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Down the river

She’s a picture from the 60s: a curly-haired young woman with an old soul, acoustic guitar and a deep-rooted love for indie folk.

Washington-born Masterton musician and producer, Colette Rivers, winds down New Zealand Music Month live from the Wairarapa Times-Age office.

Colette performed three of her own songs: Sold Down the River, Washington Sun and Pickup Truck as part of the WTA Tiny Desk-style concert series.

All songs on the day were sound-mastered by reporter Tom Taylor and recorded live by Local Focus.


Colette was born into music, having attended the Children’s World of Music preschool, she says music has always been around her.

“I probably started writing music when I was about 15 or 16, you know, looking to express myself,” she said.

“I started producing when I was living in London, and I was actually producing drum and bass music initially.

“That wasn’t really coinciding. It wasn’t really going with the guitar playing and the songs, the music that I was more into.”

Colette made the decision to change tack and has been producing more alternative, indie folk music ever since.

Colette’s musical kete is full to the brim with a variety of instrumental talents, boasting both acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, mandolin and banjo skills.

She said she needs a range of different instruments because she produces music from her home studio in Masterton.

“I’ll hear something, and it’s like, I want something different in that,” she said.

When it comes to the Wairarapa music scene Colette’s well connected, but there’s room for expansion.

She knows a lot of the people in the music scene “because obviously it’s not a huge town”.

“So you get to know each other.

“I like the family that it is, and how everybody is quite willing to get together.

“I would love for there to be a more regular venue that we have, that is open to a wide range of genres.

“I haven’t really done very many gigs in the Wairarapa, most of my gigs I tend to go down to Wellington or somewhere.

“If we had another venue that we were able to have Indie music perform in rather than just lounge music, that would be cool.”

But being a musician isn’t easy, there’s plenty of work off stage.

“My advice for up and coming musicians would be to do it now, because it could take you a very, very long time to actually establish yourself,” she said.

“It’s not just going to fall in your lap.

“When I first started I was like, ‘I’ve got a really good song, this is amazing…everybody’s just gonna flock to me’.

“But the nature of the industry now is that it’s really hard to get your music heard unless you’re doing a lot of different things out there; gigging, touring, etc.

“It’s a lot of work, so you’ve got to just expect it to be a lot of work behind the scenes.”

Colette’s inspiration began with listening to all of her dad’s vinyl records of the 60s: Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, and Ian and Sylvia, to name a few.

She said Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Hole, The Pixies, They Might Be Giants and Tom Petty deserve an honourable mention.

But there’s one band in particular she’d love to perform with – Big Thief.

“They do a lot of really cool mixtures of folky stuff, then move into more hard-out music,” she said.

“I’d say opening for them, the venue wouldn’t really matter.

“It’d just be really, really cool.”

She has one plea for her Kiwi fans, to respond to artists involved in NZ Music Month and share their music around.

“There’s a huge amount of work that people do all the time,” she said.

“I think for New Zealand Music Month, for May, why not celebrate them and go out of your way to share it and help the musicians of New Zealand?”

You can keep up to date with Colette’s musical happenings via her website, YouTube and Facebook pages.

public interest journalism

Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. She regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional pup.

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