Homecoming for Oamaru-born artist

Singer-songwriter Megan Woods was in Oamaru for a single concert at the Penguin Club last week....
Singer-songwriter Megan Woods was in Oamaru for a single concert at the Penguin Club last week. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
Musician Megan Woods has had a happy break back in her hometown, with a sold-out show at the Penguin Club and a special assembly at her old high school.

Now based in Orange, Australia, the former cultural prefect of Waitaki Girls’ High School who loved music, drama and choir, is now a dedicated musician.

Woods released her debut single Shirt on the Floor mid-2022 and last June her single I Just Want To Be, a celebration of her life journey, including 18 years in Australia and finding her comfort zone.

"When I left New Zealand, I wasn’t a full-time musician, so to come back and play here now, as an international performing artist, was special."

Woods first picked up a guitar at the age of 8.

Playing music and being on stage had always brought her joy, she said.

She had now played 70 music gigs around Orange and the Central West of New South Wales in Australia and recorded three cover albums and music videos.

Woods gave a speech at the Waitaki Girls’ assembly held in her honour and performed her single, a mix of country, rock and pop with powerful vocals, at her old school.

Returning to Waitaki Girls’ was "quite an experience" for Woods.

She hoped she had inspired anyone interested in a career in music and she was delighted by a special surprise in the audience.

"I was like wow, someone wants to hear me and what I have to say and my song.

"It was so lovely. They made sure Mrs [Helen] Beckingsale, my old music teacher, was at the assembly and so I got to see her, too."

Woods said the school, like Oamaru, had "changed a lot but it’s also exactly the same".

She was humbled by her sold-out show at the Penguin Club.

"I was pretty impressed that 90 people wanted to come and hear my music and see me play.

"It was amazing. It was mind-blowing."

Local band King George were the opening act.

"They were great, such a vibe . . . lovely young lads," Woods said.

The 38-year-old mother of two has achieved her dream of giving music her full focus, as well as raising her two children, daughter Mikayla, 6, and her son Reagan, 3 with her Australian husband.

She had run her own successful photography business in Christchurch, and after moving to Orange, where she saw a "gap in the market", she combined her florist training and created a mobile flower caravan and photography business for weddings.

When she was pregnant with her first child she was offered a job teaching guitar to a class of seven students and decided to change her focus.

She gave up the business and focused on motherhood and building on her guitar teaching. As of last year, her guitar classes had grown to teach 115 students.

After the birth of their second child, she was up late one night feeding, when she stumbled across the local recording studio’s online series called "From Musician to Artist".

"Something about it really resonated with me and I thought ‘OK, let’s go’."

She made a three-track cover album of some of the singers who had influenced her alongside music videos.

"I’d played Dolly Parton and the Dixie Chicks, my faves . . . that’s when I thought ‘I want to keep pushing, let’s do an original’.

"I want my children to have something, to think Mum could sing, Mum’s all right, she could hold a tune," she says with a laugh.

Woods did a tribute show to Melissa Etheridge with her band the Noisy Boys.

"I was so used to playing by myself and then it’s three guys on drums, bass, and lead guitar and I kept saying you’re so noisy, and the name stuck.

"That’s when I found my sound after that tribute . . . to bring in rocky, country vibes — that’s where it was sitting."

Working with her producer at Dotted Eight Studio in Orange, she released I Just Want To Be.

Quoting a line from her song "let me sing beneath the lights", Woods said the song was about breaking free from the pressures of life and finding her "happy place".

The musician has no plan to stop and hopes to come back to New Zealand for a "full tour".

"The Melissa Etheridge tribute shows transformed the way I thought about my music.

"That drive in me, if I’m gonna do it then I just do it — I just keep pushing.

"I had the shows and now the train’s moving. You know what, it’s leaving the station, let’s go".