Please tell us your story! How did you get to where you are today?
Kia ora, thank you for asking and for inviting in to this space amongst so much talent.
My story comes to you from Aotearoa (NZ). It all started at high school. I would hire a hall, hire some bands, sell hand-made tickets and put on parties. That’s how I funded myself to be an exchange student to California at 16. There I was exposed to so much music including the Grateful Dead, Santana and Nirvana live; gigs that made a huge impact on my love of music.
After that I came home and studied Māori tourism and performing arts before moving to Māori Radio.
I then went on to working at one of Auckland’s then largest venues as a Sales & Marketing Manager, overseeing and creating events. I had the most wonderful mentor, Sally Mandler – she owned the venue and taught me so much about business and how to deal with people. One night we’d be hosting the NZ Ballet, the next night a televised boxing fight, the next night a school ball with a thousand kids and the next night the Neville Brothers.
At 26, I left for the UK for 6 months and didn’t come back to NZ for nearly 11 years. While there I got a job working in the luxury drinks sector, dining at Michelin starred restaurants, racing Ferraris around Goodwood or flying to Northern Italy for wine tasting sessions were my norm. In my spare time I was working with musicians or would have a flat full of touring NZ artists.
After returning to NZ, I was invited to Wellington to work alongside Fat Freddy’s Drop Manager. I was up for a change but the one thing I didn’t want to do was to be a music manager – that didn’t work out for me so well. That was my introduction to the NZ music industry. I worked with Fat Freddy’s Drop and a roster of other artists for 2.5 years before heading out on my own and started Aston Rd.
At one point I was managing four independent acts, but that took a toll and one day I decided that my health and well-being was more important so I reduced my roster down to one and pursued other interests in the industry.
Tell us about your business and role, what does your day-to-day entail?
I have a number of different roles; first and foremost I’m an artist manager, managing Louis Baker. Louis is independent which means we do/are everything. Right now we’re releasing a record and going on tour. So it’s on!
Alongside of this I mentor and coach artists, am on the Exec Committee for the MMF NZ (similar to AAM), a Senior Lecturer at Massey University – the College of Creative Arts teaching the Artist Development Paper – and I work on special projects, everything from releasing other acts records to producing shows.
All of this means I spend a lot of time going between projects in a day and no two days are the same.
Who are your role models in the industry, be they international or local?
I think anyone who is courageous enough to be a contractor, self-employed or an entrepreneur within the creative sector is a role model to me.
Also, artists. They put their heart and soul in to their craft and they have to work hard, have a ton of resilience and self-belief in a highly competitive and demanding industry.
Where do you go to see shows and who are some local artists you’d recommend we keep an eye on?
I’ll be honest I definitely don’t go to gigs like I used too. In saying that I’m off to three gigs this week, all of them seated – haha.
If I were to be heading out to discover music in Wellington I’d head to the Rogue and Vagabond, there’s a thriving live creative music scene there and for DJs, I’d be heading to the 121 Club.
Keep an eye out for my students – Haven and Luca George, plus Clear Path Ensemble, Gee Clifford and of course, Louis Baker.
If you could work alongside an Australian artist that you have yet to work with, which artist would that be?
I love Sampa The Great, incredible vision and point of view.
What is your big picture career goal?
Aston Rd, my business, was born out of wanting to support talent.
My father unfortunately passed away at the young age of 54 due to cancer. He was an artist, a sculptor with so much talent, a true creative. He didn’t have a manager or agent to support that talent, and in many ways he remained the struggling artist. For the last remaining years of his life he was drawn to Coober Pedy of all places – there he chased the dream of finding the colour (opal) so that he could make his fortune for his family back in Aotearoa (NZ). But I also think the land, its sparseness, the red dirt, the vast blue skies and the openness drew him in.
Among being a contributor to the community by volunteering for the Mines Rescue and the Ambulance service he also left a legacy for his children. If you go there now you will see my father’s sculptures across the town and in honour of his contribution they named a road after him, Aston Rd.
And because of him the thing I most value in my work is making sure I do my part to support talent in some way. I know that life is brief, I gave up on the ego of what success looks like a long time ago. I want that for others but for me, I just want to know that at the end of the day I am satisfied that I gave in life.
How do you unwind when you’re stressed?
100% nature for me! I’m lucky enough to live a three minute walk to the beach so I’ll take off for a walk by the sea or amongst the trees.
I’m also a big believer in focused breathing and have a bunch of tools and techniques I use to rewire a stressed brain. And let’s not forget the health benefits of a quality dark chocolate.
What has been the best gig that you’ve ever seen?
That’s such a hard one, far too many, I feel spoilt when I think about it actually. BUT if there was a dream gig that I think would be the best gig I’d ever see, it would be Sade.
What does the rest of 2021 hold for you? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
Lots more on the cards for Louis which will keep us busy for the rest of the year and into 2022.
I’m currently studying the NZ Certificate in Māori Business & Management, and am an accredited certified life coach.
Last year I completed a Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) during lockdown and all of these will play a part in how my business is looking to evolve over the next year.
I’m super passionate about the influence we can have over our mental, spiritual and physical well-being by using tools and techniques from both of these models alongside self-coaching.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Rickie Lee Jones’ Chuck E’s In Love.
I have absolutely no idea why I know all of these lyrics but I do. Growing up as a ’70s kid I totally loved Rickie’s swagger on this track and also the resolve in the songwriting.