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Music legend talks songwriting

A local music legend will be at this year’s Booktown Festival talking about his craft.

Singer-songwriter, Warratahs frontman, and long-time Wairarapa resident Barry Saunders will be talking music at next month’s event.

Saunders has been making music since he was at school. He spoke to The Times-Age about writing songs, his long career and his love for the region, ahead of the event.

A Greytown resident for more than 20 years, he was drawn to the town by its similarity to where he came from.

“What brought me here is it’s a lot like where I grew up in Canterbury, in Lincoln,” he said.

“This is a lovely place to come home to when I’ve been touring.”

He was understated describing how he had navigated his lengthy and successful career as a musician, starting at 16.

“A lot of it has been out of my hands really. I have found as I’ve gotten older a lot of what you do is how you see yourself. I saw myself as a musician when I left school, even though I had various [other] jobs,” he said.

“So that’s what I was really, and still am. I started playing on a regular basis and that was pretty much my life.”

He started out singing and playing the guitar and harmonica, with songwriting coming later. He has played in New Zealand and abroad, including three years in London.

“I never started writing till years after that. Not until I got back from London. I always wrote down ideas, but never formulated the songs until I had a canvas for them.”

He finds inspiration in many things.

“It can come from anywhere,” he said.

He writes many of his pieces in Greytown.

“I scratch the paper and play the piano and guitar. I play a lot at home.

“My songs are usually inner landscapes tied up with travel or movement.”

More recently he has been working as part of a duo.

“I’ve been writing and recording with my friend Delaney [Davidson]. I’d never written with anyone before, I didn’t even like the idea much. But for some reason we sort of cross-pollinated. We had a really good approach to it,” he said.

Saunders paused to consider how to describe that approach.

“It’s just making a feeling talk, really” he said.

“We throw in ideas; words that sound good and phrases that sound good, and are good to sing and play. We push them around and make them work. In music words have a sound to them.”

He said it was good to have someone to sing with as well.

The duo have already made a successful album called ‘Word Gets Around’. A second album called ‘Happiness Is Near’ is due in October. The message of the new title is hopeful.

“It’s saying things will get there in the end. Everything will be alright in the end.”

Saunders is looking forward to the upcoming event.

“Doing something like Booktown is very new for me. And its new territory for both Delaney and I. We are both looking forward to it and to being part of it, and having a musical element to Booktown.”

Saunders and Davidson will be in discussion about writing songs at Anzac Hall in Featherston on 11 May between 3.30 and 4.30 pm.

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