Country singer Jody Direen’s no marketing image.
The Wanaka pop star has earned her spurs as a cowgirl – living a semi-rural way of life behind the chart hits.
Recent top three single Tattoo, for example, was written four years ago after a particularly long shift on a dairy farm in Methven.
“I can remember coming home absolutely shattered but I managed to pick up the guitar,” she says.
“I was sitting on the floor, pieces of paper all around me – that was the first song I wrote from the new album.
“I got the guts of it down and then had a co-writing session in Australia with Randall Waller [Shania Twain’s touring lead guitarist], who helped me improve it.”
The feet-in-the-mud, reach-for-the-stars approach to life makes Direen the perfect fit to headline the New Zealand Rural Games concert Saturday night, alongside The Topp Twins and Kiwi music legend James Reid of The Feelers.
“I’ve always considered myself a rural girl” she says. “I’ve grown up riding horses, running around in the mountains – I’ve even got a degree in agriculture.”
She studied at Canterbury’s Lincoln University but a passion for music, nurtured by a musical grandma, was bubbling away even then, and she spent most weekends gigging with her guitar.
“I’m a very passionate person – everything at a million miles an hour, a 200 per center.
“So when I listen to music, I guess I’m quite sensitive to it.
“I really feel it and that has drawn me to being a singer. I get so much enjoyment out of it. That comes into song-writing as well. When I’m making a melody I’m free-styling and I’ll keep going until it feels good.
“And I get there when I feel it, and I’m like ‘that’s the chorus, it’s whatever lifts me emotionally.”
Direen has a new album Jody Direen Breaks Out out in April including three recent NZ Top 40 chart singles Tattoo, Loud and Mine.
She plans a balanced set of her own rock-and-pop-influenced country material and upbeat covers on Saturday.
“When people are hearing a new song for the first time it can be a little hard to get the groove, so I really want to add that element of some well-known covers.
“I like a dancing crowd. It’ll be an energetic performance.
“I’m so excited to be performing alongside James Reid, and I’ll be collaborating on a few tracks with The Topp Twins”
Queenstown Recreation Ground, Saturday, 7pm. Tickets $40 on the gate ($35 pre-sales), $20 child/ youth ($15), accompanied under-5s free. Full weekend pass (two days & concert) $65/$30.