Muli-talented Kiwi beauty, Esther Stephens is a force to be reckoned with. I met her properly last year in Melbourne but I was already more than familiar with that face and voice thanks to a little TV show called Go Girls (On air for 5 seasons - HOLLA!), collaborations with Young, Gifted, & Broke, and her consistent presence in both the New Zealand and Melbourne music scenes.
Esther makes being multi-faceted look effortless. A captivating singer AND actress, if you are lucky enough to catch her in either one of her artistic realms, the unbridled passion she shows for creative expression is inspiring and palpable.
Her latest musical project involves another trio of amazing Kiwis known as The Means. Together they are Esther Stephens & The Means – aka The greatest thing to happen your eardrums in a minute. The music is a refreshingly seamless fusion of soul, funk, pop, jazz, psychedelia; basically just a beautiful celebration of beats, rhymes, & life.
Get to know the elegant, the poised, & the eternally cool – Esther Stephens:
Dove: Who are you, where are you, what do you do, and why do you do it?
Esther: I’m Esther Stephens, I split my time between Melbourne and Auckland, I’m a singer & actress, and I do these things because I pretty much suck at everything else.
What does music mean to you?
Music is vital, it’s therapy, completely self indulgent and publicly generous at the same time. I love singing and I think the world needs more of it, especially western society. Most of us are not connected to singing as a part of daily life. It’s something I love about so many indigenous cultures, singing is highly important as part of ritual, to mourn, to celebrate. It’s so good for body and soul.
Who are “The Means” and how long have you been making music with them?
Abraham Kunin (guitar), Tom Broome (drums) and Marika Hodgson (bass). The Holy Trinity. All crazy talented and highly sought after musos. We’ve written, recorded and performed together in a myriad of incarnations for nearly 10 years now. This incarnation is our strongest so far and we’re all loving ‘married’ life.
Who inspires you within music and outside of music?
Inside music, I am especially inspired by the artists in our YGB whanau, and our Red Bull Sound Select contemporaries internationally. There’s a lot of exciting music being made right now especially in neo-soul/alt-pop/hip hop/beat making. Every time someone close to you puts out a wicked piece of work (such as Team Dynamite’s ‘Shepherds Delight’ album) it makes you want to work harder, lift your game and be the best you can be.
Outside music I’ve been really inspired by the time I’ve spent home in New Zealand this year, getting reconnected with the natural landscape of my home, which is what our latest single ‘Heartbeat’ is about.
What kind of music did you grow up on?
My Dad is a muso and right into 60’s & 70’s music - Beatles, Hendrix, Joplin and so on, so I grew up loving that, and I spent a large portion of my developing years listening to Mai FM which generated my mad love for 90’s RnB and Hip Hop. I also served 6 years in a Motown covers group, which was amazing for my musical education. I love great, wild, unique singing voices. Artists who are more concerned about performing with investment and abandon than trying to be trendy.
Favourite album of all time?
‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’. That totally rocked my world at 13. A huge influence on my singing and writing.
How did you get involved with YGB, and explain what it's all about?
YGB is short for Young Gifted and Broke, and is the brainchild of Tom Scott (Home Brew, @Peace.) It’s a collective of artists from across various creative fields who’ve come together to support and promote one another for the benefit of all. We’ve collaborated with Tom and the other YGB artists for years. Really the network already existed, Tom just gave it a name.
What can we expect next from Esther Stephens & The Means?
We are working on an EP/album that is currently in production. Some tunes like Heartbeat are ready to go, some are part way through recording, some are still being written. We’re trying to put out a strong piece of work under our newly minted name. We received some NZ On Air funding last month (thanks guys) so we’ll have our first video in the works soon too. And finally over the Summer we’ll be popping up at gigs/festivals around NZ and hopefully Melbourne in the near future.
[Hone Be Good is on SoundCloud!]
Most overrated thing in 2014? / Most underrated thing in 2014?
The most overrated thing has to be naked photos of female celebrities. We’ve all got one, it’s not that exciting for crying out loud.
Underrated has gotta be my girl Marika Hodgson’s solo release Parallel Love ft. Noah Slee. Banging track, banging vocals, banging video. (Though I may be biased given I have a cameo in the vid pashing my real life boyfriend!)