Acclaimed New Zealand singer songwriter Bic Runga is bringing a full band to the Royal Whanganui Opera House in November.
She talks to Mike Tweed about how music got her through lockdown and taking a trip up the Whanganui River with Flight of the Concords.
Bic Runga kept musically busy over the Covid-19 lockdown period despite "re-evaluating what everything meant" during it's "darkest days".
"I don't know who the first was to describe the Covid-19 pandemic as an existential crisis, but it really was," she says.
"It's profoundly rocked everyone, and I've made quite a lot of music over lockdown because it was the only sane thing to do.
"Music was my sanity."
Runga will play at the Royal Whanganui Opera House on November 7, bringing with her a full band as well as support act Ebony lamb.
Her first memory of playing in Whanganui involved Flight of The Concords and a trip up the river.
"I remember going there years ago, and it was so cool," Runga says.
"That was when Flight of the Concords were opening for me, before they blew up, and on our day off we went up the Whanganui River to Jerusalem, which was a really great day.
"It's kinda 'wow' when i think about it, because they [FOTC] went to America pretty much straight after that tour and their lives changed completely, it was incredible to watch."
As well as forming a side project called King Sweeties during lockdown with Tiny Ruins member Cass Mitchell (who will also be in Runga's band for the tour), Runga also completed her first commissioned piece of music during lockdown, a six minute instrumental called Level 2.
"I've pretty much never done something like that before, but it was really good because it gave me something to think about," Runga says.
"I didn't have to write lyrics, which I thought was a nice brief, and I got a lot out of it."
Runga met all the support acts on the tour through songwriting workshops she'd held during her residency at the Arts Centre in Christchurch last year.
"I just love songwriters, we're all cut from the same cloth.
"In Whanganui we have Ebony Lamb playing, who is a country folk singer that I really love."
A new studio album was in the works for 2021, Runga says, and new tracks would be aired during her Opera House show.
"I'm always so busy with stuff, and it feel like the only thing I haven't done is make a record, and in a sense that's the most important thing to do.
"If you had any fear about stuff that you wanted to do, I think lockdown made you realise that life is short and if you want to make something you'd better get on and do it."
One feature of Runga's tour is the environmentally conscious approach to it, with electric hire-car company Zilch coming on board to provide transportation, and a push to help venues come up with sustainability plans.
"We all know that we're supposed to make an effort to be sustainable and not waste so much, and it's really urgent actually," she says.
"Xan [Hamilton, Runga's promoter] was an event promoter for the Sustainable Business Network, and she really walks the walk when it comes to that kind of stuff.
"She's got the credentials and skills to put on a zero carbon event."
Runga's band features Kody Nielson (Silicon, Opossum, UMO, The Mint Chicks) Cass Mitchell (Tiny Ruins, Carnivorous Plant Society, King Sweeties) and Michael Logie (Opossum, Silicon, The Mint Chicks).
"I'll be playing most of my most well-known songs, but there'll be a few new ones in there as well," Runga said.
"It'll pretty much be my music from 25 years of writing songs."