Debbie Harwood is a Renaissance woman of the New Zealand music industry. Aside from being one of our most recognisable performing artists, she has been a producer, radio host, publicist, tour manager, music lecturer and music mentor, and has always championed the work of female singer/songwriters.
Starting out in a pub band in her native Hawke’s Bay, Debbie moved to Auckland in 1981 and fell into band and tour management of artists such as Blam Blam Blam, Citizen Band and Dance Exponents.
In 1983 CBS offered Debbie a solo deal, with her single If that’ll Make You Happy winning her Most Promising Female Vocalist at the 1985 Aotearoa Music Awards, the awards show which became the catalyst for the formation of When the Cat’s Away. Another Tui would follow in 1987.
In the summer of 1986-87 the Cats went on the first of seven national tours. In June 1987 a gold-selling live album was released, followed by signature tune Melting Pot reaching No.1 in December of ‘88. Hot on the heels of ‘Melting Pot’, the national tour of 1988-1989 grew into a monster with the Cats playing to over 100,000 people and winning Best Group at the Aotearoa Music Awards.
Debbie next moved to Melbourne and within months of arriving she was invited to join Jimmy Barnes’s band as his backing vocalist, touring with him for the next two years.
In the mid-1990s Debbie produced and self-released the album Peaches – So This is Love, an album of love songs on which she was joined by some of her favourite female singers. In 1997 Debbie co-set up recording studio The Bus in Devonport, and over the next five years produced albums, singles and sang on countless recordings. She also continued to work in front and behind the microphone, writing and hosting radio shows focusing on NZ music and constantly gigging with her Band of Gold.
A Cats reunion in 2001 resulted in a new live album which was certified platinum, and in 2004 EMI released Debbie’s solo album Soothe Me. She then instigated the Give it a Girl shows featuring a top line-up of A-list wahine singer/songwriters; and in 2016 she performed alongside Shona Laing, Sharon O’Neill and Hammond Gamble in a national tour of churches and cathedrals. Her latest EP of original songs ‘The Sun’ was released in 2019.
We are incredibly honoured to be inducting Debbie Harwood into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame | Te Whare Taonga Puoro o Aotearoa.