Chart star to play at Christmas in the Park
Jamie McDell is a perfectly nice blonde surfer-type from Mangawai who makes beach-friendly music her mostly teenage fans seem to like.
The 20-year-old has had her first two releases become No 1 New Zealand singles - You'll Never Take That Away and Rewind - and caught the attention of United States blog site Perez Hilton and tween blog Disney Dreaming.
Her debut album, Six Strings And A Sailboat, was released last Friday, the same day she opened for Owl City at his only New Zealand show at Auckland's Powerstation.
The avid surfer, diver and sailor completed an ocean passage from New Zealand to Noumea on a 50-foot catamaran in June and in September was named the official ambassador for Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
McDell will make an appearance at Christmas in the Park at North Hagley Park tomorrow in her role as ambassador.
"I never imagined I'd ever be at Christmas in the Park," McDell giggles, flicking her long blond hair back.
"I used to go when I was a kid. It's a bit of a dream come true. I'm really proud to be representing Surf Life Saving New Zealand."
It's fair to say that McDell's approach to life and music is aptly summed up by her third single, Life In Sunshine.
The trip to Noumea - where she met a boy, of course, who gets his own song on the album, even though it didn't really work out - and McDell's love of the ocean and those that dwell within it have provided the inspiration for much of the album's subject matter.
In a recent video blog, for example, McDell supports the protection of the endangered Maui's dolphins.
"I can't believe more isn't being done to ensure their survival," she says.
Her love of the ocean was sparked, she says, when, at 8, her father took her and her sister out of school and spent a year sailing.
"We spent a year on the water listening to Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor and John Denver over and over."
She credits her chart success to YouTube and social media, which have allowed her to connect directly with her fans.
Her YouTube channel, which she regularly updates with video blogs, has had more than 500,000 views in a year.
"I was really nervous before I uploaded my first song to YouTube," she says, "but when I saw the positive response I grew more confident."
She entered Perez Hilton's Can You Sing competition with a cover of One Direction's One Thing and received an honourable mention and the comment: "Jamie McDell's cover reminds us of Jewel. And that's a good thing!"
"I started doing these video mashups of songs, just for myself really, and Disney Dreaming picked up a couple of them.
"It was quite out of the blue. With YouTube, it just feels like I'm putting things up for myself and it's easy to forget how far things can travel and how many people can see them.
"I just put them out there and never think about where they might end up."
Although she wrote her first song at the age of 7 and was signed to a label many years ago, she is pleased, she says, that she waited until she was completely ready to release this album.
"A lot of my fans are around my younger sister's age, 16 or 17, and I know what they are going through, having been through it myself, so I view myself as a bit of a role model for them.
"A lot of my fans ask me directly for advice with their lives and tell me about things that are happening to them and problems they have and I take that responsibility seriously."
Six Strings And A Sailboat was recorded at York Street studio in August, produced by Stephen Small and Simon Gooding for Pop Science, and mastered by Grammy Award-winning New Yorker Tom Coyne, who has worked with the likes of Adele, Pink, Beyonce, Usher and Destiny's Child.
The gold-selling single You'll Never Take That Away spent four weeks at No 1 and McDell's five- song acoustic EP debuted at No 8 on the New Zealand album chart, but her view of success is based entirely around her connection with fans.
"There are a lot of haters on the internet. I try to avoid all of that," she says.
"My biggest goal with my music is to be a role model to young girls like my sister. I want to be someone she and other girls her age can look up to.
"I want them to think [that] if Jamie can do that, then I can too."
Christmas in the Park
WHO: Frankie Stevens and Jackie Clarke, "godfather and godmother" of Christmas in the Park. MCs Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick. Entertainment includes Michael Murphy, first runner-up in New Zealand Idol, 2004; Dane Rumble; Ria Hall, winner of Best Maori Album at the New Zealand Music Awards this year; Drew Neemia; The Motown Experience; Kylie Price, overall winner of the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards 2012 at just 18 and New Zealand representative at Tamworth 2011 Music Festival; Hananiurangi Tava, 13, of Nelson; Nic Kyle (recently supported Elaine Paige); Jenn Shelton, vocalist and accomplished choreographer, having worked with the likes of Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne; The Christchurch Pops Choir, led by excellent musical director Luke Di Somma; Japanese 23-piece drum group Takumi Taiko (Takumi means "technically excellent"); Swarm, recent winners of Xplosion 2012; Origin Dance Crew, girls aged between 14 and 18, fresh from the Hip Hop Unite World Championships in the Netherlands; Skye Broberg, a five-time Guinness World Record holder in contortion, of the Loons Circus Company, and who has appeared on stage at Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe.
WHAT: Title gives it away. christmasinthepark.co.nz
WHERE: North Hagley Park.
WHEN: Tomorrow, 7.30pm.
PARKING: Limited car parking will be available in North Hagley Park, with entry from Harper Ave. Entry is via a gold-coin donation to be collected by the Kiwanis. NB: Park Tce between Bealey Ave and Salisbury St will be closed from 6pm. Parking is available for disabled drivers, with entry off Harper Ave. An area near the front of the stage will be set aside for the disabled from which to view the concert.
POSTPONEMENT: In the event of bad weather, the event will be postponed to Sunday at 7.30pm. For details, listen to 92.1 MORE FM.