By Wal Reid
New mum Brooke Fraser is apologetic as I ring to talk about her new album, new single Therapy and next year’s 2017 Winery Tour. The tour includes Fraser, new Legacy inductee/ fellow Silver Scroll buddy Bic Runga along with pop maestro Benny Tipene, a stand-out mix of voices offering remarkable song playlists from all three artists.
“I live in L.A. so a ten-minute drive took thirty minutes so I’ve just run in the door but that’s standard,” she says slightly out of breath.
Her dad is famous All Black winger Bernie Fraser, who not only was remembered for his on field rugby antics, but also for sporting his equally famous trademark moustache, she continues to tell me.
“My family don’t live in New Zealand anymore. Actually, I only have one immediate family member back home, everyone is spread around, we talk on the phone all the time, we all make it work."
“Maybe fifteen years ago, he got rid of the mo – it was probably appropriate he moved with the times, I feel like now if he was a coffee barista his moustache would be really cool. A ‘hipster’ barista with a leather apron.” [laughter]
The Fraser household resembled a half-way house for the who’s-who of the Kiwi sporting world back in the 80s, a sentiment she fondly recalls.
“I remember my parents saying the bed I had inherited, the old guest bed, (cricketer) Martin Crowe had slept in that bed. We would catch up with Uncle Stu (Stu Wilson) whenever he was down from Auckland. Definitely there were these characters in the periphery of my childhood lurking around.”
It seems like Brooke Fraser has been forever in our lives. I recall a plucky Wellington teen who came to the fray with her seminal 2003 album What to Do with Daylight, spawning the hit singles Better (with Once Were Warriors Tem Morrison in video) she has now returned with new baby and new album.
“I kind of feel it’s a ‘cheater’ the new album,” she says. “It is a new project I guess you could say? It’s definitely not a greatest hits album, I don’t like saying that, because it sounds like it’s the end, but it’s a collection of fourteen singles.
“Therapy the new song is spearheading that collection and thirteen previously released songs. I guess it’s the first retrospective thing.”
The newly released album A Sides spans her fourteen-year career. Along with brand-new track Therapy recorded with countryman Joel Little, who she refers to as “a really relaxed guy”. Yep, that Joel Little who had remarkable success with teen sensation Lorde, it seems he’s in hot demand at the moment.
“He’s actually my neighbour here in L.A.” she quips. “He just lives up the street from me. I could walk to his house if I wanted, it would be faster than driving here in L.A. We’ve known each other from the ‘neighbourhood’ and when we decided to release this collection of songs and go ahead with it,the idea of collaborating with Joel came up, he was keen.
“I was really stoked that he was really willing to give it a shot and I’m thrilled with what we came up with. The reaction with it so far has been overwhelmingly positive, so I guess other people are happy with it as well.”
With a career commencing at the ripe age of eighteen, Brooke has clocked up a remarkable number of achievements, including supporting the late David Bowie on his Reality Tour in 2004.
“I’m notorious for having a shocking memory,” she says. “David Bowie held me by the shoulders and said to me “Mad,mad,mad... good luck”. What an opportunity for a nineteen year old to play with an absolute icon.”
It’s been a ‘chrysalis to butterfly’ process since she was discovered and signed as a teenager, only settling with Sony after a “fierce bidding war”. With her new album A Sides there is a chance for the listener to take a moment to listen to the very best to date from one of our greatest musical talents and one of our most successful artistic exports.
“It was cool, but also strange to record just one song, because I’m use to coming up with concepts,” she says. “When I got together with Joel to write the song Therapy, I felt like we could create a song in a vacuum. It didn’t necessarily have to be about anything. In some ways, it was quite intimidating but also quite freeing, we could kind of do whatever we wanted, it was fun.
"One of the things I love about creating music and working with people you haven’t worked with before, is that usually you spend the first day showing each other music that you like, or sounds that you like and kind of getting an idea of where the other person is leaning musically at the moment.”
