Maree Sheehan

By Will Brown

Maree Sheehan helped pave the way for women in the New Zealand music industry in the 1990s by breaking the singer-songwriter mould and bringing homegrown dance-pop to the foreground. Now after a decade-long hiatus, she is poised to step back into the spotlight with a stunning new 10-track album'Chasing Light' which is to be released on February 15th.

By the early 1990s it was clear Sheehan had something special to offer and with the backing of a major label, she released a string of singles - among them the Top 20 hits Make You My Own, Fatally Cool and Kia Tu Mahea, which featured on the soundtrack and on the international release of the iconic Kiwi film Once Were Warriors.

We caught up with Maree and found what she's been up to in the last 10 years, her new album and future plans. 

When did you start getting into music?

I started having piano lessons when I was 8, so I had always been quite musical in our family. But in terms of writing music, I would have to say probably around 14 or 15. Then when I was about 18-20 I started in my first band and from there it just kind of progressed.

Who were your influences in those early days?

I really loved Sade, Soul II Soul, Prince, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan... things like that.

Your music featured on the 'Once Were Warriors' soundtrack. It must have been pretty thrilling to have your music feature on an iconic movie like that.

Yeah, it's interesting because at the time you don't know it's going to be iconic. So when the record company asked me I said "Yeah fantastic". Then when the movie blew up I was just fortunate enough to be one of the artists that were on the album. So yeah, it was great. The song that I had on that was called ‘Kia Tu Mahea' which was a bi-lingual Maori song and kind of really fitted with the movie.

You've taken a 10-year break from the music industry. What was the reason for the break and what have you been up to during that time?

Well I never stopped doing music over those last 10 years, I just didn't really want to be releasing music. I had other things that I wanted to do... I finished my Music and English degree and I did a lot of traveling as I decided I wanted to see the world. I lived in London for about 3 or 4 years and I decided to look at writing music for television and film, which I really love. So it's been a busy 10 years.

And now is the right time to release the new album ‘Chasing Light'?

Totally, I really feel like it's the right time. I feel really confident in the songs that I've written and am really pleased with how they sound. It's also given me the opportunity for the first time to produce my own album, without so much influence from record companies.

Where did you record the album?

Initially I recorded some of the tracks at The Porch studio in Hamilton and did the majority of the mixing at Roundhead Studios. Neil Baldock was the fabulous magician who mixed all of the songs for me.

How long did the process take?

I'd have to say a good 6 months... yeah, 6 months to actually record it. I wrote ‘Rock With Me' probably a good 6 months ago; it was a very fresh song, and yet something like ‘Mistakes' I wrote probably a good 6 or 7 years ago.

What do you think of the New Zealand Music Industry at the moment? Has it changed much from when you last released an album?

Well, there are two things. I think the New Zealand public and the New Zealand media are far more accepting of New Zealand music and far more supportive. And that's always great. You see a lot more people who are supporting local acts. So there's that. But unfortunately on the business side of things, there's the whole thing about the internet where you can rip music, and that changed the music business.

What are your future plans?

What I want to do is get out there and play the new album... I think a lot of this year will just be playing and gigging. And that's kind of my short-term goal to do that and at the end of this year do a lot more festivals. From there I'd like to think about composing and producing for other people. There is so much talent here in New Zealand, and I'd like to be able to be a part of that. And I do think I've probably got another album in me... at some point.

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See Maree Sheehan perform live at Tabac in Auckland on Wednesday February 20th! Tickets now available at Under the Radar