In high school, Kiwi singer-songwriter Paddy Echo faced an almost High School Musical-esque dilemma: choosing between music or sports. Not for any dramatic reason, though; he just didn't have time to fit it all in.
But when he switched high schools and started learning under an "extraordinary" new music teacher, he knew he'd found his calling.
"He was the one that steered me onto really considering doing songwriting," says Echo, 25. "I'd never really considered it to be a career option."
Raised learning classical singing and guitar, Echo later honed his skills studying popular music at the University of Auckland, before jetting to London to spend two years gigging, writing songs and crashing on couches. "I lived there two years and I didn't sign a lease," he laughs.
He returned to New Zealand and studied orchestration in Wellington, before landing back in Auckland – where he met his now-manager Ashley Page.
Last week, Echo released Best Friend, his debut single; it's a huge, sweeping pop tune in which Echo wonders how to rebuild a friendship in the fallout of a relationship. "I'd just ended a pretty full-on relationship with someone who was actually still in New Zealand, so it was that whole long distance thing," he says. "We'd had this amazing time; there was no real reason other than I left, and I had made up my mind.
"(Best Friend) is about wanting to get back to the place where you're so in sync with that person and they know everything about you; it's trying to get that feeling, and trying to get their attention in order for that to happen at any cost."
Written and produced with Alexander Wildwood (Sachi, Chores), Best Friend pulled Echo into a new realm of songwriting. Used to working solo, and unsure about the electro-pop elements of the song's production, Echo says Wildwood's guidance helped him grow into his new style.
"Alex was very much like, 'let's try this,'" he says. "We have very similar music tastes, and I feel like reference points are key, and we listened to a lot of really cool music – King Princess, and people like Arctic Monkeys."
The construction of the song was an unusually seredipitous process. "I have a whole bunch of notebooks, and I flicked through and saw a lyric I wrote when I was in the UK, so we wrote that down and it was the first line of the song," he says. "Then Alex was like, 'I feel like that's too good a line to have at the very start, so let's just put it away.'
"We wrote the verse and the prechorus, and then we took that line and just mucked around and we got the chorus. It was all pretty quick. We were both buzzing – it felt special. We started at 11am and I was out of the studio by 7:30pm, and we had effectively done the song."
Raised on a diet of 1950s and 60s Motown music, Echo says he's interested in blending fresh sounds with those he loves from his youth.
"I want to keep it contemporary and push that pop round, which I've never really done before, but I also really want to incorporate all the stuff that I love from older music," he says.
"Alex is so on board with that, and we're all on the same page; bringing in all those 50s and 60s sounds, and if you're listening for it, you can really hear it."
Music is clearly where Echo belongs; his eyes light up when he talks about his influences, styles and process. It seems choosing this route was the right call.
"I kind of looked at myself (and thought), 'well, Pads, you're probably not going to be an All Black," he says. "I think maybe we can just stick to music."
Who: Paddy Echo
What: New single Best Friend
Where: Out now on streaming services