One of alt-soul’s brightest stars, Ngaiire draws inspiration from her mother. When speaking about strength, she cites her as a role model. ‘My mother is quite a strong woman and has definite beliefs about being ambitious and getting where you need to be, regardless of circumstances. She’s got a doctorate in environmental science and is doing amazing things back in Papua New Guinea. She inspired me to find the positive aspect of things that come out of trials and tribulations.’
This inherited strength is evident in her songs, which tell tales of love, heartbreak, loss and triumph. There’s nothing wrong with being emotional, Ngaiire tells me, saying that she believes society needs to be more open to it. ‘People don’t talk about feelings and shove things under the carpet and don’t deal with things properly. I think there needs to be more of a conversation about what people go through’.
Ngaiire believes music has the ability to play a big part in that conversation. ‘Whether it’s to do with bullying or sexual abuse or emotional abuse, it’s important that people in the music industry use that opportunity for conversation in a positive way.’
Ngaiire’s music creates a varied sonic landscape, with shades of soul, R&B, electro, alt and pop making up a sound that is solely her own. Released in 2013, her debut album Lamentations is a powerful body of work, weaving stories together of sorrow and joy. Intelligence and that aforementioned strength shine through on every track, and it’s easy to imagine people all over the world taking comfort in the vivid way Ngaiire lays her soul bare.
A critical success it may be, but making the album took its toll on the insightful singer, and not always in a good way. Recording took place without a manager, and this resulted in feeling incredibly overwhelmed. ‘Not having a manager was a massive thing’, Ngaiire explains. ‘It’s just very difficult to manage yourself, while being creatively present and I know now that’s not something I can do. I’m at a stage where I’m more ready to let go and give someone else that control and responsibility.’
The stress of recording and managing meant that Ngaiire began to feel cut off from other aspects of her life, which she wasn’t happy with. ‘I think the danger is when people make their whole lives about music. That’s when you start to get self-involved.’ The experience taught her an important lesson, however. ‘I think it’s important to take a breath and not make your whole life about one thing. There are so many parts that are equally as important, like the people you love. Everything has its place and time and it’s important for all those aspects to balance.’
Clearly Ngaiire is an artist who takes a very honest approach to making music and she is keen for this to shine through in her live performances.
‘It doesn’t always happen at every gig’, she admits. ‘You just have to try and get in to that headspace where you completely connect with the emotions that are woven into the song you’re playing.’ Her band is a big part of that, Ngaiire tells me. ‘I make sure all the boys in the band are happy, because it’s not just about me. We need to connect and be on the same page for the songs to really translate live.’
Ngaiire is performing at MONA’s MOFO festival later this month, and she says her show there will be dynamic. ‘It’s definitely a journey. And all my musicians are incredible, so everyone should come to see them.’
At the end of our conversation, Ngaiire again speaks about the notion of music impacting lives. ‘I hope that my music inspires people, but actually moves them to help someone, or better the world. They always say music can change the world, but it won’t if no one actually does anything with that inspiration that they take away with them.’
Ngaiire will play both with the Australian Art Orchestra and with her band at MONA MOFO on Jan 15 and Jan 19, respectively. Tickets can be found here!