Award-winning singer-songwriter Reb Fountain has not only been left out of pocket by New Zealand’s response to the coronavirus threat but, for a while at least, felt she had been left out of purpose.
After performing at Womad in Taranaki in early March, Reb was due to tour the US and Canada … but then everything changed. “I’ve been feeling pretty despondent,” Reb says. “My job is to connect with people and I haven’t been able to do that.”
A friend suggested she write a song a day and Reb accepted the challenge, sometimes writing more than one, sometimes simply sketching out an idea or two. “It’s been difficult but grounding, and has helped me feel successful during a difficult time,” she says. “Even if there aren’t any songs that make it into my repertoire my art is getting better and that’s a worthy cause.”
Reb, whose family emigrated to Christchurch from the US when she was 11 and who moved to Auckland 13 years ago, has been delighted to see a new kind of national psyche emerge during lockdown.
“Kindness and compassion have risen to the surface and it’s been a time to consider what is valuable to us. What do we want to save from this time? We’re like a caterpillar that has become a chrysalis and is waiting to emerge as a butterfly. We can never turn back to what we were.”
In the midst of lockdown came ‘Reb Fountain’, her first new album in 2 years, released on May 1 to mark NZ Music Month. “Yay, releasing an album amidst a global pandemic, but I felt it was my gift to offer at this time.”
Recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios, ‘Reb Fountain’ is released by Flying Nun, her first album for the iconic label.
“I’d been recording at Roundhead as part of the choir on Neil’s ‘Out of Silence’ album, which was livestreamed on Facebook, and had spent so much time there it felt like home. I woke up one morning and knew I needed to make a record and that I wanted to record it at Roundhead.”
Reb was able to call on some top talent, including Roundhead sound engineer Simon Gooding, who has worked with Pink and Ed Sheeran; producer Dave Khan, who was touring with Marlon Williams in Europe but came back for this project; and Finn Andrews of the UK-based The Veils who sings on ‘When Gods Lie’ and put her in touch with Flying Nun.
“I had 3 weeks in the studio, all of it very driven, considered and planned,” Reb says. “There was a lot of focus which was new for me – up until now music has always been second to parenting.”
Videos of album tracks have been directed by Reb’s daughter Lola Fountain-Best – ‘Don’t You Know Who I Am’ (Lola also stars in this one), ‘Samson’ with drag star Medulla and ‘When Gods Lie’ featuring Reb’s drummer Earl Robertson.
Planning a national tour in October, including a date in Tauranga, Reb realised that once public events are allowed, there may be fewer venues, particularly smaller privately owned ones. So she came up with an online Boosted Live campaign which raised $50,000 in 8 hours for Whammy Bar and The Wine Cellar in Auckland.
The idea has now been taken to a national level with Save Our Venues NZ launched for NZ Music Month.
“Now is a time for people who have ideas to action them,” she says. “If you don’t do it maybe no one else will.”