Interview: Julie Foa'i

Julie Foa'i_preview.jpeg

The 2018 NZ Music Manager Awards take place on Wednesday May 9th at The Tuning Fork in Auckland.

Up for the main prize of Manager Of The Year are Alastair Burns (Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, The Weather Station. Phantastic Ferniture), James Southgate (Devilskin) and Julie Foa'i (Te Vaka, Opetaia Foa'i).

We had the chance to fire some questions to Julie Foa'i ahead of the awards.

Who was the first musical act that you managed and how did you become a music manager?

The very first act I managed was  “ A Duo with a Difference” and it was actually myself and Opetaia but that was a very long time ago. I became a music manager basically because someone had to do it and out of the two of us it definitely had to be me.

How were Te Vaka, Opetaia Foa’i and Olivia Foa’i first brought to your attention?

Opetaia was first brought to my attention many years ago, before I actually knew him even. He has a very unique and powerful guitar style which is one of the first things that struck me and his sense of rhythm is something I have rarely seen. I felt that someone with these talents should be seen and heard.

Te Vaka, or to be more precise -  music written by Opetaia in the Pacific music genre performed by Te Vaka, firs

t came to my attention in 1994 when Opetaia started playing around with a traditionalTokelauan song – rearranging it and adding parts to it, then recording it with Tokelauan voices. It was a very exciting sound and I immediately started getting ideas about how we somehow had to do something with this music and get it out to the world. It was at this point that I started doing the manager thing literally day and night. It was before the internet so I would be on the phone in our part of the world in the day time and starting at midnight I would be on the phone to Europe and the UK.

Olivia is my daughter and has been on the stage since she was 2 years old with the band. She is a talented songwriter and performed her first original song at the Classic in Auckland when she was 9 years old in front of a full house and even I was shocked. Since then I have watched her develop her own style as a singer/songwriter and also dancer and choreographer for Te Vaka and now she has her own solo career which I have been managing between tours with Te Vaka and trips for Disney with Opetaia, it is a very exciting time for her. 

You're up for Manager of the Year, how does it feel to be nominated for the main prize?

It is a wonderful acknowledgement and I am very grateful that the MMF have included me in these awards.

Any up and comers we should keep an eye out for?

I haven’t really had a moment to check out new talent for a while but I did go and see Robert Plant and the Sensational Shapeshifters recently at the Sydney Opera House.  Robert and the band were brilliant. Robert is nearly 70 of course but the Shapeshifters were a bunch of young and exceptionally talented musicians that I would highly recommend seeing if you have the chance.

What's the hardest part about being a manager in the music industry?

For me it is the paperwork. I do it myself because it has to be done and done properly. You can’t risk anything going wrong with important things like Visa applications, flights, budgets etc. so you can’t leave it to someone else. But it really isn’t my thing. I guess the other thing that can be hard is - the band, the tour, the album whatever it is, always comes first so I have a lot of start/stop on my own projects. When there is a tour coming up there is no mercy, stuff just has to be done and something has to give.

What is the most rewarding part?

When the show goes off and the audience are ecstatic it makes all the work worthwhile, no matter how little sleep you’ve had. And of course when years of work lead to getting some songs in a Disney movie and all the incredible experiences that go along with that, it definitely feels like dreams are coming true.

If you could manage one person / band, either dead or alive, who would that be?

That is a hard question – I could only manage a person or band whose music I really believed in so from that point of view I might say Bob Dylan but I doubt that I would really want to manage Bob.