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Singer-songwriter Sophie Mashlan. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A singer-songwriter with a maturity way beyond her years is literally making her voice heard.

Nineteen-year-old Sophie Mashlan is returning to Oamaru next month on a tour to launch her debut full-length album, Perfect Disaster

She will perform in the Grainstore Gallery on May 16, but does not expect many of her previous audience to be present.

Her first foray into the Victorian Precinct was during last year’s Steampunk Festival, when many in the Grainstore crowd were passing through on their time travels.

Mashlan is described in promotional material as an “Auckland-based indie-alt-folk artist”. While still 17, she organised her own national tour and has since featured at gatherings including the Auckland Folk Festival. She has opened for Donavon Frankenreiter, Vance Joy, Graham Candy and Tiny Ruins, appeared on TV1’s Seven Sharp and been interviewed on Radio New Zealand.

She recorded her 10-track album in Lyttelton with Ben Edwards, who has worked with artists including Marlon Williams, Nadia Reid, Delaney Davidson, and Tami Neilson. Tracks “Not This Time” and “Let You Down” have been released as singles.

Before the new tour began on Tuesday, Mashlan spoke to the Oamaru Mail by phone.

She was “really excited” about presenting her album, although there was “a lot of stress” attached to preparing the tour. A few days before it was announced, her drummer pulled out and had to be replaced. Band rehearsals were in full swing.

When asked where her musicality came from, Mashlan said “I think it was always there”.

“I picked up my first guitar 10 years ago. Eric Clapton inspired me. I wasn’t interested in being a singer at all.”

She has had “only a handful of lessons”, developing the rest of her skills by teaching herself.

“I would listen to someone’s song and play along.

“I used to sing along to Rihanna songs.”

Many years as a dancer was another musical element. Mashlan began as a 2-year-old, tagging along to her 4-year-old sister’s ballet lessons. She would copy the older girls’ moves, then took ballet, jazz and contemporary dance classes until the age of 12.

Her sister went on to become a ballroom champion.

“Our parents always encouraged us to do new stuff. It was not about winning.”

Mashlan entered the SmokefreeRockquest but “didn’t get through”. She was a bit disheartened at the time, as so many top New Zealand artists have won it before rising to fame.

Further knockbacks occurred at school when the head of music would not cast her in shows or bands.

However, she said she has “always been very driven” and was prepared to put in the effort required to succeed. Good academic grades meant she was accepted into university at 17.

Then the awareness dawned that no-one would suddenly offer her opportunities. She needed to perform publicly to make a name for herself.

“The second I started touring, things started happening. Three months later, I was asked to open for Vance Joy.”

A lot of her material is drawn from personal experiences, augmented by “imagining”.

“Having a mix makes it interesting. You need authenticity.”

As “a very open person”, she can sometimes feel like she is “oversharing”.

“I talk to anyone. I give them insights into how I see things.

“I love the way music connects people.

“It means so many things to different people that it means more than when it started.”

The perfectionist in Mashlan resulted in “many, many copies” of her album being sent backwards and forwards to the producers before she achieved the “polished, cohesive” product she was happy with.

Now, she hopes Oamaru listeners will turn out in force it hear it performed.

“I think it might have been my favourite show on my last tour.”