In this interview for 2003 television series Give It A Whirl, Shona Laing recounts her early career, appearing on television’s New Faces, meeting John McCready and being signed to Phonogram, shifting to the United Kingdom in the mid-70s just as punk was taking over, and returning to a very different New Zealand music scene in the mid-80s. Shona reveals her early songwriting influences: “The thing that made me stop in my tracks and fall in love with music was ‘It’s Too Late’. I became a dedicated Carole King fan.”
Watch below: Full-length interview with Shona Laing from Give It a Whirl (2003) via NZ On Screen (2022).
Watch below: Shona recalls competing on television show New Faces: “You sent the tape into NZBC and I heard back that I could go in for an audition at Broadcasting House. My big sister came with me and I did those two [Carole King] songs, ‘You’re The One ...’ [sic] and ‘Up On The Roof’.”
Watch below: Shona confirms the inspiration behind her hit song, ‘1905’. “It’s not Henry Ford, and it’s not the Russian Revolution. I was desperately infatuated with Henry Fonda. He was born in 1905.”
Watch below: Shona talks about dealing with early fame, and the missteps she made as a new person in the music industry: “I was still at school, so I was recognised at school. Perhaps I was at that stage an outgoing character anyway. So it was another step on that road ...”
Watch below: Shona recalls leaving for England in 1975: “England was a blow to the solar plexus in lots of ways. New Zealand has a very strange attitude. We see ‘out there’ as a market. But music is quite personal to people, on a nationalistic level.”
Watch below: Shona discusses the effect of punk rock in the United Kingdom during 1977-78, and the release of ‘(Glad I’m) Not A Kennedy’ in 1985: “New Zealanders my age and up, all remember what they were doing when Kennedy was shot.”
Watch below: Shona discusses raising the profile of New Zealand musicians at home and the perils of our artist-writers heading overseas to have a career: “Why do we want to condemn our sensitive young artist-writers to a life abroad? Away from their home, away from what makes them who they are, away from what inspires them to write ... we have to become more self-sustaining somehow.”
This interview was recorded for the 2003 season of TV series Give it a Whirl. All audiovisual content is copyright to Visionary Film & TV, and may not be reproduced.
Further reading: Nick Bollinger on Give It a Whirl