Marvelly moving in new directions

STEPPING UP: "I get to show people what I’ve been working on and see what people think," says Elizabeth Marvelly.
STEPPING UP: "I get to show people what I’ve been working on and see what people think," says Elizabeth Marvelly.

What goes on tour usually stays on tour. But in the case of 23-year-old singer Elizabeth Marvelly, she can let slip what happened on the bus when she toured Europe with classical crossover star Paul Potts.

''We'd always be in the bus doing cryptic crosswords, which sounds really rock'n'roll I know,'' she jokes.

She also got to watch a lot of movies, including cult comedy Spinal Tap about a hopeless touring rock'n'roll band. ''It's brilliant,'' exclaims Marvelly. ''When you've got an 18-hour drive you just need something to pass the time. It would be late at night and we'd all have a couple of glasses of wine.''

The Kiwi singer is now in the middle of her own tour of New Zealand and while most people would still classify Marvelly as classical crossover rather than anything like rock'n'roll, there is change afoot.

The singer, who first hit the spotlight six years ago when she was hand-picked by opera great Dame Malvina Major to perform in her tour, has written more than 80 songs in the past 12 months. While we've had a taste of some of Marvelly's own compositions, her trajectory is to release an album of largely original material. We get a snippet on this tour.

''I'm going to be introducing a few originals I've been working on for the next album. That's the big scary step. But I'm really just so excited about that. I get to show people what I've been working on and see what people think. I'm taking a bit of a leap of faith.''

Marvelly says it's possible the album will be solely original material.

She has plenty of options and has even had songs submitted by songwriters in the United States and Europe for her to cover. ''For me my main goal is that it's really time for me as a writer to step up.''

Marvelly, who trained as a classical pianist, has also collaborated with other songwriters, including rock and pop songwriter Greg Johnson.

''I loved writing with him. Quite often you might have a really good relationship and be good friends. But your writing styles might be so different that it may not work. But with Greg we just clicked.''

The collaboration with Johnson is also indicative of Marvelly's gradual move away from being dominated by classical crossover or ''popera''. There have been earlier examples, including a cover of Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home and Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over on her album Home last year.

''There will always be people who struggle with the idea of classical crossover. The way I feel about it is that they're really apples and pears.

''Classical crossover is a much lighter approach, even [performing] non-classical repertoire.

''Then you've got core opera. As I've grown older, I feel if I want to listen to Vissi D'arte, then I would rather go the Met or Covent Garden and see an opera singer sing it rather than listen to it on a classical crossover album.

''There's no way now I would even consider singing an aria. These may be famous last words, but I haven't done the training that they've done.

''I think I'm moving in the opposite direction. Classical crossover is definitely my roots and my background, but I feel with the next album that it will probably be a step away - not in a huge, shocking way, but a natural progression.

''I'm getting older, my musical tastes are changing and as I'm writing my influences are different.''

The Details

Elizabeth Marvelly performs at the Great Lake Centre, Taupo, tonight; Theatre Royal, New Plymouth, July 28; Ilott Theatre, Wellington, July 30, and Southward Museum, Paraparaumu, July 3

The Dominion Post