The backbone of New Zealand’s music industry, Devin Abrams (AKA Pacific Heights), has come through with his latest album The Waters Between. With credits on international hits like Drax Project's Woke Up Like This and Catching Feelings, as well as an illustrious career with Shapeshifter before going solo, Pacific Heights is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after producers in New Zealand today.
Now, the producer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist charts "new waters" with his new album. Recorded in Aotearoa, America and Australia, the record - in quite a literal sense - moves beyond continents, oceans, and musical boundaries, by consequence propelling artists from around the globe into the world of Pacific Heights.
The lead track on the album, Cold Nights, is graced by two supremely talented vocalists: NZ legend Stan Walker and Australian rising star Larissa Lambert. The combination of Devin’s carefully crafted production and emotive lyrics, Stan Walker’s soaring vocals and the stunning voice of Larissa Lambert has made for a show-stopping ballad for the ages.
Other appearances on the album include upcoming Australian artist Bri Clark, incredible Kiwi artists Louis Baker and Gramsci, the breakthrough talents of Foley and Lepani, and upcoming artists Solomon Crook, LANCE, and Jack Page. Refusing to play by the rules, The Waters Between is not bound to one concept. Instead, it transcends expectations. We got to sit down with the Kiwi artist to discuss his thoughts behind The Waters Between, his creative process and what’s next for Pacific Heights.
Cool Accidents: Hi Devin, thanks for making time to talk to us today! How are you doing?
Pacific Heights: Hey no, thank you for having me! Doing great, taking a couple of days off from my studio to enjoy the release of this (very long in the making) album.
We’re really digging your new single Cold Nights (feat. Stan Walker & Larissa Lambert). Can you tell us a little about how that song came to life?
The start of the song’s journey was almost 4 years ago when I first went to LA for some writing sessions and meetings. I found a cover of Drax Project's Woke Up Late (which I produced and co-wrote) on YouTube by these amazing US singers called Ni/Co. I reached out and we connected quickly in person in LA (As they had just moved there from Nashville). We did some writing sessions together and one of the songs from those was Cold Nights.
The start of the song was probably the only easy part of the song, haha. It took a lot of tweaks with the writing and many fully mixed and mastered versions to get it right and this was even before reaching out to Stan and Larissa. Once I felt I was close to the finish line with the writing and production I knew it was time to find the right artists/vocalists for the song that could deliver the depth and intent the song was about.
It was meant to be, as in 2021 I got called to help produce Stan’s upcoming album with a very talented producer friend Matt Sadgrove. Whilst we were working on that album, I decided off the cuff to show Stan a demo of the song. He loved it, and at the end of one of the days working with him, we tracked a placeholder vocal. Not long after that, my manager sent me a link to Larissa’s music. I fell straight in love with her voice and knew on first listen she would be perfect to sing Cold Nights with Stan. I’m still pinching myself and forever grateful that she was keen to do it. As a producer, you dream of working with vocalists like Stan and Larissa, so I’m extremely happy at the moment.
Cold Nights is so on theme for the wintry weather both Australia & NZ have been facing these last couple of months. Obviously, the track is themed around colder weather and coming together with your loved ones. What does Cold Nights specifically mean to you?
It’s about vulnerability in relationships. When you know in your heart that a relationship is worth fighting for during testing times. Someone has to take that first step and be vulnerable to start a conversation on how to keep it together.
Your new album The Waters Between is finally here! When did you start working on the album?
Late 2018 and OMG - I’m relieved not to have it in my studio or house anymore, haha.
How does it feel to finally have the album out?
It's like I've had this damn car I've been working on in the garage for years and now I get to finally drive it.
We love how Cold Nights was recorded in Aotearoa, America & Australia, you’ve ended up quite literally collaborating “between waters”. What’s the story behind the album title?
There’s not a strict concept to this album per se, but I did want each of the songs to represent the idea of emotional distance. As it was made all over the place and I was away from my wife and kids, in a way I really to express the feelings of the distance. Ironically, it was started before a global pandemic, which in a way made us all have these feelings.
From the R&B & neo-soul vibes on tracks like We’ll Never Have Tomorrow (feat. Lepani) & Back To You (feat. Louis Baker), to that chilled-out electronica sound on Domino, to classic pop bangers like Cold Nights; you really flex your genre-bending prowess on The Waters Between. How would you describe the album sonically?
I really wanted to make an album of future-sounding power ballads. I love so many different genres of music, and took a lot of inspiration from everything between Gospel, Soul, RnB, '80s and '90s ballads to my usual spices of ambient, electronica and pop music.
What’s next for Pacific Heights?
More music and collaborations hopefully with maybe a few special one-off shows here and there.