Hailing from the small island country of New Zealand, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Don McGlashan has made a made a name for himself at home and abroad that is anything but small. He is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated musicians and over the years has won three New Zealand Music Awards for ‘Album of the Year’, ‘Single of the Year’ (for Nature), and ‘Best Group’.
Don McGlashan (born 18 July 1959) is a New Zealand musician and songwriter who won fame with bands Blam Blam Blam, The Front Lawn, and The Mutton Birds. He has also played with The Bellbirds, The Plague, The Whizz Kids and percussion group From Scratch. McGlashan has composed music for film, television, and New Zealand’s Limbs Dance Company.
McGlashan’s first hits were with band Blam Blam Blam in the early 1980s. He later released four albums as lead singer of The Mutton Birds.
McGlashan is noted for creating stories with New Zealand imagery, many around his hometown of Auckland. Examples include Auckland’s Dominion Road (“Dominion Road”), Auckland’s Harbour Bridge (“Harbour Bridge”), Takapuna Beach (“Andy”), the Coromandel (“Passenger 26”). The Valiant in “White Valiant” is a common New Zealand 1970s car: McGlashan never owned one, though fellow musician Dave Dobbyn had.
He is also known for writing about New Zealand events:
The Aramoana massacre (“A Thing Well Made”)
the Kader Toy Factory Fire (“Toy Factory Fire”)
Opo the friendly dolphin (“Miracle Sun”)
McGlashan noted that while living in England with the Mutton Birds that he still wrote New Zealand “letters to home” in his songs as he struggled to find a connection with English imagery.
McGlashan explained his writing process in 1998 as “trying to write about people that I know. I suppose ‘write letters’ to people, or try to unpick a moment that I’ve lived through and either tell the story in the first person or make up some characters who then tell the story in their own words – and by using what they don’t say as much as what they do say, try and paint their world in a song.”
He has also played a number of different instruments throughout his musical career: when asked what instruments he plays, he answered, “Well I don’t play violin”. However, he is noted for playing the euphonium and French horn. With Blam Blam Blam, McGlashan played drums and euphonium. He later picked up guitar duties for his work with The Front Lawn and The Mutton Birds. McGlashan has also collaborated with other New Zealand musicians, playing the euphonium in tracks by Dave Dobbyn (‘It Dawned On Me’), Tim Finn and on Time On Earth, by Crowded House. He played live with Crowded House at Glastonbury 2008 and has been a regular member of the touring line-up throughout their 2008 world tour. McGlashan played euphonium on the track ‘Hole In My Head’ by Melbourne singer/songwriter Marjorie Cardwell, on her album ‘In Another World’, released in 2012.