Songstress's album dream comes true

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 13:00 14/08/2012
Leilani Taula
Tranquility Photography

JUGGLING ACT: Singer-song writer Leilani Taula, 15, formerly of Nelson, has just released her debut album, Sometimes.

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A Nelson-born teenager, who has wanted to make an album since she was 8, has finally succeeded, and she is still only 15.

This month, Leilani Taula released Sometimes through Tauranga record label Fragile Colours Music.

A mix of covers and originals, including funk, rock and pop, it is the first of what she hopes will be a long music career.

"I've been singing since before I could talk, so it's never really been a hard decision for me. Every sacrifice I had to make was worth it."

Bay of Plenty musicians gave their time and creativity to the album, and piano teacher and producer Tim Julian gave her two of his songs. There are five self-penned tracks and four covers of some classic tracks, including I Can't Stand The Rain and Sarah McLachlan's Angel.

Leilani said she wasn't sure yet what direction her music career would take, but had a backup plan "like every sensible person should" - studying law at Victoria University. Meanwhile, she tried to sing and play as much as possible while preparing for NCEA.

"It's definitely a juggling act. On top of all the schoolwork we have to do, I do heaps of music groups and fitting it in is really difficult. But I do it because it's something I love and I make it a priority."

Leilani still has grandparents and other family in Nelson, and when she was younger, she would spend her Christmas holidays in the city, busking to make enough money to buy a $1000 guitar.

"She's doing pretty well," her Nelson grandfather, Derek Babe, said. "We've got quite an extended family down here and they've all been waiting anxiously for the album to come out.

"We've managed to sell quite a few copies down here already."

Mr Julian could tell from the second lesson that she was going to "be something spectacular".

"She just picked it up so naturally and easily. I was thinking, ‘Man this kid is really going to do something'," he said.

"Voice-wise, I think she's still got places to go with it, but she's quite amazing on stage as far as working the crowd goes.

"I'm hoping this will be the start of something good for her. The world is her oyster."

Leilani, who attends Tauranga Girls' College, has a long history of accolades. She won the lead in her school play at the age of 7, and by the age of 8 had taken up the piano and guitar and written her first song, which is included on her album. She took it to her piano teacher, who advised her to make an album. At 9, she won a Tauranga Search for a Star contest and sang in front of thousands at Tauranga's Christmas In the Bay that year and the next.

At 12, she sang at New Zealand Netball's World Cup game, with The Ladykillers (Tina Cross, Suzanne Lynch, Jackie Clarke, and Taisha) backing her.

In 2010, at the age of 13, she was a finalist in the TVNZ Good Morning Show Find a Star Competition, singing a rendition of the Sarah McLachlan song Angel, earning her a perfect score of three 10s.

Soon after that, Mr Julian said she was old enough to start her album.

"Through heaps of hard work we managed to do it," she said.

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Leilani recently won the David Feehan Trophy for Most Outstanding Vocalist at the Tauranga Jazz Festival. She also won the secondary school section of the 2012 national songwriting competition for Nelson-based children's charity Purple Cake Day.

To listen to Leilani Taula's music, see fragilecolours.com.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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