By SERENA LOW
Photos by MICHEL PASSIN

 

Tearaway: What are three words to describe yourself?
Graham: Organic, a little bit crazy, and happy… positive!

From your average Kiwi bloke to one of Europe’s rising stars on the music scene, Graham Candy has been called a “quirky and unpredictable musical confectioner.” That may be true to his music, but it also parallels his personality. I caught up with Graham Candy while he was in Auckland to kick off his Back Into It tour, and just before he released his debut album, Plan A.

Despite having heard interesting stories of how some of Candy’s fans show their support for his music – (“People trying to steal my flip flops… Why would you steal my shoes? Don’t take my shoes!”) – one of the main things that struck me about Graham is his awareness of staying true to himself.

“I’m still the same old Kiwi bloke from New Zealand,” he said, “and I think [the people of Europe] have let me be that. Like onstage, I’m still barefoot. In music awards, I’ve got my jandals on. The only thing that’s changed is hard work.”

Graham Candy. Photo by Michèl Passin.

Graham Candy. Photo by Michèl Passin.

Candy was ‘discovered’ in an Auckland pub, where he was doing small acoustic gigs. His now manager, Matt, spotted him and asked if he wanted to come over to Berlin. Soon after, he was over in Germany pursuing a full-time music career. However, a big question I have had since discovering Candy’s music is – why Germany?

“The industry [in Germany] is a lot different.” he explained. “It’s a melting pot of many cultures, many languages, a lot of electronics, songwriters. It’s not isolated – Germany is right smack bang in the middle – it’s a hub. They’re so direct and know what they want, and when they say they want to do something, they’ll do it. It just feels like I am able to thrive, and instead of being a boy, I’m more of a man there.”

Just a few days ago, Candy’s debut album Plan A was released, and he describes it as the most difficult experience of his career so far. “I wanted three more years. I didn’t feel ready to make Plan A. I knew I had a long way to go – skills-wise, emotional-wise. It was very hard for me to trust in myself so early because I only started music hardcore when I went to Germany. It’s hard as a Kiwi to try to be confident in myself… you’re kinda taught to ‘not drink your own bathwater.’

“The whole process of the album was very hard for me all at once. It’s what makes my first album so special, because it’s a bit everywhere. I think it’s going to end up being one of my favourite albums. I was able to just fly and be expressive.”

“Home, Berlin, and love” were the three main words that Candy used to describe Plan A. “Those are the three things that have been constantly on my brain,” he said. “The first song is called Home, and that’s when I was sitting down and thinking, ‘I honestly miss New Zealand.’ It’s quite an emotional song and has the school choir in there from Rangitoto College. There’s a song about home and family and the issues I can’t be there with. Those are the main things – being very honest and vulnerable. Trying to let the listener know more about me and what’s going on inside my head. It’s an introduction to who I am, where I’m at, what’s going on. Then I can start taking them on a journey.”

With such a distinct voice and sound, it’s surprising that Candy hasn’t found a muse in any musician before him, but instead cites himself.

“I just wanted to make myself my main influence. That sounds a bit weird, but I didn’t want to let anyone else’s music ideas or style get in the way. In saying that, I have a very broad spectrum of musicians that I like. My first idol was Damien Rice, this very depressing Irishman that drinks a lot. Then it goes to me listening to the Grace album by Jeff Buckley a million-gazillion times. Temper Trap – who I’ve just met – he was an icon to me. There are a lot of different artists that have inspired me in different ways, but I like to create my own flavour.”

Candy is very busy and engrossed in his music career currently, and has a few things up his sleeve, including some songs with some big-name DJs.

“By January next year, I’m in Cuba, writing the second album. It’s going to be quite a ‘love’ album, because I had my first massive thing happen down with love and with best friends, so it’s all pretty hardcore. There’s a few side, projects like hip hop and writing for people, but that’s all a bit secret! Main things are writing for other DJs, featuring with them and ‘putting my fingers in pots.’”

Finally, I asked Candy to give a piece of advice to young Kiwis looking to pursue their dream in music.

“Do it. Don’t give a [damn] what anyone else says. You’re your own person and you’re doing your own thing. If you’re going to do it, then do it.”

“Also, just be yourself. It took me until I got to Berlin to find myself. I’m not this cool indie rock dude that I thought I was for a long time. Now I’m just this guy with a weird voice, that’s a pop musician, that’s losing his hair, that’s getting old, and that’s just me. I just have to own it and be that. It’s very cliché to say be yourself, but just do that.”

 

Missed our review of Plan A? Click here to check it out!

Graham Candy. Photo by Michèl Passin.

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