Entertainment Extra is running profiles of the 10 artists selected to have their songs featured on the Backline Charitable Trust Hawke's Bay compilation vinyl record. The compilation is a showcase of Hawke's Bay artists and reflects the diversity and quality of new and established musicians producing original music in the region. It is an opportunity for up-and-coming artists to be featured alongside established acts. The tracks will be mastered at Munki Studios in Wellington and released this month. This week we feature Danica Bryant.
Where are you from and what instruments do you play?
I was born in Napier, but now live between Napier and Wellington. I play guitar and sing.
Was any high school or other music training/projects especially important to you?
The Play It Strange competitions throughout each year were extremely important in helping me hone my songwriting and production skills. I was also super-involved in Napier Girls' High School choirs and musicals. They taught me a lot about singing, stage performance, and working with others. Their head of music, Suzanne Purdy, is still an incredibly important support person in my life, who I'll always be grateful for.
Any other previous projects that you would like to mention?
Plains of Venus is off my debut EP, Cider, released last July.
How did you get started as an artist?
I've been writing songs since I was 7, but that became a proper career as an artist in my last year of intermediate. I got my first gig through my music teacher at Crab Farm Winery, and really got hooked on performing basically anywhere and everywhere. If they said they'd let me play, whether there were two people in the crowd or two thousand, I was there!
Is anyone else directly involved with your music?
I write almost all of my songs alone, but as soon as I take them to production level, the producers and bandmates I'm working with take them to the next level. Plains of Venus in particular was very much shaped by its producer Toby Lloyd, as well as my drummer Tyler Blythe and bassist Natalie Bennett.
How has your writing (or music) evolved from your beginnings in songwriting?
I'm far fussier with lyrics now. I don't see the point in saying something everybody else has already said, so I always want to write in a way that sounds creative and new, with purpose. I'm far more experienced in production, too, so I know how to elevate a song from just a guitar and vocal to something that sounds really rich.
What do you like about being included on the HB Compilation Record?
When I first got into music, Hawkes' Bay had very few musical opportunities. But there have been so many massive steps forward recently, like new venues, musicians and organisations, that I now consider Hawkes' Bay one of the most thriving communities for music in the country. I'm so glad to see how far we have come so quickly, and this record is a fantastic representation of that incredible growth. I'm so proud to be a part of this compilation alongside friends and musicians who I truly respect and love.
Aside from this release, have you released music before?
I've been releasing singles here and there since 2016, but I disown anything before 2019! My EP Cider is my first major release.
What made you choose this song for the record?
Plains of Venus is my favourite song I've ever written because I think it's really unique. It has a serious story and purpose, it carries so many different intense emotions, and yet it's still so engaging and palatable. It's everything I want to do with my music going forward.
What's the story behind the song?
The song is about a fictional relationship which the narrator initially thinks is perfect, but over time, realises is incredibly toxic. As the song goes on, she starts to seek freedom, but unfortunately like so many abusive relationships, she falls back into it because she's been trained not to see any other path for herself. I wanted it to sound like a love song at first, that starts feeling more twisted as it goes on. The listener is meant to feel just like the girl in the song and realise too late that something is very wrong.
What's your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?
I'm so proud of the bridge! Every single lyric there feels so emotive and perfectly written. My favourite is "I'd rather be a woman scorned than a woman left loveless". Not only does it sound beautiful, but it really demonstrates the horror of this idea that women are taught since birth - we're supposed to find love, and being in a relationship is more important than if that relationship is actually right for you.
How do you generally work out what song makes a good single?
Generally speaking, if it's catchy, easy to follow, and you can imagine it on the radio, it's the right single. But live performance is also a major part of how I figure it out. I noticed people really connected to Plains of Venus at my shows, and the song is also extremely reflective of who I am as an artist, so I felt it was right to release as a single.
Who produced your single?
Toby Lloyd, from Tiny Triumph Recordings, produced Plains of Venus, and it was mastered by Mike Gibson from Munki Recordings.
What other producers have you worked with?
I'm currently working with Jonny Avery on new music, and I worked with Simon Gooding and Estere last year at Apra's Songhubs course.
What music projects are you working on that we should keep an eye out for?
I'll be releasing a few singles this year, and you can stay up to date on my Facebook and Instagram pages for information on those!
Can you name three other NZ tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside yours?
If You Really Loved Me by Mousey, Apologise by Marianne Leigh and Horizon by Aldous Harding.
Have you applied for any funding for your music ? Any advice for others on funding?
I've applied many times for NZ On Air single funding, but no dice yet. I think the main thing to focus on with funding is simply making the best possible song. When you're confident in your work, others eventually will be, too.
Are there any musical blogs, YouTube channels or podcasts you're super into?
I read a lot of music content on blogs like Ambient Light and Coup De Main. I also volunteer for muzic.net.nz so I read lots of content there!
Are you earning a living from music alone – if not what else do you do ?
I'm currently studying media studies at Victoria University, but thankfully, I am able to fund the whole experience through music right now, so it's definitely doable!
Any last words?
Just a thank you to everybody involved in making this amazing record happen!