Each week the Herald's entertainment team gets the lowdown on a celebrity's formative experiences. Today, musician Rob Ruha.

My first job was ...

mowing lawns for my uncle, Tama Hiini. I remember going to mow them and the grass was above my knees!. It took me two whole days and I got $20 and an iceblock. It's pretty safe to say that I never went back.

It taught me … never to mow lawns for a living and to never let my lawns grow that long.

My big break came … I think I am still waiting for my big break. However, I have done some amazing things and met some pretty awesome people. I met my music idol, John Legend, in my very first year of doing music and even got to open his Auckland show back in 2014.


The last job I quit was … as senior lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, head of discipline for the Bachelor of Māori Performing Arts degree and acting director for the National Institute of Māori and Pacific Performing Arts - flash, eh? I quit because I needed to invest all my energy into making a living off of my music, which I've been doing for five years now.

The most famous person I've ever met is … Justin Timberlake. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. My cousin Kylie Poihipi was asked to pull together a crew of people to pōhiri Justin and his entourage to Aotearoa. We did the pōhiri in secret inside a giant boatshed. I greeted him and looked after him as his crew took photos with the whānau. We spoke at length and he arranged 50 VIP tickets for us all and made sure we were looked after and included in the show. Justin even did a special shout out to us at the beginning and end of the show.

He was … wicked! He's the man! Super-talented, warm, hospitable, and super-down-to-earth.

The best time I've had on set/stage was … opening for Phil Collins at the Mission Estate. There was just something about this show that set things ablaze among us all. To have his band raging to our set in the wings is a moment I will not forget. The energy they threw us was electric and we fed off every bit.

But the worst was … We did this really long stretch through Taranaki and the west coast to Wellington and I was exhausted. My voice was at 25 per cent and dropping fast. I had to take all the keys to the songs down and it felt like the whole show fell through my fingers like water.

My dream role would be … a crack-up character in either my next video clip, my cousin Taika [Waititi]'s movies (especially a Star Wars movie) or a musical. Actually, I think it is time for a reo Māori Hollywood musical or, even better, Wellywood or Apanui-wood! I also have a few movie ideas of my own I wouldn't mind pulling off ... watch this space.

- Rob Ruha performs at Voices of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori at Auckland War Memorial Museum on Saturday.