Music continues to open up in New Zealand, and last night Grace Kelly launched her new EP before. at The Portland Public House in Auckland. And Crave!, of course, was there to cover the show.
And while we were, most assuredly, in Auckland—the cold was a giveaway, as was the fact that we were crowded into a pub for some live music—as soon as Grace started singing one could be forgiven for imagining, just for the briefest of moments, that we might have been in Nashville, such is the authenticity of her country sound.
Opening with a stripped-down sound, just Grace with an acoustic guitar, and Ben Jurisch fleshing out the sound on a hollow-bodied Gretsch behind her, she played a handful of songs from her new EP, tossing in a couple of new songs just for fun. And she was clearly having fun—kicking off her first EP, in front of family and friends, this was a singer who was enjoying, enormously, the opportunity to sing and play live the music she quite obviously loves.
And it’s solid, convincing country music. “Home will always be New Zealand,” Kelly sings in San Jose, the closing track on the new release, but her voice, her music, they’re both soundly rooted in the American south. That Girl is a slower, more introspective number; San Jose is a classic country stomper. And show-closers Tennessee Whiskey and Mercy, with a sound fleshed out by Cassandra King on bass and Eli Paewai, from Six60, on drums, kicked the pace back up. Central to the sound, of course, is Kelly herself. She knows how lucky she is to have had the opportunity to record in Nashville, with some of country music’s most notable session musicians, but seeing her perform the songs she’s written while still a teenager it becomes apparent that she’s here through more than just luck.
Perhaps the highlight of the night, though, and the song that shows that Kelly has range to her undeniable talent, was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Setting the guitar aside for a moment and sitting behind keys, Kelly found something really quite affecting in the song. Yes, she’s a country singer first, and that’s clearly where her passion lies, but there is a strong, talented singer who is capable of much more yet.
It’s fantastic to see music coming alive again in New Zealand; it’s just as great to see new Kiwi artists coming up and making their break.