An orchard, a beachfront, a front porch, a sports ground and a long list of living rooms across Canada and the United States are among the unconventional tour venues where Lake Hawea singer-songwriter Anna van Riel will entertain audiences over the next three months.
”Anywhere that people will have me,” she said this week, as she prepared to depart for Vancouver next Tuesday with husband Locky Urquhart and their daughter Matilda (2), to begin a house concert tour through North America.
The ”Whistle & Hum” tour will visit environmentally sustainable homes and eco-conscious people and is named after the launch of Ms van Riel’s third album. It has an alternative-country, folk and bluegrass sound and is believed to be the first album made almost entirely in Wanaka.
The $40,000, 8000km road trip of a lifetime has taken more than a year to plan and has been funded mostly by contra-trading. The resourceful Ms van Riel has bartered home-grown produce, worm farms, personalised performances, music lessons and a multitude of other goods and services for sponsorship. Speaking engagements, live concerts and grants have also helped.
”I’ve had to be really industrious, ambitious and courageous. It takes so much guts – you get a lot of knocks.”
Self-described on her Twitter profile as a ”tree-huggin, lentil-lovin, ukulele-pluckin, kazoo-tootin, coffee-brewin, apple-stewin hippy who lives for music and sun”, Ms van Riel’s ambition is to share not only songs but sustainable ideas with people she meets on the trip, then to educate others on her experiences once back in New Zealand.
”My whole tour is a bit of an experiment to show anyone with an idea that they can make it happen on the smell of an oily rag, by having gumption and motivation.”
Mr Urquhart, a builder, hopes to gain ideas on inspiring ways to live from houses visited along the way.
Much like the generosity of people in her home town before the tour, Ms van Riel said her North American hosts had been ”overwhelmingly kind” in promoting and organising tour stopovers.
Pre-tour networking is reaping other rewards, too – a car-seat for Matilda has been offered by one concert-goer, the fare for a ferry crossing by another, and a former dinner guest of Ms van Riel’s is providing a van for the duration of the family’s travels. The family’s carbon footprint will be offset by tree-planting sessions throughout the trip and back home.
In order to bring the somewhat ”beat-up” borrowed van up to scratch and pay for fuel, Ms van Riel is making a final fundraising push in the form of a ”Romancing the Stone” raffle – being drawn today – which includes Champagne, movie tickets, accommodation, a meal out, and a $4000 diamond and sapphire gold ring, donated by her mother-in-law. While most of her international concerts are already confirmed, there will be some unplanned stops along the way.
”I think it’s healthy to leave some things to chance. It opens doors for beautiful opportunities, unexpected surprises, good or bad … they’re all good learning experiences.”
Despite its many highs and lows, the planning phase of the journey alone had been worth the effort, Ms van Riel said.
”If this was the end of it and I wasn’t even going on tour, I already feel like it’s been an amazing big adventure.”