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Grant Haua - MNZ Interview: Cross Section S02 / E03 - Grant Haua

27 Feb 2024 // An interview by Shannon Coulomb

Aiming to dissect the cross section between the creative process and the industry side, Cross Section is an exciting interview series hosted by Shannon Coulomb.

Grant Haua considers himself as “just a guy with a guitar”. He picked up guitar when he was 13, as his younger brother had got one for Christmas the year before and noticed he was already starting to pull chicks at their school, so Grant said to myself "dam I need to get me some of that". Grant feels that being based in a town with a population of barely 100,000, one feels the need to flex one's muscles against overseas acts, and for the past 10 years that's what he has been trying to do and will continue to do. For Grant, the real payoff is about putting on a show that can stand up with the best of them, seeing and feeling the enjoyment of the crowd.

Grant has been the primary singer/songwriter/guitarist on 7 studio albums over the years, 5 of them over the last 9 years. His debut solo album Knucklehead, released in 2010 got positive reviews, resulting in an article on my music, it opened a few doors for me on the local festival circuit. One thing lead to another and Grant ended up meeting percussionist Michael Barker (Neil Finn, John Butler Trio), who hit it off and formed Swamp Thing, and for the following 8 years wrote and toured regularly. It was on these stages the band really excelled, often selling more CD’s than the more well-known headline acts. After a performance at WOMAD 2017, the band occupied both the 1 and 2 spots for album sales in the NZ charts. In Jan 2019, Grant made the decision to depart Swamp Thing and has refocused on the music he really enjoys, soul music.

What does your creative process look like?

Song writing creativity? because I'm a guitarist it usually starts with a riff or a hook that sounds cool to me and I move forward from there, that could be something heavy or light and the lyrics follow suit, I rarely start writing lyrics until I get a feel for the music and that kind of dictates the direction of the subject material for that song, I usually don't start with a topic in mind to write about but have done so occasionally in the past, it's probably the opposite way of doing things compared to a lot of writers but it seems to work for me.

Do you apply the same creative processes to other aspects of the Music Industry, for example, in your approach to marketing yourself?

I think being creative in all aspects is important, merchandise in particular can mean the difference between a gig making or losing money, in the case of T-shirts it's advertising for your band... the best thing I ever did was get a T-shirt printer and design my own shirts, also the more albums you can create the more you can sell, Vinyl, CDs, USB’s, caps, whatever- it's a lot of investment initially so you have to be careful how you approach it financially but ultimately if you put on a good show you'll sell stuff. Basically, you have to hustle wherever you can, especially touring, if you can create opportunities to save money that's more money in your pocket, it's the same with marketing yourself which I suck at- but I keep learning and spend a lot of time thinking of ways to improve.

Is your creative process something you feel to have locked down or does it generally change on a song by song/release by release basis?

The writing formula stays the same for me but I like to change the feel of an album as a whole, my first solo album was pure acoustic blues with no other instruments, my second was acoustic with keys, double bass, cajon, and harp, my third was a live album with acoustic guitar, keys, drums and bass, and my latest is full on electric guitar with drums, keys and bass.

What qualities do you appreciate the most in other musicians?

I've been fortunate to play with some really cool musicians over the years and they usually have one thing in common-they make you sound good! which means they know their stuff and are aware of what works best for the song, also being respectful of others and their time, and a little humility goes a long way.

If you could collaborate with another NZ musician/band, who would it be?

Neil Finn or Tim Finn, they're my Beatles, I've toured with Tim when I was in Swamp Thing and he was cool, both geniuses in my book.

How do you keep an eye to the future in regards to your work and work ethic? Do you generally focus on just the project at hand or are you considering how it fits into a larger plan?

I try to put an album out every two years, so performing live and writing songs for the next album keeps me busy, I guess the larger plan is to increase album sales and gradually get on to bigger stages as that unfolds, I'm in the Blues Genre and there's no shortage of those type of festivals in Europe, a good work ethic is key though as it is in any industry, particularly this one because it's so fickle.

Where have you had the most success in terms of marketing to the Aotearoa audience? If applicable, has this translated well to an international market?

At the moment I'm focusing on the smaller towns, I struggle to get bums on seats in the main centres because I'm still relatively an unknown in the mainstream, it's better for me to go somewhere like Thames or Dargaville or Gizzy where I can promote the hell out of a show and there's not too much competition going on and I can get a good chunk of the populace to the gig, marketing for me in Europe is handled by my label Dixiefrog and they're great because they have all the connections over there.

There are so many resources available to musicians in Aotearoa, such as Muzic.net.nz, Music Managers Forum Aotearoa and APRA/AMCOS. Have any of these (or other) NZ resources played a significant role in your journey so far?

APRA/AMCOS is a must for any musician in NZ to help make ends meet and that's very significant, I'm very appreciative of those people.

Has having access to these resources led to any break-through moments for you, particularly in regards to crafting a successful narrative in your online presence?

I really wish I had some good advice to give here for the younger players but as mentioned earlier my online presence sucks, in saying that I try to post 2 or 3 times a week on various platforms, any break-throughs I've had can be attributed to having solid songs and a solid live act, old school stuff.

Are there any resources that you would recommend to NZ musicians who are coming to terms with the business side of the craft?

If you can keep it in house that's a good thing, nobody’s going to work harder for you or go the extra mile for you than someone who loves you and wants your music business to succeed. In the initial stages you should try to do as much as you can yourself or have a manager who is flexible to your musical income, if you have family or friends in accounting that's a great help too, they can save you money in places you would have never thought of. There are funding opportunities out there that can applied for, NZ on Air, Creative NZ, Outward Sound etc, I recommend joining APRA/AMCOS for what they offer especially for the live stuff- payments for your songs performed live, flight discounts, etc, it's worth trying to get somebody onboard who knows his way around funding opportunities and if you're successful in a grant work out something with that person for his time and effort, be creative, it's all about the hustle. All the best and good luck.

Media Links:

Grant Haua - Better Day (Live Session) - YouTube

Grant Haua - Tough Love Mumma (Live Session) - YouTube

Grant Haua - Better Day (Live Session) - YouTube

*****

Shannon Coulomb is the co-songwriter, guitarist and producer for Auckland Based band Impostor Syndrome. He also plays bass for Swerve City and is currently the Head of Music at Birkenhead College, Auckland, as well as a Music Curriculum Specialist for AUT University.

Impostor Syndrome:
Stream Impostor Syndrome

Swerve City:
Facebook
Spotify

 

About Grant Haua

Grant Haua
Foreword:

Grant is a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. When we put together a bio for him he said “Nah man. I am a just a guy with a guitar. You need to tell the story straight”. So who better than to tell his story than the man himself - the following is Grants bio, straight from the horse’s mouth. - DF Records

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Grant Haua

Releases

Mana Blues
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Tahanga - Unplugged
Year: 2022
Type: Album

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