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An interview with Berlin-based music graduate Leah Hinton

Leah Hinton in concert image
Leah Hinton in concert.

questions and answer 'QHow was your time at Otago?

It was amazing – some of the best years of my life. The uni had recently introduced the Contemporary Music degree, so I was studying what I loved, I'd just formed my first band and I was playing lots of shows and having a great time.

questions and answer 'QAny favourite professors?

All of my professors were really good, but Dr Ian Chapman sticks out as a favourite – he's so passionate about music and was always just so into everything he taught – it was infectious!

questions and answer 'QDid you flat or spend time in the halls and if so how was your experience?

I flatted in a few different houses while studying. The first one was horrendous, it was on the sunless side of the valley and the walls were wet all winter. We lived in sleeping bags. The other two flats were much better, actually quite glamorous compared to the first one – you learn what to look out for pretty quick after an experience like that first flat!

Leah Hinton main 2 image

questions and answer 'QWhat have you done since leaving Otago?

I ended up moving around the world with the band I formed at Otago, making a living as a music teacher and touring in the weekends and holidays (I did a teaching diploma after my music degree). We moved to Wellington, then London, then Berlin. I taught music and digital arts at a fancy private school in Berlin and somehow ended up inventing a way to teach any concept through digital story creation, so I founded a startup and made learning apps for five years. That was a pretty crazy experience – I'd be in meetings with investors like Axel Springer (major German media company), then running off to band practice – definitely a case of a foot in two worlds... Our apps were featured globally by Apple and were in the Top 10 App Store ranking charts in many different countries, it was all pretty exciting. My favourite app was called Coding the Musical, which taught young girls how to code through the creation of their own animated musical.

questions and answer 'QWhat’s it like to live in Berlin?

Berlin is big and busy and full of creative people. No matter what anybody is into they will be able to find other like-minded people here. And people can survive here with very minimal income, which allows them to take chances they couldn't take elsewhere. There is no way I could have founded my startup anywhere else. It really is something a bit special. Post-Covid-19 Berlin is much more expensive, so I'm really hoping it doesn't lose all the creative people that have made it what it is.

Playing the keytar image
Leah Hinton playing the keytar.

questions and answer 'QHow is your career in the music industry progressing?

I made the decision really early on that I didn't want to rely on music for income, because I didn't want to lose my passion for it. So, I've always had a full-time job on the side, although that's often been music related too. These days I work in a tech startup, I produce music under the name Murmur Tooth, I play shows with my music collab partner Lars Moston, and I recently co-founded my own electronic label called Outergalactic Music. So, there's heaps going on. And I'm still completely passionate about music and having an amazing time making it, which is the most important thing.

questions and answer 'QHow did Murmur Tooth come about?

It started out in band form as an outlet for my more indie/grungy songs, then carried on as a solo project once I got really into production. Now I find myself making mostly electronic music (it was always going to happen after years in Berlin, I guess!), but with a firm emphasis on songwriting. My first electronic track was actually an official remix of Claptone's single "Beautiful", so that's a pretty bizarre segue from my classical piano and metal guitar beginnings!

questions and answer 'QWhat are your plans for the next few years?

I'm looking forward to building my label. My business experience has all been in the tech space, so it will be an interesting challenge to apply all the learnings there to music. And I have some exciting releases and gigs coming up, including a track coming out on legendary House label Nervous Records and some live shows in Vietnam. I just want to keep exploring different creative processes, different moods, different genres, and keep making music I love.

questions and answer 'QAre you returning to Aotearoa at all?

I come back every second Christmas and hang for a month or so – always good times. I've actually just been in Dunedin this January with the fam!

Leah Hinton

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