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Back from the brink

The Covid-19 pandemic might have disrupted global shipping lines, cancelled festivals and kept Aucklanders locked away, but live music is not dead.

Music returns this Saturday when softly spoken, raspy groove-man, Michael Llewellyn takes over The Dome.

Llewellyn and his band are supported by the wonderful Violet Hirst and local muso Seaver.

The tour comes on the back of Llewellyn's album release, Oh My Darling. The album is a wander through his dreamy head as he was holed up at home with a broken body.

“I was snowboarding professionally . . . and by 17 I couldn't sleep on one side of my body because I had such bad back pain.

“Then I moved to Dunedin because I was like, ‘I'll go to uni and I'll stop throwing myself off massive icy cliffs. I thought I'd go study, maybe become a teacher or something.”

But instead of relaxing, he got into surfing.

A new sport, coupled with a debaucherous scarfie life at the University of Otago, his body declined further.

“I was a little shit. Cheating on girlfriends, then surfing was putting a lot of strain on my back. I was just pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing. I wasn't treating my mind, body or soul very well.”

That's when Llewellyn was forced to retreat back home to Taranaki.

“I just completely locked up . . . I couldn't do anything, and that's when the writing started.”

His recovery took him through a journey of healing and learning to live in harmony with his body rather than trashing it.

“For a year I was unable to do anything physical . . . I couldn't lift my arm above my head so I had to move home.”

Llewellyn said he saw plenty of people after university going through the same emotional crash coming out of Dunedin.

“So many of my friends described this two-year recovery. A lot of my friends rolled into stress and anxiety or physical pain, and just needed time to recoup.”

But it was his crash that brought him the time and energy to focus his attention on music.

“In that space all the energy that would have gone into surfing went into writing poetry and words, and that led to music.”

The album has been years of hard work.

He started writing when he was in recovery, wrote various parts of the musical composition, and then gathered a group of friends to perform and record the songs.

Llewellyn got into music from a young age.

“I definitely grew up in a musical household. My father plays a lot, he's a great singer and has his own musical projects going.

“I played piano when I was younger and a bit of guitar. But I was always fascinated by sports — I would have never called myself a musician.”

Once sports were gone, music was the replacement.

“It was out of necessity, my mind needed something to fixate on or enjoy. That's where it really came in, learning how to write songs, learning how to record.

He wrote different sections for each of the songs and just needed to find players.

Then he moved to Wellington a couple of years ago, a city infested with musicians, and found friends who fitted the bill. Now Llewellyn has an album in his hands and a tour to boot.

After playing with different musicians the right band has finally come together, including Gisborne's own James Morgan on guitar.

“James has been with me from the start,” said Llewellyn.

“It's an amazing group of musicians and we are really good friends.”

Llewellyn said the madness of youth can help create great music.

“When I was figuring out songs, I think there's a young naivety and playfulness. You don't really know what you're doing, and in that space there's beauty. It can be very simple and true.

“Music can be so simple, with only one or two chords . . . but it feels so good.”

Michael Llewellyn performs at The Dome this Saturday, doors open 8pm. Tickets $22.50+bf from undertheradar.co.nz

BROKEN BUT BETTER: After putting his body through the wringer, Michael Llewellyn wrote an album and is now taking his music on tour, playing at The Dome this Saturday. Picture by Isabella Smith
Michael Llewellyn Credit Isabella Smith