Poneke musician Miles Calder is back from New York and Geneva with a new band, a new sound, and new music. We catch up with him for 10 questions.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I'm a singer-songwriter from Wellington who writes overly self-reflective folk songs and then disguises them in swirling psychedelic rock arrangements and rolling atmospheric ballads.
What brought on your change in musical direction?
Previously confined to writing on the acoustic guitar, I ended up with a piano where I was living a few years ago and just loved learning it, so naturally started writing on that. At the same time I felt drawn to the electric guitar and ended up playing in a covers band of 60s/70s rock stuff. I was also listening to a lot more indie-folk/psychedelia artists like Kevin Morby, Sam Cohen, Damien Jurado, Richard Swift and doing deeper dives back into late-era Beatles and 70s Pink Floyd.
These new songs reflect this influence and are much different in production to what I'd previously done. I was also suddenly writing much more in my own voice, with more personal lyrics coming out.
How does your new music reflect your fears and emotions?
I wrote Take Me Back To How It Was when I was feeling lost and isolated near the end of a year living overseas ... wanting to get back through distance and time to the sanctuary of a previous home. It's about not knowing where to go next, being nostalgic for the past, uncertain for the future and escaping the present.
Lake Geneva was written at the same time, but I'm singing more about feeling overwhelmed by the steady march of time and inescapable changes that we all fear but have to face. This song is a sigh of acceptance ultimately, if a rather downcast one.
And how do those themes in any way reflect the weirdness of living through 2020?
It felt so right to finish the mixing and release these two songs this year. Those feelings of isolation and wanting to be able to see people face to face, and the need for everyone to shoulder the weirdness of the new world we find ourselves and just press on, are all so 2020.
What one instrument could you not live without and why?
At the moment it's my 1969 Wurlitzer 200 electric piano. My prized possession. Guitars come and go somewhat but this piano is timeless and special. It has fostered my passion for writing on keys and has already birthed a lot of new songs in the year and a half I've had it. It's a vintage instrument that takes a lot of care and maintenance, which means patience ... so it's even teaching me virtues too.
What does success as a musician mean for you?
I mainly want to make something good ... write and record records that I'm proud of and have some value or dare I say beauty in them. And on top of that, to be able to go through that creative process working with people I love, and then perform and deliver these results to people who might get some meaning or comfort or joy from them is really damn awesome.
What has been the best development in the music industry in the past few decades?
I think the accessibility for artists to record at home at tiny expense and quite easily get the music online and out to people who may enjoy it is a really cool side of the modern age. There's not a massive need to get signed and people who have something good can hopefully more easily find and connect to their audience.
What's one thing you'd change about the music industry if you could?
Attention spans. I find a lot of people don't have the time or maybe appetite to listen to a whole album. That can be an incredible experience that you get lost in and find joy and sadness and presence and inspiration. I try and do that on walks and runs now.
If you could only listen to one album by another artist for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Gosh, for my sanity, it might be something ambient from Brian Eno like Music for Airports. If I can cheat a bit and pick a trilogy of concept albums that are all linked, Damien Jurado's Maraqopa, Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Son, and Visions of Us on the Land that he made with Richard Swift have all been so influential on me and have so much range, richness and depth. I've listened to those so much over the past 10 years. Shoutouts too to the Beatles' White Album and Sam Evian's You, Forever.
If you were curating a dream music festival, who would be on the bill, alive or dead?
The Beatles, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, the Phoenix Foundation, Sam Evian, Father John Misty, Outkast, Damien Jurado, Janis Joplin.
• Miles Calder brings a full band show to the North Island this December. The three-date tour includes Wellington on December 16, Auckland on December 18, and Tauranga on December 19. Buy tickets at Milescalder.com.