One of the most talked about acts of BIGSOUND was undeniably NGAIIRE. Her impeccable voice, alluring stage presence and emotive and capturing tunes make for a pretty impressive package, and from just one listen to any of her songs, you can understand why she’s been steadily gaining traction. Now, with one album (Lamentations) and a Glastonbury performance already under her belt, it’s full steam ahead thanks to the perfect, and I really mean perfect, track Once. Teaming up with Paul Mac and Megan Washington, the powerhouse trio created some real studio magic with Once, and it has just about everyone who hears it dying for more.

Thankfully, the wait for new material is almost over. With NGAIIRE about to head overseas, and BIGSOUND being one of the last few times Aussies can catch her in action for a while, it seems the world is ready once again for all that she is. We sat down with her the morning after her show to get to know her a little more, and to get us excited for what’s still to come.

How was last night? 

It was good! I think it was really good. I think the general consensus was the sound was bad.

Still good, other than that?


Is this your first BIGSOUND? How are you finding it so far?

Yes it is! It’s hectic. It’s really hectic and it’s really hard to find breakfast on the street.

The further away from the valley you get, the better it is! Are you looking forward to seeing anyone?

I really wanted to see BUOY last night, but a couple members of my band were playing in other bands so we were running around.

I missed her too, I’m so sad. I have to say – I am obsessed with your track Once, but I’m not the only one! I saw just this morning it had over 27,000 plays!

I didn’t know that. That’s crazy…

Is it crazy on your end too?

It has been! I wasn’t anticipating it to do so well. It took us two years to finish the album.

It’s been a long time coming then…

It has been. You get so insulated too doing that and being in the studio. Then suddenly you’re out everywhere and people are liking it and it’s just like “holy shit!”

Is it a feeling of relief then now that it’s done? 

It feels different this time around. The first album, there wasn’t much pressure to live up to anything. It was just like everything was out on the table and I didn’t really care what people thought. Now the second album, I feel like there is more pressure to deliver something more.

Pressure from yourself or outside?

Definitely more from myself than anything.

From trying to beat the level you’ve already set for yourself?

Definitely. I always want to keep pushing boundaries and pushing myself to get better. I like surrounding myself with talented people and people that are more talented than I am.

Well working with Megan Washington and Paul Mac for Once would have been an experience in itself. Are you a fan of collaborating? 

The first album was mostly just me and the other guy writing the tracks, but now working with Paul; he’s all about collaborating and he just suggested one day, “Why don’t we get Megan in the studio?” because they’re good friends. Those two together are just ridiculous.

Paul is just such a legend. Working with him would have been insane!

He’s a slavedriver in the studio. He’s quite the Nazi with vocals but I find he always brings out the best in me, vocally. It’s great, because he’s a trained teacher he has that natural “come under my wing” kind of thing. He was a great support throughout the whole album.

What intrigued me most about Once was the little bio that came with it. It said “Once is about taking risks that turn into revelations. Story of her life.” I think that has definitely been captured in the track, but what made you want to write a song about that? Was there a revelatory experience? 

Not really. That was actually the first song that Paul and I wrote together for the album. It was mostly a stream of consciousness and him working on this beat and he had a look at what I had written. Megan came in and wrote the line, “If did it for love, we didn’t do it enough” and that was my first taste of being in the same room as other collaborators and just writing on the spot.

Paul has really helped you capture that soul element as well. I see there is this slow but steady resurgence of soul infused music in Australia. Do you find that as well?

Definitely. I think it’s been bubbling away for a while. I think Hiatus Kaiyote have really opened up a lot of avenues for Australian soul artists.

Are they an influence of yours, then?

I don’t think so. I think we’re both different. I knew Nai [Palm, lead singer of Hiatus Kaiyote] before she put the band together. We grew up in the same scene together, but in terms of influences I think we draw from the same places.

More experiential influences?

Generally, yeah. I think on this particular album it was different in that it was a lot more objective than from my own personal experiences. Some of them were but there are a lot of songs on there that are just observations from other people.

You’ve done a lot of travelling too over the past few months, including a trip to the US. Did you learn anything over there that you’ve brought back for your own music? 

I went as a backing vocalist for Blue King Brown so it wasn’t really my stuff but we are heading there soon for my music.

How are you feeling about that?

Nervous! We need to find the money to get there. That will be a whole other experience because I don’t know how my music will be received over there. We’re doing CMJ and Culture Collide in LA.

I feel like it will go down pretty well.

I hope so!

You’ve been in the business for a few years now – have you had any major highlights so far, personally?

I think getting the invitation to perform at Glastonbury was the point where I thought that things were starting to happen. I think after the first album and that whole cycle, I got so exhausted and burnt out. We played Glastonbury, came back, a whole lot of life situations happened which delayed the album as well… But Glastonbury definitely. It was the inspiration that I was looking for.

I was just about to ask about it. That would have been so insane, and so different to anything we have here.

It was ridiculous. It was insane. There were about 60 stages, 600,000 people I think?

From a performer’s point of view, how was it?

The stages are all different and it’s funny because they have different sections that they section all the stages into. Some don’t work as well as others. It’s literally like different towns that are managed by “councils” I guess. We played two shows there. We played one with Little Dragon and others, then we played this tiny one in this really dingy, Alice In Wonderland vibe place. There was a drug cabin where people would go in and shoot up.


It was nuts! There was this guy dressed in a caterpillar suit with hookahs, like tentacles, these pipes coming off him and he would go around just giving people some. It was incredible.

I have to say though, I really like your jacket*. Your style is something I really admire. Even on stage as well! How important is that for you to give that extra element to your live show? 

I think I take it from my mum because she had a little fashion label when we were growing up in Papua New Guinea. She would always make us costumes for school. She was very creative, so I think I just got it from her.

It’s not really a common thing anymore for artists to dress up like that. Not that there’s anything wrong with jeans and a shirt but now it’s a bigger deal if someone is wearing a “costume” for lack of a better word. 

I really like going to a show where people make an effort to look good. People are paying money to see you. I know it’s art and it’s music but I think there should be a level of presentation.

Looking forward now, you’re going overseas then what else can we expect from you? The album?

Definitely. We’ll release another single before the year is out.

When is the album actually out?

(Looks to her manager and they both laugh)

Soon then?

Yeah, soon (laughs)