Marcus Abraham has achieved what many people spend a lifetime searching for. At 27 he is "living his dream".
A Katikati local makes up one-seventh of the Wellington-based reggae band Tomorrow People as lead vocalist and is now doing what he loves alongside some of the world's biggest reggae acts; performing at New Zealand's biggest music festivals, recording albums and travelling around the world to share his talents.
Tomorrow People's reggae style has been described as sunshine reggae with an island vibe to it, and Abraham brings his strong voice and a RnB feel to the mix.
The story of how he got to this point begins with a young boy listening to his aunties and uncles sing and strum the guitar at family gatherings, with particular emphasis on artists such as Stevie Wonder and Perry Como.
"I would see music come to life at family functions like Christmas where everyone would join in singing songs while washing the dishes, to writing songs with cousins at a sleepover, to guitar parties with uncles and aunties trying to out-sing each other."
Abraham is the eldest of five. The family did not have a lot growing up, "but it never felt that way".
"And that's because my parents would make it happen. My dad would work two jobs, while my mum raised the five of us, then worked nights. It's crazy when I think about it now because they also brought up a lot of foster kids throughout that time we were being raised.
"My parents are amazing."
He says music was never forced on him "it was just kind of there. One day I just decided 'why not have a go at it?'."
He started out on the drums before picking up a guitar and progressing to vocals.
"We used to go to a local church in Katikati, that's where I first got my experience on stage."
Abraham says church, his being the Katikati Christian centre, seems to have been a foundation stone for many musicians he knows - possibly because of the regular opportunities and positive and encouraging environment.
"It gave me the basic knowledge of playing with the band."
He attended Katikati Primary School and Katikati College. It was there he wrote his first song, at 14.
He remembers one of his school friends, George Gates, "wrote a song out of nowhere", sparking a fire that he could do the same and put his own "message out there".
"That night I went home, and I got out the paper and pen ... I called the song Open Up, it was kind of like about talking about troubles and being able to share those with people."
He laughs thinking back to the song now, admitting it's not going to make the cut for any future Tomorrow People releases.
"It was majorly influenced by Nesian Mystik at the time, that was my favourite band, them and Adeaze."
"[George] was a real major part of my early years in music, making a band together at high school, doing all the small school talent quests and Pacifika Beats."
They won their regional final in 2005, which was when he was first interviewed by the Bay of Plenty Times. He remembers because it was a newspaper in the big smoke of Tauranga, a place at the time he says was the "big exciting city" he only visited for "special trips".
"That's where I kind of got more confidence to be on stage."
But music wasn't always Abraham's focus. Sport was his first love, and he made it into the 1st XV and the Senior A basketball squad.
"Once I left school I realised I wasn't going to be an All Black," he laughed, so he decided to put more of an emphasis into his music when he finished high school in 2008.
He flew down to Christchurch where his cousin had a band and spent a lot of time meeting people, making contacts and networking before jumping on stage with the band in 2009, starting with instruments and backing vocals before becoming lead vocalist.
"I wasn't much of a drummer," he joked.
That band - Merchants of Flow - was where he spent six or seven years, making a name for himself, opening for bands he looked up to such as Katchafire, Tomorrow People and Sons of Zion, to name a few.
"For me, that was the real making of my music career. That's the band that I got picked up from for Tomorrow People."
He started getting hungry to move forward in his career and was continually asking artists how to break through, making contacts and letting those in the industry know he was ready for more.
"Being in Christchurch the music scene's so different to what's happening up here [North Island], it's so much easier to make contacts in the North Island."
It was late in 2015 he got the breakthrough he was looking for - when he got a message from Tomorrow People letting him know about an opportunity that opened up when lead vocalist Luke Whaanga left the band.
"From there is just kind of grew into more."
About a month later he was recording the album Bass & Bassinets with Tomorrow People before touring the album and the rest, as they say, is history.
"It was a pretty fast changeover.
"There was a lot of adrenaline and a bit more anxiety."
"I'd been to their shows; I knew how many people would show up ... there was lots of excitement, heaps of excitement for the opportunity."
He had to get over being the new face of the band quickly and have "confidence in knowing that I was picked for a reason".
Another hurdle he had to get over was getting used to writing reggae music when his first choice in genres was RnB and hip-hop - with emphasis on those from the 90s and early 2000s such as Usher, Blackstreet and Boyz II Men.
Now, however, he will fuse his RnB feels into his music to stay "true to my roots".
Since joining Tomorrow People, Abraham, along with his fellow band members Avina Kelekolio (percussion/ukulele), Tana Tupai (lead keys), Kenape Saupese (keys/vocals), Hennie Tui (bass), Hamo Dell (vocals) and Dan Sugrue (drums), has entertained massive crowds.
The band has performed at the country's biggest festivals, been named a finalist at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, travelled internationally and is about to release Tomorrow People's The New EP exclusively at their next big gig, which will be One Love at the Tauranga Domain on January 27.
One Love is Abraham's favourite festival because of the long list of international artists he gets to play alongside, mainly looking forward to Common Kings performing this year, the massive crowds and the good vibes.
"It's so huge that you actually feel like you're in another country because of the amount of acts from overseas.
"You can feel the love."
The festival is just one of many for Abraham, who says he spends his summer "living out of a suitcase".
With all the success with Tomorrow People, he is living his dream - and it's this reason Abraham, now based in Wellington, returned to Katikati last year and hosted workshops for young people in the area to encourage them to chase their dreams and show them what they can do.
He is proud of his hometown, known for its murals and kiwifruit orchards. It's a place, he says, where you can walk down the street and stop to talk to people along the way.
"It's just such a small community; everyone knows everyone," he says.
"I love it because it just has that home feel."
During the workshops, he shares his own stories as well as those of others having successes in the music industry who are from the Western Bay of Plenty so these local youths can relate and see people who grew up just like them chasing their dreams.
"It's awesome to try and show them that."
He does the same type of work in Wellington, mentoring high school students.
"I've been going in and using music as a tool to connect with these young people; it's just about giving them a break away from their day-to-day lives."
Abraham says it's a surreal experience being part of one of New Zealand's biggest reggae bands.
"I guess thinking back on it; it's everything that I dreamed of when I was a little kid, it's kind of all happening.
"I've done that time of trying to fill [Luke's] shoes; now I'm working on who I am as the lead singer of Tomorrow People.
"Now I want to just keep pushing; I want to make my name last in this industry ... I'm not just a fill-in guy anymore."