Creativity in the Bay of Plenty – Moone

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Singer, performer, songwriter, Moone, Marama Rice, was born and raised in Wellington but spent many school holidays with her grandparents who lived in the Bay of Plenty, so it was inevitable that after years in Australia she would eventually settle here. focus caught up with Moone to find out more.

My Nanny had incredible foresight and I believe she instilled in me a love for our Marae Tia and Tangata Whenua. She would quiz me on where I’d like to live and I would always say “the old place, nan” which is where I built my home and now live. It’s the same place where I had my first swimming lesson at three-years old – my papa threw me into the Kaituna River, the place where he and I would pick watercress from the creek and where I had my own vegetable patch when I was a kid. I have also buried my children’s pito on the land.

My whānau have been here for over 800 years in this sacred place, the place where I too belong and feel most at peace.

Is your family musical?

The Rice family had a travelling theatre in Australia in the early 1900s. My grandfather, Harry Rice, was born in 1898 and played the piano for the silent movies and was also a concert pianist. My aunty Josie was an opera singer and actress. Her last competitive aria was in Tauranga with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa when Dame Kiri was just starting her career.

My daughter, Jazz Ellington, is writing songs, singing, rapping and playing the piano and she has aspirations to study the arts at Victoria University. My son, Indie Coltrane, plays the piano and has the gift of listening to a song and then playing it.

Did you always want to be a singer?

My debut performance was at five years old – my sister and I were travelling on a bus from Wellington to Te Puke. I sang to the passengers while my sister held out her hat collecting lollies. I remember the smiles and good feeling I received from the audience and knew then that I wanted to be a singer/ performer.

Many of your songs are about women standing up and reclaiming themselves. Why are you drawn to these themes? I’m no spring chicken and I’ve had some tricky life experiences. Most of my songs are either my own stories or very closely sourced observations. I want women to know that they are not alone, to know they are important and have a voice. As a woman, I have easily dismissed my own needs to fulfil others. It’s a gift being a mother, wife, partner and friend, however, it’s most important to be me.

Do you write all your own songs and music?

Yes, my strength is in writing good melodies and I have the honour of working with fantastic musicians Silas Tawhara (drums), Josh Reha (bass), Jeff Baker (drums), Derrin Richards (guitar), Evan Pope (sound engineer) and, in particular, Phill Reha, who has inspired me from the beginning and brings colour and groove to the music.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

From people who have made an impact and amazed me with their struggles and determination to overcome them. My cousin, Eva McGauley, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 15. But watching her rise above this as well as working tirelessly to create a charity, Eva’s Wish, which raises funds to enable other women to seek help, is truly inspirational. She has dedicated her life to helping others and created a legacy that will continue to empower women. Another dear cousin of mine, Pare Te Moni (nee Ronaki), who passed away recently has had a huge impact on my writing. One of my songs Broken was created because of her. Her love of life, marae, whānau and unconditional love, kindness and acceptance surpassed expectation. She supported and encouraged me with my music, she was proud and she cared. My partner has inspired me to go for my dreams and trust my instincts and I am so thankful to have such wonderful people in my life.

Tell us about your music-making process?

I have a couple of different processes when writing. I can write a song in five minutes – this is my favourite as it flows really fast and is usually my best work. When I’m really emotional, like feeling sad, it’s another fast and furious process but can be painful. I can be driving along in the car and have to pull over to just write and get it out. It feels like someone outside of myself is telling me to hurry up and write it. Sometimes I go to a special place to write, like the beach, and the environment takes me to another place.

The melody nearly always comes first or when the words are coming. I always have my phone, so I frantically record to make sure I don’t forget or miss the moment.