RNZ Music is proud to share the first look at ‘Give It To Me’ by Motte, the solo incarnation of Christchurch singer/violinist Anita Clark who was silenced by a virus that could have stopped her singing forever.
“It was brutal and devastating” recalls Anita of the time a medical specialist told her she'd never sing again.
After the diagnosis, “I went straight to (fellow musician) Ben Woods’ house and he couldn’t even hear me over the hum of the heat pump in his room.”
Anita Clark was a full time musician who worked across many projects: she’s played violin in The Eastern; performed with fringe jazz, good-time party-band Devilish Mary and The Holy Rollers; with Indira Force she was duo New Dawn; and now, in her solo endeavour she's the folk-noir Motte.
Singing and playing music was her passion and job. She had plans to relocate to Wellington from her home in Christchurch, to “make some more music and keep playing” until April this year when a cold “somehow got into my nervous system and it just chose to shut down my vocal chord, of all things.”
Anita initially thought that her voice would return after a week or two, so continued tambourine and backing vocal duties for the band Dog Power.
“Then eventually I lost my voice altogether. I felt like I was being strangled constantly for two months.”
“You think of horrific accidents, you might lose a finger or get arthritis or something that would affect your mobility or playing your instrument. But I always thought I could count on my voice.”
While Anita consoled herself with the fact she could continue playing the violin, the uncertainty of not knowing whether she would sing again sent the musician into a panic. Her vocal therapist told her there was a fifty-fifty chance she would recover. Anita felt she was in a cruel limbo when she was learning to talk again; she managed to find one tone that she could speak in.
“I could never fully submit myself to the idea that [my voice] would be gone.”
She threw herself into healing and admits she “went a bit spiritual” seeking treatment from osteopaths, acupuncturists and Reiki practitioners. She resolved to finish her album by making it an instrumental collection of songs with “funny little low-fi” vocal recordings she’d found on her phone from the time before her vocal chord was paralysed.
Five weeks ago she was struck with another cold, it was “a massive step backwards,” she says.
“I was flying up to Auckland to play at show up there. I was sick, I was on a plane, my sinus was horrible and I was feeling really bad about myself.”
“But it did something to me and I just woke up one day up in Auckland and my voice was clearer. It just sounded husky like I’d had a really big night out.”
From that point her voice has got better in leaps and bounds. It’s been a big life lesson for Anita too.
“The ongoing life lesson to try and be patient and slow things down.”
The release of the video for 'Give It To Me' is strange timing for Anita, as “it was ages ago when the song came out.” The video was two years in the making as filming was only able to take place in summer.
"We had to wait for the right season to roll around again, it was essential that the landscape was dry and the ground was solid."'Give It To Me' is directed by Martin Sagadin and is set in the remote high country surrounding Cass Station, south of Arthur's Pass. “If you didn’t know where they were, you wouldn’t know that the lakes were there.”
Anita reckons only anglers, DOC workers and water researchers know how to get to the scenic lakes.
"Access is down a no exit shingle road from the main highway, through farmland and a lot of gates. I'd only found the place by accident with an ex-boyfriend on a strange camping trip trying to find somewhere to stay for the night."
It wasn't just the scenery that was thoughtfully chosen.
"Hannah Heslop spent a dedicated amount of time creating beautiful costumes from scraps of recycled clothes, rolling them in fire ash, staining and burying them."
Once the small group of dancers gathered on a mountaintop, director Martin "sourced some special glass to film everything through to give it a slightly off focus, surreal look."
Anita confesses that she's "never told anyone what the song is actually about, so maybe this video can string along the viewers into a false sense of easy surrealist security!"
It seems for Motte the lesson of patience and time is a valuable one.