A year ago chart-topping Kiwi jazz musician Nathan Haines was weeks into a months-long fight against throat cancer, a battle that would at times rob him of his voice, his energy and his immediate plans for the future.

But it's a new year and while it's not a completely new Haines - he remains the ambitious young man who left New Zealand in his teens and put out the first of 10 solo albums at age 22 - there's been some changes.

There's also some big plans for the 46-year-old, who is cancer free but is still dealing with the after effects of the illness β€” on Wednesday he had surgery to "bulk up" a vocal chord damaged after his December 2017 diagnosis.

Haines won't be allowed to speak for an as-yet-unknown period after the operation, but he's hoping he'll be able to sing at an outdoor concert in the Far North he's organising with his wife Jaimie Webster Haines and her father.


The Sounds Good jazz, soul and funk concert featuring saxophonist Haines' seven-piece band will take place on Auckland and Northland anniversary day, January 28, at the privately-owned Butler Point property at Hihi, 60km north of Kerikeri.

Webster Haines will DJ at the family-friendly concert, which is free for under-12s.

Jazz musician Nathan Haines, pictured in 2012, underwent several operations and 35 radiation treatments in his fight against throat cancer. File photo / Dean Purcell
Jazz musician Nathan Haines, pictured in 2012, underwent several operations and 35 radiation treatments in his fight against throat cancer. File photo / Dean Purcell

Haines, who also composes, produces and DJs, said it had been a tough year of operations, radiation, rehabilitation and recovery and he was enjoying focusing on something that was being organised in part as a thank you to those he loved.

"Since my diagnosis and all that hospital time, it's been a very long process of rehabilitation and recovery. Before I got cancer [when] I thought about recovery, oh, it sounds nice, you're just lying around, but there's a very physical aspect to my recovery in that I wasn't able to talk, I was completely wiped out ... [because] I was on morphine for six months to deal with the pain.

"Radiation, I went through 35 radiation treatments and that was very debilitating. I went down to 60kg, and I lost a lot of movement in my right hand."

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Been a bit quiet over here what with Zoot turning 4yrs on Xmas eve and general Xmas, NY, family and friends shenanigans, also marking one year since the big C was dropped on us and a life changing year we had ahead to say the least! It still is life changing and forever will be. We are in the next stages, my emotions are all over the place I am finding as they are finally allowed to come out to play in full force - yet just another step and I embrace it with open arms, love and gratitude! (Most of the time πŸ€ͺ) Naths pizzazz is definitely on the up and we are super excited to be putting on our first ever outdoor event together, a wee come back gig 😝 in a very special place to us in the far north on JAN 28 anniversary weekend. The beautiful historical site of Butler Point in Mangonui! Nath will play with his super duper world class 8 piece band, excellent local boutique wine and beer from @kainuiroad vineyard in Kerikeri, DJ support from moi!!!!! Family friendly!! What a beautiful weekend away with friends and fam amongst the pohutukawa with ocean surrounding us. Join us in this celebration of life, love and DAMN good music 🎢 🎷 πŸ’“πŸ’•β€οΈπŸ’•πŸ’“πŸ’•πŸŽΆ #Mangonui #ButlerPoint @nathan.haines πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’• Tickets available on eventfinder πŸ•ΊπŸ½ please #SPREADTHEWORD #ZootsROBOTcake #Sozifsomeshotsareabitintense

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Add to that was "just being a parent through all that, and a husband", with Webster Haines having to carry a "huge amount" of the work of running the household, Haines said.

"So now, it's nice to be able to be thinking about something else other than me, and it is a bit of a thank you too."

Among those performing at Sounds Good are musicians Haines had collaborated with for many years, including his guitarist brother Joel Haines, drummer Mickey Ututaonga and vocalist Tama Waipara.


"The music I do now, and have been for a long time, it's a celebration. And the musicians I'm working with, there's a lot of long-term love in there.

"So at this time in my life to be able to stand on stage with people like that and play music which is very dear to me, a lot of original music but also we're playing the music of other composers that we love as well ... it's a really lovely process."

Musician Nathan Haines, pictured with wife Jaimie Webster Haines and their son Zoot, said cancer had taught him an
Musician Nathan Haines, pictured with wife Jaimie Webster Haines and their son Zoot, said cancer had taught him an "incredible amount" about being a husband and father. File photo / Supplied

The concert was also part of celebrating other milestones for the three-time Tui Jazz Album of the Year award winner, from the 25th anniversary of his debut album Shift Left to his becoming a father to son Zoot, who turned 4 last month.

"There's a lot to celebrate about 2019 for us so this concert was a way of putting that all into one thing and sort of celebrating the fact that we're all here and putting on a really great event for people."

Sounds Good would also be the first time he and his wife had worked on a concert together, Haines said.

Webster Haines has a background in the fashion industry, but had become a very good DJ.

"She's one of my favourite DJs to work with now because she's got such a great level of taste and expertise."

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With my husband posting a lot this week about his illness and the past 9 months I have also been reflecting on our time, it’s something we do on an everyday basis really as well as trying to live very much in the moment. I hear it’s not great to share hardships on social media but bollocks to that I say - I love it when I read about real shit and it makes me feel better, like I am not the odd one out! So here goes from me too - I want to post a bit more of what’s been happening and I will do so from now on! This shot was taken after Naths very first Operation on Dec 10 last year, he had been in hospital for 3 days (we only found out he had cancer on the 6th Dec) he played his last show on the 7th for @louisvuitton and went straight into hospital that night! His surgeon let him do his performance 😹 the show must go on eh! (Nath’s OLD motto 🀣) His mum took this photo as I was on my way to DJ another Xmas party - instead of Mr&Mrs Haines it became Mrs Haines for all the events leading up until Xmas. All 9 of them! All whilst knowing my husband had just been diagnosed with this potentially fatal crapola. I performed solo with the help of my sidekick on percussion the wonderful @papacesan and everybody was so supportive and amazing:) Little did we know in this shot what we had in store for us for the next 10 months. The ups and downs, laughter and tears 😭 after the initial adrenaline had gone how emotionally drained and exhausted I was/am. Not to mention what Nath has endured physically and having to witness it, all the while keeping it as normal as possible for Zoot. There are many blessings to be had amongst it all. Many lessons and journeys of self discovery and compassion. A crash course in life and death, as if parenting doesn’t start you on that already! So much love from all over the world 🌍 and I thank you all so much!! I feel so lucky that we can share our journey, many people sadly are not so lucky. πŸ€ We still have a wee way to go but we are starting to see more light and life is getting a lil bit easier, so blessing blessings:) Arohanui πŸ™πŸΎπŸ˜»πŸ€ŸπŸ’•β€οΈ Love, Aroha, Peace and Light πŸ’œ #lifeaftercancer #cancer #Love #cancersurvivor @nathan.haines

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Haines was himself adapting to a new way of life β€” after years of working at a frenetic pace he now knew the rest of his life would be about maintaining his health.

"I'm doing that for my relationship, and being a father. I've got a family to think about but [also] I want to have a really long career.

"To be told at 46 that I have cancer was a shock, but on another sort of deeply spiritual level I was like, 'Okay, well I sort of knew that maybe something was coming up.' So I had to stop and slow down."

Haines couldn't yet say too much about his plans beyond this month's concert, but promised 2019 was going to be a big year, and the last 13 months would be a significant part of that.

"I've learnt an incredible amount about being a human, about being a father, about being a husband and about my priorities. I think now, a year after, that's going to go back into my art.

"It's all gonna be part of my journey".