19-year-old Hinenui-Terangi Tairua’s moniker, A.GIRL, is a bit of a misnomer. She might be young, but her voice is decidedly mature. Listening to her music, it’s immediately clear that she’s an old soul. Her family are from Te Hapua, New Zealand and while she was born in Sydney, she feels a strong connection to her Aotearoa roots. She was raised in a music-obsessed household listening to lots of Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, and Blackstreet, all artists that still influence her sound today. Now based in Western Sydney—a hotbed of up-and-coming rap and hip-hop artists—Hinenui-Terangi’s not wasting any time getting her music out there.
She released her debut single ‘2142’ earlier this year and comparisons to SZA, Jhene Aiko, and Jorja Smith came in thick and fast, and now she’s followed it up with ‘Play’, a sultry and smoky contemporary R&B groove. To top off her impressive 2019, she was recently announced as the winner of the Triple J Unearthed Listen Out competition, where she got the chance to take the stage at the Sydney festival. Surprisingly, it was her first festival, not just as an artist, but as a spectator. Just quietly, we’re guessing it won’t be her last on either front.
Hey A.GIRL! Tell us about yourself and how you got into making music.
I’m nineteen years old from Western Sydney—the beautiful streets of 2142 in South Granville. My family is everything to me and I’m incredibly proud of my Maori heritage. I started my singing career in a reggae band when I was 11 years old with my uncles. We rehearsed every weekend, practicing songs and sets and before I knew it, we were performing local gigs. I did my first proper gig at a nightclub in the city opening for a well-known New Zealand reggae band, 1814.
You wrote your latest single ‘Play’ with your mum and sister—what was that experience like? Do you prefer working collaboratively?
I love working with my sister and sometimes my Mum. They both understand what I’m trying to say since they know everything about me, so it feels like three different sides of myself having some input in the process. My sister and I often laugh at our mum’s use of slang, but she can handle it. My little sister’s vocabulary and knowledge is crazy, so she’s my go to.
Who were you listening to a lot of growing up? Are there any standout artists or albums that you still regularly listen to today?
Music in my family is as important as air, so I literally listened to everything growing up, but I’ll choose the four that I remember best.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I still listen to this weekly, I use it as a guide to my life sometimes. When I want to sing this is my go-to.
Blackstreet – Blackstreet
As a child if I woke up on Saturday and this was playing, that meant we were
cleaning up everything on the planet. However, great memories of my Mum rapping like a crazy fool and now it gets played once a month on clean-up day.
Bob Marley (any album)
Still bumps daily in my house, the rhythmic melodies have a very calming effect on me. The message in his music is relevant in any country, in any time, any space and any generation. THANK YOU Robert Nesta Marley.
Destiny’s Child – The Writing’s on the Wall
Ok, last but definitely not least, as a female this makes me feel empowered and makes me want to shake my a$$.
You were the winner of Triple J’s Listen Out festival competition for Sydney. What was that experience like? Any highlights?
This was my first ever festival, even as an audience member, so to be performing and hanging backstage in the artist compound was absolutely mind-blowing. For some reason it felt like where I was meant to be. I’m very spiritual so I felt so connected to the whole experience. Standouts include speaking with Doja Cat, [I] had some photos with her, and told her like an awkward idiot about how her music has changed me. I feel like I’m super awkwardly shy sometimes, so it took me a lot to approach her, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity! I got to have a deep and meaningful conversation with Denzel Curry about star signs and he was analysing everyone, it was great! I chilled with ChillinIT for a bit, caught up with 24 Karat Kev and the Triple One boys—they have crazy energy. Did so much more but having a smoke side stage watching ScHoolboy Q, that was another level of world experience. All of this [and] I got to do it with my band and family. They’ve been my day ones and we all experienced this first one together️. Nothing beats family.
I know that The Weeknd’s Trilogy compilation album was really formative for you. Can you tell us a bit about how it impacted you?
The impact this album has had on me is profound. I’m only 19 but in this short time I have experienced both extreme happiness and extreme sad times—death and depression have surrounded me from the age of 7. Loss, grief, and pain was my normal, so Trilogy has been my blanket of comfort through it all. Back then when I first found Trilogy, I was sad all the time, now it’s like only on a Thursday.
What’s it like coming up as an artist in Western Sydney? What makes it different?
In Western Sydney we don’t have the facilities to be creative, so we have to make do with what we have. My family and I have had to hustle for everything, it isn’t always pretty or the million-dollar lifestyle, but it’s real.
Who are some other local artists we should check out?
For me I have this A-list of local artists that I all love equally: Cult Shotta, Free Souls, Isaac Puerile, and Bea Moon. Besides the fact they’re my friends, I think they’re really talented and I really respect their craft. I connect with them and for me that’s what music is about—connection.
What’s in store for you for the rest of 2019?
Right now, I feel like I’m exploring a new me on a personal level, so that is going to have a huge impact on my music. I’m connecting with new and different people, breaking out of this bubble I’ve had around me, and I think I’ll spend the rest of this year writing a lot, releasing some new music, and just trying to be an all round good person.
For more on A.GIRL follow her here.