Someone recently noted in the Herald that you’ve looked as if you’re 20 for about 20 years. What’s your secret?
I don’t really drink that much. But it’s all catching up on me now – I’m only one bad sleep away from looking pretty wretched! Being Asian helps, too. My father fought in Vietnam for the NZ Army and when he was in Malaysia he met my mother who was a singer, and they fell in love and got married.
It was an all-female line-up in the pop category at this year’s Vodafone music awards. Coincidence or trend?
I don’t really know, but it’s wonderful. There are a lot of female solo artists and I think it’s a great thing. Back when I was starting out, it was quite uncommon. There’s a real confidence around the young female singer-songwriters coming up. Every generation seems to be more confident than the last.
Does your son, Joseph, know you’re a famous singer?
He’s five now and I guess a lot of it happened before he was born, but he gets wind of it now and then. He has been to one of my shows. He was only four and he just kept walking around the audience saying, “That’s my mother.”
How do you manage the fact that your partner is also your producer?
It’s quite an intense relationship. We’ve just come off the road from a month in the UK and America and Europe. He plays in my band and I play in his band, Opossum. We have a lot of respect for each other – I’ve never met anyone who’s quite as passionate about music in the same way I am. When we get sick of each other, we fight, but I attribute most rattiness these days to being tired, which comes from being a mother.
What’s the lyric that you’re most proud of?
The song I’m most recently proud of is Everything is Beautiful and New. That’s about seeing the world through new eyes once you become a parent. I’m actually proud of the whole song; it reads like a poem. It was kind of based on a James K Baxter poem, The Seagull.
If you couldn’t be a musician, what would you be?
I always think about that. I was reading my old school yearbook and there was an interview in there saying I wanted to be a poet and a painter and a musician – kind of overconfident and ambitious! Music just hijacked my time and I forgot about poetry and art, but they were always equally important. I didn’t get into art school, so that’s why I started taking music more seriously.
What’s the future of the music industry in the digital age?
It’s harder to be a musician now. It’s very competitive and everyone can – and does – do it. You don’t need a lot of money. I do miss the old days when you got a recording budget and went into a big studio. Now budgets are smaller. What it means to me is that you have to play live – that’s more important than ever – and you have to write really good songs. You still can’t argue with a good song.
What’s your favourite foreign city?
In some ways it’s London. It’s still a great place to visit, and a lot of my best friends moved over there. I lived in Paris for a little while and that’s still really wonderful. And I quite like Shanghai, too, for its oldness and its newness. I think I’m always in a state of wanting to move overseas, but my son’s in school now and I’ve got a baby girl on the way. She’s due in March.
Do you see much of your sisters these days?
I’m really close to my sisters and I see them a lot. We all live in Auckland, and they’re still my best friends.
What’s your favourite stretch of road?
The Catlins. I’ve only done it twice, but it’s pretty special.
Bic Runga’s first greatest hits collection, Anthology (Sony Music), is available now.