Alt-Country Belle Comes Home

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The beauty and tranquility of Maungaturoto has drawn Aimee Renata home. The alt-country artist – also known by her stage name Erny Belle – has recently ditched the big city to spend more time with her music and her family. But her favourite spots around Maungaturoto aren’t the kind you’d find in the tourist guides.

“The train tracks, opposite where I live – it's very 'Stand by Me',” says Aimee. “I know I shouldn't walk by the tracks, but I know exactly what time the trains come. Nobody goes there. There’s also a few abandoned shacks and cabins that are hidden amongst the woods. Very spooky.  And then there's Nana's backyard, under the pohutukawa tree.”

Aimee plans to release her debut EP later this year. Right now, she’s focused on writing and recording.

“Shaky Studio is in the warehouse next to where my father and I live. My father Fred Renata – who works in the film industry but is also an audio engineer – set it up a couple of years ago. We’ve had a few bands and poet David Meritt record here.”

“I’m recording with Jackson Hobbs from Tomorata – he’s engineering my EP. Jackson has been amazing to work with, very patient, and he’s a great drummer and all-round musician. Also, my dad Fred is playing some of the steel tracks.”

Aimee says most of her songs have themes of love and death. The countless artists she draws inspiration from include the likes of Marianne Faithful, Chopin and Neil Young. 

“Artists like Neil Young inspire me to write music that speaks about important issues, things that matter. You know, start a revolution and perhaps not always be singing about how useless and heartbroken I am. Music to empower others.”

Her stage name Erny Belle might sound random, but it begins to make sense when Aimee breaks it down.

“Erny comes from Ernest, who was my grandfather who passed away when I was young,” she says. “Belle is from my little sister Lily Belle who was born on the anniversary date of my brother’s death. Ernest also means honest and Belle means beautiful. The name came to me like a lightning strike – it sounded so terrible and silly, and I kinda hate it, but it just stuck and I had to own it. It holds masculine and feminine, life and death, and beautiful truth.”

Listening to her songs – like the haunting ‘Sun Goes Down’ – and you understand how beautiful that truth can be.

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