My Secret Wellington: Nicole Andrews

Nicole Andrews, musician and songwriter.
Bradley Garner

Nicole Andrews, musician and songwriter.

Nicole Andrews taught herself to play the piano because it was different. Living in Portland, United States, home to 4000 active bands, she was 8 years old when she first began striking the piano keys, translating the songs she heard on the radio into her own tunes. As a teen, she began performing. "Around me, everyone was playing the guitar and I wanted something unique. Back then, the piano was a bit geeky."

The indie singer and pianist shifted to Wellington five years ago, moving here to be with her husband, a tour guide who she met a decade ago while travelling to Queenstown. She gave him a CD of her songs at the time - he contacted her later because it was blank. She releases her debut album this Sunday at Newtown's Moon Bar. "It's close enough to my house to be able to carry the keyboard there," she says.

Andrews began writing the songs on her album six years ago, and has pulled some respected New Zealand musicians on for some of the tracks - David Long from The Muttonbirds, Andrew Bain from Fur Patrol and Thomas Voyce from Rhombus. Her style has been compared to other alternative songstresses such as Tori Amos and PJ Harvey, and she says: "I write sad songs, about the sad things that everyone experiences. My love songs are sad too, questioning aspects of life."

Roxy Cinema grand archway and ceiling.

Roxy Cinema grand archway and ceiling.

Nicole Andrews releases her debut album, In the Shallows, this Sunday at Moon Bar.

Where do you go to feel inspired?

I like to put on my headphones and go for a walk. The fresh air and being alone with no particular agenda really helps me focus. If I'm trying to work out something for a song, getting inspiration for writing strings or synth parts for a track, then it really helps to get out to the beach or somewhere, and listen to some music that might inspire me. I can't spend all my time at the piano.

Five Boroughs, Mt Victoria: Photo: Kent Blechynden/Fairfax NZ.

Five Boroughs, Mt Victoria: Photo: Kent Blechynden/Fairfax NZ.

What art/artist/performer has best captured your sense of Wellington?

My friend Hannah Fraser from the band The Front-liners springs to mind. She's just so creative and really brings a sense of fun to her projects. She plays around Wellington a lot in a lot of bands, which she makes her own gig posters for - she goes to gigs and supports other artists and has performed at burlesque shows. She shares her experience of art and really supports the Wellington scene.

What's your favourite public space?

The Ramen Shop, Newtown.
Maarten Holl

The Ramen Shop, Newtown.

I really love Wellington Central library. I could walk around the library for hours just looking at books. I have a bad habit of getting more books than I can actually read, but I just love finding new things. It's a very comforting place for me. I'm reading the Amanda Palmer book, The Art of Asking. She's another alternative pianist and singer, somewhat similar to what I do, so its interesting to read about her life.

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Where do you go for a night out with your partner or a friend?

I love Goldings Free Dive for the beer and because I almost always find a friend there. I also enjoy Five Boroughs, which is a new restaurant on Majoribanks Street serving New York deli-style food. It's always been hard for me find authentic American food, and the guys at Five Boroughs do a great job. 

Best pick for a cheap and cheerful meal? 

The Ramen Shop in Newtown is a favourite when I want something quick and amazing. I'm not sure which bowl is the best there because I usually change it up, but I do crave their pork buns and wish I could figure out how to make them myself.

Where do you go for good coffee?

I love Baobab, and usually head there for a coffee. The atmosphere is so good, especially sitting on a hot day in the back garden.

Where do you take out of towners when they're visiting?

My husband is a tour guide with Rover, so we take showing visitors around very seriously. We have a lot of friends visiting from overseas who are big Lord of the Rings fans, so we sometimes end up doing a mini fan tour. Otherwise we do things like head up to Mt Victoria, check out the steps at Parliament, eat at Scorchorama and drink coffee inside The Roxy, because that upstairs ceiling always surprises people. 

Describe your perfect Saturday/Sunday?

I'm a huge film geek, so I watch a lot of movies. I like having movie parties and introducing people to movies they hadn't seen before. One of my friends hadn't seen The Lost Boys, so we had a vampire party and watched it on my birthday this year.

What's your favourite neighbourhood haunt?

I think my favourite place in Newtown might be Monterey, but I do regular gigs at a few different places. Monterey has good beer, and I salivate when I think about their fried pickles.The patio bar out the back is really great on a sunny day. 

What's your favourite place for a walk or to get into nature?

I like to go swimming and look at all the sea creatures like starfish, so I usually head out to the water and jump in. Now that the weather's getting a bit colder, I'm going to probably start walking up through the town belt a bit.

What's your favourite shop?

My friends own Ninjaflower, a jewellery shop, piercing and tattoo parlour on Dixon Street. I like to go in there and soak up the atmosphere. They've always got amazing jewellery and are the kind of people who do what they do because it's their passion and they are the best at it. 

 - Stuff

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