The Winery Tour - 2017

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Her very recognisable voice on the other end of the phone is definitely a bit of a thrill. Bic Runga is one of New Zealand’s most loved and awarded musicians; her induction into the NZ Music Hall of Fame in November 2016, her 2006 NZ Order of Merit, and multiple platinum records are testament to that. But she’s also relaxed and chatty, with a good line in self-deprecating humour. Her third child, Frida, is now one year old. Bic’s been taking a family break since her last album, Belle, came out in 2011, but the announcement that she’d be receiving the 2016 Legacy Award spurred her towards creating something new. Really new: for someone who sees herself as a songwriter first and foremost, this album has only two of her own songs and ten covers. Close Your Eyes was made in an impressive six weeks with her husband Kody Nielsen, in the tiny studio in their back garden.

“I’m actually so proud of this album,” she says. “We made it really fast because we could – I’m 40 now you know, old enough to be decisive and effective, and we’ve both made plenty of music. We just went for it.” The two of them played all the instruments on the album (Bic plays keyboards and drums as well as bass and guitar). But she found that singing other people’s songs was a lot harder than she thought it’d be. “It’s easy to be in your own comfort zone,” she admits, “but some songs I tried were way outside of mine.”

There are some real anthems, including Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Bic says, “Normally I think the best way to handle covers is to totally reinvent them – I love José Gonzalez’s version of Kylie’s Hand on Your Heart for example. But sometimes a song is so strong that you just have to run with it, and these two were like that.”

The two songs she wrote on the album are seriously good, recognisably hers. She’s feeling strong and in control of her future songwriting with Kody. The Legacy Award was a bit of a revelation ¬¬– Dave Dobbyn presented it and the crowd gave her a standing ovation. “It took me by surprise,” says Bic. “I like to keep my expectations low, but it really exceeded them! It was quite emotional.”

Final question: what’s on her car stereo right now? “Iggy Pop’s latest album, Post Pop Depression. It’s inspirational – he’s really started to let his poetry shine. My kids love it!”

Bic Runga plays Ascension Vineyard with Brooke Fraser and Benny Tipene in the 10th Anniversary of the annual Winery Tour on February 4. Tickets from www.ascensionwine.co.nz/store