Waitaki App

Music mad, and with Attitude

Waitaki App

Ashley Smyth

06 June 2024, 1:10 AM

Music mad, and with AttitudeMads Harrop. Photo: Supplied/Attitude Pictures TVNZ

Kurow-born singer/songwriter Mads Harrop is releasing a new single Mad Mad Woman, and will be on TVNZ 1's Attitude programme on Sunday, about people living and thriving with disabilities.

Mads has a form of autism - Asperger's syndrome, and at age 19, developed Tourette syndrome - a nervous system disorder which involves making involuntary sounds and movements (tics) . She spoke to the Waitaki App about her life and her music, and what she plans to do next.

Tell me about where you grew up and went to school? How was school for you?

I grew up in Kurow, in the Waitaki Valley. I went to primary school in Kurow (Waitaki Valley School), and went to high school in Ōamaru (St Kevin’s College). 

Most of my teachers were very supportive of me. As a disabled student, some of the subjects were pretty challenging for me - however, my teachers believed in me, and they always did their best to help me when I needed it the most. 

I had a really good time at both the schools I attended. Most of the people I went to school with were lovely and kind to me as well, which really helped! Special shout out to Mrs Jepson - she is the teacher that helped prepare me for high school. I also received a lot of support from my parents. 

If it weren’t for my parents and for the amazing teachers/teacher aides that have helped me along the way, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today!

Did you always love music? How did you start getting into it?

I’ve always been a big music fan - my dad (Steve Harrop - Sublime Studios) is a musician/producer, and I’ve always got music playing in my house. 

I’ve been singing since I could talk, and have been playing guitar since I was 14. My songwriting career began just before I turned 16, when my dad introduced me to the 1970s British glam rock band T. Rex. 

To this day, their song Children Of The Revolution is still my all-time favourite song, and Marc Bolan is someone who I deeply admire and look up to, both as a musician, and a performer. My latest song Mad Mad Woman really shows this influence.

How would you describe your music?

My music is very much multi-genre - It’s Indie rock, hard rock, punk rock, prog rock, glam rock, and psychedelic pop. Lots of rocks!

Tell us about past EPs, successes, etc…

My first EP, Contagious, was released in 2020, which included the hit Contagious World. This went to number one in New Zealand on Student Radio. I couldn't believe it, especially the first time it was played on the radio. After that I was interviewed on RNZ and the student radios numerous times, and I have a TV episode coming out this Sunday at 12noon on TVNZ 1 (Attitude), about my music. 

Academically, I have achieved: 

Bachelor of Music endorsed in composition and music production at the University of Otago (2022), and with Honours (completed in 2023).

Career highlight/s so far?

  • My sister (Cassidhe) and I performed our own songs with Sir Dave Dobbyn up in Tāmaki Makaurau at a concert, back in 2018. Dad and Grandad played with us. There were three generations of Harrops on stage - it was really special and the crowd loved it.
  • Opening for the LEGENDARY Australian Punk band The Chats, alongside Dartz, in 2021.
  • Performing with Ladyhawke at the FIFA Fanzone gig, in 2023.

You mentioned you are going to be on Attitude this weekend. How did that come about?

My mum happened to be talking to the producer up in Auckland and they said they would love to tell my story. 

They thought it would be helpful to others to overcome what life throws at them, particularly the Tourette’s - which I find by far the most difficult. 

Tell us about the challenges you've had to overcome in your life, and still deal with on a daily basis - what influence, if any, has this had on your music?

Since I got Tourette’s (five years ago), I’ve had to overcome a lot - especially when it comes to going out in public.

As much as I like getting out and about, I do feel uncomfortable when strangers react to my tics - when that happens, it feels like people draw all their attention on me, which I find embarrassing, especially if they tell me off, if they say things such as, “Hey! We don’t need to hear any of that, keep it to yourself!”, or if someone sees me and then they start laughing at my tics. 

Usually when those situations arise, I just say to people, “I can’t help it, I have Tourette’s, sorry. Could you please be kind?”, and, if I need to, I will stick up for myself. 

I also have a badge in my purse that explains my condition, which I sometimes wear. 

Living with Tourette’s has also affected my mental health, and it causes me a lot of pain - tics can really hurt. This has, however, been the driving force behind some of my songs, such as Lost For Words, and Hiding In Colour.

I’ve also written a song called Enough Is Enough, and that’s a protest song, calling for Tourette syndrome to be recognised as a disability here in Aotearoa, because the fact that it’s unrecognised means that those who have the condition can’t get any government-funded support, and so the Tourette’s community here have been campaigning for this to change.

Also, tell us about your new single. What is it about, when is it out, and how can people listen. 

My new single is called Mad Mad Woman. It’s about the concept of madness, How women are often perceived by society. It also relates to my own experiences I’ve had, being a woman who has Tourette's. It’s out on June 7 (Bandcamp Friday).

What do you do with your life outside of music? Plans for the future?

I like to watch movies, exercise, go to lots of gigs and hang out with friends/whānau. When I’m at Mum and Dad’s place, I really enjoy hanging out with my three dogs.

I’ve recently started getting into sound engineering and producing, and I would like to make a career out of these. 

My inspiration to become an engineer and producer stemmed from both Dad and Tom (Havard) at Sublime Studios - when I started recording my own songs, I developed a fascination with recording studio equipment and mixing desks, and so that made me want to learn how to produce and do mixing! 

I’ve spent the past few years at university working on my skills in this area, especially last year, and I absolutely LOVE being in a recording studio. 

I’ve also started producing and mixing my own songs, which I LOVE because it gives me so much more creative power and autonomy! 

I have also started producing and engineering other peoples’ songs. Recently, I applied to do a Masters of Music endorsed in Studio Production, and am waiting to find out the result of that.  

Anything else you would like people to know?

I LOVE dogs and I really want to get a service dog, because I believe it would really help me, especially with my Tourette's and my autism as it would help me overcome my embarrassment and calm me down. 

For this to happen, Tourettes would have to be recognised as a disability. Personally, I think it’s crazy that it isn't, as it is the disability I have that has impacted my life the most. 

Mad Mad Woman is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and all other major streaming platforms from tomorrow (June 7).

Photo: supplied