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Getting into the swing

Play It Strange graduates
Mike and Barney Chunn finally return from the beach replenished and revitalised, and tell us what they're excited about this year in the world of young singer/songwriters in New Zealand.


Mike and Barney Chunn finally return from the beach replenished and revitalised, and tell us what they're excited about this year in the world of young singer/songwriters in New Zealand.

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Happy New Year! Hope that all and everyone has had an enjoyable summer’s break. We rode the waves out at Bethell’s Beach, collected mussels off the rocks, played guitars, pianos, ukuleles. In essence, it was another classic summer in Aotearoa. And now, replenished and revitalised, it’s time to get back into the swing of the year, and what an exciting year it’s shaping up to be. So without further ado and in no particular order, we present to you, the 10 things we’re excited about in 2014.

1. The incredible songs and talent we continue to see from Play It Strange alumni. Broods have been dominating the airwaves, with their debut single Bridges reaching number 1 on the NZ iTunes charts, and garnering over half a million hits on Youtube. And recently it was the US iTunes ‘single of the week’. They’ve just recently signed to Polydor (UK) and Capitol Records (USA). (Look out for more on these guys in the Strange News blog very soon…). Jesse Sheehan, recently guest vocalist on the Eddie Rayner ENZO shows has been touring with Neil Finn. Graham Candy, who’s song  Lasts Forever placed in the Top Ten of the Play It Strange Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition in 2008, has signed to Crazy Planet Records and BMG Publishing in Germany. We’re looking forward to the emerging fortunes of all our alumni.

2. Speaking of Broods, we’re excited about the idea of composers teaming up with lyric writers, a la the old Brill Building. Joel Little, who has worked with Broods on their EP. Joel Little, (while also a great performer), heralds an exciting new time of collaboration where songwriters don’t necessarily have to write the words, and wordsmiths don’t necessarily have to write the music. At Play It Strange, we’ve celebrated those who can do either. 

3. The Who Loves Who Competition. As we said above, at Play It Strange we celebrate all aspects of musicianship. We have the songwriting competition, to celebrate people writing songs, but we also have the Who Love Who Competition, which celebrates the arrangement and recording crafts. Entrants cover their favourite NZ song in a unique and interesting way. It’s a great way for performers to get inside the workings of a piece of music they enjoy, and to express themselves through their arrangements. Have a listen to last years winners.

4. The second year of the Jam Bus. The Jam Bus programme had an incredibly successful first year, with over 10,000 students recording with the programme, and taking home their own CD with their performances (and their classmates) on it. The feedback we’ve had has been remarkable; stories of motivation and self-direction that gives us here at Play It Strange huge pride in the programme. We’re looking forward to continuing its successes and broadening its reach in 2014. Check out the Jam Bus website.

5. The Football World Cup! The youngest Chunn, Johnny, has dragged the whole family into football fandom, and it’s infectious. The World Cup should make for some excellent viewing, despite the All Whites unfortunately not making it.

6. The Lion Foundation Songwriting competition. As we come into our second decade, the calibre of songwriting in our secondary schools gets stronger and stronger. Even after 11 years, it still blows my mind the breadth and depth of talent in our schools. Can’t wait to see what comes through our doors this year.

7. A Strange Days Night. It’s been 50 years since The Beatles came to our fair shores, to rock the foundations of society and the Auckland Town Hall. We’re celebrating their concert with one of our own, A Strange Days Night. Old friends and performers will get together to interpret Beatles classics and bring back to the Hall the energy and enthusiasm of the Fab Four. Exactly fifty years later -  the two shows will be on the 24th and 25th June.

8. Samoan teenagers will again be invited to enter their own songs in the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition for 2014. The songs from last year indicated the talent of that small nation. Here is Catherine Falesi’i with her song Samoa Lo’u Tofi

9. The Rockshop Album of the year. The Rockshop has been one of our most dedicated and loyal sponsors, and we’re very lucky to have them with us. They’ve got the best gear around and the team their knows what they’re talking about when it comes to music equipment. As well as sponsoring us with gear, they have the Rockshop Album of the Year award, which is given to the best album recorded for the Enterprising Music Award in the Lion Foundation YES business programme.

10. The year feels like it has electricity in it already. Exciting things are happening all through New Zealand, and especially in the NZ creative and musical community. When the community thrives it’s great for everyone involved, and we’re always encouraged to see and hear of the great things that are happening in our world.

Written by

Mike Chunn

18 Feb 2014

Interests Mike Chunn has worked with original songs all his life from his days with Split Enz and Citizen Band through Mushroom Records (Dance Exponents and DD Smash) to eleven years as Director of Operations for APRA.

Mike Chunn tells us how lyrics are proving to be imaginative and revealing in the Play It Strange 'themed' songwriting competitions for secondary schools.
Mike and Barney Chunn reflect on 2014 and playing a part in 'the swirling world of song – music and lyrics - in New Zealand, as it twists and turns around us, taking us to the top.'
Songwriting in NZ secondary schools is flourishing as more music teachers embrace this unique craft. Words and Music.
Mike and Barney Chunn promised this blog would bring us the evolving and exciting world of young singer/songwriters in NZ. And what a year it's been.