Small-town girl heading for the big time

Rising folk star’s album will come as a surprise to many.

By Paula Yeoman - The NZ Herald

Holly Arrowsmith's debut album For The Weary Traveller is honest and heartwarming, an accomplished body of work you'd assume the young folk singer had spent a significant chunk of her 21 years poring over.

But she first picked up the guitar at 15 and has been making music full-time for only three years. In fact, Arrowsmith expects many will be taken by surprise when they hear about her chosen career path.

"My mum said she never heard me sing as a child. And at high school, I didn't do musicals, I didn't sing at assemblies.

"Most people didn't even know I played guitar. I think for the people I went to school with, this will be really weird, like 'What? Holly's got an album out?'"

Arrowsmith's songs, which draw heavily on folk with touches of country, are largely influenced by her natural surroundings in the South Island, where she grew up.

This year she and her husband Mike moved to the North Island. "The opportunities had run a bit dry in Queenstown and I thought it was time to challenge myself," she says, adding that though it was hard moving away from family and friends, she's now happily settled in Auckland.

"Mike is from Milton and I'm from Arrowtown, so we're not city people. We thought Mt Maunganui would be a good middle ground.

"But we got there and after a week we realised it's pretty much the Queenstown of the North Island, so we just got back in the van and came to Auckland. It just felt too comfortable.

"And Auckland's not bad. You get these stereotypes, especially in the South Island, but I don't find it that different here. I think it's all about the people you have around you. That makes all the difference. It's a really cool city."

Arrowsmith credits helpful friends in the industry for her success so far. But it's clear that sheer determination and self-belief have also played a part in why she's now touted as one of Kiwi folk's rising stars.

"From the minute I decided that this is what I wanted to do, I've believed it was going to work. There have been a few moments of doubt, like, 'I need to go to university and get a real job', but never enough to go out and do it," she says.

"For me it's all or nothing. If you launch yourself completely into something and you don't have a back-up plan and anything to fall back on, you are more likely to keep going."