Songbird Pearly packing herself


A finalist in Queenstown’s new singer-songwriter contest says performing an original will be scary but exciting. 

For experienced performer Pearly McGrath, one of 12 finalists selected for the Song Stars extravaganza at Memorial Hall next month, it’ll be the first time she’s done one of her own numbers live. 

“I don’t know if I’m looking forward to that or not. It’s something I’d meant to do before but never tried – probably because I was too scared or didn’t trust my own ideas,” she says. 

“I’m really excited but it’s something I’m so scared of. It’s a chance to see if you’re any good.” 

McGrath, a member of local covers band Mojo, says her original is bit of a rocking, chant song. 

“I had about 10 ideas – that was the one I had the most ideas for and it was the most complicated and probably needed the most work,” the 27-year-old says. 

The performers put themselves at the mercy of the audience, which votes for their favourite song. Tickets for the shows on July 14, 15 and 16 go on sale this coming Monday. 

Song Stars is the brainchild of Margaret O’Hanlon who formerly produced Queenstown’s annual Starry Eyed contests, which involved entrants performing covers by famous artists.

Song Stars finalists

Chris Parvin
Writer, born Swansea, Wales. Queenstowner for 18 years. Co-wrote original musical Kitchens (1999), a major hit in Queenstown. Glanmor Table Tennis Club U13 boys champ (1975).




Peti Seiuli
Busker, musician, born and raised in Invercargill. Half-Samoan, half-English. Just finished his first CD recording. Prefers to go barefoot, even in winter. Claims his double-jointed fingers and elbows make playing the guitar easier.




James Rae
Student, 17, of Tapanui, Southland. Son of renowned country artist, Jeff Rae. Like Springsteen, he was born in the USA. Unlike The Boss, moved to Southland when he was six. His family own a dairy farm.



Ailsa Woods and Lindsay Woods
Dunedin-born Ailsa is ex-Waka-tipu High. A costume designer, seamstress, and pro muso with LA Social. Laughs just like Goofy. Lindsay’s a guitar teacher, graphic designer and pro muso with LA Social. Prides himself on doing “every accent known to mankind and some I made up”.



Katy McNeil
Busker, Queenstown-raised.  Qualified town planner and land surveyor, Katy has a residency playing at a Golf Coast club. Formerly a member of Queenstown Alpine Ski Team.




Katy Anderson
Fulltime mum, originally from Birmingham, UK and now a long-term Queenstowner. Won Queenstown’s Starry Eyed contest in 2006 as Delores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. Among her stranger habits is insisting on walking through the supermarket the same way every time.



Jazzmin Pearse
Student, 16, born across the ditch in Australia, and now of Athol, Southland. Won the Riversdale Stars in Their Eyes contest with rendition of a Duffy number. Last year, the good residents of Athol pulled together a fundraiser for Jazzmin so she could buy microphone and some sound gear for her career. Altogether now – awwww…. 


Sarah Foley
Wakatipu High student, born Auckland, daughter of long-term Queenstown residents Wayne and Julia Foley.  Recently won online competition to play on opening night of Queenstown’s Winter Festival. Twice ‘highly commended’ at Golden Guitars in Gore.



Max Gunn
Wakatipu High student, 17, born Switzerland, of Anglo-Indian roots. Won the Jump-Start Jazz Festival competition in 2009. Currently playing lead Danny Zuko in Wakatipu High production of Grease. Starred as Joe Rockstar in Arrowtown musical Rock and Roll Suicide.



Thomas Brinsley
Concierge at new Hilton Queenstown, busker, born in Rotorua, ex-Wakatipu High student and heir to local Brinsley family. Studied performing arts in Wellington. Performed in local productions Rock and Roll Suicide and Cribbies. In his spare time, enjoys putting on a dressing gown and talking like Sean Connery.


Nina, Junior and Maeva Kopa
Aged 13, 14 and 17 respectively. Born Auckland, lived in Dunedin, now of Tapanui, Southland. Children of Presbyterian minister.  Exceptionally talented. In spite of her well-mannered demeanor, Maeve confesses to obsessive-compulsive tendencies, insisting the volume (on anything) is set to an even number or a multiple of five. Junior started shaving at 13, while young Nina has never had a haircut.