NZ Olympic duo and Wellington band TOI create Paris anthem

The New Zealand Olympic Team has a funky new anthem to lift them to new heights in Paris in July.

Performed by Wellington band TOI - with musical support from Olympians Ellesse Andrews on backing vocals and Max Brown on guitar - the soul reggae tune Ain’t Just Dreaming has Conway Jeune (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Arawa) on lead vocals and guitar.

Andrews, a cycling silver medalist at Tokyo 2020, and canoeist Max Brown wrote and came up with the idea for the song. As Brown studied with some of the members of TOI at Jazz School in Wellington, they turned to them to help bring the song to life.

“TOI has a beautiful mixture of soul and reggae music, which is a big part of New Zealand music,” says Brown. “They were the first to come to mind.”

The band - which also includes Jules Blewman, Luther Hunt, Bryn van Vliet and Kaito Walley - workshopped the song to add some of their signature sound and style, before inviting Brown and Andrews to their studio in Wellington to record it with producer Neil MacLeod.

“The first time they played it to us, we were both really emotional because we were so amazed at how good it sounded. I shed a couple of tears to be honest,” says Brown.

Andrews admits she felt vulnerable. “I was a bit nervous and wasn’t too sure what to expect.”

“It was quite a vulnerable space sharing our work with a group we’d never worked with before, but hearing them bring the song to life was such a special and emotional moment,” she says.

TOI co-founder Blewman says they had “butterflies” seeing Andrews and Brown’s reaction to the track.

“The most memorable moment for me was when we showed them what he had done with the song. We were nervous to know if they would like the changes,” he says.

“We jammed through the song and they absolutely loved it - and had tears in their eyes (the happy kind), which gave the room butterflies.”

Brown says the song captures the emotions tied up in reaching the Olympic dream.

“A huge part of being a member of the New Zealand Team is the journey you go on to make it this far. This song talks about all the emotions and challenges we go through in the lead up to a big event. We wanted to capture the feelings leading up to competitions using them to perform,” he says.

“We also wrote the lyrics in a way so that they can relate to anyone who feels pressure…this song isn’t just for Olympic athletes, it’s for all New Zealanders.”

Ain’t Just Dreaming will be played at New Zealand team functions in Paris.

“It’s a beautiful, catchy tune and we look forward to using it in our team environment at Paris where it will help to bring our team together,” says New Zealand Chef de Mission Nigel Avery.

The song is available on all streaming platforms.