3 Feb 2023

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Jan Hellriegel


Jan Hellriegel was born in West Auckland to a family of six. While it is true that she worked at her father's panelbeaters (A.F. Hellriegel Panelbeaters Ltd) it was, contrary to popular legend, in the office and not pumping iron. Nonetheless, she has always been the New Zealand media's 'Westie' darling.

Jan moved to Dunedin to attend Otago University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, and met up with the friends who would later become Cassandra's Ears. Jan also took vocal training in Speech and Singing at Sister Mary Leo.

At this point she joined her brother Rob's band, Working With Walt, and sang on their 1985 EP '4 Sides', even writing one song, 'Christina', and playing guitars. Between 1989 and 1991 Cassandra's Ears formed to record a song for a Dunedin rock compilation, 'Weird Culture Weird Custom'. Their song The Replacements was released by National Student Radio. The band played local gigs, wrote more material, and eventually released two popular records, 'Private Wasteland' and 'Your Estimation'.

By 1991, Jan was back in Auckland to begin recording material for her first solo album, having signed a record deal with heavyweights Warner Records. 'It's My Sin' was released in 1993, and created Jan's first real wave of success. The album scored some major hits, which have since become local anthems. She was the favoured performer at Mountain Rock festival in 1993, and has since fronted for many visiting bands including Ron Sexsmith, Diesel, The Cure and Jeff Buckley.

While working on her second album, Jan recorded an ad for Coca-Cola in 1995, before touring Australia both solo and with her band (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne). In July, she graced the front cover of MORE Magazine, accompanied by a multi-page interview. In August 'Manic (Is A State Of Mind)' was released as a single, and reached the Top 5. Next, her 'Geraldine' single hit Number 1 on Max TV, and in 1996 her second solo album was released - the exquisite 'Tremble'.

Meanwhile, Jan had just won the 'Most Promising Female Vocalist' award at the 1996 New Zealand Music Awards, and was also nominated for the NZ Music and Entertainer awards as 'Top Female Vocalist' and 'Top Single'. Jan opened for the Auckland Blues, and in February Mika and Jan Hellriegel staged their sell-out Cabaret Show. Jan also performed at the Comedy Festival (St James Theatre), and toured for 6 weeks with Jeff Buckley (Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne).

In 1997, Jan was on television throughout the year with her new Ford adverts, the Television One documentary 10 Guitars, and an interview on August 7th's Assignment show. Sentimental Fool was released that year and Jan flew to Australia to write and record the theme song for (ex- Cassandras Ears girl) Flick Rhind's short film 'My Geraldine'. The song, called 'Unravelled', was recorded with a full orchestra. Jan also starred on an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess as NemoSyne, Goddess of Memory.

1998 saw a nomination for the Fox Of The Year award on the Mikey Havoc show, and the launch of her Girl's Blouse Tour of the North Island. She also played numerous other profile gigs, such as the CBD's Music on the Streets and MTV's Closedown Show. Later that year Jan and Warner Records parted ways, Jan bought a new car, and in December her latest single, 'Melusine', was released on Universal Records.

The last year of the millenium was even busier, with the sell-out show Torched at the Comedy Bar, co-starring Fiona MacDonald (of Strawpeople and Headless Chickens fame), and another appearance on Xena: Warrior Princess - this time as Hestia, the Virgin Goddess.

Later in the year she toured with modern-jazzicist Mark de Clive-Lowe, and together they played at the Zambesi fashion awards, followed by sold-out evenings at the Manifesto Wine Bar. Jan was also honoured with a role on New Zealand's own successful soap-opera, Shortland Street, as 'Jackie' (an abused wife). She also represented the Alan Duff charitable foundation Books in Homes scheme as a celebrity spokesperson, and wrote their flagstaff theme song (as performed by 60,000 children). The year finished with her Underwater Tour accompanied by both Mark de Clive-Lowe and Mika.

The year 2000 opened with more appearances by Jan; a role in the new television series Street Legal (for which she also recorded the theme), followed by a lead role in Roger and Joselyn Morton's stage musical Meatworks, and another new sell-out show - this one called Love and the Imposter, also featuring actress Willa O'Neill and jazz-singer Caitlin Smith.

2001 - 2003 has seen Jan recording her third album with various guests (Mark de Clive-Lowe, Kevin and Joel Haines, Nick Gaffaney, Wayne Bell and Joost V) as well as collaborating with Tom Blaxland on Project Runway.





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