In many ways Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land comes home this weekend.
The musician speaks with Zaryd Wilson about his tour, public transport and being an unfunny Bill Bailey.
Some time in 2018 Anthonie Tonnon's love of history and music, and mild obsession with public transport collided to form Rail Land.
In this alternate universe Tonnon tours the country performing shows in which he and the audience take the train to the venue. That was the concept anyway.
"Rail started as the process to doing the show," Tonnon says.
"It's kind of like a prompter. To use a very band pun – it puts you on a track. And you don't necessarily need to keep talking about rail but it gives me an instant starting point for what the story is I'm going to tell."
Tonnon is a twice Silver Scroll-nominated musician, born and raised in Dunedin who, via Auckland, now finds himself in Whanganui.
His catalogue includes 2015 album Successor followed by the 2017 single, Two Free Hands, and last year's Old Images.
Rail Land captures all of it in a concept show Tonnon calls a "journey of the mind".
"It's a theatrical extension of my live show," he says. "If I'm talking, I'll have a bed of music to guide me through the narration so the whole thing is a fluid journey and the lines between and song and the banter are really blurred."
Perhaps one of Tonnon's heroes, Bill Bailey, is the inspiration.
"I've always loved the way he does a comedy show," he says.
"He uses music as a device to move through and he's a very talented musician as well.
"Rail Land is a theatrical show that has tragedy, and a little bit of comedy in it as well but I wouldn't call myself a comedian. Just ask my wife, I'm not funny.
"That's the most charitable thing I can say, I'm like an unfunny Bill Bailey."
Rail Land celebrates public transport, maybe laments its decline and perhaps tries to prove a point.
Tonnon has had to charter trains to gigs where there is no longer a service.
"If I can make something exist, even if just for one night, that's something politicians can't do," he says. "Politicians can't get trains to run again.
"But it shows if you can get 200 people to all pay enough each to share the cost of a train running, you can make it run."
When it came to organising a show in Whanganui - where the tram system has long been sent to the scrap heap and a passenger train system is non-existent - Tonnon found there was no way to even charter a train.
He wrestled with the purity of the concept, but there had to be something.
Because Whanganui, and in particular Gonville, "is the centre of Rail Land in New Zealand", Tonnon says.
"I really want to bring the show to Whanganui because so much of the show is about the experience of living here and interacting with the missing and not missing aspects of inter-regional public transport here," Tonnon says.
So, instead of trains, Tonnon has chartered a bus which will re-create the old No. 6 tram route between the city and Castlecliff.
"I spent two weeks in my office near St Peter's developing the show, so I think the energy of the suburb of Gonville is infused into the show. I wanted to bring it home before I develop it further.
"In some ways the title is tongue in cheek because New Zealand has degraded its rail system more than any other new world nation, more so than the United States.
"But I claim it and it celebrates what we do have, like Masterton, as city of 20,000 people which somehow has three trains a day.
"I talk about my experiences with trying to take public transport in New Zealand which often means taking a bus somewhere and then needing to hitch if you're going to get to the next place – all these strange gaps."
Gaps which are now filled by cars which is where the Rail Land show starts.
"Like everyone else in a small to medium city I got my licence when I was 15 and I drove to school in my rusty Toyota Starlet," Tonnon says.
"I talk about my history with cars, I talk about my history with the Dunedin motorway system ...
"I'm finding a way [music and history] actually interact for the first time since I left university."
They really are Tonnon's two passions.
He has been playing piano since he was a child - his mother got him into it – but looking back he says he was "terrible".
"I quit piano at 16 and I thought that was it for me and music. I had no intention of being a musician but I was very interested in acting and theatre at that time."
But friends got interested in music and bought instruments and "I was a little bit jealous that they were playing guitar and it looked cool".
So he bought a book of chords.
"I'd never understood theory when playing piano but seeing block chords arranged keys, all of a sudden all of the theory just made sense to me and it opened the door to song writing.
"I learned a bunch of David Bowie songs using these chords and I suddenly got it.
"There was something magical in song writing – that's what got me into music and then I was just completely hooked. It was compulsive and addictive."
Tonnon's Rail Land show at St Peter's follows two previous Whanganui shows at the Opera House and the Ward Observatory.
"We don't have many public places to go and do things in Gonville, which is funny because it's a very densely populated suburb close to town," he says.
"It's exciting to be bringing some life into Gonville."
*Anthonie Tonnon's Rail Land is on Saturday, August 17, at St Peter's Church at 7.30pm.
Tickets for the show, and for the No. 6 tram route bus to the show can be purchased at anthonietonnon.com.