Meet the Makers: Anna Coddington

5 June 2024

Anna Coddington (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning New Zealand songwriter, singer, producer, children's book author and law student. Her new album, Te Whakamiha, releasing on 28 June blends te reo Māori and English and showcases a new, collaborative songwriting style.

I reached out to Anna to ask a few questions about the record, her songwriting process and what music has been exciting her lately.

photo by Holly Sarah Burgess
What can we expect from your new album?

Te Whakamiha is a reo rua/bilingual album that was made with a focus on enjoyment. The music industry and what it means to me has changed a lot. With this album I really just wanted to work with people I love and admire and make something people could connect with easily and have a nice time to. My previous albums involved a lot of emotional processing and I still think that’s a great way to make music. It’s important. But this is much more outward looking. Basically, I wanted to write a set of songs that I could have lots of fun playing with my band and people could dance to them. I’ve referred to it throughout as ‘Māori funk’- largely because it sounds funny to me. It has some sick basslines, great drums, hooks galore, and amazing guitar from my producer and guitarist Jol. But there are audible threads from previous records- an indie influence and my own ear for melody and my voice. I’ve always leaned towards sad songs, but the aim with these ones was to make people feel happy.

Can you give us a glimpse into your songwriting process?

For this record it was very collaborative. My last album - Beams - I wrote every song on my own and took them to the producers then we worked them up. But on this album, every song was written in collaboration with others. A few came out of the Songhubs project run by APRA. Others were written with producer Jol or with my whole band The Appreciations (Jol, Fen and Mike). One I wrote in my home studio with Te Kaahu. So, a very different process to previously and it was all part of the general goal of being outward-looking and having fun with cool people.

What is unique about working as an artist in Aotearoa New Zealand?

We have such a great community of artists here. Being a small country you tend to meet all your musical heroes quite quickly and then they’re just your friends. After the Phoenix Foundation's first two albums I loved them so much and then I was at a gig about to meet them, and I remember thinking I kind of didn’t want to; I just wanted to keep them in idol status not bring them down to real person friend status ha. But it’s great because everyone is so interesting. There’s this funny thing being a musician where you need this ego and confidence to do the job but you’re also just constantly getting humbled in the most profound ways. It’s a unique experience and a good common ground for friendships.

The other unique thing about being an artist here is the heritage of Māori culture we have to draw on. For Māori artists like me, art has been an important tool for cultural (and linguistic) maintenance. Even before I started speaking te reo or writing waiata in te reo Māori there was Māori music all through my life, keeping our reo available and present and valued and maintained. Me mihi ka tika ki a rātou. And for me and others, music has played a massive role in cultural reconnection and language reclamation. Dame Hinewehi Mohi has contributed so much in this space. I’m so glad she was recognised for it recently at the Aotearoa Music Awards.

What have you listened to recently that has had a big impact on you and why?

I went back in time for the influence of this album. Touchstones were Prince, Patrice Rushen, Grace Jones- stuff like that. But because I grew up in the 90s listening to grunge music and pop-rock bands, that indie influence is something that can never be silenced I think. It’s very hard to assess your own work objectively but I think you hear a blend of those things in this album. But yes, recent listening has definitely been focused on old, funky shit.

What’s next for you?

Next for me is the release of this new album! Te Whakamiha! It’s out June 28- the day we celebrate Matariki. There’s no tour in the works yet as I’m busy with other things (namely, law school). But I hope we’ll do a few shows over summer.