Mercy Williams

‘Tōku reo tōku ohooho, tōku reo tōku mapihi maurea.’

My introduction to music was a little different to most. Since I was three, I’ve been educated in a Rumaki Reo (Māori immersion unit), despite the fact that I don’t have any Māori lineage. My song writing style has been influenced by this immersive experience. I am a bilingual song writer. Sometimes the lyrics can only be expressed in Te Reo Māori because there are no words equivalent in English, sometimes I write in both languages. Now that I am studying music at Auckland University I find myself mostly writing in English. Even when I  write mainly in English the influences you can hear are from my Kapa Haka training, it has shaped my voice, as well as how I construct the stories I tell.

Māori language is a descriptive, metaphoric language and subsequently, I have learnt to experience the world through metaphors rather than analysis and fact - “how precious, how noxious, her life is a lie she has tied together with string”. I think the most significant gift that my immersion education has given me, though, is perspective. People always say that songwriting should come from real life experiences, but as an introverted eighteen year old, who doesn’t have a whole lot of life experience to draw from, the majority of my songs are stories.Narratives. Patched together through my love of writing. As a child, I wanted to be a novelist, then I realised that I had too many ideas and not a long enough attention span, then I discovered that writing songs was the perfect amount of time for a story to unfold.

They [my songs] are mostly pieces of fiction that have no relation to events from my own life - “pages of books that go unread, others read and read again, to catch your eye only to look away”. Māori education is full of storytelling, from Maui who caught the sun in order to slow it down so people could get more done during the day, to Hinemoa and Tutanekai, lovers from different iwi (tribes) who weren’t allowed to be together. Hinemoa swam from the main land over to Mokoia island following the music her lover played. Stories for me have always been a way of understanding life. “As for now I cry, for now I won’t be strong and as the dust clears in the rear view mirror I see the right in what’s been done.”

My songs don’t reflect my life’s story per se, but my life is in every one. The way I was educated, the unique perspective that a Māori education has given me. So whilst I don’t literally sing you my story, I share it with you through form and structure, through the way I interpret life.  “Kape o karu, he wahangū te ao. Whakamau tōnu, kaua e whakahokia.” (close your eyes, the world has gone silent. Hold on, please do not return)

Music is such a beautiful thing because every song, every note is a little part of the writer, their life, whether or not they are writing from personal experience. I exist within every line of every song I write, and that is extraordinary.

Ngā mihi mahana,

– Mercy Williams

Songwriters Speak

NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice. They talk about their views.

About us

Come inside our world

Songwriting is a craft of the imagination and we believe that the creative environment surrounding songwriters should foster, expose and celebrate these songs. 

We run songwriting competitions with lyric, Maori language, Peace Song awards and others alongside. And we record at least 40 finalists each year in professional recording studios.

Songwriting, performance, and recording are the three pivots of our music evolution.

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NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice - read their fresh perspectives in our Songwriters Speak page

Songwriters Speak

2017 Play It Strange Album

Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition Finalists - songs are free to stream and download

2018 Deadlines

We've designed a poster with all key deadlines and dates for our competitions. Make sure to stick them in your calendar!

Further information about each competitions entry requirements can be found below in our "Competitions" section. 

Online entry forms are now available for each competition.

Download the PDF and print it out, stick it up at school and hand it out to friends, get the word out there!

Download and Print

Different by May Zeng

Winner of the 2017 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 

Director/Producer: Mareea Vegas / DOP: Kent Belcher / Art dept: Alex Matthews / Editor: Zac Blair /
Post production: Henry Williamson @ Thievery Studio / Hair: Luci Hare / Makeup: Tiveshni Naidoo / Clothing: Thanks to Lela Jacobs
Special thanks to NZ On Air for their Special Tracks grant which covered the recording and film making.


Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition


The National Secondary School Songwriting Competition is the flagship programme of the Play It Strange Trust.

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Peace Song Competition


This competition seeks songs with the lyrics embodying a focus on Peace. N.B. We are unable to offer the Hiroshima Exchange prizes this year.

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Who Loves Who Competition


The Winner and all Finalists have been announced.
For all secondary school students in NZ.
The competition is judged based on the originality of the cover you choose to rearrange and sing, written and performed by a kiwi artist.
Supported by a Music Grant from Recorded Music NZ.

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Strange Art


Play It Strange presents a Cover Art competition to celebrate all creatives at New Zealand Secondary Schools. 

This competition seeks an Album Artwork for the front cover of the 2018 Play It Strange Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition.

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What we do

We do all sorts of cool projects

Play It Strange has worked for over 10 years, striving to provide secondary students with a platform they can use to pursue their musical adventures. We've held concerts, workshops and competitions, all with the intentions to provide the right environment from which students can gain confidence, self-belief and an impetus for a career path they would like to follow.

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Songwriting is now an NCEA achievement standard

Songwriting will be offered as Level 3 NCEA achievement standard beginning 2017 - a victory!

Get Involved

Strange Friends

Patrons, Strange Friend Stars and our Strange Friends are a crucial and valuable community that support us.

We would love you to come on board.
All donations are tax deductible.

If you are interested in becoming a Platinum Patron or Strange Friends Star or indeed support Play It Strange in any way please give us a call, we would love to catch up and talk.

Email Us(09) 377 7919

Songwriting at University of Waikato

University of Waikato have completed their first Songwriting paper

University of Waikato summer paper ‘Introduction To SONGWRITING’ has just finished.
Students have finalised the tracking of their two songs and the results are very cool.

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I Know This To Be True was conceived and assembled by Geoff Blackwell of PQ Blackwell, and Ric Salizzo. It is a book about truth, beauty and wisdom. "Sixty New Zealanders in the middle of interesting lives talk about what really matters, truth and beauty, and the things they hold dear to their hearts."

Royalties from the book sales will be forwarded to PLAY IT STRANGE to further their website and school programmes.

I Know This To Be True is an incredible collection of New Zealanders discussing what it is that is important to them. PQ Blackwell have generously donated all profits from book sales to Play It Strange. We cannot thank them enough for their support of Play It Strange, and we are so grateful to be part of such a rich, inspiring project.

The book is available for purchase from any good book store in New Zealand and online. Go and get one and enjoy!

Listen to more of our songs here 

The songs on our Bandcamp are free to stream and download. Go crazy. They are there for your listening.


See what our Alumni are up to

Play It Strange songwriters that have had their songs recorded for the annual CD are making cool inroads out into the world. Their career paths were fuelled from their time at school during which they sent their songs into our competitions and triumphed.

Here we have a selection of those who hit the ground running when they left school. With songwriting, performance and recording experience they were capable and poised for action.

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Happy customers and clients

CUSTOMERS: Those philanthropic institutions, individuals, grants bodies and funding agencies. We applaud their generosity in supporting us and their focus on the benefits we bring to the society around us.

CLIENTS: The songwriters and performers that bring their imaginative craft and performing skills to bear and we are all rewarded. From the secondary school songwriting competitions to the recording sessions for the top 40 songs.

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We Are One

A Concert for Autism

Watch Seven Sharp's story on our WE ARE ONE - Concert for Autism here

Photo GalleryNZ Musician Magazine Review