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Mel Parsons talks life on the road and cold-calling Ron Sexsmith

New Zealand singer-songwriter Mel Parsons is winding her way around Australia, wrapping up her national tour with two Perth shows this weekend.

Parsons recently released her new album Drylands, a new set of moving songs that promise to transport listeners to another place.

The album also features iconic Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith, who worked with Parsons on the track Don’t Wait.

Parsons is supported on tour by fellow well-known Kiwi Anika Moa, with the pair hitting up Scarborough’s Indi Bar tonight the award-winning Mojo’s Bar in Fremantle on Sunday.

Both are well known in their homeland and while there are sure to be a few NZ ex-pats at these shows, we recommend born-and-bred Aussies head along to see what all the fuss is about (tickets from Oztix).

Music Insight recently caught up with Parsons to find out how the tour is going.

Welcome to Australia. Are you excited to be getting this show on the road?

Thanks, it’s great to be here. We are super excited about this tour. It’s my last one of the year, and Anika and I have a lot of silly fun on the road together. 

What’s the response been like so far?

We’ve played three shows so far, and they’ve been a lot of fun. We’re playing pretty intimate venues, great crowds and people seem to be enjoying the shows, so we’re happy. 

You’ve been touring constantly for the past 12 months. What has been the best moment so far?

Yeah, I guess when you add it all up it’s been pretty non-stop the past couple of years. The best moments are always the people – you end up meeting so many great people on the road. Aside from getting to explore new places, the best moments are when someone comes up to you after a show and says that a certain song really meant something to them. 

You’ve worked with a whole series of cool people on this record. Has collaboration always been an important part of making music for you?

I was very lucky with the lineup on this album – I have a wonderful band that I have been recording and touring with for a long time now, and also some great guests in there too. On the writing side of things for me it is very much a solitary process, but getting into the studio and bringing the songs to life is where the collaboration side of things kicks in.   

Tell us about the first conversation you had with Ron Sexsmith, and how you felt when he agreed to lend his voice to ‘Don’t Wait’?

It was over email – I cold-called him really. I just sent him the song, which at that stage was just vocals and guitar, and asked if he would be keen to sing on it. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, so it was pretty unbelievable when he said yes. I met him in Toronto after the album was finished, he’s lovely and kind, and as humble and self-deprecating as you would imagine. 

You and Anika Moa are pretty much household names in New Zealand. What’s it like to come over here and play some smaller venues together?

It’s great fun really – Anika has her own TV show and is a true household name back in NZ, and I’ve been touring a lot in NZ over the past years so I guess we have a certain expectation of how things are going to go when we perform there. That said, I love playing shows over here and really enjoy the intimate venues. It feels like you’re having more of a conversation with your audience. We have a lot of laughs, and I think playing to smaller crowds is probably good for the ego!

What is it that you hope Australian audiences will take away from seeing one of your shows?

Firstly, I hope they’ll be able to make a connection with the music. My goal, I suppose you could say, is to make people feel something. I think because for me as a music fan, the music that makes me feel something is the stuff that I really connect with and end up listening to long term. Also I hope that they’ll take away four or five of my CDs!

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