Here are the best local songs of the past year - as judged by New Zealand songwriters voting in the 2008 Apra Silver Scroll awards. And the stories behind each one
Where do songs come from? Well, according to the songwriters judged by their peers as having produced the best local songs of the past year, they turn up inspired by all sorts of things - musical heroes, relationships, accounting software, the death of a friend, unrequited love, the blandness of the media.
Below, the composers also talk about the song's transformation from initial idea to finished recording and who they'd like to see cover it - the APRA Silver Scroll has a fine tradition of the finalists' songs being reworked on the night by other artists, often making them unrecognisable, even to their proud parents.
Baby Come On
By Dave Gibson and Justyn Pilbrow of Elemeno P. From the album: Elemeno P
Gibson, Pilbrow: It started as more of a 'let's have a song that is super up and really happy' and a clapping gospel-type feel rather than with chords melody or lyrics. So, weirdly enough, the feel came first.
Lyrically it was just inspired by life, by the juggling act that is being a Kiwi artist. We in the band all have jobs or businesses that we run at the same time. While we were recording this record I was also sending out invoices, extending overdrafts and spending hours in front of my MYOB (accounting software) so I just wrote about that and how we'd forget it all in the weekend and go out to Crow Bar or Deshlers and put it all on the credit card.
We recorded it in our own little basement studio in the middle of winter, so the vibe in the studio was kinda moody but it still came out happy as. Lucky huh?
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THE SONG.
I love that it has lots of hand-claps and a big chant to start it off. It's been a while since I've heard that.
AND WHO SHOULD COVER IT?
Any Finn would be cool - Neil, Tim or Liam. They're fun dudes but with quite an introspective side. I'd love to see their take on the song.
Dreams in My Head
By Anika Moa. From the album: In Swings the Tide
It was the guitar riff that came first and then the melody and the words - I was in Vanuatu listening to Bloc Party loudly and then it all hit me. Then we walked around the island and I had to stop whenever some of the song came to me, it took about 30 minutes to write.
I had a lustful one night stand that was completely unrequited. I had lots of time to think about my love for this person while on Vanuatu. It was heaven and hell all rolled into one for me.
I knew what I wanted and to have the best musicians in the country know me and my music and what I wanted was amazing. I heard the song recorded and finished in my head as soon as I began writing it. I had the band to play that feel and Bruce Lynch to write the string parts and I was happy and content after that. My song was fully realised.
WHAT SHE LIKES ABOUT THE SONG
I like that it comes straight from the soul, it's catchy and wild.
WHO SHOULD COVER IT?
I wish the Mint Chicks could do it again - they're choice. Or Kora. Or Tiki Taane - cos they're bros!
By Opshop (Jason Kerrison, Bobby Kennedy, Matt Treacy and Clinton Harris). From the album: Second Hand Planet
Kerrison: The idea came from a few different places actually. I was driving from Tauranga to Auckland listening to an interview with Paul McCartney on National Radio. He was talking about how he wrote Let it be with Ray Charles performing it in mind. It was then that i realised why he sounded so soulful on the recording. That got me thinking that i'd like to try that technique. For whatever reason the person i picked on the day to channel was Don Henley from the Eagles. So the initial idea wasn't so much a lyric, melody, or riff but more me exploring a technique.
My partner and I hadn't seen each other in several weeks and when I arrived home she was a bit despondent about our relationship surviving the touring lifestyle and its trappings. While she got changed to go to dinner I wrote her One Day speaking to those concerns.
After I'd taught the band, we decided to render it with the concept of a dark space cowboy theme in mind just to see what would happen. With this came lush strings and a weird keyboard sound courtesy of an electronic wind instrument known only as 'Orla'. You see we, well I, was never too precious about the song and thought it was perhaps a bit obvious. Our producer Greg Haver and the rest of the 'shop convinced me otherwise and hence its inclusion on Second Hand Planet.
WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT THE SONG
I like its simplicity. I like that it had a life and destiny of its own. I like that it has transcended its initial meaning and frame of reference to re-appropriate itself to the point where it has a profound place in other people's lives. I like that people from all walks of NZ life are bold enough to sing it loud and proud at Opshop gigs. No, actually. I don't like it. I love it. I feel like a proud dad or something.
AND WHO SHOULD COVER IT?
The first act that came to mind was The Skeptics but that's obviously not a possibility. I'd love to see what an extraordinary musician like Karen Hunter would do to flip the song on its head while attempting to allow it to retain its original essence and composure. That'd be pretty cool for sure.
Gather to the Chapel
By Liam Finn. From the album: I'll Be Lightning
It was the passing of Paul Hester that inspired me to write this song. But I wanted it to be more about the experience of losing a loved one, how it brings people back together and the humbling perspective you seem to gather from that kind of intensity. It was the first time I had experienced something like this and I suppose I found it quite cathartic to express the way it made me feel. Music can really link us emotionally, and give comfort when going through these landmarks of our lives. Suicide leaves everyone with such a mixed bag of unresolved emotions ... anger, confusion, regret, guilt and unfathomable sadness, but ultimately I don't think any of that can shadow the fact that you loved the person and would want them to know that. I hoped that this song would hold more of a beautiful positive sentiment than a depressing, sad one. I've had quite a few instances where people have thought this song was about a wedding. I find it amusing - well, why not? Songs can mean different things to people.
Gather to the chapel was written pretty quickly really ... I don't really remember what came first, the music or the lyrics, but the atmosphere of the song was infectious and I had the chorus almost annoyingly rolling around my head for days, but I guess that can be a good sign.
I didn't demo the song as I wanted to record it for the first time in the studio. I believe that you capture something more honest and natural the first time you record it ... and quite often slave over trying to recreate that magical mood or performance you got in the demo when re-recording it in a studio. Therefore the song was mostly shaped around a simple live vocal and acoustic guitar take, as I wanted them to be the most important part. From there it was coloured in with guitar loops, fuzzed out octave guitar, simple drums, tape-looped strings and lots of layered harmonies.
WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT THE SONG
My favourite part of the recording is probably the bridge ... it's the first time bass features in the song and the trill strings really add an eerie quality before the last chorus resolves all the tension.
WHO SHOULD COVER IT
I'd love to see it performed by some kind of choir. I think it'd sound great a capella and all the harmonies would be joyous.
By the Phoenix Foundation (Samuel Scott, Luke Buda, Tom Wedde, William Ricketts, Richard Singleton, Warner Emery). From the album: Happy Ending
Scott: Luke Buda had the chord progression I think. He and Conrad were working on a version for Eagle Vs Shark [the band did the soundtrack to the film] but it didn't quite fit. We started jamming it in the band based on their demo and I came up with the lyrics pretty quick. We knew right off that it was gonna be a good tune. In fact we were pretty sure before we even recorded it that it would be the opening track on our next album and that's what ended up happening.
It's partly inspired by being strung out in a public situation. Like being onstage and not really feeling like what you're doing is saying anything. But it's more specifically about the blandness of the media - New Zealand media especially and how this country is heading towards some sort of grey urban pseudo yuppie hell. The idea of Bright Grey is this sort of middle New Zealand townhouse development land where everything is for sale with a voiceover from Richard Long - Gulf Harbour, Pegasus in Christchurch and that sort of horror.
We recorded it in our usual spot - the surgery with Lee Prebble. We really went for it in the production of this track. It even has the same reverse AMS reverb on the vocal that one might find on a certain Phil Collins hit.
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THE SONG
Everything. Especially the video by Taika Waititi. I can't think of the song without thinking of the tacky wonderland TV studio he created to give it a time and place.
WHO SHOULD COVER IT?
I think Lawrence Arabia or the Ruby Suns would do a great job. People have likened it to Split Enz, maybe they could reform again to cover it. My goodness how egotistical of me to think Split Enz would cover our song, that would be pretty outrageous. So yeah Split Enz or Fat Freddy's Drop - the big guns, babe.
What: The finalists in the APRA silver Scroll 2008. The awards are administered by the Australasian Performing Rights Association, which is a royalty collection organisation with more than 6000 New Zealand songwriters and composers in its membership. The Silver Scroll has been presented annually since 1965 and now the awards night includes the Sounz Contemporary Award for classical work, the APRA Maioha Award for best Te Reo Maori song and awards for the most performed work, overseas and locally.
When: Auckland Town Hall on Wednesday 10 September.
Not to be confused with: The 2008 New Zealand Music Awards - or Tuis - the nominations of which are announced on Wednesday September 3, with the awards night on October 8.