Songs from the Inside

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Anika Moa talks to Oliver Hall about relationships, families, love and music.

Anika Moa says coming out was not difficult for her, when she made her preference for women public in 2007 to Canvas magazine’s Claire Harvey. She says that prior to that she couldn’t come out due to her partner at the time, but felt much freer after they separated. “The fact I took so long to come out was just boring to me because I like being truthful and honest to a point. I’m gay who cares.”

She describes her current partner Natasha as, “a very good woman,” and isn’t afraid to give us a few hard facts when we enquire about the men and women she has dated. “The men have dicks and the women have vaginas,” she giggles, “And men are hairy, and like, hard, while women are beautiful and soft.”

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“When I was with my boyfriend Kain, I would be like (imitates crying) ‘this is my problem’, and he’d be like, ‘okay lets try and solve it’ and I’d be like – ‘What?! I want to talk about it for days!’ And he’s like, ‘chill out – have a beer!’” She says. “With women we discuss everything for days on end! And if we say one word to each other when we’re pre-menstrual it’s like (more crying noises) – women are fucking mental! But I love them! And I love being with Natasha and being part of that society.”

As she talks candidly about her personal life, the passion and honesty that has helped propel her music to critical and commercial success, can be heard. Music is clearly running through her veins and every facet of her life. As we talk about relationships the topic of a perfect date is raised. “In nature,” she says soulfully, “going to the beach with a picnic, later to a pub with good food, live music and home to bed with each other. I like the dates that go on for days!”

Her new album Queen at the Table, explores some of Anika’s past relationships, but is not nearly as melancholic as song titles like These Lonely Tears I Cry For You and (Anika’s favourite) Our Love Will Die suggest. “The title sounds depressing, but it’s not in my eyes,” she explains. “It’s more about finding new love from realising the mistakes I made from my past love, and being fucking shit scared of starting a new relationship, even though you know that you could break up or shitty things could happen to you, but being prepared to take the risk.”

Produced by Joel Mulholland, the album is sonically very different to Anika’s signature acoustic work. “It’s more beats-y,” she agrees, “there’s no guitar in it, but lots of Mariah Carey harmonies – you’ll love it!” She has learnt to play electric guitar for performing the new material live, backed by Mulholland who juggles keyboard and drum machine duties. The two are planning an extensive nation-wide tour before the year is out. 

Her favourite touring spots include natural beauties like Stewart Island and Black Barn in Hawkes Bay. She gives Wellington crowds a thumbs up for being, ‘amazing’, but can’t quite give Aucklander’s the same praise. “You go to the Kings Arms and everyone is standing round with their arms folded… there are too many cool people here.” Wellington has also housed one of her favourite gigs she has ever performed when she headlined last year’s Out In The Square, “I’ve never seen so many beautiful gay and lesbian families… [It felt] very good for the soul!”

Anika is now settled with her partner and six month old baby in Auckland’s suburbs. She also shares custody of her two sons Taane and Barry, with ex Angela Fyfe. Having five siblings of her own, Anika says she would like a bigger family. “I would like to have a child [physically] myself. So I do want more but, only one more, if I have any more I’ll probably end up in a loony bin,” she giggles.

She is quick to admit that parenting is not an easy task, and advices couples contemplating it, “to think long and hard if you want to base your whole life on kids, and if you want your relationship with your partner to work, you have to invest and make time for date nights.” She advises.

She feels it would be even more difficult to raise children with a man. “[As the woman] I’d be expected to stay home…I have the father mentality to go out to work… If I had to stay home all day it would drive me insane. I have to keep moving… I’m a hunter gatherer!”

Having a family has also had a profound affect on Anika’s professional life. Her last album, Songs For Bubbas, has saved parents country wide from the audio-onslaught of the Wiggles. She is currently (‘very slowly’) writing her first children’s book and writing a second children’s album. These experiences are bearing unanticipated rewards. “Making music for children, it really affects them because their brains are soaking it up… [Songs For Bubbas] is helping these kids know their colours and numbers in Māori. The amount of mothers and dads that come up to me and say you taught my child to speak – it’s awesome!”

Queen at the Table is released on Friday 10 April.

Article | Oliver Hall.  Photos | Marissa Findlay.

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