15 and snapping the stars: The new generation of music media

by Sharon Stephenson / 21 April, 2018
McKenzie Jennings-Gruar

Aspiring journalist and photographer McKenzie Jennings-Gruar. Photo/Alexander Hallag.

RelatedArticlesModule - Music media related

Wellington teenager McKenzie Jennings-Gruar is part of a new-generation media pack on the music festival circuit.

Sinéad O’Connor was “different”, Kiwi singer Kimbra was “cool and charming”, and the members of Welsh hard-rock band 9Bach were “engaging and gracious”.

McKenzie Jennings-Gruar might be just shy of her 16th birthday, but the aspiring journalist and photographer already has an impressive roll-call of the planet’s musical stars on her CV.

“I’ve been lucky to be able to talk to some amazing musicians, but they’re really just ordinary people with an interesting story to tell,” says Jennings-Gruar, who’s part of a new generation of young Kiwi writers, photographers and social-media influencers covering international music gigs, including this year’s Womad festival in New Plymouth.

 A Year 11 student at St Oran’s College in Lower Hutt, she cut her teeth at her first music festival, in Wellington, when she was just seven years old. Tagging along with her father, freelance music journalist Tim Gruar, she ended up backstage with the children of musicians from bands such as the Black Seeds. “McKenzie looked a bit bored, so I handed her a camera and suggested she take a few photos,” says Gruar.

Before long, she was photographing acts with her father at open-air festivals, including Christmas in the Park and CubaDupa, working alongside professional journalists and photographers, and meeting some of her music idols. “We attended every family-friendly festival, because I’m too young to cover gigs in pubs,” she says.

In 2014, Jennings-Gruar made her debut at Womad, which her father has covered for several years. “Dad got me a media pass, which allowed me to interview musicians and get into the pit to take photos,” she says. Her first interview was with pop/R&B artist Kimbra. “Dad was interviewing her for a magazine, and Wellington radio station Groove FM needed a bit of audio, so Dad asked if I’d like to do it.”

It was the end of the day and Kimbra had endured a gruelling media schedule. The singer was, recalls Jennings-Gruar, a little jaded. “But when I started asking Kimbra questions, she got excited. I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I asked her about things that girls my age want to know, and she ended up telling me how she makes her own costumes.”

Jennings-Gruar is too young to cover gigs at pubs but takes photos at most family-friendly festivals. Photo/Alexander Hallag.Although she wasn’t able to interview Sinéad O’Connor, the teenager was one of the few allowed backstage at Womad to photograph the controversial Irish performer. “She was so different, with tattoos, a shaved head and wearing a priest’s cassock. But she was also funny and cracked up when she was upstaged by the ducks on a nearby pond!”

Jennings-Gruar’s father says other media-hardened musicians have told the young reporter she’s “like a breath of fresh air”. But she’s not the only youngster on the Womad media team: three sisters from Dargaville have covered the festival alongside their father, photojournalist Mike Brown, including producing pieces for the Northern Advocate. Students from Waitara’s Manukorihi Intermediate, who operate radio station Manu FM, were also back on site this year.

So, who are Jennings-Gruar’s top picks for 2018? “I’m hoping to interview Aussie rockers Dragon, because my Mum sings their hit ‘April Sun in Cuba’ in a covers band. And the Mexican classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, because Gabby is a super-guitarist, as well as the US-based Thievery Corporation because they play great electronic dance music.”

This was published in the March 2018 issue of North & South.

Latest

Knight star: Sir Hec Busby on his extraordinary life
102328 2019-02-17 00:00:00Z Profiles

Knight star: Sir Hec Busby on his extraordinary li…

by Clare de Lore

Northland kaumātua, master carver, navigator and bridge builder Hec Busby was hoping for “no fuss” when he accepted a knighthood.

Read more
Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period drama Colette
102397 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Movies

Keira Knightley shines in bodice-ripping period dr…

by James Robins

The story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a heroine of French literature, focuses on her early struggles.

Read more
Is barbecued meat bad for your health?
102255 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Is barbecued meat bad for your health?

by Jennifer Bowden

Sizzling meat on the barbecue is the sound and smell of summer, but proceed with caution.

Read more
March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the age of the machine?
102434 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

March of the Algorithms: Who’s at the wheel in the…

by Jenny Nicholls

Complacently relying on algorithms can lead us over a cliff – literally, in the case of car navigation systems.

Read more
IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computing
102458 2019-02-16 00:00:00Z Tech

IBM’s new quantum computer: The future of computin…

by Peter Griffin

The Q System One, as IBM calls it, doesn’t look like any conventional computer and it certainly doesn’t act like one.

Read more
James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth gap
102456 2019-02-15 14:54:45Z Politics

James Shaw: Capital gains tax key to fixing wealth…

by RNZ

The week before a major tax report is released, Green Party co-leader James Shaw has again challenged his government partners to back the tax.

Read more
Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma Chand
102448 2019-02-15 10:28:12Z Crime

Jealousy, murder and lies: The killing of Arishma…

by Anneke Smith

Arishma Chand was just 24 when she was murdered.

Read more
Top wine picks from Central Otago
102233 2019-02-15 00:00:00Z Wine

Top wine picks from Central Otago

by Michael Cooper

Tucked into small corners, Central Otago vineyards offer nuggets worth digging for. Wine critic Michael Coopers offers his top picks.

Read more