ICON: Congratulations on your fresh single ‘Bigger’, your album and your newly-released memoir. You’ve slowly been releasing new music for the past five years, but these last few months of projects have been huge. How have you been feeling amid it all – nervous?
Stan Walker: “A bit of both. I’m excited mainly. I know it’s going to help people like me who have been through the same things or help people who are going through similar things. Just in general, to help people. I’m excited for things in this book to be normal conversations in everyday life and especially for things that have brought so much shame on people to be giving power to people and giving permission to people to take back that power.”
What was the catalyst moment for your new memoir ‘Impossible’?
SW: “I’ve been asked for many years to do a book about my life and I always felt like it was too premature, I was too young and had so much more life to live. Then I got asked in August last year and I immediately said yes. But in saying this, I knew I needed to bare all, I needed to be 100 percent transparent and honest. I don’t just tell my story, I tell the story of my family as well and so it was going to something big but I knew I felt like I had come of age. I’ve changed so much and grown so much into the man I am today and I felt like it was time.”
Did you learn anything new about yourself while writing it? Did you have any other epiphanies you may not have known before baring it all in this book?
SW: “100 percent. It was like I was going back to school and learning things I had completely forgotten. Learning completely new things about myself, especially as a kid and being able to as an adult unpack and process things and fully understand certain things that have happened.
“It was like being in therapy and honest to God it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Particularly in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been incredible conversation on race and heritage and what it means to be someone of colour. What were you feeling during the height of the protests and is this instilled in your book?
SW: “This has always been something that I’ve been passionate and proud about because even though it’s not the same thing, I never want to compare being Indigenous, because everyone’s experiences are different. America is a different experience. So, I couldn’t even begin to understand what they are feeling as a country and what Black people in America are feeling. In saying that, I’ve been advocating for Indigenous people, people of colour, Black people since I can remember. I feel like it’s never been something that I’ve had to do – it’s something I get to do. Especially with my platform that I have a voice and it’s already been a fight that I’ve been fighting long before everything that’s happened in the last year. I’m excited for more change, there’s that song ‘A Change is Gunna Come’, and I feel like we are living for the first time through that change and I feel like step by step, little by little, it’s been happening over the years. I feel like now more than ever I can see and feel the change and I’m in it and apart of it and what a time to be alive to be honest.”
Despite your past, and a turbulent entry into the music industry, each of your tracks has such a rejoiceful tone to it. You’re never bitter or sad. Is this style deliberate or has it evolved organically?
SW: “I think it’s always been me. In saying that, it took a lot to get to this point and because there are times where I get sad, angry, bitter or resentful, I have to pick myself up because the only person who is hurting is me. Sometimes I stay there because I can’t get out, it’s too hard at that time or whatever I am going through but eventually I know I am going to get out of it, and I don’t ever want to go back to something like that. So, I try to be as positive as I can, even though I can be the most negative person in the world. It’s a constant journey I feel, and I feel like I just need to keep being there as much as possible to make sure other people can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anything is possible.”
What are your coping mechanisms when you’re upset, bitter or sad? How do you pull yourself through that?
SW: “For me, I am thankful to God for everything. From my lowest to my highest. But also having people there to help me – the right mentors and the right people around me. It doesn’t have to be many people, just the right people that know how to encourage me. Just going through anything, my mum always said to me, ‘Boy, you can’t do it by yourself’, and I’ve realised more than ever now as an adult that I can’t. I’ve gotten better at asking for help and I never used to do that.”
What inspired your new track ‘Bigger’?
SW: “My mate sent me the demo and then I started writing to it and playing around with it. It wasn’t anything planned, it just came about at the right time. We went with it and not knowing that it was a full circle moment and it just reminded me of my purpose and who I am and where I have come from and how important it is to keep going knowing that there is so much more to come.”
“This is for anyone who has a dream, whatever you want to be you can be. You can be bigger and better. This is a reminder to me and a message to the people.”
Can you talk to me a little bit about the advocacy work you’ve done in the past?
SW: “For me, it’s always been that I am an advocate because I’m Māori, I’m Indigenous. It’s never been trying to get into a position of being an advocate, small or big. Just having the opportunity because of my platform, because of who I am and the opportunity to push the envelope further and be able to do stuff that can see some tangible change has been incredible. Working with business people around the world and hearing stories and everything that I do from the way that I dress to the way I do my videos, everything. I don’t need an organisation or a movement to do what I need to do for our people. I just love that I got to partner up with different organisations and groups and movements. The Cook Islands Climate Change, I’m an Ambassador for them. BLM in Australia, especially for the Indigenous issues in Australia. So, any time I can, even for West Papua or anything, Native Americans for Hawaii. I feel like we have this amazing connection to really just come together as people and Indigenous people to really push it and move together as people. So that’s been exciting and empowering.”
What’s next for you?
SW: “To create a legacy for the next generation. For my kids and their kids. What does that look like for me? I feel like I want to work on projects that I’m really passionate about, rather than just small little things. I want to do more with Climate Change and Indigenous people and Indigenous rights. Music is always going to be there, but I would rather work on stories. Music, film, fashion, photography that keeps pushing our people up there and encouraging our people and build up our next generation. I’m not always going to be working on the ground with people. Kind of like someone who goes in and out, encouraging even the leaders.”