Stan Walker (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe). He may be one of the country's biggest stars now but at just 3 years old, Stan Walker already wanted to die.
If he were to tell only half the story, his childhood would sound idyllic: growing up on Tamapahore Marae in Tauranga Moana, getting up to mischief with his cousins, being with extended family, camping all summer.
In something of a Canvas "12 Questions" tradition, I asked him what word he would be; one that encapsulates his essence and his story. His answer was: "Colourful."
To think of that idyllic childhood and to talk to him now, with his wildly infectious laugh, crack-up facials and warm, bubbly spirit, it's easy to see why.
But a lot of his life was the complete opposite; it was dark, filled with abuse, fear and pain.
A lot of it he's already spoken about - often comparing his life to the film Once Were Warriors. He's been open about how his father abused him, his brothers and mother, how he was sexually abused by a relative over the course of nine months and that he previously turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
Now though, he's releasing a memoir which goes further into detail than he ever has before because previously detail was something he didn't think was necessary. He would brush off journalists' requests for more information, once telling the Daily Telegraph: "I don't even need to go into detail. Watch [Once Were Warriors]. That's all the detail right there."
"I've always talked about it, I've always been open, but I don't go into detail because it's like, nobody needs to know that," he tells Canvas.
He's even turned down multiple book offers over the years from publishers wanting to tell his story, because he didn't feel ready. Now, largely because he's survived cancer and come out the other side, he says, "I feel like I've lived the first chapter of my life and … I think it's time."
The book, Impossible: My Story, was written by Margie Thomson, as the story was told to her by Walker. The pair would have regular sessions, which Walker says could last as long as six hours each.
"I didn't feel tired or exhausted, I felt liberated. It was like doing therapy. I started to learn about myself from the very beginning - stuff that I never even knew. I thought I knew myself like the back of my hand, but there were things - especially from my childhood - that I still didn't understand."
For the first time in Walker's life, he was being asked "a lot of 'why's" and his go-to response of "that's just how it is" was no longer cutting it.
"It was tripping me out but I was learning so much and I was coming out of the sessions like, 'Man, I learned this about myself.' I was like, 'Far, poor little me, I just wanna give me a hug.'
"It was intense but a good intense. I think it was in the middle of me transitioning to where I'm at today with my life so I think it was such a necessary thing that had to happen for me - more so than the book itself."
As a result, said book does not hold back. In particular, Walker's abuse is laid out in tear-jerking detail, often from the perspective of young Stan, making the fear, confusion and hurt hit all the more harder.
The biggest thing he says he learned from his sessions with Thomson was just how purposefully predatory his rapist had been.
"I didn't understand that kind of behaviour and I learned for the first time that like, whoa, he had watched me, studied me and he waited like a predator for the opportune moment because he could sense that I was weak. He knew I was the one getting hidings, getting left behind. He could see the yearning for love I wanted from my parents but that I was getting beaten up, getting rejected - and he preyed on that," Walker says, his voice rising.
But he doesn't stay in that place for long. His greater concern is: "How do we stop the cycle?"
In the book, Walker acknowledges that perhaps his rapist "had been in that exact situation himself". He also goes out of his way to tell his father's story and explain where his anger and rage came from because he knows all too well how cycles of abuse are inherited.
As he reveals in his book, Walker found himself in his father's shoes, beating up his younger brother in the exact same way as had been done to him, blinded by rage. He later reflects on holding a newborn kitten and fantasising about what it would be like to crush it to death, drunk on power.
"You don't even know and it just comes out and I'm like, 'What happened?' My little brother's in the same position that my dad had me in and I'm hitting him the same and I'm like, 'Am I gonna be that person?'"
Many things saved Walker from that path. Religion was a major one, music was another. But more than anything, it was the freedom of speaking out.
"Honest to God, the one thing I do a lot is I like to nark on myself because then it sets me free and I'm not hiding in a little cage 'til it just gets worse and worse and worse. It's a daily thing. It's a daily choice. It's a daily journey. You know, I don't know if I'm going to be all good next week, I might have a breakdown over something. But as long as I'm keeping honest and being real with myself - I can feel my limits a lot more. Where, before I didn't feel any limits so I never knew what to do and then suddenly; Crash. Boom, Kapow. I'm out."
That, and more often than not, the Walker whānau copes via humour - Stan especially.
Throughout our conversation it continuously catches me off guard how fast he can switch from thoughtful reflection to just cracking up laughing.
