The Exceptional Ria Hall's New Venture
As a performer, Ria Hall is fearless. A voice that grabs you, a confidence and a fierceness in her delivery that demands your attention.
It’s hard to imagine anything throwing her off her stride. Anything, that is, before we all experienced the same global curveball.
Struggle with ‘the new norm’
Going from her usual pace of 100 miles an hour to slamming on the breaks didn’t sit comfortably with Hall (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pukenga). The singer-songwriter doesn’t mind admitting that she “really struggled” during the lockdown period, sharing her raw feelings and frustration on Facebook. But now she finds herself grateful for the experience.
“The pivoting of my business was a little bit out of fear, but now that I’m in it, it was totally the right call. I’ve got a lot to thank COVID for. I think people will take away so many different things over the course of the next three months, it’s about having an open heart and an open mind.”
Ria Hall. Photo: Meek Zuiderwyk.
The three months and pivot in question is the 12 episode block of Say Something - what Hall describes as “a music podcast series with a damn difference”. For something that’s set to spread positivity, its genesis was from a place of anxiety.
“I was very uncertain about when I would be performing again, that’s where for the most part I earn an income. It was kind of formulated out of fear of the unknown as an artist post-COVID. At the same time, I’d been listening to podcasts for a while and there was nothing that I could find locally that reflected our mystical community in this style.”
The series quickly went from concept to reality after receiving funding from Creative NZ and launches today (Wednesday 22 July) with the talented Anna Coddington as the first guest. Hall is distributing it on her social media channels across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with a new episode dropping every Wednesday around 10am.
Say Something is not about scandal or confrontation. While quick to point out she’s not a journalist, Hall has a charming style that relaxes her guests, referring to the podcast as “a safe place for musicians to speak frankly, to be open to be themselves ultimately.”
Hall explains “every conversation is so different, I’m speaking with musicians from a broad spectrum of our community. Everyone gives something - there are gems that fall out of every conversation. After I’ve finished the episode, I’m just like ‘far out’, completely mind blown. I’ve learnt something new and I’ve taken something away for myself too. It’s a rarity to be able to sit down with fellow musicians and take something, learn something new from them. It’s been a real opportunity for me on so many levels.”
Getting priorities right
Ria Hall. Photo: Meek Zuiderwyk.
Hall is adding new tools to her incredibly varied toolkit at a time when she’s adding to more than just her career. She is hapū with her second child, due in September “but I reckon he’ll come end of August,” she grins.
This incredible pregnancy news meant closing off another bold new opportunity - for now. Hall had to make the call to prioritise her family and resign from her newly acquired role as Director of the Tauranga Arts Festival.
“That was really tough, it’s taken me a while to come down from that. I was so fresh in the role. When I applied for it, I was all guns blazing, I was really relishing it and wanted to mould it into something no one had seen in the history of the Tauranga Arts Festival. So having to close that door was really tough but at the same time a no brainer, my whānau comes first.”
Door left ajar
It’s certainly whetted Hall’s appetite to expand her creativity into bigger roles, something she’s seeing more and more of in the industry - people from purely artist backgrounds making strides in the higher-level leadership roles within the industry.
“I’m thinking Tama Waipara now spearheading the Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival in Gisborne and Shona McCullagh who is now at the forefront of the Auckland Art Festival. It’s something that seems a natural progression for artists who have that level of vision. I’m one of those people who want to push themselves in my own artistic creativity.”
Hall continues “it’s not just about putting on a festival. It's being able to continue brokering relationships, formulating new ones, learning new things, being able to curate events and art in general - you’re wearing so many different hats when you’re a Festival Director. I would like to go back to that space at some point - I’d never say never.”
Given Hall’s impressive track record and unquestionable fire - you’d also never back against her.