Six60: Rising to the challenge

By Mike Dinsdale

It's been such a hectic year for genre-melding Kiwi soul/rock/roots/electronica outfit Six60 that you could forgive the five members for wanting to take some time off.

After all, it's been a year that's seen their debut self-titled album hitt number one and go double platinum; get the New Zealand iTunes record for highest first week sales; play live to 3000 in London and 5500 in Australia and get great press around the world.

Oh, and there's also the little matter of wining six Tuis at the NZ Music Awards, including the People's Choice Award.

So, surely it's time for reflection, celebrating success and relaxing for the band that started in Dunedin in 2008 playing small living room concerts to friends and family?.

Far from it, according to singer/guitarist Matiu Walters. In fact, Six60 are about to start a short summer tour to thank their Kiwi fans for their support. And there's the next album to sort out.

"Yeah, it's been a pretty busy, hard-working year for us. (The Tuis success) was really a good chance for us to put our feet up and reflect what's happened over the previous year," Matiu says.

"We were just excited to be celebrating what we had achieved, but it was nice to come away with a bit of bling. It's good to be recognised by your peers, but for us the big one was winning the People's Choice Award. That was decided by the public and was the most satisfying thing for us because it means people have been listening to your music and coming to your shows and proves that hard work really pays off," he says.

Matiu says the seven-date nationwide tour is the band's way of rewarding fans.

"Touring is how we began and we love playing live and this gives us another opportunity to push ourselves creatively.

"We never rest on our laurels live and everything comes out in the wash when we play live so it's as much fun for us as anybody else. It's quite a cut-throat environment playing live, but we really enjoy it."

Matiu says a big part of Six60's success was having a good album to promote and getting so much radio play and press coverage.

"People bag those modes a lot, but they still work, or they worked for us. Basically, the more people that listen to your music, come and see you live or hear of you from somebody else, the better."

He says he and the band's other members - Eli Paewai, Ji Fraser, Marlon Gerges and Chris Mac - feared standing still, so were constantly looking at ways to improve their craft.

"You have to progress or stagnate. You can be the critic's choice or the people's choice and at the moment we seem to be both, but it's the people's award that really counts. We are so, so happy about that one."

After the tour it'll be time to record their second album, and the band knows there'll be extra pressure and expectation after the success of the debut.

"When we released the first album we really didn't expect it to do as well as it did, so the pressure wasn't that great.

"There's newfound pressure because of the success and expectation, but we are happy with that pressure. It's all about pressure and opportunities and how you deal with them," Matiu says.

"We'd much rather have that pressure than not, because that means we've had some success. And most of the pressure will come from ourselves anyway, because we are our own biggest critics."

New Zealand Paralympics Gold Medal winner and Northern Advocate sports reporter Cameron Leslie used Six60 track Rise Up 2.0 as inspiration for his record-breaking efforts in the swimming pool at the London Paralympics this year.

Matiu says the band felt humbled that it was inspiring others to achieve.

Leslie had the song playing in his headphones as he went to the block before the men's 150m individual medley, where he won gold in a record time and says the words provided the motivation he needed to get through.

Leslie caught up with the band in Berlin after the Paralympics and Matiu says it felt amazing to know they had inspired him.

"It's really hard to explain. When you first write a song you don't really write them for anybody in particular and are writing about subject that you feel or believe in," he says.

"It's really humbling and really inspirational for us to know that other people feel the same way."

Expect plenty more inspiration from Six60, starting with this summer tour.

- Hamilton News

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