Another music event that one should not miss at the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival is the performance of New Zealand artist Tiny Ruins (aka Hollie Fullbrook). Last time out, Hollie touched Singapore audiences with her gorgeous fragile folk-pop in May 2012 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Since then, she has released a critically lauded sophomore effort, Brightly Painted One, and will be back on Sunday 1st November at the Arts House, Chamber from 8pm. We caught up with Hollie via email with our queries about her inspirations, influences & receiving acclaim.
What do you remember from your last visit to Singapore?
Moseying around the botanical gardens with my bass player Cass; delicious food from the night markets; taking a walk along Arab St & a curry in Little India; the humidity and walking around without a coat at night! All the lush greenery & flowers. Looking across the city from a tall building and seeing some of the crazy architecture; meeting many lovely Singaporeans, and being given a beautiful scarf which had a different material for each of the different cultures in Singapore.
Since then, you have released a critically acclaimed 2nd album – Brightly Painted One – did you anticipate the album being as well-received as it was?
Being an island nation, maybe you can sympathise, but as a musician working & living in New Zealand, you’re a long way away from the action, and the idea that your music could cross oceans and make any impact in what sometimes feels like an impenetrable industry is kind of crazy. So for me, the real feeling of success was actually getting to tour with my band overseas for as many months as we did last year – even though we are still small fish, so to speak, the feeling it gave me was that there was some momentum behind us.
What do you think is the strength of your songwriting?
I hope it strikes a balance between truth/reality, the real world, the way I really speak, for instance, and then also a sort of hyper-reality or dreamlike world, where I am free to tackle some bigger thoughts. It’s a bit of a mash-up of my real life, and the flashes from my subconscious & memory. I hope the writing is honest and relatable, but also with an element of strangeness or sort of contemplation about it.
Where do you get your inspirations for your lyrics/stories?
I try and be open to possible songs while reading newspapers, in conversations, observing politics, characters in books, films, or other peoples’ songs; just generally everything, everywhere! I also believe in the idea of the muse – one person, or a small handful of people, who are sort of mental gatekeepers.
There is a sense that Tiny Ruins is of another time & place – is the evocation of the UK 70s folk scene deliberate, or simply a by-product of your influences. In either case, why so?
Yeah, the British folk sound, well – it’s true that was an early influence on me. I was born in Bristol, and lived there ‘till aged 10. My Mum was in a London folk band in the 1970s, and I grew up listening to a lot of her & my Dads’ records. I was especially drawn to fingerpicking guitar, sad mysterious stuff – Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne, Pentangle, Donovan, Leonard Cohen (though not British, his was the first record my Mum bought when she was 12, and she gave it to me at the same age with a sense of ceremony!), Irish folk music etc. I was enthralled watching my mother and grandfather play the guitar, and they taught me my first songs. I also played the cello from a young age – maybe the music I was exposing myself to there was also of the more melancholic variety. I remember being thirsty for pretty much anything throughout my teens that wasn’t on commercial top-40 radio, which I found cheesy. Given how sparse a lot of songwriter stuff is, there’s often a lot to unpack in the songs – things to decipher and stories to keep returning to. So I did love songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Nick Cave and The Smiths in my later teens and then Joanna Newsom, Nick Drake, Smog/Bill Callahan in my early twenties, too.
Is the minimalist style evident on your first two albums, something you are exploring now and do you intend to add more textured arrangements or even change directions completely in the future?
The songs I’m writing now are still fairly minimalist, yes, but different too. I won’t say anything about them until they’re ready to be shown. I have no rules for myself in terms of ‘where I am going sound-wise’…it’s really just where the songs point to, and with whom I end up working.
There have been a couple of female Kiwi singer-songwriters that have left NZ – Kimbra, Gin Wigmore – do you see yourself following the same path one day?
Not really. I love to get home to Aotearoa, and at the moment there is no pressing reason to have a full-blown life upheaval.
What can Singapore fans expect from your performance at the Singapore Writers Festival?
I’ll be playing solo, and will be sure to visit every record I’ve released so far, as well as some new material.
What’s next for Tiny Ruins?
I’m releasing an EP in a month’s time (single, Hurtling Through, is out now), which I collaborated on with Hamish Kilgour from a great New Zealand band on the Flying Nun label, The Clean. I’m also writing our next album, to be hopefully recorded as a band early next year.
Tickets for Story Songs by Tiny Ruins, available from SISTIC. If you want free tickets for this show, simply write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 50-word note on why you love Power of Pop so much! (Also include your full name and NRIC No., please) Oh and winning entries will be published! Be warned!!