Grant Haua

Foreword by G.H Management.

Grant is a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. When we put together a bio for him he said “Nah man that’s all bullshit. I am a just a guy with a guitar. You need to tell the story straight”. So who better than to tell his story than the man himself – the following is Grants bio, no bullshit and straight from the horse’s mouth. – GH Management

Biography by Grant Haua.

I picked up guitar when I was 13, my younger brother had got one for Christmas the year before and I noticed he was already starting to pull chicks at our school, I said to myself “dam I need to get me some of that”, but unfortunately for me my brother was a better looker and player than me, so it didn’t work out as well as I had planned, but I’ve been playing ever since.

I like to think I’ve paid my dues, but its hard to tell growing up and gigging in a small country like New Zealand. Being based in a town with a population of barely 100,000, one feels the need to flex ones muscles against overseas acts, and for the past 10 years that’s what I’ve been trying to do and will continue to do so, I guess for me its not about being better than this act or this band, its about putting on a show that can stand up with the best of them, seeing and feeling the enjoyment of the crowd, that’s the real payoff (and sometimes the only payoff!)

I’ve been the primary singer/songwriter/guitarist on 7 studio albums over the years, 5 of them over the last 9 years, my first solo album “Knucklehead”released in 2010 got good reviews in what I guess you could say is NZ’s premier music magazine NZ Musician (not that I give too much weight to critics opinions, but I didn’t say that); resulting in an article on my music, it opened a few doors for me on the local festival circuit. One thing leads to another and I ended up meeting percussionist Michael Barker [Neil Finn, John Butler Trio], we hit it off and formed “Swamp Thing” and for the following 8 years we wrote and toured regularly.

Mike was already a veteran in the industry, the benefits of him being in bands that have done Letterman and Leno soon became beneficial, straight off the bat we were doing festivals that were tough to get on, after a few short years we were headlining festivals both here and in Australia. Slowly we progressed to bigger stages like Womad (NZ), Womadelaide (Aus), Woodford Folk Festival (Aus), Bridgetown Blues (Aus) and Electric Avenue (NZ). It was on these stages we really excelled, often selling more cds than the more well known headline acts. After our Womad 2017 performance in New Plymouth for example we occupied both the 1 and 2 spots for album sales in the NZ charts.

In 2016 we were invited to Louisiana by Baton Rouge Arts Society. It was there I learned how to flex my musical muscle. It seemed like every musician there was a stone cold killer. We went to war and we cut some heads, and by the end of that tour we were the talk of the town. Appearing on the local news stations lifted our profile there and we made many valuable friends and contacts, some we’ve brought over for shows in NZ.

In Jan 2019 after literally countless tours through Australia and New Zealand I made the decision to depart Swamp Thing, I’ve refocused on the music I really enjoy, soul music, and things are all good.

Making Awa Blues.

Their were a few driving concepts for this album, for starters it was long overdue. It had been 10yrs since my last solo album and for some reason 10yrs seemed like a good reason to do another one!

On the last album all songs were first takes. I’d practice twice, then record the third. No overdubs. That would be the final take. That was the kaupapa (stage) for that particular album. It worked well because with that approach there’s a rough and real honesty in the songs that people can hear, which makes the songs easy to relate to. 

On this album I wanted to take that attitude a little further. Keep it acoustic but add a few extra instruments. Spend more time spit polishing the individual tracks, yet, try to maintain that rough integrity. And hopefully by not taking myself too seriously, I could potentially play some seriously good shit. Those were the parameters I set for the album.

Within those parameters, I had this bunch of songs I wanted to make. I have quite a relaxed view to songwriting. I’m not a fan of overthinking songs. That can lead to a mind f#ck of your own making, and that’s not conducive to quantity let alone quality.

Lucky for me, I’ve always been an avid reader. This tends to expand the vocabulary a little which really helps when you’re trying to drum up lyrics without overthinking them too much.

Some songs start to take on a life of their own once the recording process starts. ”Addiction”, for example, is a song I really wanted to do justice to. It’s one that’s been bouncing around in my head for a long time and it has personal significance. It is a relatable subject to many and it’s a ”relationship in peril” song. A ”boy losing girl song” if you will. All the trappings of a good blues song right?

It wasn’t until I started recording the song that I discovered all these driving narratives within the song were written subconsciously, on auto pilot and without thinking too much.

They tended to be honest lyrically, covering a lot of narrative ground without really knowing exactly how. But that didn’t matter because with this approach at least I knew the why.

Now the trick was to do the same thing musically and the parameters I set for the album helped me to do that, well that’s what I tell myself anyway!

In the song, ”This is the Place”, the emotion I felt when I recorded the first vocal really took me by surprise. I almost choked up singing that song because I was so immersed in it, it dragged me in. I was getting flashbacks of my mum, of old childhood friends, my wife and kids, my dad, the whole deal. It was unexpectedly intense but gloriously genuine, you can’t fake that shit. It’s the good stuff! Incidentally we kept that take-the first take, and that’s what’s on the album.

Recording ”Tough Love Mama” was a similar experience, but not so intense, more humor orientated. We had fun on that track and that playful approach was exactly what was needed, because by using that approach I was able to let my subconscious have more say on how I phrase the lyric and play the instruments. Thus lending to a more genuine, heartfelt (if a little raw) performance.

Tapping into personal experiences/ relationships can lend a lot of weight to a song but it’s we how translate those experiences that makes or breaks them. Songs like ”Devil is a Woman”, ”Keep on Smiling” , Got Something if you Want It”, Mamas Boy” all have humorous undertones. I essentially took the same approach I did on ”Tough Love Mama” for them.

For songs like ”My Baby”, “Better Day” and ”Be Yourself’,’ I took the approach similar to ”Addiction” or ”This is the Place”. All these songs have different subject material, but all are basically recorded within the same attitude and parameters in mind. If there wasn’t a close personal connection to the song it didn’t matter, as long as I took the same approach.

Fortunately for me the other musicians, Tim Julian (engineer, keyboards, shakers, bass), Grant Bullot (Harp), and Jesse Colbert (Double Bass) nailed the sentiment of the album to a tee.

The feeling and imagery I’m trying to convey in this album is pretty simple. I’m a huge fan of simplicity. I like simple but great food. I want a song to be as satisfying as a Sunday roast cooked by your Mum. A tune as good as eating big fat oysters straight from shell. Picking as great as sipping a cool beer on a hot day.

I want the listeners of this album to feel like they’re guests in my home and like the songs, my home is pretty simple but it’s warm, cozy and friendly. You don’t have to take your shoes off when you come in and you just help yourself to anything. The kettles just boiled or there’s a cold beer in the fridge. There’s my Nan’s world famous stew on the stove top and fresh baked bread in the oven. So welcome. This is my place. Kia ora koutou.

– Grant Haua (04/20)