• Hawke’s Bay Jazz singer finds silver lining in a pandemic year

Hawke’s Bay Jazz singer finds silver lining in a pandemic year

Lady Larisa’s debut EP has weathered the highs and lows of Covid-19 – born out of last year’s lockdown, another change in restrictions has forced its launch to be delayed.

Just days away from performing ‘Honeychild’ at Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre, under the umbrella of the 2021 Napier Art Deco Festival, the jazz singer made the tough call to postpone her show when organisers announced the event would be cancelled.

“It’s been intense because I’ve spent so many hours preparing for my show with the band, and preparing to release my EP, so it’s all been a project that I was very much looking forward to having
occur at the same time as the Art Deco Festival,” Larisa said.

It was one of five performances that were cancelled in what is usually the independent artist’s busiest week of the year. The cancellation has had both an emotional and financial impact. 

“There’s a financial and emotional impact of this happening. For me, I’m a professional musician, this is all I do for a living and so definitely it has an impact,” she said.

“It has been a rollercoaster, but having said that, I do understand safety first and I do understand the position of the Art Deco Trust.”

She does not question the timing of the decision but acknowledges it was “unfortunate” nonetheless.

“It’s a hard decision to make and I know that they wouldn’t have enjoyed making it, but I mean when it comes down to it you’ve got to err on the side of safety.”

However, she says the support she has received in the wake of the announcement has been incredible.

“It’s nice how the community has bonded and got together, and it’s actually been amazing how many messages and kind comments I’ve received.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, Larisa, whose real name is Larisa Kellett, returned to the region in 2016 after almost three decades abroad.

Since returning to the region, she has made a name for herself as Lady Larisa, a glamorous, vintage-styled songstress who performs jazz and blues standards.

Her aim is to contribute to the New Zealand Jazz scene with original material.

While she has always loved music, Larisa started her professional life in New Zealand working in Radio, before moving to Los Angeles and Costa Rica where she ran non-profit conservation organisation Earthrace, founded by Kiwi Pete Bethune.

In the four years she has embarked on a professional career in music, Larisa has opened for Michael Bublé at his only New Zealand concert, and performed internationally.

“When I got here, I realised that there was an opportunity for me to go full time with music and dedicate myself to it, especially being in the jazz genre with our Art Deco and wineries.”

“It just grew really quickly and next thing you know I was travelling all round New Zealand doing gigs. It’s gone really well except for the Covid-19 interruptions which have been brutal.”

The inspiration for the Honeychild EP, with songs about love, comfort, and change, came during the Alert Level Four Lockdown in March last year.

“During lockdown, I noticed that there were a lot of people who were starting to have depression and mental health issues and even myself I found it challenging at times, so I started writing.”

Creative New Zealand supported the project produced by Thomas Oliver and recorded with a live band on vintage equipment and through an analogue desk at The Armoury in Wellington in July.

“That’s all very old school but I wanted it to have that sort of mojo – that vibe, rather than the full digital sound and that’s also why I got it pressed in vinyl.”

Two singles have already been released. This latest lockdown has also inspired further songs.

“I’ve just written another one and I feel like I am in quite a writing mode at the moment. When things get a little bit emotional or intense, it’s amazing how the creative juices start to flow.”

She hopes people will get behind her for her show in May and come along. She and her band have continued rehearsals and hope the extra time will make it an even better show.

“There is always a silver lining and we'll stay positive and make it an absolutely beautiful show.”

Lady Larisa & Band ‘Honeychild’ will now perform at Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre on May 8, 2021. For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here