Tessa’s in the machine


A newbie Queenstown muso’s voice is being compared to the flame-haired frontwoman from Florence and the Machine.

Tessa Lyes, 23, is originally from Hokitika, on the West Coast, but Queenstown has been home for 18 months.

Her style is a folksy-blues twist, which has led to comparisons with Brit Florence Welch.

That’s a huge compliment, she says, considering Welch is someone who’s an inspiration to her music.

First and foremost Lyes describes herself as an original artist, which isn’t easy in Queenstown because of the demands for covers.

So she’s taken to mixing original tunes with alternative arrangements of pop songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Tracey Chapman and Crowded House to The Killers.

“You can still do it in a way that’s rewarding for you and people enjoy that.”

She also uses gigs as a testing ground for new music.

“I haven’t been in Queenstown that long and it’s a good way to share my music. It gives people an idea of what my style is and gets my music out there. When I do have an original show hopefully it will create more interest.

“It’s good to see how the audience reacts to different songs, if they clap or cheer — it shows they are paying attention.”

Lyes trained classically which gives her a good foundation for writing music. She knows chord structures and song progressions through different key shifts. If she gets in a pickle she can take it back to the basics.

For her, lyrics come before notes. The concept of a song usually develops from a simple idea — maybe something said in passing, an article she’s read in a newspaper or a turn of phrase.

“I find a concept that will inspire me and then I jot it down in a little notebook. It is more of a natural thing — once I have an idea I find it easier to generate the rest of the song.”

Lyes released her debut EP Imaginary Lover in 2012 which was followed by Hook Line and Sinker last year.

She’s hoping to release an album in the next few months but has a few songs to polish off before it’s ready.

Tessa Lyes plays Pub on Wharf, Tuesday, 9pm