The new year couldn't have started any better for talented musical rising star Danica Bryant.
The 18- year-old Hawke's Bay woman has not only released a new single, but she has been named to open both Elton John Mission Concerts on February 6 (Waitangi Day) and February 16.
"I found out last September and have been struggling to keep quiet ever since," Bryant said.
"I feel so honoured and almost dazed about it. The response has been unreal. Being able to say I'm opening for someone whose work I've admired all my life is completely surreal."
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She is also very excited about her new indie rock single Sugarbones.
It has wonderful, tempo, catchy lyrics and is one of those songs you immediately want to listen to again.
Bryant says Sugarbones is a tribute to soft drinks, neon lights and small town smokey Friday nights.
"It's going to make people dance, whether I'm playing it with my band, or alone with a guitar and some moody stage lighting."
The single is the result of Bryant winning the Play It Strange Who Loves Who Competition where any high school student can submit an entry of a cover song by a New Zealand songwriter.
"Usually the song writers in New Zealand are also the singers," Bryant said. She chose Horizon by Aldous Harding.
"Entries are judged 50 per cent on your interpretation of the song and 50 per cent on how you record and mix it."
Sugarbones was engineered and produced by local musicians Stretch, and Rinie Coppelman with members of local band Lavender Menace, Natalie Bennett and Tyler Blythe, accompanying Bryant's distinctive vocals and acoustic guitar with percussion and bass.
Last year was also very successful for Bryant. Not only did she win the Play It Strange Who Loves Who Competition, she also attended a songwriting workshop with Kiwi icon Bic Runga, and opened for major acts such as Jon Toogood and Jason Kerrison.
In 2018 she was awarded the coveted National APRA Lyric Award by Smokefree Rockquest for her original song Dizzy.
Bryant started performing live when she was just 12 years old at Craggy Farm Winery.
She says she has always loved music.
"When I was a kid, about 6 or 7, Sing Star Video was my favourite and I wanted to do it myself.
"I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas when I was 8 years old and I got it. It was after that I started to writing my own songs."
She says the value of music is being able to share your own perspective.
Bryant has been playing Sugarbones live for two years.
"I named it kinda weird so people would want to listen to it. I have had lots of support and I really love it when it's just me and the guitar and people get up and dance to it."
Her advice to aspiring musicians is to "make the music you want to make. Promote yourself, the more self sufficient you are the better off you will be."
*To listen to Sugarbones go to Spotify https://open.spotify.com/track/5VaA8eIua4vPikKOANOtzG?si=9xcF3J_cRd2fa9vpPYcpgg
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It is also available on Apple Music, YouTube and Soundcloud.