I wrote the foreword to Jan Hellriegel’s new book/album – in my defense I thought I was writing ‘Liner Notes’ – which is fine, the foreword to the book is still part of the liner-notes to the album…you see Jan contacted me and told me she wanted to send me her new album. I think I offered to write the liners, I can’t quite remember how it worked – but then she hinted at ‘more than just an album’ and was keen for me to write something. So I did. And now it’s the foreword to her book! I’ve read the book – you’ll be able to as well, in a month or so – pre-order now. You’re either buying a brand new album (which is terrific) with a whole book in support of it (a memoir/philosophy). Or you’re buying Jan’s “Suburban Philosophy” with accompanying soundtrack. Anyway, with the author and songwriter’s permission – and as a teaser of sorts, here below is my foreword to Jan’s book.
Owed To The Promise:
My favourite type of pop music is that written by outliers – people that don’t necessarily have the ‘formal training’ of aren’t part of the machine, but through their self-taught ways, their grit, their gumption – and huge abilities, and desire to communicate, to create – they have an instinct, an innate skill to make the best kind of ‘pop’ music. It’s true to who they are. It moves me. Hopefully it moves you too.
I think of Phil Judd. Shining example. I think of Dave Dobbyn – huge anthems, but there’s dark and weird stuff from ol’ DD too. I think of Chris Knox with his four-track, crusty guitar and drum-machine, his jandals not just a part of his brand, but a member of the band…
I think of Leila Adu. And Patti Smith. And Suzanne Vega…
There are many. (And then again, there are only a few).
We love music and we have our heroes. Just as I want more people in the world to hear Paul Ubana Jones, I look forward, always, to music by Jan Hellriegel.
When I first heard her – from out of nowhere (I’d later find out about the early bands, the formative Dunedin musical education…) – it was life-changingly good. It was “New Zealand Music” and there was no cringe. It was simply good music. Great music. She had a look. And a feel. A sound. She had tunes. Boy, did this girl have tunes!
And she still does. A hell of a voice delivering songs that come from the angels. Hard-fought songs. They stick around. Jan lets them ruminate. She doesn’t rush. But they find their way into your head and your heart all at once. And as soon as you hear them you feel like you’ve always known them.
At the core of it, for me, is believability.
In the early 1990s Jan’s music meant the world to me. Two albums that were both uniquely of their time and yet they felt like they were being beamed into my ears from another planet. New worlds. New great songs that felt like forever-classics. They sounded like that then. And now.
The big break never – really – came. The big break was – in fact – time out from music. A life. A family. The need to provide. But the songs never left her. They just hid from us for a while…
And then, in style, Jan delivered. Once again. A new song-cycle, with those wonderful phrases, and that delectable phrasing. A deluxe edition package; a vinyl LP with CD and booklet. It was something to hold – literally. And the music was so much to behold. Under her spell once again.
I’m told, by Jan herself, that my belief in her, that my belief in that album and in her music was a big part of her story. She says I’m part of her journey….
And, well, that’s lovely. I’m blushing. No, really. But, c’mon! Jan this music you make is the journey. And its’s yours. And we’re lucky and grateful that you share it when you do. And it’s always worth every step. And all of the footsteps and any of the heartbreak or headaches. And it arrives, seemingly fully formed. A big and brave new world of music.
And look! (And listen!) She’s done it again.
You’re one of my heroes Jan. May this music you make never stop. May you take your time and make it your own way always. Oblivious to trends, uninterested in genre or gender or tropes or trolls. Just making it as you can. Just making it work. Doing the work. Delivering.
Here then, Ms. Hellriegel, until the next time, is your new career-best.