Dawn is a reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Big Read: The Bay's sizzling music scene

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Local musician Michael Barker from Swamp Thing. Photo/Ben Fraser
Local musician Michael Barker from Swamp Thing. Photo/Ben Fraser

Tauranga hosts the National Jazz Festival at the end of this month, but you don't have to wait another day to hear live local music. 48 Hours reporter Dawn Picken spoke with musicians rocking stages in the Bay - and beyond.

RISING STAR

It's a Thursday evening when I bring my family to Papamoa's Dinner in the Domain.

Tonight's entertainment features Mount Maunganui College student Jazzi Axton.

Jazzi Axton of Mount Maunganui College. Photo/Supplied
Jazzi Axton of Mount Maunganui College. Photo/Supplied

The former X Factor NZ contestant stands inside a container stage, opening her set with a version of Justin Bieber's Love Yourself. Meanwhile, diners munch and mingle. A churro-clutching toddler bends his knees in rhythm and claps.

Jazzi's soulful voice belies her 15 years. She says she's been singing since she could talk and is working to secure more regular gigs with guitar player, Graham Bell.

Dinner in the Domain was her first market show, something she hopes to do again. " ... just to play around and have fun and let people hear our music."

She says her highlight as a singer so far was travelling late last year to Los Angeles to produce three cover song videos.

BANDS ON THE RUN

You could spend every day in summer listening to live music in the Bay.

On a recent Friday night, singer-songwriters Joseph Thompson and Maia Potier perform at Mount Maunganui's Gourmet Night Market. They tell the crowd they're leaving soon for another European tour. Later, Joseph tells me by phone he and Maia had so much fun busking, playing house concerts and bars in Europe last year, they're keen to do it again.

Josh Pow. Photo/George Novak
Josh Pow. Photo/George Novak

"We bought one-way tickets over there and played 130 shows during eight months away.

"We'd meet someone on a Tuesday afternoon and they'd say come tomorrow evening for a house concert. We played on a rooftop in Zurich ... when you put yourself out there, people's generosity is amazing."

The Otumoetai College graduates left day jobs last June to focus on music.

Maia says, "It's like anyone working for themselves - we work pretty much 24 hours a day and we're living very, very simply but at least we're doing what we want to be doing."

Joseph (27) and Maia (26) split with their recording label last year over creative differences and crowdfunded their Sorrento CD after an online campaign raised $10,000 in three weeks.

"We're not that interested in playing music that is crafted to sell to radio," says Joseph.

"When it comes to being creative and making art for a living, you have to do what is real, what is genuine, what is you. The moment you stop doing that, you start lying to yourself and your audience."

TOURING TALENTS

Another touring band playing original music is Swamp Thing, featuring Welcome Bay's Grant Haua and Rotorua's Michael Barker.

The band plays a mixture of blues, funk and rock.

While 46-year-old Grant has kept his roofing job, 49-year-old Michael says he's been a professional musician since age 16. He plays drums and percussion, runs a recording studio and also teaches children music after school.

"Playing in Swamp Thing is not a full-time job. The hours are full-time, but the pay is not. I spend a great deal of time with no immediate remuneration, working as a writer, recording engineer, band manager, singer ... it's a passion-driven pursuit I love to do."

The band was sponsored last year to spend a month performing in Louisiana.

"You have to be willing to travel if you're an original artist," says Michael.

" ... that's part of the excitement and taking your music to a new audience."

Swamp Thing's Grant Haua. Photo/file
Swamp Thing's Grant Haua. Photo/file

Michael says the group plays about a half-dozen local gigs per year, and plans an April show in Tauranga.

"We have some really great fans in the Bay of Plenty; that's the strongest area for our fan base ... they're energised by what we do and are very supportive."

FULL-TIMER

It's Sunday afternoon when I visit Mount Brewing Company to sip ale, people-watch and listen to cover musician Josh Pow.

The 22-year-old has regular gigs here and across the street at Taste of Asia.

A dozen of us sit outside while Josh sings The Who's No One Knows What It's Like.

He's a one-man band on guitar, Wazinator (acoustic stomp box) and harmonizer pedal.

Josh says when he started busking five years ago, he relied on the acoustics of Tauranga's shopping arcade on Devonport Rd.

"I didn't have a speaker or anything - just a guitar and a strap that was duct-taped."

Josh says early on he showed his parents he could support himself through music.

"I just came home one day with like, $300 in coins and they were open to the idea of it from then on."

Josh says he has at least one job six days each week in summer and plays weddings, too (Josh played at my wedding in 2014).

"Every year, when summer finishes, I've thought I'd have to get some part-time job and do the gigs, too, but I've always found enough work to not have to do that."

TEACHING NEW TALENT: Award-winning singer-songwriter Carol Storey still performs locally and wants to leave a musical legacy to her children and grandchildren. Photo/supplied
TEACHING NEW TALENT: Award-winning singer-songwriter Carol Storey still performs locally and wants to leave a musical legacy to her children and grandchildren. Photo/supplied

SEASONED SONGSTRESSES

Tauranga's Carol Storey has been performing more than 30 years.

The 62-year-old music specialist at Tauranga Intermediate won the Best Traditional Maori Album award in 2008 and 2000.

She started in her native Opotiki as a teenage gospel singer, became a mum at age 23, and has four grandchildren.

Carol will play Tauranga's Jazz Festival, but says she only performs as stamina and space allow.

"Looking back at it now, I've put a lot of my energies and passion for music into working with children with their music ... I didn't think I wanted to be famous. I just wanted to have a musical legacy for my children and my grandchildren."

Carol wrote the music for her award-winning CD. She's also had one of her songs orchestrated and is teaching students from Tauranga Intermediate the Waiata to sing with Opus Orchestra.

Dee DeLuca. Photo/file
Dee DeLuca. Photo/file

"The music just takes its own life course and this one is going off in a journey that I'm very excited about."

ALL THAT JAZZ

Mount Maunganui's Dee DeLuca is another songstress with two decades under her belt.

The Netherlands native and jazz singer says she performed nearly every weekend last summer, but this year is more picky about gigs. "It's more about quality time for me now."

The 36-year-old works as a barista during the day. Dee says she'd love to sing full-time, but her partner and Great Dane are priorities, too.

She spent seven months last year in Auckland working with renowned jazz guitarist Dixon Nacey, with whom she'll perform during the Jazz Festival.

Dee says rather than aim for a particular goal, she's enjoying other musicians and her audiences.

"Sometimes, it can be a child in a small cafe that totally engages in what you're doing and you feel you move someone, or it's an older lady ... It's definitely that moment - there's no before and no after. It's right then and you can't capture it any time again. That's what I live for."


- Bay of Plenty Times

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