Queenstown singer-songwriter Mirai Brown’s been on a massive journey of self-discovery over the past few years.
Formerly known as Miki Brown, she’s officially changed her first name, shaved off her hair, embarked on a healing journey and taken a deep-dive into discovering what her ‘sound’ is.
And it’ll be revealed at an intimate gig at Sherwood’s Workroom tonight, called Kintsugi, better known as the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold.
When Brown tells you about the past three years, it’s clear the show’s name couldn’t be more apt.
After releasing her first EP, Amongst Mountains, in January 2020, Brown started dipping her toes into the festival scene before Covid arrived in New Zealand, managing to play a bunch of house and garden concerts up and down the country, thanks to ‘‘friends of friends’’, and in holiday parks before lockdown ‘‘stopped the flow’’.
A visit to Wellington in October, 2019, led to her relocating there later in August, 2020.
‘‘I had been to a gig there … and just saw a whole other layer of authenticity and creativity that is not only performed, but appreciated.
‘‘It really showed me where I wasn’t, maybe, stepping into my full, authentic self, so it was really inspiring and confronting — it was scary to be like, ‘what is my sound?’’’
She admits that question still stumps her, describing it now as ‘‘metaphorical story-telling through sound’’, but doesn’t know what genre you’d put it in.
Then, after a nine-month stint in Raglan she came back to the mountains for a week, for a one-off modelling shoot with Icebreaker.
But when Raglan went back into lockdown, she decided to stay in Queenstown where she’s been working on more music, under her new name, which she legally changed on her 30th birthday earlier this year.
She explains when ‘Mirai’ is written in Japanese Kanji, the Chinese character alphabet, there are two characters — ‘mi’ and ‘ki’.
While her mum, who is Japanese, had always thought if she had a daughter she’d name her ‘Mirai’, after she was born in Queenstown
her parents opted for ‘Miki’ because they thought it’d be easier to pronounce.
‘‘I’m very much the age my mum was when she left her country, left her language, left her culture, her family … and landed in this new
place,’’ she says.
‘‘I just saw this courage, to adopt a life somewhere else — the thought of that actually terrifies me.
‘‘I want to honour [Mirai] is what my mum wanted.
‘‘We live in a town, let alone a day and age, where I think it’s so important to maintain culture, or maintain integrity, when it’s so easy to let it slide.’’
When it comes to the decision to shave her head in February, Brown says it was ‘‘one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life’’, but something she’d thought about for years.
She says in her early school years her locks were the cause of bullying.
‘‘My mum doesn’t have curly hair, so she’d brush it and it’d be all frizzy and boofy and very different to what every other girl in class had.’’
When she was about 15, though, it started to get super-thick and curly and helped her gain modelling jobs, while also being coveted by others.
But, she says, it was always a ‘‘blanket’’ she’d been able to hide behind.
‘‘I’ve always wondered who I’d be without it.
‘‘[Shaving it] was scary, but it’s also been super-liberating, because without my hair I’ve had to discover the parts of my personality that I would hide.’’
It’s now growing out — she laughs she’s currently sporting a ‘‘mini-afro’’ — but she even sees that process as a metaphor.
‘‘It’s making me realise … internal growth is uncomfortable and it’s ugly.
‘‘Some things we can’t really hide … and that’s the journey I’m going on with my hair right now.’’
When it comes to Kintsugi, Brown says part of the Japanese art’s intention is to make something ‘‘more beautiful’’ and tell a story with it.
‘‘I feel like the last few years I’ve been going intentionally deeper into my own healing journey and I also see it in a lot of my friends who are opening up and going into that world of things.
‘‘It can be so easy to focus on where we could be better, or the things that haven’t gone well, or the way we would like it to be — I know, for myself, I can get stuck in a rabbit hole and get focused on the negative, but try to find a way to bring me back.
‘‘So I think, ‘what is the gold for me?’ — what is the stuff that brings me back together and makes me feel whole.’’
Brown says she’s never performed the show in this way before — the area will be set up to look like her bedroom, creating a more personal, vulnerable space to allow her to be herself.
‘‘This is somewhat the first time I’ll do this, and I don’t know when I’ll do it again,’’ she notes.
Mirai — Kintsugi, tonight, 7pm, The Workshop, Sherwood (R18). Tickets $25 via undertheradar.co.nz, $30 on the door