Maxwell thrilled to win Songstars


It was a case of local boy made good when Queenstown-raised musician Tom Maxwell won the Songstars contest in Arrowtown at the weekend.

Maxwell, 27, a full time musician based in Dunedin, was named winner of the fifth instalment of the contest by an independent judging panel on Saturday night.

He was one of 10 artists who performed original songs over three consecutive nights to near sellout audiences at the Arrowtown Hall.

Jazzmin Pearse, 20, of Athol, won the People’s Choice Award.

Maxwell says it’s a thrill to win a high-quality contest in front of a crowd that included plenty of family and friends.

“Everyone was so good in this – it was a great competition and a pleasant surprise to have my name called out at the end,” he says.  

His prize is to have his blues folk style song Bad Dreams professionally recorded and videoed.

He formed his band, the Killergrams, with Joseph Bishop last year and the pair recently released a debut EP So In The Night.

Contest producer Margaret O’Hanlon says the judges were surprised by the quality on show.

“I think they didn’t expect it to be such a high calibre and as polished as it was – they found it very difficult to choose.”

Maxwell had brought a “really high standard of dedication, songcraft, performance” to the contest.

“He’s a brilliant instrumentalist, a beautiful singer and a very exciting performer to watch.”

People’s Choice Award winner Pearse had a voice that “blew everybody away”.

“I think it will be a great springboard for her, because I think there’s a little dilemma in her head about whether or not it’s possible or reasonable for her to make music her career.”

The judging panel consisted of Rippon Music Festival founder director Lynne Christie, of Wanaka; University of Otago contemporary music lecturer John Egenes and Tom Tom Productions managing director Tom Lynch, of Arrowtown.


Industry Choice: Tom Maxwell, 1; Paul Shipman, 2; Theo Baumfield and Mike Kennedy, 3.

People’s Choice: Jazzmin Pearse, 1; Tom Maxwell, 2; Fee Stephenson, 3.