Sitting at a central city cafe, Erakah wonders how her fans find out so much about her. The rising R&B pop star - think the female Stan Walker, perhaps, with whom she's currently touring - says she has never broadcast the fact her first name is Katharine and Erakah is her middle name.

"But little kids find out somehow. And then they found out my last name was Nansen and now they call me Katharine Nansen and I'm like, 'who the hell is that?"' she laughs.

"And then," she continues, "they find out that I've just got married."

And even though she never tells people her age (she's 25) - "because then they do that, 'oh, wow ...' and there's always stuff that comes with it" - there is no doubt her fans will have already deciphered that one too.

Not that she minds what people think, because songs like the cheery, Kylie-style pop of In or Out and love song I Need You reveal more than anything the internet is likely to turn up.

"I can only sing about what I know and so far it's only been about emotions," she says.

Erakah is striking, with her big brown hair, bright red lipstick and strong features, and she has a sweet, almost naive nature yet there's a staunchness to her.

She says things like, "Not to sound like a Japanese samurai but I'm really big on honour and respect" and that she had to "learn to strip the songs back and apply them to everyone rather than just a woman who had been hit by a guy". She is, she admits, a "pretty straight-up person".

She was born in Fiji but she's a North Shore girl "through and through", growing up in Northcote Pt listening to Phoebe Snow and Willie Nelson. "I didn't know R&B existed until later," she laughs.

From a young age she sang in the church choir ("my first gig," she giggles.) and, as far back as then, she remembers being told that she had a great voice.

Her faith is still a big part of her life. "But it's not like I go round and bible-bash," she says.

It was around the time of Michael Jackson's Scream, his duet with sister Janet in the mid-90s, when she branched out and started listening to everything from singers like Brandy, Mariah Carey, and Jill Scott to R&B group Dru Hill.

But it was only two years ago that she got her break in music, after a demo of her songs fell into the hands of N.O.X., a producer at urban record label Illegal Musik.

"I didn't always want to be a singer but when Illegal said, 'come on in', that's when I thought maybe I can do this. It's all happened really quick."

Since then she's featured on J. Williams' single Your Style, won best female artist at the Pacific Music Awards last year, released a number of singles including the smooth future urban soul of Day & Night, and next month she releases her debut album, Infatuated.

"I'm really excited," she beams.

The album is uplifting, similar to the sentiment of Walker's music, although there are more cutting moments too like In or Out, which is about "one of my ex-best friends that really did me wrong".

It's also a diverse album, taking in the beautiful voice and piano ballad I Only Settle, which she wrote for her friend's wedding, through to the more bouncy club and party tracks like In or Out and Infatuated.

"I wanted to put a bit of Erakah from the radio that everyone knows and then a bit of Erakah that no one knows," she says of the album. "And my passion is to strip it back and then build it up really loud, and then take it back to nothing again. That's my real style, so we wanted to sprinkle it with a little bit of what people don't know about me.

"And I don't think I do traditional R&B. Hopefully it's R&B pop with a little bit of soul," she says. "People might be able to pick up on who my inspirations are, but hopefully I don't sound exactly like someone."

Although, she points out, a little horrified, she's been called the New Zealand Beyonce. But, she says, "I was like, 'that's a big thing to say'."

One thing's for sure, music is her life and it has become a much bigger and more important part of her being in the last few years.

"Music used to be something I listened to on the radio to have a cool dance to. But I've grown to love songs with good, conscious lyrics. People like Jill Scott. But then again, I still love the pop stuff like Rihanna - 'the sky is blue, you are too'. I still love that. And also over the years I've found an appreciation about how much work goes into a song and I've just got a deeper respect for music."

LOWDOWN

Who:
Erakah, R&B pop soul sister

Touring: with Stan Walker, Holy Trinity Church, Tauranga, Feb 24; Auckland Town Hall, Feb 25; Unison Arena, Rotorua, Feb 26

Début album: Infatuated, out March 21

- TimeOut