The History Of Bic Runga’s ‘Drive’

Iconic Kiwi songwriter Bic Runga is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album ‘Drive’, which originally catapulted her into being one of New Zealand’s top selling artists at the tender age of 20.

Spinoff writer Hussein Moses interviewed a bunch of the people who were involved in the album’s creation, including Bic and her sister Boh, engineer Karl Steven, former Sony exec Paul Ellis, and the bandmates involved in the recording process.

The result is an up-close-and-personal glimpse at making a piece of Kiwi music history.

Runga explains that after being signed to her record label as a teenager, “No one at Sony was quite sure what to do with me. I was quite an awkward person, but also a weird combination of being unable to express myself and also sure of what I was doing. I guess I didn’t know how to speak up in a way.”

The label had originally decided to get international producers on board for the album, before realising the vibe wasn’t right. Paul Ellis remembers the moment when the team decided to, “just let her do the album by herself. Just let her do what she wants to do.”

Legend has it, much of the recording was done in her flat, and Runga wore her pajamas and duvet on vocals day because she felt more comfortable. At the age of 20, she wrote, performed and called all the shots on her debut album.

She also explained, after being given the role to produce ‘Drive’, “I learned the hard way how to speak up for myself because I had to go through this quite long process. It’s like when you go to a photo shoot and someone’s putting a wig on you and some really weird makeup and you still can’t speak up. I had a lot of that too. I remember going to one photo shoot in Australia and the stylist saying to me ‘oh, I love your hair, I’m going to make it look like a baby monkey’s’. So you’ve got to learn how to speak up at some point.”

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