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Home arrow Events arrow It is a perfect place
It is a perfect place PDF Print
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Written by Stephanie Davidson   
Friday, 01 February 2008

It is a perfect place for a garden party – Sophie Edwards’ place, a mowed clearing hemmed by mature totara with a bird’s eye view of the Ngunguru sandspit. The atmosphere is gentle and congenial; all are bound by a similar goal: they are committed to preserving the ecosystem directly in their sights. Yet there is another important contributing factor to this pervading sense of harmony: the entertainment provided by singer song writer Paul McLaney, recently nominated for Male Solo Artist of the Year in the 2007 New Zealand music awards. Paul is a professional. He has played a lot of venues and a lot of styles to arrive at this point – what he defines as honesty: a mixture of his own songs and covers; his own acoustic finger style; his own quite unique style of tuning.

Mary Britton, on the executive committee of the Ngunguru Sandspit Protection Society, describes Paul’s unique tuning style as providing ‘space and a different kind of energy.’ She, like the other guitarists involved in Paul’s morning workshop, was fascinated by his system of open tuning. ‘It is easy when you play an instrument, to get stuck in one method. But some very great artists like Joni Mitchell have played around with different systems of tuning.’

Paul, an ex student of well known local musician Terri Toohill ( a member of current Irish band the Tree Fellas) has not always delved in the arena of pure acoustics. Signed to the Sony record label after emerging from the Dunedin indie band scene, he played at big concert rigs, including the Big Day Out in 2005.

‘What I discovered from doing those grandiose rock spectacles was that it was someone else’s dream. My recent album Diamond Side, recorded for the Loop label felt much more honest; it is what I have been trying to do since I was about 13.’

It is a long way from the electronic musician spotted by concert organiser Andy Britton and wife Mary as the opening act for Joss Stone, but not entirely surprising, given his early idols: Ian Anderson, Bert Jansch, Nick Drake and Jon Martyn. This new tangent is both getting back to his early influences and bending them to suit Paul McLaney.

I gave my time to this cause, because I have this huge hope that the future will contain at least some of what is special about today.

His original songs, mostly love songs, carry with them an essential message of hope. ’I don’t write many songs about despair. And that is where I see the connection with this drive to save the sandspit: ‘I gave my time to this cause, because I have this huge hope that the future will contain at least some of what is special about today.

He is what Gloria Bruni, chairperson of the committee describes as a ‘godwit’ – a New Zealander who has travelled abroad, seen what is out there and returned with a sharper vision. Originally English, he has made his permanent home in New Zealand. He travels frequently. His last record was made in Los Angeles with a studio who recorded Crowded House and Led Zeppelin. The trip gave him confidence as a musician and sharpened his ecological perspective; he recalls being sickened by the development in Las Vegas. ‘As an artist, you are responding to the beauty in all things and it is nice if that beauty is not too hard to find.’

He joins an expanding group of artists offering their time and talent in support of the sandspit cause. One such is local Ngunguru artist Steve Moase, who has donated the whole of his limited edition prints on the sandspit. A Steve Moase print is given as a koha to Paul at the end of his performance; it is a gesture from one artist to another, an appreciation of a shared vision.

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