A year and a half ago, chart-topping Kiwi jazz musician Nathan Haines was weeks into a months-long fight against throat cancer, a battle that would at times rob him of his voice, his energy and his immediate plans for the future.
But it’s a new year and while it’s not a completely new Haines – he remains the ambitious young man who left New Zealand in his teens and put out the first of 10 solo albums at age 22 – there’s been some changes.
Now he is re-releasing an album and going on tour – with Nelson the being the first stop.
“The first time I came I did an outdoor gig 20 years ago,” he tells the Nelson Weekly. “This time is very special. I have reassembled the band I put together 25 years ago.”
The album, Shift Left, marked the beginnings of a career that has taken Haines all over the world. It was also hugely influential in the New Zealand music landscape.
“I had no idea back then the influence that it would have.”
When he started there was no blueprint for the sort of music he was creating. Haines created it.
“There are some things about the album that I might not do now but I was 22,” he says. “But there is some fantastic musicianship on it.”
But all that legacy threatened to come crashing down when he was diagnosed with cancer. Haines didn’t know if he would be able to talk or play again. But he managed to teach his other throat muscles to do the work. He swore off alcohol and coffee and negotiated ongoing radiation therapy.
“That was the most difficult part of the whole thing. I’m still dealing with the side effects daily.”
But Haines thinks that he is now playing as good as he ever has.
He will also have some good company. The musicians who helped him on that first album are also coming out to accompany him on tour.
“It’s going to be a milestone,” Nathan says. “It’s been a journey, but I feel incredibly blessed to be here to do what I’m good at. I have an incredible passion and love for music.”
Nathan Haines plays at the Trafalgar Centre on August 17. Tickets through ticketdirect.co.nz