New Zealand’s 5 Most Exciting Producers
Over NZ Week, it has become abundantly clear to us that New Zealand is producing some of the most primo music in the world. From chart-busting pop records to DIY indie rock, the quality of the country’s output is frighteningly good.
But let’s not forget that behind almost every tune you fall in love with, there’s a talented producer pulling some strings. This list is for those (often) unsung heroes of the studio, and the sharp work they continue to generate.
If any of the names on this list could be considered close to ‘household’, it’s Joel Little. Before joining forces with New Zealand’s own Lorde on her Grammy-snatching debut Pure Heroine, Little was the guitarist of pop-punk band Goodnight Nurse. But then a teenage girl called Ella walked into his studio – not with songs, “but she had all these amazing words”.
Together they wrote the songs, and he became the producer. Since then, Little has worked closely with fellow New Zealand act Broods, as well as big names like Daniel Johns, Sam Smith, Jarryd James, Ellie Goulding, and Imagine Dragons. Joel Little is New Zealand’s premier ambassador to the global mainstream.
If Joel Little is New Zealand’s king of pop, Ben Edwards is their prince of folk. Fresh off a win for Best Producer at last year’s New Zealand Music Awards, Edwards’ studio The Sitting Room in Lyttleton is one of the most sought after studios in the country. He picked up his Best Producer gong for his work on Nadia Reid’s album Preservation, but also helped create albums for Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, and Delaney Davidson.
After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, much of Edwards’ studio and gear was destroyed. Under the name The Harbour Union, Edwards and his friends rallied together and, using borrowed equipment, released a charity album to raise money for those affected by the quake.
By no doubt, Ben Edwards is one of New Zealand’s most exciting and visionary producers right now.
When Joel Little found success and ran off to the States to chase the glory of pop producing, he had to leave his studio, Golden Age, behind. More importantly, he had to leave somebody else in charge. That’s where Josh Fountain comes in – Little has since said that Fountain was the “first and only choice” to take the seat as resident producer.
Since then Fountain has worked with many artists, but two in particular have garnered strong followings – MAALA and Theia. In fact, both of them were nominated at the most recent New Zealand Music Awards for songs produced by Fountain, who has been up for Best Producer twice now.
Considering his first foray into music production was messing around on the PlayStation game Music 2000 as a teenager, there’s no limits where Fountain will go next.
Prior to being a producer, Jonathan Bree fronted the New Zealand rock band The Brunettes, whose album Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks is considered a modern-day New Zealand classic. The band broke up in 2010, and Bree focused his energy on running Lil’ Chief Records, the label he had established in 2002.
Since then he has worked closely in the studio with his signees, the most interesting of which is likely Princess Chelsea, who was also a former member of The Brunettes. If you know one thing from Princess Chelsea, chances are it’s The Cigarette Duet and its accompanying viral video from 2011.
Bree is a self-confessed workaholic and social recluse who spends every waking hour (although he doesn’t have many non-awake hours) either in the studio or running his label. Perhaps that’s the namesake for Sleepwalking, a fantastic solo album he released this year.
Simon Gooding, who operates out of Wellington, is a fine closure to this list because he is perhaps the least well-known. He studied at the SAE Institute, and upon returning to New Zealand took up a job at York Street Studios.
Post-stint at York Street, Gooding has moved to Auckland to become the in-house engineer and producer at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios. Gooding’s work includes artists like Jamie McDell, A Dead Forest Index, and Radiohead’s drummer Phil Selway. If one thing is for certain, it’s that Simon Gooding is an up-and-comer to watch.
By Ben Robinson
Happy Mag’s NZ Week is a new initiative spotlighting New Zealand as one of the world’s most exciting cultural hubs.