"It turns out, life is pretty short."
That is the sentiment New Zealand songstress Bic Runga has taken from her time in lockdown and the lesson she is holding close as she embarks on her North Island tour.
Its been a few years since her last album, but at the end of October, those that catch a glimpse of her at Baycourt Theatre will be treated to songs she is "road testing" - a nerve-wracking process, she says.
"But the main positive I've taken from the pandemic is that I don't have time to be fearful.
"I feel quite empowered by music now, I think it matters and I'm not actually scared anymore, because, you know, it turns out life is pretty short."
Bic's debut album Drive became a top 10 hit when she was just 20 and was certified seven times platinum.
Since then, she's received almost every music honour in New Zealand - including 20 Tui Awards (New Zealand Music Awards) and the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award.
Bic was also made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year's Honours List in 2006, and in 2016 she received the Legacy Award at the New Zealand Music Awards and was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.
With all that to her name, it is a wonder she is nervous. She even says there isn't another profession she could imagine herself in, despite the ups and downs of being a musician.
But as she explains the anxiety around a new record, which comes as "everything means so much more now".
"I do want to make sense of this time through songwriting because it is my therapy and I think that music is really important, more so now than ever.
"There's been an undervaluing of music over the last five years or so, but good songwriting is still really important."
The plan on the table is some elegant treats for the ears to be released mid-2021, including another te reo Māori song.
For Te Wiki o te Reo Māori in 2019, Bic, along with various New Zealand artists, featured her 1997 classic Sway on Māori language album Waiata/Anthems curated by Hinewehi Mohi.
At the 1999 Rugby World Cup, Mohi sang the national anthem in te reo Māori causing immediate backlash, however, Bic believes the record was healing for Mohi.
But it was also invigorating for Bic, who has collaborated again with Mohi to translate a new track.
"I think all of us sort of would have liked to have done a song in Māori but didn't know where to start.
"I feel more connected to it now and I appreciate all the things we've been missing out on. Māori has so much to offer and it's ours and it is a beautiful culture to call our own."
Lockdown allowed Bic some respite and the songwriting process for the next record started, which along with producing, is her favourite element of music-making.
"They kind of go hand in hand. I've always produced my records. When you write a song, the way it's recorded could go any number of ways.
"And especially when your song is more sensitive if it's handled wrong, it can be really naff."
But after being a musician longer than she wasn't, Bic has extended her tool kit to include mentoring through a songwriting workshop in Christchurch.
"Because I've been doing what I do for so long, it's kind of time to do things like that more often. You get to make a lot of things and find out where all the talent is."
She is preparing another workshop, this time focused on production. Her hope is for the number of female record producers to grow in what she considers a male-dominated domain.
In the bigger scheme of things, especially with the pandemic happening, Bic says the country needed to support local industries, including music.
"I got all my breakthroughs playing support for people like Dave Dobbyn and Neil Finn and The Exponents, and I wouldn't exist without them.
"Oftentimes when the industry feels like it's against you it's other artists you get support from and in fact, there should be more of it. This industry is too tough, it has to be like that really."
It is why she is opening her shows with local musicians, some she connected with at her songwriting workshop, including Tauranga's Yasamin.
"I did really love that she was writing political music and it was in a domain that I didn't know anything about," Bic says.
"She's a real expert in everything pertaining to her own country. The role of the artist is to ingest events into times and make sense of them through music. And that's exactly what she's doing."
As the country hunkered down in March, Bic's plans to announce her tour were pushed to the side and while she is apprehensive, Covid-19 restrictions look to be easing.
"I really want to try out some new songs and give something for people to do because I think people have been in a state of flux all year so to put on a show will be really fun."
With Bic on this tour is her all-star band, comprised of Kody Nielson, Cass Mitchell and Michael Logie.
10 quick questions with Bic Runga
1. Favourite song of 2020?
Wap - Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
2. Genre you would love to be part of?
I've always wanted to make a reggae album.
3. What instrument can you not live without?
Piano, everyone should have a piano in the house.
4. If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Neil Young, he's a legend. Although he might not want to be on my reggae album.
5. Best advice you have received?
My mum always insisted that we treat everyone the same. It's nice to be important but it's important to be nice. My mum used to say that, which I thought was kind of a cliche, but it's really important.
6. Would you rather toes for fingers or fingers for toes?
Fingers for toes, I would be able to play more music.
7. Highlight of the year so far?
I've been really interested in the Black Lives Matter movement, been really fascinated by the shift in people's awareness of racism, it's blown my mind, I never thought I'd live through such a shift in awareness.
8. Favourite lyrics of all time?
One of my favourite Leonard Cohen poems is a three-line poem called Marita. It's not actually one of his lyrics, but even he did write lots of poems. It goes:
please find me.
I'm almost 30
9. First celebrity crush?
10. Guilty pleasure?
Cheese, I love cheese. It's not good to eat cheese before you sing, so as soon as I'm off stage, I haven't even taken my guitar off, and I'm eating cheese.
- Tickets are available on Ticketek. Bic and Yasamin are playing at Baycourt Theatre on October 25.