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Multi-talented: Singer-songwriter, musician and composer Billie Carey

By CASS MARRETT

There aren’t many eight-year-olds who’ve had a musical composition arranged and played by members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, but Queenstowner Billie Carey has.

‘‘I was pretty young, so obviously it wasn’t the most complex thing, but it was kind of the first proper composition that I did.

‘‘Through really lucky connections … I was able to get it recorded and arranged by [American composer and conductor] Conrad Pope which was amazing and recorded by the NZ Symphony Orchestra, and that was kind of what kicked things, off because it inspired me to learn other instruments.’’

Now 16, Billie, a Wakatipu High student, sings and plays piano, guitar and flute.
She’s going from strength to strength in her fledgling music career, collecting accolades at national songwriting competitions.

Most recently she won the David Richwhite lyric award at the Play it Strange Lion Foundation songwriting competition with her song Dance With Me.

Lyric judge Sonya Hawkins said the song had ‘‘a real beauty in the words, both in a literal sense and metaphorically’’.

Billie says she loves sharing stories and emotion in her songwriting.

‘‘I think it’s beautiful how I can take music and work together to create something completely new.’’

It also helps her with the aches and pains of being a teenager.

‘‘I know that if I don’t write a song, and if I stop writing lyrics, then everything gets more stressful and worse, at school.

‘‘I deal with any kind of emotional stress through music.

‘‘The music department here [at WHS] is incredible and that’s how I’ve found a safe haven, and I’ve found my closest friends in my life.’’

A particularly heartfelt win for Billie was in the 2021 Play it Strange Youthtown songwriting competition where she submitted a song called Help me remember about her father, Dave Comer, who passed away when she was nine.

‘‘That one was really special because I’d been working on it for about a year-and-a-half, and I kept completely rewriting the lyrics … right before I submitted it for the competition, I decided that I wanted it to be about my dad.

‘‘He was a filmmaker and a location scout … he worked on things like The Hobbit.’’

Billie says she’s always been inspired by movies and now plans to pursue a career composing film scores.

‘‘I’ve always been fascinated by the way that a movie wouldn’t be a movie without the movie score.

‘‘There’s so much storytelling behind the music.’’

But, in the short term, Billie plans to keep submitting her work to competitions and hopes to release an EP later this year.

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz