Pixie Williams

11th Annual Reissue Album Vox Pop Winner

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Record Label: Blue Smoke Records

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Home Base: Wellington, New Zealand

Genre: The music of Pixie Williams – a hybrid of jazz, blues, Hawaiian-style folk and Latin rhythms

Category Entered: Reissue Album

Work Submitted: For the Record:  The Pixie Williams Collection 1949-1951

Artists Featured:
Pixie Williams

Label: Blue Smoke Records

Describe your nominated work: In 1949, 20 year-old Pixie Williams gave voice to composer Ruru Karaitiana’s wartime song “Blue Smoke” which was written on the troopship HMS Aquitania as he sailed to war in 1940.  A member of the 28th Maori Battalion’s Concert Party it was his first composition and was first heard on the decks of the troopship, and later between battles in the desert and at troop concerts. Evoking the emotion and sadness of parting loved ones heading to war, the song was popular with troops and after its release in 1949 it appealed to post-war sentiments.

It was the first song wholly written, produced and recorded in New Zealand and was a huge hit topping the New Zealand chart for six weeks, selling 50,000 copies. It was played on radio stations and juke boxes around the world and covered by a host of international artists, including Dean Martin.

“Blue Smoke” was Pixie Williams’ first effort in the recording studio and although she went on to record a further 12 songs, mixing universal themes and international musical styles with an unmistakeable flavour of Aotearoa, New Zealand, she was best known for “Blue Smoke.”

The featured song – “Ain’t it a Shame” was the song that spurred Pixie Williams daughter, Amelia Costello to capture all of Pixie’s work into one digitally remastered album from the original shellac 78 records.  It was Amelia’s favourite song growing up and the one she believed should have been another hit for her mother.  During the course of the project it was discovered an accident in the plating department of the pressing plant destroyed the masters of this, and some other Williams’ songs.  Only a limited number from one pressing made it to market. What might have been if the masters hadn’t been destroyed?

For the Record: The Pixie Williams Collection is not only a culturally significant music collection for New Zealand but the realisation of a dream to introduce the world, and future generations, to the beautiful voice and music of Pixie Williams.

Why did you choose to submit to the 11th IMAs? To help fulfill our dream to introduce the world to the beautiful voice and music of Pixie Williams.  Blue Smoke Records was created with one purpose in mind, to save Pixie’s music and introduce it to a new generation of listeners.  We had no thought that we might be nominated.  Just knowing that Pixie’s work would be heard by the incredible team of judges was enough to have us enter.

Words cannot describe how special it is for us to have been nominated – knowing Pixie’s work may now be heard and appreciated by potentially millions of IMA fans! Unbelievable!

What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Saving this work for future generations is our definition of success.  And having it recognized by fans and critics as a great piece of work and beautiful music tells us we’ve done the right thing and achieved what we set out to do.

How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? For any New Zealand artist to achieve global recognition from its peers is huge – for an 83 year old artist to see her work, and hear her voice 60+ years later, be recognized by the world’s best is unbelievable!  Having an IMA Honor will help us promote to the world that this music has merit – and is worth listening to.

Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique? We are always surprised by who likes this Album – the mix of audience is wide and eclectic. I’ve heard from a 12 year old who has the album on his iPod – and a 78 year old who knew Pixie as ‘the popstar’ of the day.  In the words of a kiwi music critic, Martyn Pepperell, “The results of the remastering speak for themselves, projecting at an audio level one would expect from similar recordings made today.  As such, listening to this collection will be a trip down memory lane for some.  However, for younger listeners like me with an active interest in the past, the experience is much closer to genuine time travel.”

What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? How hard it is, and how unbelievably difficult it is for artists to earn a living!  People need to understand that ripping music compromises a person’s livelihood.  Stop ripping and start paying!

Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future? Yes, but like vinyl’s resurgence, full albums will never completely die out.

Finish this sentence: The music industry is…damned hard, but worth it!

What do you have in the works for the upcoming year? Hopefully the release of an album of Pixie’s songs which were remade by a kiwi artist. Recorded in New Orleans featuring the best jazz/blues musicians we could muster, as well as in Wellington, New Zealand – it’s a beautiful tribute album to Pixie.  However, as with all ‘creative’ projects – we’ve hit some snags that need to be ironed out – we’re keeping the faith it will see the light of day this year.

Where fans can find you and your music: www.bluesmokerecords.com