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December 2016
December 2016
In this issue:
Ekko Park, Ill Semantics, The Broken Heartbreakers, Lisa Crawley, Valere, Fragile Colours, No Broadcast, Hikurangi Schavarien-Kaa, Skinny Hobos, Heroes For Sale, The Lucid Effect, Chris Priestley, Delaney Davidson in Europe
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Jan Hellriegel - The Way She Still Feels

Author: Mark Bell

Having first gained attention with Casandra’s Ears, Jan Hellriegel made her own major label debut in the early 1990s with ‘It’s My Sin’ and subsequently took NZ by storm. Now, some 17 years on, and with her own family growing up, she is on the verge of releasing album number three ‘All Grown Up’. She talked to Mark Bell about getting back in the game, and realising those long held ambitions
When Jan Hellriegel released ‘It’s My Sin’ in 1992 the press seemingly couldn’t get enough of her. Having the backing of then major label WEA International certainly didn’t hurt, but the publicity campaign seemed to take on a momentum of its own once a certain critical mass was reached.
The angle journalists seized on was that Jan was a Westie (one of the standout tracks was called Westy Gals), and she used to live on Herald Island in West Auckland, and that this sultry beauty worked in a panel-beating shop. She did, at a business owned by her father, but what tended to be overlooked was that she helped out in the office rather than rolling up her sleeves with mallets and fibreglass filler. Still, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, as they say. The album went on to sell pretty respectably – well enough for Warner Music Australia to bankroll her next album ‘Tremble’ which was recorded in leading Melbourne and Sydney studios with top producer Daniel Denholm.
‘Tremble’ was quite a different beast to ‘Sin’, staunch and adventurous with less of the languid beauty that made her debut so appealing – Jan showing she was over the great lookin’ westie gal pre-occupation and wanting her music to be taken seriously. Radio failed to embrace it (no great surprise in the ’90s) – but it still stands as a powerful and passionate document of a unique songwriting talent. She parted ways with Warner in 1998, going on to release Melusine with Universal. But feeling a little jaded with the industry, when the first of her two children arrived, family became the priority and her music career was put on hold.
Fast forward to the present, and I’m sitting opposite a musically reinvigorated Jan Hellriegel as she talks with a palpable sense of anticipation about her new album ‘All Grown Up’. While the title doesn’t quite apply to her young boys, they are now independent enough to afford her the time to make her dream of the last 10 years a reality. “Music never leaves you, it’s always there. I’m always writing songs and I’m always thinking of ideas for songs,” she smiles.
I ask how she went about putting this album together, having been off the ‘scene’ for so long and given the music business’ notoriously short attention span. The story goes that she sat down with ‘All Grown Up’ producer Wayne Bell, a respected Auckland drummer who’s been carving out a reputation as a producer on the rise. Bell had drummed on both Jan’s solo albums, had an empathy and respect for her songwriting and was the obvious first stop on the long haul back to the studio.
“I said, ‘I’m going to make an album, I don’t know how, but tonight’s dinner signifies the first steps’. I’ve been reading lots of those books about ‘One step towards your goal,’ she laughs, “so I thought ‘…this is it’.”
Fellow chanteuse Dianne Swann’s advice to spend at least ten minutes a day working on the album goal proved helpful, and she began playing piano at the Stamford Hotel to get her chops back into shape.
“It just started from there, the whole process became possible through this great series of events. I met someone who wanted me to help him write some music to his beautiful lyrics and because of that it helped make the album become possible.”
She doesn’t elaborate and I don’t pry, but the fact that she received not a skerrick of NZ on Air funding yet managed to lock in 10 days at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios indicate her entrepreneurial flair came to the fore in getting things rolling. Any attempts to secure a record deal were bypassed in favour of setting up her own label – Blind Date, with distribution arranged through Rhythmethod.