When we think of successful New Zealand musicians, it is all too easy to focus on the handful making inroads into the Top 40 charts in the United States or United Kingdom, or the names dominating radio play locally.
But in this brave new digital world, where a song can be recorded in a Grey Lynn bedroom and be played in a Saint-Germain-des-Prés club 24 hours later, there are a few acts that have a big following on the other side of the world yet remain close to unknown at home.
The infamous ‘machine’ that since the 1950’s has created and controlled stars, curated their music and defined their looks, is no longer the only show in town.
A recent visit to New Zealand by American performer Post Malone is the prime example. A talented songwriter, he was instructed to hold fire by his record label. Instead, he went rogue, releasing his own music on his own terms. The result is he has become a star with a global following, helped in no small part by his reputation for doing things his way.
Here in New Zealand, for Jupiter Project (Marty Rich and Gavin Correia), there hasn’t been a Post Malone-style fairy tale yet. But you are just as likely to hear one
of their tracks being played in a Paris nightclub as you are one of Lorde’s. Their slick mix of pop and electronic has received a warm reception on both side of the Atlantic. According to Spotify, the duo has 42,500 listeners every month. However, that’s only part of what Jupiter Project are about.
The term ‘silent partner’ doesn’t seem quite right when your whole job is making sound, but that pretty much sums up one of Jupiter Project’s main roles. While their own music and live performances are a key part of their identity, it’s their behind-the-scenes work which is having a great influence on the New Zealand music industry; particularly their collaborations with other artists.
The duo work together to help other budding artists and DJ’s through their label Jupiter Republic. This has been a large focus for the past six months, extending out to other creative and digital areas. Acting as mentors more than anything, Rich and Correia work with half-a-dozen budding artists, managing and collaborating with them as they embark on careers in music. This mentoring comes on top of Jupiter Project staying on the road playing their own shows and writing their own new music.
When we asked Marty Rich, what inspired him to start his career, his immediate answer is ‘Heart of a Lion’ by Kid Cudi. A song about self-empowerment, Kid Cudi’s message of “go express yourself with the music you feel” was taken to heart as Rich’s journey began.
Starting in the family home, a collective love for music meant that this passion developed young for the both of Jupiter Project’s members. Rich’s father played violin when he was young; his uncles were handy with guitars. The only difference was that their desire for a unique sound meant they wouldn’t be a ‘Beatles look-alike’ group, much to their credit today.
The list of artists that Jupiter Project has worked with in the past is a long one. It includes Dane Rumble, P-Money, Jetski Safari, Helen Corry, Karmadella, Titanium, Sysyi, M. Key and many more.
“I learn something new every time a different artist walks into the studio,” says Rich.
“The energy that you create with someone new when you’re working on a song together is probably one of the most fun parts of being an artist”.
The duo went international a few years ago and their trips to the US and to Paris have provided the most notable experiences.
“It’s so cool seeing a crowd of foreign fans, especially when they’re singing your lyrics,” says Rich, recounting one of his favourite public performances in Paris.
Another recent highlight for Jupiter Project was performing at the Governor’s Ball in New York City with a stellar line-up of other international acts.
As unpredictable as the future is, Rich and Correia are keen to explore new avenues that open up to them, ensuring that they take many opportunities, not just in music. When asked about the future of the music industry – especially with regard to the rapid transformation of technologies – they are adamant that performing live remains absolutely crucial.
“Anything that will get fans interacting positively with one-another and artists is amazing. But I do think the nature of live performances will change to incorporate more technology for a more immersive experience,” says Rich.
Nobody knows this better than Chris Mac from one of the country’s most popular live acts, Six60.
“Music will get better, kids will be smarter, and technology will continually become more important.
But please God let there be guitars involved!” he laughs.
Catchy genre-hopping melodies and a slick, energetic live show have seen Six60 go from their Dunedin flat to becoming a household name in New Zealand and beyond.
But whether playing a sold-out summer show in a New Zealand vineyard, or on a full European tour, Mac says “I don’t do nerves.”
The music industry’s uncertain future often makes it hard to predict, especially when the tastes between these generations can dramatically differ from one-another. In the case of Six60, being hard to pigeon-hole has helped them succeed and continue to grow their following.
Another perspective comes from up-and-coming artist Sysyi. At just 19, he very much lives in the digital present; another burgeoning artist under the wings of Jupiter Republic. His latest track, ‘You Should Realise’ has been released with Melbourne-based CHIEFS.
Sysyi is in good form too; his hit song ‘No More’, with another Kiwi duo Sachi, was written in Auckland, but quickly gained international recognition from international music superstars Diplo on BBC Radio 1.
Incidentally, Sachi’s “discovery” was very much a trait of classic rock n’ roll; the then-high school students literally threw a USB stick with their song on it into Diplo’s car during a New Zealand tour.
When asked about his thoughts on the future of the music industry, Sysyi sees things differently to both Jupiter Project and Chris Mac.
“I think there will be virtual reality festivals, where everyone can be in one place listening to one person without even leaving your house or the city you live in”.
They may share differing views on the future of music and the industry, but all three acts share one thing in common: an international sound and tireless work ethic.
The evidence of their collective successes won’t often be reflected in the New Zealand charts, but don’t be surprised to hear Jupiter Project, Six60 or Sysyi next time you’re travelling
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