Carson Taare says he feels he was born to do music, and at just 18 years old the Palmerston North teenager has already made his mark in the music industry.
This month Carson is bringing his soulful music to Stratford, performing at the TET Kings Theatre for one night only, and says he hopes the audience will enjoy hearing his music as much as he enjoys creating it.
Carson spent a lot of his early years in his grandmother's lounge, listening to music from Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Presley and many more.
"She listened to music all the time, there was always something playing, someone singing at all times."
Growing up hearing that music inspired him, says Carson, who plays guitar and piano as well as singing.
"I think it was always something that was going to happen, with that love of music in the family. It was always around me, and when I first picked up a guitar and had a go, I realised it was what I wanted to do."
While other young musicians might dream of stardom in the pop or rock genre, Carson says he has never really considered anything other than country and folk music.
"I like the style, obviously growing up I was exposed to that sort of music, but also I love the storytelling it does, the way it really talks to people, and explores human emotions."
Human emotion is something Carson knows plenty about. While he has many happy memories of spending time with his grandparents, the reality is he was there because his parents were spending most of their time at hospital with Carson's older sister, Elle.
"She passed away at 12, having fought leukaemia for four years."
It was, says Carson, "a pretty rough time". As well as spending time away from his sister and parents, he also spent time in hospital himself, twice donating bone marrow to help his sister.
"In a way, some of it I only realise now I am older. When I was young, it was just how our life was, it was something we were dealing with. Looking back though, I realise I was lucky I was in a place with family and music, as those two things together helped me through."
While music helped Carson through in his early years, it is now taking him places, including the Country Music Capital of the World; Nashville, Tennessee.
Carson was there in June last year as a guest performer at the annual Country Music Association Festival.
"It was pretty big to be invited to perform there, even more so when I realised myself and Keith Urban were the only two New Zealanders performing there."
He says sitting in the green room before he went on stage was awe-inspiring.
"I saw Ray Stevens there, just relaxing in the same room, and that was absolutely crazy, I am a big fan of his. It felt incredible, but it also felt like home. Music is everything for me, and being there felt right."
Carson says he is fortunate to have two "just amazing" managers, Gray Bartlett MBE and Mark Dennison.
"They are both really great to work with, and perform with of course."
He performed with both in Nashville last year, and says it is thanks to their support he has achieved so much already.
"Another highlight last year was being invited to perform with the New Glenn Miller Orchestra when they toured New Zealand."
He also made his television debut last year, performing Willie Nelson's Something You Get Through in the This Is Who We Are concert at Sky City.
While Covid-19 has scuppered many of Carson's travel and performance plans this year, he hasn't wasted the time.
"I've been working on recording a new original album, featuring some songs I worked on writing during lockdown. The plan is to record the album before the end of this year at Neil Finn's Roundhead Studios in Auckland, and before doing that I wanted to try out the songs on a live audience."
Carson will be trying out these new songs, along with some old favourites, in his one night show at the TET Kings Theatre on Saturday, October 24. He will be joined on stage by Gray Bartlett and Mark Dennison and says he hopes people of all ages and musical tastes will come along to listen.
"It's going to be a great night. I think people will enjoy it, I certainly hope they will, and I know I am going to enjoy the evening, presenting my music to people who may not have heard it before but will hopefully go away not just having heard it, but liking it as well."
Carson Taare Live with Mark Dennison and Gray Bartlett: TET Kings Theatre, Saturday, October 24 at 7pm. Tickets $22, available now and door sales on the night.
Be in to win: Carson has generously given the Stratford Press some double passes to his show. If you would like to win one, call the editor on 06 969 4024 and leave your name and number. Competition closes at noon, on Friday, October 23 and the winner will be contacted that afternoon. Check out our Stratford Press Facebook page for another chance to win.