.
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home...
Oh man, I wish I had something cool to say – but no, nothing at all!
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
I won’t lie I haven’t read too many, but I’d say my favourite music-related book I’ve read is Berry Gordy’s “To Be Loved”.
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be?
I have no idea! But my favourite is always performing with family.
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
This is a tricky question, I’m not sure about ‘understand me better’ but I can say some films I love.
The Dark Knight Rises, cinematically and philosophically blows my mind every time I watch it. And any Harry Potter film because, well, I love magic.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include…).
I’m not sure, but it was probably a gift, maybe a Sam Smith album? Most recent download would be ‘The Big Day’ album by Chance the Rapper.
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 . .
Haha! Anything from my Candid album I’d be totally happy with.
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
Some artwork or photograph of the ocean.
You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .
I love traditional Polynesian ones on others but personally, I don’t have any tattoos and have never intended to get one so I’d say, pass on the tattoo!
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where and doing what?
I’d spend lots of time with family.
And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”
Well it’s my only album, but aside from that, it’s a very accurate little 8 track package of the thoughts and feelings which are most important to me. Each track sounds exactly like the way I feel the concepts and subject matter.