He says he and his brothers even joke with their dad about the hidings he used to give them.
"That's how far we've come. The things that were the worst in our lives, that could have killed us are now [a joke]. You know how people say, 'I'll forgive you, but I'll never forget'? You're basically saying, 'I'll forgive you but nah, I'm not going to forgive you.' We really do forgive."
Fans got some insight into the family's dynamic - and that sense of humour - in Walker's documentary Stan, which followed his battle with cancer and his operation to have his stomach removed to stop its spread.
It's been two years since the documentary but three years since it all happened and Walker, having adjusted to all the change, is living his best life.
"Obviously, it was very different and a bit strange getting used to the new me but I think because, ultimately, I'm vain, I loved it. Like, who wouldn't want to see yourself the way you've always wanted to see yourself? I've always loved myself, regardless but now man, I love looking at myself. I love that I can dress in the clothes that I wear and people like my family are like, 'What are you wearing?' and I'm like, 'I don't even know but I can wear it because I look like this now,'" he laughs, clapping his hands with glee.
It comes with struggles - like he's still constantly pushing the boundaries of what he can and can't eat - "I'll sacrifice and be like, 'Yeah, I'll get sick for this.'"
And of course, there's the added pressure of fame. Ever since he started slimming down he's been body-shamed by people telling him to put on weight or that he looks ill. Once he got into a full-on argument with a stranger who stopped him on the street and berated him saying, "What kind of example are you setting? Look at you, you little crack addict."
"When people come for me like that I always try and be respectful but you know, there are definitely times where I lose my s***," he says. And that - understandably - was one of them.
"This is the thing - being Stan Walker and the fame part of it is something you never, ever get used to. Sometimes it just gets to me because people expect me to just always be on but I'm literally just another person like you. We bleed the same.
"So yes, sometimes I lose my s***, I just can't handle it sometimes. Especially when they mention my family I'm like, nek-level. People don't even know. That's when I don't care about who the hell Stan Walker is, I'm coming for you, your kids, your dog, your cat," he stops to laugh at his own intensity. "Nah - but you know, I get into that protective mode."
If you get nothing else from this story or the one in his book, let it be that family is everything for Stan Walker. Not just immediate family, but his tūpuna as well - as evidenced by the rich exploration of whakapapa and family history in the book. It's something he's "a big geek for" and which has shaped him into this version of himself.
Bringing his Māori connection into his career is what skyrocketed it. Before then he was releasing singles even he didn't like, playing this character of himself for Australian Idol and later his record label, Sony Music Australia.
When he puts on a different voice and Aussie accent to illustrate that character, it's like he's become a whole other - very Pākehā - person. It's heartbreaking to think he spent so many years wearing that mask.
"It was such a whirlwind I just kind of did things to get to the next place. I had to compromise a few things, including my happiness at some point.
"So there were years that I just did it and never had a chance to breathe and I just got burnt out. I went home for the holidays and I felt so broken, so exhausted - my mind, my spirit, my heart, my soul was just so exhausted. I didn't realise I was becoming something that I didn't want to be. I felt like I'd just become this machine, this product, to the point where I've listened to myself on the radio and gone, 'Who the hell is that?'"
To be successful, he felt he had to compromise; to find a way to "hold on to my mana and integrity" but in a way which didn't ruffle too many feathers and invite "punishment" from the label; like records not being released or tours being axed.
"Instead of getting big blimmin' buckets of sand, I had to literally get a spoonful of sand and just go, 'Okay, every bit's gonna matter at the end of the day' but I was doing that for years." Now though, he's fully reclaimed his Māoridom in the music space and he's never been better. As he puts it: "I'm taking the bloody digger and I'm getting the whole beach."
Because now, it's not about a hit single or chart success, it's about legacy.
Walker is all too aware of the sacrifices his tūpuna made and says now, "We're the reward for them. We're their legacy.
"It just blows me away that we get to be that, so we owe it to them to be the most outrageous versions of ourselves and to not have to hold back because they did all the sacrificing.
"So now we're living in a revolution where they're sitting there going, 'Wow, our people are on screens? Our people are writing the stories?' I'm so proud to be living through that ... because now the moves that I want to make are like my legacy.
"I want my kids to live a way better life and to have more than I have but also to have that whakapapa and to have that respect and honour for what came before us, so that they can know, 'This is what we've been through. But this is where we're heading.'"
Impossible: My Story, (HarperCollins, $40) is available on October 14.