He's only been here for four days, but Mike Elizondo, hitmaker for the stars, says a Kiwi musician has already made a big impression on him.

That would be Wellington-based soul singer Estere, who is one of a dozen artists working with Elizondo as part of a songwriting bootcamp being held in Auckland this week.

Elizondo says he was "blown away" by Estere and the superproducer says he's been impressed by the "vital musical community" he's seen in action, a collective including Benny Tipene, Chelsea Jade, Raiza Biza, Diaz Grimm and Dave Baxter.

"New Zealand's always been known for doing things that can be popular but have a unique sensibility and approach to pop music," he says.


"To witness it first-hand on such a diverse level has been pretty amazing."

Elizondo has written and produced hits for some of the world's biggest artists over a 20-year career, working with everyone from Dr Dre and Eminem to Maroon 5, 21 Pilots, Fiona Apple, Mastodon and Carrie Underwood.

His wide range of experience is a large reason why Elizondo is in New Zealand for the week, helming Songhubs along with Emily Warren, James Newman and P-Money at Neil Finn's Roundhead Studios in Newton.

The concept is into its second year and sees industry figureheads working with local musicians to make music. At the end of this week's five-day songwriting session, they'll have amassed around 20 songs together.

Mike Elizondo in action at Roundhead Studios in Auckland. Photo/Amanda Ratcliffe
Mike Elizondo in action at Roundhead Studios in Auckland. Photo/Amanda Ratcliffe

For a man who was there the day Dr Dre met Eminem, co-wrote megahits like The Real Slim Shady and 50 Cent's In Da Club, and landed in New Zealand fresh from a songwriting session with stadium rockers Muse, you'd think his approach to working new artists would be different to the big names.

But Elizondo says he always enters the studio with the same intention.

"My thing is to try and find out where (an artist) is coming from, what their strengths are and if there's anything I can add to hone it in a little bit better," he says.

"I'm always looking for the thing that makes them stand out, and try to make as much of that as possible ... I find the ones that have the most uniqueness or the most unusual approach are the ones who could potentially blow up and change the game."


He says there are plenty of things that need to happen for a song to "click" at a mass level. But Elizondo says he's been involved in enough magic moments in the studio to know when he might have a hit on his hands.

"You start to see things ... that excitement, that buzz. It's always the same," he says.

"It's the reason I've done it for almost 20 years. That's the reason I get out of bed every day, to have that moment as many times as I can."

And if you want to work with him, Elizondo says it's easy. You just have to ask him.

"I love being a producer and you need to have those hits to have the phone ring. (But) sometimes you hear something unusual ... sometimes I don't care if it sells a thouseand copies - I've gotta be part of it."