"Stay True To Yourself" - Secret To Silver Scroll Success
Troy Kingi loves a challenge - and it turns out, he doesn’t mind the rewards that come with it.
An artist who refuses to be pigeonholed - who not only doesn’t stay in his lane, but wouldn’t even know where it is any more - Kingi has already been many things in his career.
A funk powerhouse, a folk singer, a soul dynamo.
You can add APRA Silver Scroll winner to that list.
Kingi was handed the Song of the Year accolade via an online presentation on Thursday after the 2021 awards were unable to go ahead in-person despite three attempts to stage it.
His vehicle for the country’s top prize for songwriting is All Your Ships Have Sailed - one of the many memorable and catchy tunes from his ode to funk album The Ghost of Freddie Cesar. He edged Tipene AKA Stephen Harmer, Maisey Rika, The Beths and Anthonie Tonnon for the award in another high-calibre field.
From his studio and base in Kerikeri, a humbled Kingi told The Big Idea “I’ve been watching the Silver Scrolls for as long as I can remember, before I even started on this journey. It feels a little bit surreal.
“The Taite Award (which he won in 2020) and the Silver Scrolls are the ultimate ones in New Zealand Music. It’s solely about the songwriting and creating - which I’ve always been about. I never thought it was going to come around - I’ve been nominated twice before (Aztechknowledgey in 2018 and Mighty Invader in 2020).
“If I was to never get any awards again, I’m happy I’ve got this one.”
Given his level of artistry and his prolific output of creativity, you can expect him to be in line for many more.
Kingi’s now halfway through his ambitious and so far widely acclaimed 10:10:10 project - 10 albums from 10 different genres over 10 years. Freddie Cesar was the fourth, with last year’s Black Sea Golden Ladder taking the tally to five - with the sixth due to drop in the coming months (more on that later).
Despite the wild genre skipping - this isn’t a ‘to-do’ list or a box ticking, contract fulfilling exercise for Kingi. As the results show already, it’s an intense challenge which he’s pouring his heart and soul into.
“I definitely take pride in my work and even though it is a very quick turnaround, I want to get to the end of the 10:10:10 and know that I’m happy with every single thing that I’ve brought out.
“It’s not like it’s easy or anything - it’s super hard (laughs) - I have moments where I’m struggling and I have ideas but don’t know what to do with them sometimes. I’m trying to put my best foot forward all the time.”
Forward is exactly where his gaze lies, but Kingi’s learning it’s OK to look back and reflect every now and then.
Given his winning song was released in 2020, finally receiving the gong in 2022 is a little trippy. All Your Ships Have Sailed was the first single from the album, after Kingi shared the album with friends and whānau to get their thoughts on which song he should put out first.
“I’ve always been proud of it, but sometimes you need other people to tell you it’s good so you can go ‘shit, it is pretty good eh?’ - this is the ultimate in being told it’s good, winning a Silver Scroll.
“It is good to pull yourself back and see you’re on the right path, you’re writing cool stuff that resonates with people.”
As is Scrolls tradition - the winning song was paid the highest compliment by being reimagined for performance on the show. Deva Mahal’s haunting, entrancing interpretation swaps the hard and heavy funk baseline with harps and Kingi’s signature guitar riffs played by violin - all set to a powerful ensemble performance.
Kingi was blown away. “It was friggin’ amazing. I had seen her post some stuff (on social media) a few weeks ago, dressed up with all these beautiful wahine with the mean mana wahine vibe and thought ‘this looks dope, what is it?’
“To find out that it was for me, it’s amazing. I feel like she might have even made that song better, she made it super cool. It was an honour and a privilege for her to sing my song for me and make me feel justified.”
Album number six in the 10:10:10 series has been completed - including with a “dope” music video - and will be released in the coming months. Kingi’s teaser description of the mood we can expect? “Lots of synths,” he laughs.
But he did reveal something exclusively to The Big Idea - he almost landed a huge name as a collaborator. “We were having Zooms with Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads but it never eventuated. He just got busy but he was very keen. In saying that, the album hasn’t come out yet so there’s still time - we might be able to squeeze him in there.”
So while Kingi’s been able to achieve his Silver Scroll ambitions, there will no doubt be many other musicians who were in his shoes of watching the awards and allowing themselves to dream big. He has these words of advice.
“Stay true to yourself, try not to follow what everyone else is doing. I feel like a lone wolf up here in the North - no one here to bounce ideas off, which can be a curse and a blessing.
“Sometimes I have those mind battles about whether an idea is good, whether I should follow through with it. But it’s unfiltered, there’s no one here to say ‘no, don’t do that’ - I think that’s my superpower.
“So trust yourself and run with an idea, no matter how ridiculous it might feel or seem.”
Kingi wasn’t the only winner on the night.
The 2021 Silver Scroll Winners. Photo: Supplied.
His close friend Maisey Rika collected the Maioha Award for the third time in her career - this time with co-writer Seth Haapu for her Matariki inspired Wāiti Wāita.
The SOUNZ Contemporary Award went to David Donaldson, Janet Roddick, Steve Roche of Plan 9 for The Bewilderness, while Arli Liberman’s work on Savage was recognised as Best Original Music in a Film and former Supergroove frontman Karl Steven won Best Original Music in a Series for his tense soundtrack to the Bain family tragedy on Black Hands.
You can the whole awards here.