She's been recording music for more than 20 years but Hollie Smith still finds releasing a new album "quite terrifying, really".
Smith's fourth solo album, Coming in From the Dark, was released yesterday. It is the first album from Smith in more than five years and is a follow-up to the critically-acclaimed and AMA Album of The Year nominated Water or Gold in 2016.
Smith admits she is nervous about releasing her album after such a break, but she is also excited.
"When you're getting into your 15th, 16th year it can be a little bit scary. You wonder how it will be received and hope there are still people out there who will like it.
"It wasn't intentionally going to be so long between albums, but I'm very good at procrastinating and events over the last couple of years made it a bit difficult."
Smith collaborated with some of New Zealand's top musicians on the album, including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, TEEKS, Sol3 Mio and Raiza Biza.
She felt incredibly lucky that the orchestra wanted to be involved.
"With the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra involved, that's the first time I've worked heavily with strings before. It brought in another element, as well as some of the guests I have on board.
"When they came into the studio I got through half the day and had just been watching it like a movie. Then I had the realisation it was going to be on my album.
"All the players are incredible, it definitely brought a whole new aesthetic to those songs."
Smith says the writing process for the album spanned a long time, with production starting in July last year.
Smith says there are a few different inspirations running through the album, such as social commentary, including from around the time when Donald Trump was running for election and around the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as some relationship-related aspects.
"A lot of things are left up to people's interpretation at the end of the day. I hope they like the direction of the record."
An album tour is already booked to celebrate its release with a stop at Tauranga's Totara Street originally locked in for October 31 but postponed to December 5.
If Covid foils the plans again, there are alternatives. For tickets and up-to-date information on the tour, go to holliesmith.co.nz.
The Tauranga show is a homecoming of sorts for Smith who lived in the area for about five years and still has a place there.
"I'm looking forward to going everywhere, but Tauranga is a great place and I do still consider it home in a lot of ways. It's always nice to get back there.
"Totara Street is gorgeous and well set up, and the guys there are really awesome."
However, Smith is looking forward to performing in general. This is the longest she has gone without performing, which is pretty hard as an artist, she says.
"I'm looking forward to seeing my band, playing these new songs, creating a show around them and getting out and seeing everyone again.
"I think it will be a pretty special show because I'm bursting at the seams to get out there. I'm sure it will show."
Smith implores people to go support their favourite New Zealand artists at this time, even if it's not her.
She says her career as a whole has been a rollercoaster but one of the highlights was the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada.
"It's a big outdoor festival and we performed to 50,000 people that night. It was pretty surreal.
"I feel pretty lucky with where I've been able to go for music."
Her advice for up-and-coming artists is to keep going and find support networks, as there are New Zealand organisations out there to support up-and-coming artists and creatives.
She says in the current environment now with music, especially the way things are with streaming, it's good to have an understanding of the business side of things too.
The Coming in From the Dark title track has already been released in both English and te reo, and is one of three songs featuring the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It tells the story of emerging from a time of struggle and turmoil.
TEEKS features on Beside Me, while vocal trio Sol3 Mio appear alongside Smith and the NZSO on the track You.
The single What About? is a collaboration with Rwandan-Aotearoa hip hop artist Raiza Biza.
Hollie Smith has cemented herself as an acclaimed solo artist and an accomplished collaborator, becoming an integral voice in the local music scene over the last 20 years.
Alongside three number one solo albums, she has scooped numerous awards, accolades and acclaim.
Smith's first experiences with music and live performing were through her involvement in the Auckland Blues and jazz scene as a teenager.
Smith got early recognition when she won Best Vocalist and Best Arrangement at the Tauranga National Jazz Festival when she was 15.
Around this time she began recording with her father Steve McDonald, who generated an international following in the 90s for his work in Celtic music.
The recordings led to a US tour and Smith's first original music recordings, featuring Tre from hip hop group The Pharcyde and American session drummer Larry Thompson.
One of these early songs with her father was sampled for a track by US rap giant DMX.
Smith emerged as a solo artist in the early 2000s on Wellington's booming music scene.
She collaborated and toured with Trinity Roots, featured on the Fat Freddy's Drop ballad Hope, and performed on Concord Dawn and Recloose albums, among several others before releasing her self-titled debut EP.
In 2005, the single Bathe in the River, written by Don McGlashan for the film No. 2, generated more attention for Smith. It spent 37 weeks in the Top 40, peaking at number two, and won the APRA Silver Scroll.
Smith was offered a record deal with US jazz label Blue Note when it heard recordings for her debut album Long Player.
She recorded the album in New York City with producer and keyboard legend James Poyser (The Roots), Adam Blackstone (Kanye West, Justin Timberlake) and Jeff Lee Johnson (Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin).
Unfortunately, shortly before releasing Long Player, Blue Note's parent label EMI Music was sold and Smith found herself involved in legal negotiations to settle an already-executed contract.
This didn't hinder the album's local success, though, as upon release in 2007 Long Player debuted at number one, sold double-platinum, and went on to win multiple gongs at the New Zealand Music Awards, along with critical acclaim.
During this time she opened for Bob Dylan and Coldplay.
Smith returned in 2010 with her sophomore album Humour and the Misfortune of Others, which debuted at number one and became certified gold.
The album was followed by a collaboration album with Mara TK, titled Band of Brothers Vol. 1 as well as another collaboration album, Peace of Mind, with Anika Moa and Boh Runga.
Over the years she's had appearances on works from Fly My Pretties, Home Brew, Sol3 Mio and Flight of the Conchord's Brett McKenzie's albums, guest appearances on official cover albums for Crowded House, Bob Marley and Herbs, as well as contributions to multiple charity releases for organisations such as Women's Refuge, the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, Starship Children's Hospital and Cure Kids.
In 2016 Smith's third solo album, Water or Gold, again went to number one and fetched New Zealand Music Award nominations for Album of the Year and Best Female Solo Artist.
Following the release of Water Or Gold, Smith continued to grow and contribute as an artist.
Her bilingual collaboration with TEEKS, Whakaaria Mai/How Great Thou Art, received widespread acclaim. She performed it at a concert in remembrance of the Christchurch terrorist attack victims.
More recently, Smith appeared on the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown hit Stay featuring Stan Walker, Ria Hall, Kings, Troy Kingi and more.
This year Smith has worked alongside Don McGlashan again for the TVNZ series Waiata Anthems, on an episode that documented the making of a te reo Māori version of Bathe In the River, titled Korukutia.
Tickets to her upcoming tour are available at holliesmith.co.nz.
10 quick questions with Hollie Smith
1. Favourite song of 2021?
Album - Hiatus Kaiyote, Mood Varient
2. Who is your hero and why?
Everyone who fights for equality
3. What instrument can you not live without?
Well, I guess my voice!
4. If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
5. Best advice you have received?
What are you actually singing about?
6. Would you rather speak to animals or know other people's thoughts?
Talk to animals. Just go on social media to know the latter ... and I would like to know why my cat keeps peeing everywhere.
7. If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Aagh. Can't choose. Martin Luther King.
8. Favourite lyrics of all time?
MMMbop - Hanson Brothers.
9. First celebrity crush?
Um ... that little dude off Home Improvement, I think. Voice of Simba in the Lion King movie ... Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And Kylie Minogue.
10. Guilty pleasure?
Just the one? Googling the best X Factor auditions.