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PRYNNE Turned to Music After the Death of Her Famous Father. Her Debut Album Is the Perfect Tribute to Him

“I was so close to my dad, I miss him so much, but he gave me the greatest gift – music in my blood”


Samantha Totty

Having a famous musician father is never a guarantee of success. In fact, it can be a heavy burden; just ask Sean Lennon or James McCartney.

Moana McArtney grew up backstage as her father, Dave McArtney, performed across New Zealand as part of pop-rock band Hello Sailor (they entered the APRA NZ Hall of Fame in 2011 and their incredible song, “Gutter Black”, was chosen as the theme song for Outrageous Fortune), but it was only after her father’s death 10 years ago that she decided to take up the same artistic pursuit as him, and she did so in slow and near-mystical fashion.

In what she’s come to realise was a pure act of escapism, a yearning for purpose, Moana quit her aspiring acting career in order to attend the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London. It was in the English capital that her musical alias, PRYNNE, was born.

This month saw the release of her debut album, A Fleeting Moment of Clarity, Moana turning loss and grief into a beautiful collection of music. And while she’ll always carry her father’s legacy on her shoulders, as PRYNNE she displays a truly authentic musical self.

“Discovering myself in music has been and will continue to be the most defining journey of my life. I was so close to my dad, I miss him so much, but he gave me the greatest gift – music in my blood. I know he’d be happy I’ve kept his flame burning,” she says.

As Moana tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ, A Fleeting Moment of Clarity is comprised of coming of age moments from the last 10 years of her life.

“Deep heartbreak and grief, moving away from home, losing myself, running away to Greece with a bad boy Greek lover, crippling performance anxiety, my thoughts on the intangible aspects of the human experience, and finding myself again,” she says. 

As Moana vulnerably acknowledges, losing her father at a young age sent her spiralling into an identity crisis, one that she only recently escaped. 

“It felt like life just left me behind. I felt empty and disoriented for so long while everyone else was creating their lives,” she admits. “I have a lot of regret and shame in the fact that I didn’t make things happen for myself sooner. But I’m grateful for the journey now, because it’s given me wisdom. That’s why I wanted to call the album A Fleeting Moment of Clarity – it feels like a crisp rush of fresh air that has cut through the fog of the last 10 years and set me free.”

The healing process was aided by Moana working with collaborators who had a close connection to her father, including Alan Jansson and Siche Zhang.

“Without having to say it out loud, we all recognised the magic that surrounded us. We understood the importance of holding the spark of what each song wanted to be. It took finesse to keep the right level of rawness. We wanted it to be un-affected and without pretence, and in this way it became the perfect tribute to my Dad, because Dave was totally like that,” she continues. 

Dave’s presence is at its strongest in album highlight “I Just Wanna Be Like You”, which took time to get right because of the emotion behind the track.

“To hear it come together finally, I never imagined that it could sound as perfect to my ears as it did that night. In that moment tears sprang to my eyes because I realised we had accomplished something beautiful and real with that song,” Moana explains.

“I’m not someone who regularly looks back to remind myself of my achievements but in that one moment my mind travelled the last five years and how far I’ve come. Alan and I replayed the song about 10 times, sitting in his cosy little studio on Drake Street. We both cried and we spoke about Dad, we could feel him in the room with us. It was a moment that will stay with me forever.”

PRYNNE’s A Fleeting Moment of Clarity is out now.