Interview: Julia Naughton. Shot & Edited: Emily Verdouw
In an industry that lends itself to narcissism, Ngaiire is on the right side of cool.
You only have to listen to her latest album, "Blastoma" to realise this is an artist with a lot to say.
Born in Papua New Guinea, her childhood was uprooted when a volcano erupted leaving her father and siblings without a home and stranded in the middle of bushland.
"We lost everything. We basically lived in this field with no contact to the outside world," Ngaiire told The Huffington Post Australia.
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Not yet a teenager and without her mother (she was on the mainland at the time of the eruption) Ngaiire turned to music for solace.
"Everything that had happened until that point was just so crazy to my 12-year-old brain that I needed to find a source to kind of channel it all," Ngaiire said.
It would be months before Ngaiire and her family would be reinstated with a flicker of hope.
"My cousin heard on the radio that mum was searching for us," Ngaiire said.
After hearing word that her family was alive, she did what any desperate mother would do: she sent a chartered plane to get them.
Almost two decades on, Ngaiire is in a much steadier lane though her mother's hero status remains unchanged.
Home is Sydney's inner west and today her apartment is dressed in fresh tulips, lillies and white roses with clues of her craft absorbed throughout the interior, including her appreciation of good style.
With performances at Glastonbury and Splendour in the Grass, Ngaiire is becoming known as much for her music as she is for her eclectic costumes though her confidence, she explains wasn't always there.
Having grown up in Papua New Guinea, as a kid she was painfully shy and always wanted to cover up, wearing baggy clothes to detract attention from herself.
"But I remember when we first came to Australia my mum took me out shopping and said 'OK Ngaiire, you're in Australia now, you need to be confident with your body," Ngaiire said.
Today, her resume includes supporting the likes of Alicia Keys and John Legend in front of a crowd of more than 100,000.
"You're a different persona on stage. I always like to feel like I'm ready to battle," Ngaiire said.
Battle is a familiar concept for Ngaiire, who was diagnosed with a form of cancer in her adrenal glands when she was just three. The diagnosis led to chemotherapy and the inevitable loss of her hair.
With little memory of it now, she recalls it being a painful time but a time that taught her that sometimes there is no other option than strength.
Pain and strength are intertwined throughout her latest record, "Blastoma", the album's title being a direct reference to the name of the cancer she had as a child.
One of the tracks, "House on a Rock" explores the fragile acceptance of ending a long term relationship, and the pain that follows as you re-build your life.
"When you're in a long term relationship, you just get so used to being in that relationship and you don't realise that you're drifting apart or things are breaking down," Ngaiire said.
Coming out the other side is perhaps what we can expect from Ngaiire's next album, which she's already working on, by the way.
"There's still so much more to talk about," Ngaiire said.
Her voice has arrived at a time when Australia, and well, the rest of the world, needs it most.
"I'm really excited and really proud to be a black slash brown woman in today's society -- especially in the music industry -- it's a really interesting and powerful time," Ngaiire said.
"We're seeing more women headline festivals and there's more conversation about diversity. There is change happening and I'm really on fire for it," Ngaiire said.
Like we said, the right side of cool.
NGAIIRE 'INSIDE BLASTOMA' TOUR' DATES
Tickets on sale now via ngaiire.com.au
Fri 25 Nov | Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Fri 2 Dec | The Factory, Sydney
Fri 12 Dec | The Zoo, Brisbane
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