There are two approaches to a debut single: you can come strutting out to seize your moment, like the confident D.C. Maxwell, or you can be more cautious, believing in your song’s ability to linger in a new listener’s mind, which is the approach favoured by Babe Martin.
Both approaches have their merits – instant gratification versus delayed appreciation – and there’s a diffident beauty to Babe Martin’s curiously-titled “Knocked for Six in BHX”*.
Babe Martin is the musical project of Tāmaki Makaurau singer-songwriter Zoë Larsen Cumming, who spent several years promoting rising Aotearoa talent on 95bFM and is now ready to explore her own artistic ability.
Her debut single is gentle and reserved, possessing a sparse sound that affords plenty of space for stillness. Mostly it’s just hesitant keys, haunting swells of cello (played by Antonia Barnett McIntosh) and Cumming’s fragile voice, but the tender simplicity leaves you feeling strangely captive.
The slowness feels purposeful – Cumming’s song is about the emotional upheaval involved in visiting family in another country.
“At its core it’s about living apart from people that you love and the inevitable goodbye after a catch up,” she explains. “It’s about family, airports, and old feelings you’ve not felt in a while sneaking up on you when you least expect.
“Growing up I travelled back and forth between Ngunnawal Country (Canberra, Australia) and Tāmaki Makaurau, so there were lots of goodbyes and hellos. “Knocked for Six in BHX” describes having that airport feeling I had as a child sneak up on me as an adult.”
In the song’s stillness, the push and pull of family and home lurks. “Where’s my sister? / Where’s my brother?” Cumming whispers despondently, hushed words that will be keenly felt by anyone separated by distance from their dearest.
Jazmine Mary explored similar thematic territory on their latest single “Wet Mouth” – albeit with a far more cynical perspective – and Mary helped their fellow singer-songwriter create “Knocked for Six in BHX” as part of NZ On Air’s New Music Development programme.
“Jazmine is incredible to work with,” Cumming says. “I’d drive out to their little blue house on the coast in Parau every Wednesday afternoon, offer them a crunchy bar that they would politely decline, I’d eat said crunchy bar, and then we’d make music.
“I trust them and their own creative style absolutely and having their guidance on these songs really helped them materialise into what they’re meant to be.”
“Knocked for Six in BHX” will feature on Babe Martin’s upcoming debut EP, The Versoix, which will be out in September. Before then, she can be heard at Auckland’s Nice Goblins HQ on June 24th for a joint single release with K M T P (ticket information here).
Babe Martin’s “Knocked for Six in BHX” is out now. The Versoix is out digitally on September 7th via Sunreturn.
*(If BHX refers to the airport code for Birmingham, then it surely makes Babe Martin’s song the prettiest to ever be written about an English airport.)