Bic Runga is one of just a handful of artists who have truly earned the term iconic. A singer-songwriter with Maori, Chinese and Malaysian roots, her first single ‘Drive’ in 1996 – was a top ten hit when she was just twenty. Since then, she has been awarded almost every musical honor in her country. Her debut album Drive (1997) went platinum seven times; Beautiful Collision followed in 2002 (eleven times platinum) and Birds in 2005 (triple platinum). Her latest offerings are ‘Anthology’ and ‘Belle’, and we caught up with her to discuss these latest projects and more. Read below for the full interview…
The music industry have changed rapidly since you released Drive in ’96. From iTunes, to social media, how has the evolution of music changed the way you create it? Have your feelings towards the industry changed at all?
Bic: After being with a major label for the last 16 years, I’m now an independent artist. At the moment I’m writing a new album which will be my first venture into being independent. I’ve had a lot of success with the old way of doing things, but now the industry is beyond recognition and I’m curious to make an album with my own resources with more attention to direct communication with fans. Music seems to have less value now, in that it can be file shared or viewed for free instead of bought. If you think about the sheer quantity of music in the world created over time for people to listen to, you can imagine how competitive the business now is. So you have to make something very very good, it’s very important to be original and authentic more than ever.
For your new record you decided to give some creative control to other talented people who shared duties in producing and writing. Why did you decide to take this route for your new album? Was it just an issue of time, being a mother?
Bic: My first three albums were all self written and self produced, but after becoming a parent, I wanted to collaborate more, to share the work load more and to get more ideas from others. This has been fun, a realization that the best things happen from synergy and teamwork between people.
You took a break for the birth of your son. Was this time away essential to you coming back stronger as an artist?
Bic: Having children changes your perspective, it helps you to boil down what your values are, to understand what sort of person you are trying to raise. So yes thinking about these kinds of big-picture questions I think does make you stronger.
Also, congratulations are in order again as you are pregnant again! Will you be handling this pregnancy/birth the same way (taking another leave)?
Bic: Well this time I realized that the world doesn’t stop just because you’re having a family, so I’m recording at the moment and making the most of my time. Also I think to be creative, happy and productive is a good example for your kids, it won’t be easy, but I’m hoping to juggle all these things at once!
You stated in an earlier interview that you never wanted to encourage your kids to get into the music industry. I am guessing this is more pertaining to the politics and the way your music can become mishandled if you’re not careful?
Bic: I do think that the music business is a tough one, I wouldn’t really wish it on anyone who wasn’t ready for it! You need to be resilient and to have a think skin. You have to follow your passion and learn whatever tools necessary to succeed. Some people approach it with more business skills than others, I wasn’t especially like that at first.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Bic: I quite like Stephen Chow films. They’re funny and mad.
You released a ‘Best-of’ album late this year. Some musicians release these album as a perspective piece, or a farewell piece, or just closing a chapter in their life and beginning anew. What did the decision to release ‘Anthology’ symbolize to you?
Bic: It symbolized the end of my 16 years with Sony Music. I had a great time making this music but it is nice to see it in retrospect, sort of closing a chapter so a new one can begin.
It seems like acoustic shows are more and more common these days among the great songwriters. Being no stranger to these types of settings yourself, is part of the attraction, that you can put the focus on the words and message of the songs themselves?
Bic: Acoustic shows can be very engaging, if the songs are truthful. I never do completely acoustic shows anymore, it’s usually a mixture of acoustic and with a band to keep it dynamic and interesting.
What tour dates or special plans do you have for 2013?
Bic: 2013 will be more about finishing off some new music and less about being away from home.
Any advice to fellow singer/songwriters about obtaining longevity in the music business? Any secrets you could share?
Bic: I always take heart from the fact that all the very most legendary and iconic artists suffered set backs and disappointments but they continued to succeed over long periods of time in spite of this. So you have to keep your inspiration, to block out the noise and get on your feet over and over again.
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