By HUGH COLLINS
Like most of us, Sofia Machray has spent the last seven weeks complying with the national Covid-19 lockdown.
But this was never going to stop last Friday’s release of her debut single, Handstands.
The Arrowtown songwriter and guitarist describes the track as an “80s indie-pop summer classic which pulls on the heartstrings of pure melodrama”.
“I wrote the bones of the song in my garden one afternoon, I then took it to my band to help me piece together the rest of the puzzle,” the 20-year-old says.
With influences like Amy Winehouse and Gin Wigmore, she says she always ends up with two versions of her songs – a solo piece along with a collaborated version written with her four-piece band.
“One is very intimate and one is very fun.”
Despite having spent the last few years living in Wellington, Machray made the last-minute call in March to ride out the lockdown in her family home in Arrowtown.
“It was quite a hectic time-frame,’’ she says of making the Cook Strait ferry in time for the start of Alert Level 4.
The strange days of Covid-19 have certainly put a few of Machray’s musical dreams on hold – her band had a New Zealand tour booked for this year, along with plans to finish and release an EP.
But it’s clear her time back south hasn’t gone to waste.
“I spend my days walking and do a lot of writing and letting my creative mind breathe a little bit.
“I find myself going back and doing a lot of old projects that had kind of been abandoned and finishing them.”
Like many musicians at the moment, Machray’s been live streaming on social media during lockdown, but it’s no replacement for live performances.
“I found it really strange because I could see everyone was there on my screen, but also it’s like they’re not there … it felt like I was talking to myself almost.”
Born and raised in the Wakatipu Basin, Machray first picked up a guitar after receiving one for her sixth birthday.
However it wasn’t until she started high school that she began to utilise her vocal chords.
“Before that I would always kind of hide away and when mum and dad weren’t home I would sing and play guitar but I wouldn’t let anyone know,” she laughs.
At Wakatipu High School she was encouraged to enter the Smokefreerockquest – a national competition which saw her take out three different awards across three years, including best solo artist for the Otago region.
She’s now in her final year of a Bachelor of Commercial Music at Massey University.
“From high school I didn’t really have any musical friends because no one was really doing it as such.
“Once I got to Massey it was overwhelming with the amount of people and friends that were all musical.”
When asked what keeps her productive and inspired, she uses the metaphor of a “rusty tap”.
“If you stop writing then it’s going to be harder to get back into it as such.
“It’s like keeping that tap dripping even if it’s just stupid ideas, a silly little sentence that you write down, eventually that could actually become something.”