Now mother to daughter Dylan Wilde, the parenting challenge had some speculating she would discontinue with music altogether. However, she still finds time to balance both passions precariously, and with great effect.
“I have no idea how it works,” she muses. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t a manual so we’re kind of figuring it out as we go along. She’s a super chilled kid and just amazing, so, we’re making it work.
In 2003 Brooke stormed onto the charts with Better, the song that introduced and launched Fraser as a recording artist in New Zealand. She wrote the song when she was in seventh form in high school.
Better debuted on the New Zealand Singles Chart at number fifty and peaked at number three where it stayed for four weeks. She laughs now at her then ‘street’ fashion image while wishing the recording label had taken more “control over” her sartorial dress sense.
“Oh my gosh yes, it’s the worst” she laughs. “My husband teases me about it all the time. He’s like “Brooke, when I met you, you dressed so badly, I just didn’t even know what to say”.
Actor Temuera Morrison aka ‘Jake The Muss’ appears in the video as her drunken and abusive father who can’t look after himself. She speculates “Sony or whoever was putting together the video, played the “Bernie Fraser’s daughter” card to make that happen.” She recalls meeting him vividly.
“We were both on set at the same time,” she recounts. “To be honest, I can’t even remember how that came about. Better, was the first single I had ever released and I had never released anything before that, so I was a complete unknown."
“Fortunately Tem was very kind and obliging, but I think that him in it was something that set that video apart. Having such an iconic New Zealand figure in the video I was blown away, it was such a cool experience meeting him.”
Adjusting to life in L.A. is a far cry from the streets of Naenae in Lower Hutt where she grew up, but it does have its perks, including bumping into Kiwis in the weirdest of places.
“Actually, you know who I bumped into yesterday?,” she says bemused. “Jon Hume from the group Evermore, he just randomly walked into my local cafe yesterday. Apparently, they’re moving here in January."
“Georgia from Broods and her husband Jake live nearby as well, so you’re always bumping into people, it’s lovely. You’d think in a big city like Los Angeles that you would never see anyone, but it’s actually a smaller town than you think.”
If you didn’t know, Brooke Fraser is rumoured to have played the haunting piano riff on Opshop’s 2004 smash hit No Ordinary Thing. Given that it could’ve been anybody tinkering the ivories on that song, I quickly pose the question to her. It’s a question that has been on my mind for some time.
“That is a true story,” she says. “Jason Kerrison is one of my favourite people, and when I was living in New Zealand and he was doing the Opshop thing, we became very good friends. American Brady Blade who produced my album, produced one of their albums and Brady asked if I would come into the studio and play on No Ordinary Thing.
“I loved the song and loved Jason’s voice and we became really good mates. I love Opshop, they’re the band I wish everyone had heard of, because the music was good and deserving of a really big audience I think.”
She’s excited to be returning home to play the North IslandWinery Tour next year, which includes her hometown of Wellington citing “hopefully everyone will hear three of their favourite Brooke Fraser songs.” She also says, “It will cover the gamut of my career so I’ll be playing everything from Better right through to Therapy and everything in between.”
Just don’t call her new album a ‘greatest hits’ because it’s not the end but merely the beginning, as she puts it.
“I’m only thirty two, I’ve got time guys, I’ve got time.”
The Winery Tour 2017 - With Brooke Fraser, Bic Runga, and Benny Tipene
Friday 27 Tauranga Wharepai Domain
Saturday 28 New Plymouth TSB Bowl of Brooklands
Friday 3 Hamilton Mystery Creek
Saturday 4 Matakana Ascension Wine Estate
Sunday 5 Whangarei Toll Stadium
Friday 10 Havelock North Black Barn Vineyards
Saturday 11 Wellington Basin Reserve
Sunday 12 Palmerston North Central Energy Trust Arena, Fields
Tuesday 14 Blenheim Vernon Station
Friday 17 Upper Moutere Neudorf Vineyards
Saturday 18 Waipara Waipara Hills
Sunday 19 Auckland Villa Maria Winery
Tickets via www.winerytour.co.nz