"I love to smile and that is a real Fijian thing."

Andrea Kirwin has been a singer/songwriter since she was 21. After catching a Claire Bowditch show at her university bar in Canberra at ANU, she picked up a guitar and has never looked back. Now based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Andrea has released two albums and has recently taken over a space in Nambour: Peace Run Records and Agency. The space will, among many other things, hold boutique gigs, music classes and mentoring sessions. 

We caught up with Andrea to ask her about her island heritage and how it's shaped who she is today...

What’s your connection to the Pacific? 

My mum is Fijian, from an island called Matuku in Lau. She’s a church minister, so we grew up singing three-part harmonies and lots of Fijian hymns.   

We used to go back there, to where our grandparents lived, when we were little, quite a lot. We even lived there for a year when I was 8 years old, so I have very strong connections back to that island. 

And of course, on the mainland we have lots of family, mum was one of 11 so we have over 60 first cousins and lots of nephews and nieces now. 

So, what was it like growing up in Australia with Fijian heritage?

We lived in a small town, Pallarenda in Townsville and I had a small group of very close friends. It wasn’t really a normal Fijian upbringing and it wasn’t really Australian because my mum kept ties with the Fijian community. 

I had a real multicultural experience. My best friend was Filipino, and we had another friend who was Chinese, and another friend was Italian, so we all just kind of meshed in and we were all just ourselves, so I didn’t really experience anything negative.

I always used to ask mum “why don’t you teach us Fijian” but she didn’t teach us because she thought we might have had an accent. We didn’t learn it until we went and lived in Fiji for a year. 

Overall, It was a really positive experience for me, we did ballet and piano, speech and drama and horse-riding and we went to the theatre and things like that, which I think has been a big influence on how I style my space now. 

How do those experiences show up in your life today?

I’m able to identify with certain aspects of a person’s culture and I love that. People are proud of where they’re from and who they are and the experiences that have brought them here. I love that we’re all just members of this community and we all bring something different as well. 

How has your upbringing and the Fijian culture influenced the way you dress?

My mum used to shop so much in Townsville! She’d go out to boutique dress stores and they’d drop everything when she walked into the store because they knew she was going to spend a lot of money.  She wore designer clothes and was always dressed up really nicely when I was growing up. 

It’s interesting because growing up with her always dressed in blazers with shoulder pads and things like that, I used to make fun of her; but now I dress like that! She’s my biggest style icon. 

What do you love most about Fijian culture?

I feel like I have a really Fijian way of looking at people. I just naturally smile whenever I meet someone. I love to smile and that is a real Fijian thing. 

When you go to Fiji on a holiday you can leave your children with the staff at the hotel because they just love children. My dream job would be to work with animals or with children and music. So now, I’ve got a music space in Nambour where I’ll be working with children and I’m getting a Border Collie - I’m getting the trifecta! 

Lastly... What does it mean to you to live a big, beautiful life?

Living a big beautiful life looks different for each of us. For some It's working in hospitality, for others it's being of service. For me it's encouraging people and connecting them through music and friendship. This is how I live my big beautiful life. And I'm so grateful the Sunny coast is such a wonderful community of people who share the same community spirit!

Actually, I have one last question: Do you have an alter ego? 

My alter ego used to be quite active when I was younger! I spent quite a few years before I met my partner Claire looking for where I fit in and part of that was doing a Drag King show. It was way out of my comfort zone, but it was still kind of performing, so I did a couple of shows where I dressed up as Tupac and I was rapping. My stage name was Papi. 

Andrea founded her own independent record label Peace Run Records in 2009 and has since released 3 full length albums; From the Ground Up (2013), The Story of Us (2015), and A Quiet Revolution (2017). She mostly performs solo on the Sunshine Coast, QLD but also performs with her band at Festivals and special events. Her music can be described as feel good, soul infused songs from the heart. Andrea is currently taking time out from touring to complete writing her fourth album. You can find her playing all around the Sunshine Coast sharing the love, through her music and stories.

For more information on Andrea, check out her WEBSITE or INSTAGRAM


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