Tommy Nee: Walk With You
Young musician, Tommy Nee, has joined the call to action to end youth homelessness in New Zealand. His recent release ‘Walk With You’ was written to raise funds and awareness for the Lifewise Big Sleepout. Homelessness, Tommy says, is a topic that is close to his heart, and he hopes that ‘Walk With You’ will encourage unity amongst New Zealanders for and with people who are struggling. A rising star in New Zealand music, we talk to Tommy about how he is using his music to leverage his voice and challenge the status quo.
“Come together. We are one. Not above, not below, but equal.”
Tommy grew up on the East Coast, and like many of us, the sounds of Bob Marley filled his younger days. “Bob Marley was pretty much all we listened to because our parents would play it constantly.” The messages in that music and the hope that they carried so long after his death impacted Tommy in a way that has shaped his life and career as a musician. “Even after [Bob Marley] has been sent on, his music still lives strong and offers a beacon of hope for us in these struggling times.”
Struggling times are something that Tommy is no stranger to, and it was music that he would turn to to get through. “Music has saved my life on many occasions. My siblings and I didn’t have an easy upbringing, and music has been the one thing that has given me an outlet when times are tough.” This is a gift which he hopes to pass onto others through his music. “My dream is to help others the same way music has helped me through my own original material.”
Tommy is well on is way to reaching that dream. In 2017, he was awarded most promising artist at the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards and he has built himself a reputation as a young artist on the rise. Big dreams aside, it has taken a lot of hard work, determination and a light sprinkling of luck for Tommy to reach where he is today. As a kid he was deterred from pursuing music as it was not considered a suitable career path, and as a result when he did finally reach music school, he was well behind his peers.
“My elders always wanted me to be either a doctor or a lawyer. In this way, I was never allowed to pursue music in high school. After spending two years working factory jobs I decided I wanted to pursue this career. I applied for the music course at Auckland University. In my audition, I got zero on my theory test and had probably one of the worst performances of my life. Miraculously, I got a place at the School of Music! It was a struggle learning the theory and performance aspect of things starting miles behind my university peers. But nevertheless my belief and drive for music is beyond words which has seen me through.”
Tommy carries a strong political voice in his music. He abhors discrimination against people of any kind, and uses his own experiences of racial discrimination to spark conversations and challenge the status quo. His track Colorblind from his first EP tells the story of being pulled over by cops in Remuera, Auckland. Having broken no rules, he could only put it down to the colour of his skin. This song brings into focus the racial discrimination that simmers at the surface of our society.
This latest single, ‘Walk With You’ carries a call for action on youth homelessness in New Zealand. More than 41,000 people in New Zealand have no place to call home. Half of that number are under the age of 25. Tommy says that homelessness is something that is close to his heart. “Homelessness is huge within our communities. I am a proud Pasifika person, and to see a lot of my Maori and Pasifika people out on the streets breaks my heart. We come from a very proud and unified place back in the islands, but to see the effects of higher powers coming down negatively on my people makes me sad.”
Tommy hopes that this song will contribute to a larger conversation about the state of youth homelessness in New Zealand. He says now is the time to act, and this song is his call to action. “In my eyes, music is more powerful than a nuclear bomb. It has emotion and soul in it. It lasts throughout the ages. You can change someone’s life even after you die.”
‘Walk With You’ carries a strong message of togetherness. He is calling on New Zealanders to unite for those who are struggling. “We are one people, and it's time we start acting like it. This song is written to tell people that we are equal, no matter the circumstances.” At the end of the video, you see Tommy approach a man sitting on the street with a sign that says ‘Help’. He greets him warmly, shakes his hand and then sits down beside him. The message he is sending is strong. We are all in this together, and we cannot ignore people struggling any longer.
For Tommy, his approach to life always comes back to one thing: Being a good person. “We only get one shot at this life, why not try contribute to the world in a positive way? It doesn’t matter what religion, skin color, nationality, age or gender you are, if you are striving to be a good person everyday the benefits are enormous.”
To support the cause, you can purchase and download the song from the Lifewise bandcamp page. By donating to the Lifewise Big Sleepout, you’ll be helping solve homelessness in an empowering and sustainable manner. Donate today at www.bigsleepout.org.nz
Following the success of the Colorblind Ep, Tommy Nee's debut album will be coming out in October 2017.