Graham Reid | | 4 min read
In a forthcoming overview of Estère's career and her new album Archetypes, Elsewhere makes the point that although highly regarded by her peers in New Zealand – and many overseas – she seems almost criminally neglected by the wider public.
Yet her astutely constructed songs which run from r'n'b soul to sly funk and snappy pop seem to waiting to be discovered.
We'd hope Archetypes might be the album to bring her to wider attention, although we do gently warn that her lyrics can be layered and oblique. And this one draws inspiration from psychologist Carl Jung.
“I’m a culture clash baby," she has said. "My mum is from New Zealand but my dad is originally from Cameroon and moved over to France when he was young. I’ve visited him and family over there a few times.”
Yes, Estère is not just a fine musician but someone who brings a keen intellect into play.
Time then to get a bit of background on this remarkable woman . .
Where did you grow up, and with who?
I grew up with my ma in Wellington.
Was music an important part of your childhood?
Music was an important part of my childhood - as much as it is anyone’s. I liked music like most kids do, and I liked the music that was played in the house. I would dance and sing and pretend I was a pop star.
What are your earliest childhood memories of music which really affected you . . .
I remember singing along to ‘Black Pearl’ by Moana and The Moahunters when I was about four and just loving it. I remember thinking in four year old words -‘I relate to this song!’
Was there a time when you felt it was going to be music and nothing else?
Hmmm, I’ve never specifically felt that it was not going to anything else. But I suppose I started to think I would dedicate myself to making it my life’s work in about second year uni. Something clicked into place at that time. I found my groove learning about production and how to record myself. That was when it became tangible.
When you started on your music career were people around you supportive or did you have to find those people?
I had lots of supportive people around me when I started out and still do. Supportive in the sense that they were like - ‘go on - go for it - you’ve got this’. I’ve also had a lot of the opposite…people second guessing me. It’s good - it forces you to have thicker skin which is important if you want to pursue creativity.
The first song of yours which you really felt proud of was . . .? And why that one?
A song called ‘Dark Park’ when I was 8. It was about meeting my best friend in a dark park.
Any one person you'd call a mentor, angel on your shoulder or invaluable fellow traveller?
My mum. She’s always been super chill and supportive. Her attitude towards life is inspiring.
Where and when was the first time you went on stage as a paid performer?
I would have been 14. I was drumming for a high school band called Cyber Sex on Mars. We had a show at Sub 9 which doesn’t exist anymore. I think we got 30 bucks between us. It was a real thrill!
Ever had stage fright or just a serious failure of nerve before going on stage?
Yep all the time! I get super jelly-nerves sometimes. Often when I’m trying something new for the first time that I haven't done before. It’s the moments before going on stage which are the most intense.
As a songwriter, do you carry a notebook or have a phone right there constantly to grab ideas they come? Or is your method something different?
I often use voice memos and sing to myself awkwardly in the supermarket. I have to, or else I forget. I’m a real melody forgetter - it takes me a while before I absorb a melody I’ve written - so I try to always record it and if I can’t - I sing it 100 times.
What unfashionable album do you love as a guilty pleasure?
oooh I probably have bad gauge on what an unfashionable album is… I can’t name one I’m afraid.
Any piece of advice you were given which you look back on which really meant something?
Cliché but so true…better to try than to regret not trying, on your death bed.
It's after a performance/concert and you are in a hotel room or back at home, what happens then?
I cast my nightly spells, spray my face with witch-hazel and gaze at the sky pondering my existence.
Is there any fellow artist you admire for professional and/or personal reasons?
Too many to name, I admire many, many artists for different reasons. At the moment, I’m particularly enjoying Arlo Parks and her poeticism.
And finally, where to from here for you, do you think?
I think I’ll continue exactly as is - following my creative instinct wherever it may lead.
Estère's Archetypes is currently available on digital platforms (here) with CD and vinyl releases to follow soon.