A quick word with: Eddie Low

Eddie Low, New Zealand country and western singer and multi-instrumentalist who's on the Highway of Legends tour

Low, whose vocal talents once earned him the name "the voice in a million", played in Maori showband the Quin Tikis in the 60s; he went to Nashville, the home of country music, and toured other parts of North America in the 70s; and has been plying his trade from his base in Sydney ever since. But after the Highway Of Legends tour finishes, the 63-year-old, who is only partially sighted, is staying put to live out the rest of his days in NZ. "Because my wife is from Christchurch and you can't get a decent feed of fish and chips over here."

So what keeps you going?
I can't drive a truck [laughs].

As simple as that. Plus the songs I guess?
I love the business and I'd soon be out of it if people let me know that they weren't into it. But people keep coming out, people are still buying the records, and it's great to still be accepted.

Why do you like touring?
It's always exciting and, like I say, the crowds still come out to see us. This one, though, I'm really looking forward to because everyone is really old mates and sharing the memories is all that one can do [laughs].

When did you first realise you had this great voice?
It's the sort of thing other people realise. It was only when I joined the Quin Tikis that I started singing, because I didn't really like it. I'd rather play instruments.

Then Joe Brown [the man behind Joe Brown's Country and Western Stage Show] must have recognised something, asked me to make a record, that went really well and I'm still doing it.

Was there much adjustment you had to make from playing instruments to singing?
It was frightening. At one stage you're back with all the boys and then next thing you're out front with everyone staring at you and that freaked me out a bit. But it's been good to me.

So who coined the term "voice in a million"?
Ha! That was Joe Brown. A bit embarrassing because I think everyone's got a voice in a million haven't they [laughs]? But then by the next album I was The Golden Boy. He would just come up with these ideas to help sell records and it worked.

What are your memories of being in Nashville in the early 70s?
Did you feel like a little Maori boy from New Zealand who was out of his depth?

Yeah, that's what I felt like until I got the reception that I did. I don't know if it was just because I was from a different country or not but they were very kind to us over there. But that's exactly what you think: what's this little boy from Rotorua doing up on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry [a celebration concert Low was invited to play by the Country Music Association of America in 1972]?

So what does music mean to you now?
It's changed so much. I generally sing what I like and the people still like what I do. But, I've written a lot of songs but I haven't sung many of them because I don't think I've had enough faith in my own material until people say, 'Oh, that's a great song'. So that's going to change when I get back to New Zealand.

Eddie Low plays on the Highway Of Legends tour with John Grenell, Gray Bartlett and Brendan Dugan at Baycourt, Tauranga tonight; Aotea Centre, Auckland, tomorrow; Great Lake Centre, Taupo, Nov 3.

- NZ Herald

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