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Legendary Kiwi singers hit the road

Three of New Zealand's "music matriarchs" reveal the secret to their longevity.

They’ve been writing and performing for decades and had a profound effect on the New Zealand music industry.

This month music matriarchs Shona Laing, Debbie Harwood and Sharon O’Neill will take to the stage in churches around New Zealand, with Hammond Gamble, for the annual Church Tour.

The Australian Women’s Weekly went to church with the trio to catch up before the tour.

Debbie Harwood

Best known for: When the Cats Away, winner of Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1985

Most recently released album: Soothe Me

Currently: Lives in Hastings, is writing and recording songs with her ‘band of gold’

“I didn’t initially find it hard as a woman in the industry… I thought that everyone was paying attention because of the music and my voice but when you hit about 35 you realise that attention was really because you were pretty or young at the time, and that is very sobering. But you hit an age where you go ‘oh right, its back down to me, if I am going to make music I am going to just to have to do it myself’.”

Sharon O’Neill

Best known for: Maxine, Words, Asian Paradise, winner of New Zealand’s top female vocalist three years running.

Most recently released album: Words: The Very Best of Sharon O’Neill

Currently: Lives in Cronulla with partner Alan Mansfield (of Dragon fame). Sharon plays in tribute shows in Australia, is a regular in When the Cat’s Away performances. She and Alan have been recording together and plan to release an EP soon.

“The key to my longevity is… having that lifelong passion as a songwriter where you just can’t stop a song coming. I think when you get to the point where that stops, then do something else – but that hasn’t happened yet. You get ideas and you run across to the keyboard and then when that culminates in a tour of sorts, it is just the bee’s knees.”

Shona Laing

Best known for: 1905, Glad I’m not a Kennedy, Lifetime Achievement Award at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2013

Most recently released album: Pass the Whisper

Currently: Lives in Waihi, has two albums in the making. One of ‘straight up Shona rock’ and another of Celtic influenced guitar songs.

“If we all had our lives again… it would be no holds barred, no being embarrassed, no being shy, wear black nail polish, bugger it. If we were going to do it again we would do it right, rather than trying to be all things to all people, because so often that was what it was like.”

The 2016 Church Tour runs from September 20 to October 1. Click here for more information.

In the October edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly, out now, Nicola Russell meets the trio, looks at how it was, how it is now and the legacy they have created.

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