Stan Walker may have kick-started his career by winning Australian Idol in 2009, but in the last decade, he’s become a genuine New Zealand idol, loved for his sense of humour, humility, and joy for life as much as he inspires in his roles as a musician and actor.
Stan connects with such a broad range of fans, people of every age from every corner of the Pacific, you’ll find him playing to buzzing crowds in Palmerston North one month and Rarotonga the next. He embraces his heritage (his iwi are Tuhoe and Ngāti Tuwharetoa) while also finding a way to bring Māori culture into a modern, mainstream context – no other artist can say they’ve had 12,000 people cheering along to a te reo version of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ at Spark Arena as Beyonce waits in the wings.
His success as a New Zealand performing artist across such a variety of mediums is unparalleled. Not only has Stan earned a total of 6 gold and 4 platinum singles as well as 1 double platinum and 1 triple platinum single in New Zealand, he’s collected 8 New Zealand Music Awards along the way and 5 ARIA Music Award nominations. He’s won the Waiata Māori Award for Radio Airplay Record of the Year 5 times, in 2010, 2011 and then 3 consecutive years in a row from 2013 – 2015. He’s now become an impressive star of our silver screen too.
Having brushed up his skills in front of the camera with his role as a judge and mentor on ‘The X-Factor NZ’ in 2013 and 2015, Stan went on to play the lead in his debut feature film ‘Mt Zion’, before implementing his dancing skills in ‘Born To Dance’, and embracing his comedic side for a role in ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’. He imbued each role with the open-hearted, good-natured charisma he’s known for, embodying New Zealand’s favourite pop culture qualities.
In May last year, Stan released his the single ‘New Takeover’. The powerful track came out of a writing session in LA, and was produced by the talented Sidney Swift, who collaborated on Beyoncé’s smash hit song ‘7/11.’
The culturally poignant video for ‘New Takeover’ was released one week later with this message from Stan: “This is my people, we are the land. We are strong, beautiful, powerful and proud…be proud of who you are, where you come from and who you come from. It’s a beautiful and powerful thing when you embrace yourself and your culture…don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I’m a proud Māori from the Pacific. I’ve come from nothing but I have everything…all love.”
In an interview with Radio New Zealand, he continued “Our culture is so beautiful and I’m trying to show that in this video … This song is for the people, for indigenous people, for the minority.”
It was a new direction for Stan, indicative of the depth of the connection he felt upon returning to live in New Zealand, and pay tribute to his family. Only a couple of months later however, Stan was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
It was caused by a gene mutation which has plagued his family for five generations, and has killed 25 members of his family. Fortunately Stan’s cancer was discovered early, and the prognosis for successful treatment was good, but his road to recovery has been a long, winding one, and not without complications.
Being unsure of what would happen after his diagnosis, Stan decided to start documenting each step of his treatment and recovery with a video camera. The resulting footage is raw, intimate, and affecting, and has become a powerful documentary which Stan is now sharing with the world. It’s a portrait of his strength in the face of a life-changing illness, a portrait of the remarkable history and bond of his family, and a reflection of the respect and openness Stan has with his fans.
“I wanted to make the documentary to help people, and to also help myself process this whole thing. It was my idea, I like to use the best and worst parts of my life and to turn them into something creative.”
You can expect to see a lot more of Stan this year as he turns this life-experience into music and performances, and celebrates the opportunity to let his voice rise once more. An EP titled ‘Stan’ was released alongside the documentary, containing six new tracks.
Amongst them is a song called ‘Thank You’, an ode to Stan’s mother April, who has already survived a battle with breast cancer. Stan wrote the song the day before he found out about his own stomach cancer, as a way of expressing his gratitude for April’s love and guidance. Of course it has since taken on new resonance as Stan fought his own health battle, and his Mum continued to “be his superwoman”.
The documentary captures Stan giving a moving surprise performance of ‘Thank You’ to his mother when they return to the family marae after getting the all-clear from the doctors, and it’s a fitting finale to the film, demonstrating the ever-present power of music in Stan’s life.
On the 31st of May, Stan released an EP; FAITH, HOPE, LOVE. This EP was Stan’s response to what happened to the Muslim people in Christchurch. Process of the EP will be going towards helping the beautiful families affected by this tragedy. ‘New Light’ the lead track from his EP was written for the Muslim community affected by this tragedy. Stan and the incredible Vince Harder wrote the song in hopes that it would bring love and healing to the people. New Life. Following, Stan wrote his new single GIVE released June 28th with Six60’ legend Matiu Walters. ‘Give’ is a timeless classic single that inspires you to be the best version of yourself.
After a five-year absence and surviving a life-threatening illness, Stan will set out on a Australasian tour that will see him travel to Northland NZ and across Australia in August 2019.
“I’m fully excited to be coming back home to Australia with new music and a tour. I have been away for a bit, creating & growing to bring to the audience new music and a live show they have never experienced. Now the time is finally right to unleash my new music and tour. It’s so important for me to get back to all my incredible fans that have been with me over these ten years. The love and support, particularly these last 3 years when I was going through cancer has been overwhelming and I want to get out there and say thank you to you all.” – Stan Walker