A musical adventure in New Zealand turned into more than Bonnie Schwarz and Pete Shaw had bargained, but it’s been life-changing for the English couple.
Thanks to Covid-19 they spent lockdown in a bubble house-sitting with other musos. They turned a bedroom into a studio where they recorded new songs inspired by their Antipodean travels that saw them “happily stranded” here during the pandemic.
Their lockdown album Going for Broke was released in September 2020 and is about adventuring to New Zealand. Their latest Antipody album will be released in October. They will perform songs from it on their national farewell tour which starts on July 2.
Songs reflect on kindness
The couple have been overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality shown to them here, especially by the close folk music scene. Their songs reflect on that gratitude and kindness and will particularly appeal to audiences who enjoy listening to songs about New Zealand.
Joining Bonnie and Pete for the farewell tour will be Golden Guitars winner Jenny Mitchell from Gore. They met Jenny soon after they arrived in New Zealand.
Jenny is comfortable with a country twang or softly spoken ballad and is rapidly capturing fans across the globe. Her 2018 record Wildfires, produced by Sydney’s Matt Fell, was awarded the 2019 Tui for Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Artist.
Following her first Tui, the album became the first New Zealand album to receive a nomination for Alt-Country Album of the Year at the 2020 Australian Golden Guitar Awards.
Met studying music at Uni
Bonnie and Pete met when they studied music at the University of Manchester.
Pete is from Shropshire on the Welsh border while Bonnie is from Dorset in the south of England.
Making music together became a fun project on the side with two friends joining them during their university days to form the band they named Good Habits.
Pete played a cajon, a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru. Bonnie played cello and sang while the friends played viola and acoustic bass guitar.
Travelling with music
But it was three months Bonnie spent touring Europe with another band that whetted her appetite to travel and perform.
She says it was
falling in love with travelling with music”.
Plans were made for Bonnie and Pete to travel and perform as a duo.
“We both had been to New Zealand before to visit family (Pete’s relatives) and wanted to return so it seemed like the perfect way to combine performing with travelling and family,” says Bonnie.
Pete opted to play the accordion because it travels well as hand-luggage. Taking a cello along would pose more of a problem as it would require its own seat. So, they opted to hire one on arrival in New Zealand, although that was easier said than done.
They arrived in New Zealand in January 2020 and had planned three months of concerts around the country. Their support act was New Zealand duo In the Shallows.
They had performed about 40 concerts from Paihia in the north to Invercargill in the south when the country went into Covid-19 lockdown.
From concerts to lockdown
They were invited to share a house with In the Shallows who were house-sitting in Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast for owners who were living overseas. As lockdown restrictions eased they began to meet many of the creative community Paekākāriki is home to.
Already with an EP released in Britain under their belts, lockdown provided space for Bonnie and Pete to write new material, some with a New Zealand flavour.
In the Shallows had some recording equipment and with help from a producer the couple turned a bedroom into a studio to record Going for Broke.
But Antipody, about gratitude, being alive and the lessons learned in the Antipodes, half a world away from their British homeland in a Covid pandemic, was recorded at Tsunami Sounds, a real studio inside an old hospital in Levin.
Pete and Bonnie have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of Kiwis, some of whom have invited them to stay in their homes or use their lounges as venues for house concerts.
It has given the couple meaningful connections with people, Bonnie says.
The folk scene in New Zealand is relatively small with everyone supportive of each other, Bonnie says.
Pete says being invited into people’s homes has been like having extended family around.
And those people have taken time to show them their favourite local places. One person took them for an hour-long sight-seeing flight around Whangārei in his plane.
Covid opened doors to festival gigs
The dearth of international musicians in the country because of Covid has opened doors for Bonnie and Pete. Travelling nomadically in their van called Brian, they have played at summer festivals around the country including CubaDupa, TSB Festival of Lights, Resolution and Lunasa.
Living in the van helped with creativity, Bonnie says.
It has given “a gift of time”.
Fully self-contained, they have been able to park up wherever they liked and have enjoyed meeting many people.
Bonnie and Pete will be returning to Britain in October and are looking forward to seeing their families again.
The couple plan to return in the summer of 2023 and have been invited to perform at festivals around the country.
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To find out more about their upcoming performances and to buy tickets visit their website www.goodhabitsband.com