On Song is my first book. The Commissioning Editor for Non-Fiction at Penguin approached me at the beginning of last year. He had been a follower of my blogs and reviews and Facebook posts. We got chatting about his concept. It very quickly became our concept, in that the book was a commissioned piece but it tells my story too – it was not simply something I signed on to complete.
On Song looks behind 30 New Zealand songs – songs that everyone should know; songs that I feel could only have come from this part of the world. It questions just what a New Zealand song is as much as it celebrates New Zealand music. It tells the stories around the songs.
I spoke with many of the songs’ writers and spoke to producers, managers and other musicians. For every song that was written in ten minutes backstage there was one that was laboured over for a few years. For every song that the artist knew was going to be a hit – or at least had a good feeling about – there was a songwriter baffled at the inclusion of their track; some were sure they’re written half a dozen songs better – all understood, in some way, that these were songs that had resonated with the public.
There were email and phone interviews. I sat down with a few people to chat face-to-face; some interviews took place over dinner or drinks or in the studio, others were backstage before a gig or in the bar just after.
I wrote the book across 2011-2012. And it was a joy to get this involved – this immersed – in some of the defining songs from our country. On Song features my words – and so much of my story – but it comes from the minds and hearts and songs of the writers and musicians. And it is complemented by photos, shots of hand-written lyrics, gig posters and other ephemera from some of the country’s best music photographers and, in most cases, from the artists themselves.
You can buy On Song online here.