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Up-And-Coming Aotearoa Artists: CRYSTAL

We get to know CRYSTAL, a Auckland-based pop artist looking to impress in 2024 and beyond



Crystal Amor-Ponter, better known as CRYSTAL, captures the growing pains of being in your early 20s with refreshing honesty. 

Across her second EP, aptly titled Dead Ends, the Wellington-born, Auckland-based singer-songwriter and producer blends pop, electronic, indie, and trap influences, thoughtfully articulating the daily struggles she’s faced since moving cities and transitioning into adulthood.

The concise four-track collection captures the grind we all know too well, filled with mundane yet consuming tasks, from juggling hospitality work to shifting flats. 

Collaborating with local producer Joel Jones (MACEY, Alayna) and performing live shows, including supporting Sam Cullen’s EP release at Whammy Bar last month, CRYSTAL is fully establishing herself in the Auckland music scene. Her introspective, diary-like lyrics and captivating vocals mark her as a talent to watch.

Following the recent release of her new video for the song “Pressure” (check out the ’90s-inspired clip below), Rolling Stone AU/NZ thought it was the ideal time to get to know her better. Read our full conversation with CRYSTAL below.

CRYSTAL’s Dead Ends EP is out now.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ:  How did music influence you in your early life?’

CRYSTAL: My family isn’t musical, but when I was growing up my dad always had a CD playing in the car. He had a little booklet you could flick through, full of CDs collected over the years which I would slowly make my way through – from Sade and Regina Spektor to Crystal Gayle. When I was at primary school, I was introduced to Kapa Haka and choir and that solidified my love for music and performance. 

What artists influenced you growing up?

I really loved Lily Allen when I was growing up. But when I started high school, I discovered Lorde’s song “Royals” on the radio. It was so new at that point, it hadn’t officially been released, so I had to download a random podcast just to listen again. She has this effortlessly cool way about her, where she’s somehow able to make mundane normality super captivating and relatable.

Her debut album Pure Heroine really stuck with me as a teenager because of her unique, unfiltered perspective of being a teenager in NZ. I’d never heard a song about fearing growing up, or loving a road where the houses don’t change, but it felt so real to experience. She’s a big part of why I felt compelled to pursue a career in music.

How do you find it being an independent artist in New Zealand?

It’s definitely challenging. You have to wear a lot of hats, and you have to be very self-motivated and passionate about your art to sustain it. I’m fully self-managed and independent, so it’s definitely a love/hate relationship, but it’s a great feeling to know that everything I’ve accomplished, I’ve done on my own.

How has the move from Wellington to Auckland been? How are you finding the city’s music scene?

The first year was definitely tough. I moved up a year after I finished my commercial music degree hoping to get a job in the industry. I kept getting rejected from jobs because I didn’t have enough experience, so I stayed as a barista in Auckland. Then lockdown hit again and everything just got harder and harder. In a beautiful way, music was my silver lining through all of this. I met my producer Joel Jones and started writing explicitly about my life – songs that were so specific to what I was experiencing, which I’d never really heard in pop music.

Now that I’ve been here over two years, the music scene in Auckland has definitely grown on me. There’s a ridiculous amount of talent, and there’s always something happening. It’s an exciting place to be!

Are you excited about releasing your new EP?

Yeah absolutely! I’ve been chipping away at it for two years now, so it’s exciting that it’s almost here. Over this period, I’ve really grown into myself and my art more than ever, and I’m proud of what Dead Ends represents and means for young people like me, with big dreams trying to break through – but frequently being met with real-life obstacles and challenges.

What themes are you trying to explore on Dead Ends?

Growing up, adult responsibilities, change, expectation, pressure, reality, fear.

The EP was written during a turbulent time of self-growth and change. I lived with my parents until I was 22, and then I moved cities and started flatting. So much of my identity was wrapped up in where I was from, and the friends I had back home. Moving to Auckland forced me to adapt, to grow, to connect and to understand myself in a way I’d never been exposed to before.

Dead Ends is an exploration of difficult situations I’ve faced in the last two years. From lockdown, to abruptly having to move flats, to working in hospo without a plan B – I accidentally made a concept EP about my insecurities and the thoughts which were consuming me. I’m deeply fearful and insecure about not living up to the expectations I and society have put on me to achieve my dreams, and I’m definitely not alone in saying that.

The cool thing about writing Dead Ends was that I was able to gain a deeper understanding of myself, and what I felt was important to say. Slowly over time, I started to accept where I was in life, having not met the goals I’d set for myself. I realised that all the moments in between getting to where I wanted to be and where I currently was, were still my life, and if I wasn’t going to embrace that, I was never going to find happiness. That was an important turning point in finishing the EP and being more content with myself.

What are some other career highlights so far?

Well, answering these questions for Rolling Stone is huge for me! But hearing my songs played on the radio has been super cool. The first time was mid-2022 when “Perplexed” had just been released. I remember I couldn’t stop smiling, I felt like a kid filled with so much excitement. Also, when I get a message from someone letting me know they’re enjoying my music – that always means a lot.

What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music Industry?

Resilience, perseverance, a strong sense of self, passion, and drive. If you’re in it, you have to fully commit and give everything you have because it’s really tough and super demanding. I’ve sacrificed a lot to get to where I am now and I’m only just getting started. You definitely have to be a fighter.

How would you describe your music to a potential fan?

Introspective, diary entry ‘romanticise the mundane’ pop. There are elements of electronic, indie and trap all interweaved in a pop manner.

What are your goals for 2024 and beyond?

Definitely playing shows. I took a really long break from performing (I used to play solo with backing tracks when I lived in Wellington between 2017 and 2019), so getting back into it with my new band is up there. Other than that, just writing and producing new music. It’s been a while since I’ve actually had a moment to sit down and create, so I can’t wait till I can properly focus on that.