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Interview: Neil MacLeod Chats About His 'To Unfold' EP And Release Tour

Interview: Neil MacLeod Chats About His 'To Unfold' EP And Release Tour

Annabel Kean / Monday 17th June, 2019 10:57AM

The James Blake of Pōneke, Neil MacLeod, has been unravelling his EP To Unfold this year, spreading the love with radio spots and slick live videos since its release in April. MacLeod and two-piece band are taking the collection across both islands for a series of performances in theatre spaces, with the promise of a unique audio / visual element created by friend and collaborator Lee Gingold. MacLeod will take to stages in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland this month to live out his dream of performing in a theatre, the kind of space he says he associates with some of the most memorable shows he’s ever seen. UTR’s Annabel Kean pinned him down for an email interview to find out a little more about what’s behind the EP, the venues and MacLeod’s connection with To Unfold producer Devin Abrams (Shapeshifter, Drax Project, Pacific Heights)…

Neil MacLeod - 'To Unfold' National Tour
Saturday 22nd June - Lyttelton Arts factory, Christchurch
Thursday 27th June to Saturday 29th June - BATS Theatre, Wellington
Saturday 6th July - LOT23, Auckland*

Tickets available HERE via UTR*

You’re playing in some unusual venues for your tour, and performing for three nights at Bats - what’s the idea behind this tour? There’ll a special light show as well?

I suppose they are a little different. It’s been a dream of mine to perform in a theatre, I’ve seen other musicians perform in theatre spaces, and they’ve been some of the most memorable shows I’ve been to. Sitting down for a performance in a unique space creates a special atmosphere and focuses you, you needn’t worry about people pushing past you and spilling your drink, you can just fully engage with the show and really immerse yourself in it.

Where does the title To Unfold come from? At what point in the EP process did the name come about?

To Unfold as a title came about naturally. I had written the song ‘To Unfold’ pretty early in the process, and I felt that the song represented where I was at, and the theme of the project I wanted to make. It’s a song of unravelling oneself; stripping back all of the layers that get in the way of life, to become vulnerable and honest with people. Something that held me back for the longest time was an inability to fully open up with people, and myself. There were parts of my life that I wasn’t sharing with those closest to me. When I made that song, I had begun a new chapter in life, where being open was the central theme. That openness brought so much love and hope into my life, and the rest of EP focuses on that.

When did you first start making music? Did it sound much like what you’re creating now?

I started when I was about 15. I had a guitar, a microphone and a laptop, and spent most of my time alone in my room, writing. I wasn’t the happiest teenager, so a lot of those songs were pretty dark. My early sound was quite raw – I didn’t spend too much time on production then, it was all about telling stories. Since then my music has changed a lot, and that’s for a whole host of reasons.

How did you get connected with Devin Abrams?

Well Devin is one of the key reasons my music sounds like it does now. I met Devin at high school, he came and gave a lecture. He played his music video for ‘Buried by the Burden’ and I was just blown away, I knew I was in the presence of a true artist. I approached him and I suppose something clicked. We stayed in touch and he gave me advice on my project ‘Sonder’. He eventually invited me to collaborate on his ‘Pacific Heights’ record, A Lost Light and that really brought us together as musicians. Devin showed me new ways of looking at music, and has become a great teacher and friend. There’s not a musical idea I don’t share with him now, and he’s really my central collaborator.

How have you found being a musician in Wellington compared to being a musician in Christchurch? How’s it different?

Both cities have an important place in my heart. I never really got to know the scene in Christchurch prior to the earthquake, I was too young. For me, Christchurch was where I developed a sound, and Wellington was where I refined that sound. I was 17 when I left Christchurch; so I’d never really pushed my career down there like I’ve been trying to do since, up here in Wellington. After the earthquakes, my friends and I started to explore the Christchurch art / music scene, and those years were crucial to becoming the type of artist I am now. I remember there being a beautiful appreciation for all genres down there, I would go to a folk gig during the same week as a rave… and I’d see much of the same crowd at both shows. I’m not too sure exactly how being an artist is different in either place, because I only started chasing this dream of mine when I left Christchurch, but I’m sure differences exist.

Who are some of your favourite Aotearoa artists? And which ones would you say influence you?

There’s a ridiculous amount of talent in this country… my list of favourite musicians here would be a really long one. Some of the artists that have influenced me most though would have to be Marlon Williams - he taught me the power of simplicity… he could captivate the room with just a guitar and his voice, with or without a mic… that was such an inspiration. Groeni is an act who have inspired me a lot in recent years, they’re an electronic act out of Wellington, and their most recent record Nihx is a masterpiece. Luckless was an act I remember having a huge effect on me, I saw her play when I was like 14 at Chambers Gallery in Christchurch… her song ‘Better than Being Blue’ has become one of my favourite songs to date.

I’m constantly inspired and there’s so many more acts I’d love to dive into, but it’d actually take all day. In general, I feel like we’re blessed here in New Zealand to be treated to so many unique artists… sometimes I don’t think we realise just how lucky we are, actually. The musicians of New Zealand have been so informative for me, and I'm honoured to be surrounded by such talented peers, and mentors.

Neil MacLeod’s latest EP To Unfold is available online now.


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Sat 22nd Jun
Lyttelton Arts Factory, Christchurch
Thu 27th Jun
BATS Theatre, Wellington
Fri 28th Jun
BATS Theatre, Wellington
Sat 29th Jun
BATS Theatre, Wellington
Sat 6th Jul
LOT23, Auckland

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