Te Marama puoro o Aotearoa is here (New Zealand Music month). This week SOUNZ shines the spotlight on Anna Coddington. Nina Lesperance from SOUNZ spoke with Anna to hear what New Zealand Music month means to her.
Ko Tongariro te maunga
Ko Taupo Nui a Tia te moana
Ko Te Arawa te waka
Ko Ngāti Tūwharetoa me Te Arawa ngā iwi
Ko Ngāti Turumakina te hapu
Ko Waihi te marae
Ko Anna Coddington ahau
How do you think your music has evolved over your four albums?
I like to think it has evolved a lot. I’m constantly learning and putting what I learn back into my music. I’ve geeked out about songwriting, production, singing technique and loads more over the years and I’m always changing my views and preferences regarding these things and more. The last album was probably the greatest evolution as I worked with a producer for the first time and really opened myself to giving my music over to their expertise. I really trusted them to make the most of the songs I had written and we had a dreamy working relationship which, to me, comes through on the record. Honestly I think musical evolution for me has largely been a process of letting go. Letting go of my ego, letting go of what I thought was the right, wrong or best way of doing anything, letting go of control, of expectations, etc. Having children has really helped me with this and I feel greater creative flexibility these days.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
It’s different all the time- the first thing could be lyrics, melodies, a bassline, chord progression, drum pattern…. One thing that has become a pattern is capturing ideas as they happen on my phone either in voice memos or in the notes app. I don’t really have the freedom these days to stop what I’m doing and sit with a guitar or go to my studio to tease out an idea, so I grab them as they come and circle back to them when I can. Guitar is my main instrument so I still use that a lot for working out ideas. Things I’m interested in for writing these days include interesting lyrics- turns of phrase that are unusual in the context of pop music, space! I often go back to a guitar part and strip it back so that it’s taking up less space, sounds- I’m still a bit of a production noob but I finally have some understanding of how to manipulate synths and plug ins so am enjoying creating a mood or vibe with that and letting it influence the song. I really don’t have a fixed process. I reckon the main ingredient for songwriting is time. Time to sit with an idea without feeling pressure to do something else or be somewhere else.
In your latest album [Beams released in 2020] what do you hope the audience takes from this?
I hope that it’s an enjoyable listen- it is to me I think Lips did an amazing job on the production- but also that some of the kaupapa reach out and resonate with people. One friend identified a central kaupapa as “enoughness” and I thought that was really astute. I hadn’t picked it out myself but when she said it I thought “yes”. The main theme is identity and ways this has been challenged for me by motherhood and connection (or disconnection) to my Māori whakapapa. But identity crisis is something most people experience at some stage I would say. It’s very relatable.
Listen to Anna’s latest album ‘Beams’ on Spotify now
Can you tell us about the differences between writing music for your solo career and for Clicks [‘Clicks’ is a techno duo that produce electronic sounds for night clubs]?
So different! With Clicks I mostly just write the topline- the lyrics and melody- and my partner Dick does the production. I occasionally contribute production ideas as well but mostly I’m just the singer ha. It’s so different for me because dance music was a completely foreign world that I had no interest in before I met Dick. “Where’s the guitars?” is what I said. But I have a real appreciation for it now and it’s very, very different because while I’ve always focussed on lyrics and they used to be the most important thing in a song to me, with dance music that’s not the case and in fact a lyric that is too complicated or asking too much of the audience can actually interfere with the purpose of the music, which is to make people dance not stand there and think about the meaning of the words. It’s also to make people feel something but if you have the music and the lyric both competing for attention at the same time it doesn’t work, so I find the lyrics are kind of secondary in that project but not in a derogatory way. There is a real art to making a lyric that is interesting but still serves the purpose of the song and I honestly haven’t mastered it yet. I spent my life avoiding cliches in lyrics but actually they really work in dance music because they can enhance the inherent message of the music without requiring the listener to think about it. It’s a challenge to satisfy myself lyrically while writing something that really works and I often “over write” for Clicks. It’s very interesting to me. I would love to wānanga with someone with more experience in writing for that genre.
Check out Clicks on Spotify
Are you working on anything the SOUNZ audience should keep an eye out for?
I’m currently working on the score and music supervision for season two of Head High (TV drama) which is a good and very different kaupapa having just finished my album release tour, and I’m also planning to do a reo Māori EP.
What does New Zealand Music Month mean to you?
I think NZ music is really thriving, some deep diversity issues aside, so I feel like it’s less of a noticeable change than it used to be, though it’s always nice to have the general public paying more attention to artists that aren’t on mainstream radio or whatever.