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Monique was born in New Zealand where her passion and talent for music began at the tender age of 5. The first instrument she mastered was the violin, playing time honoured classical pieces. But at the age of 11 she started to express herself by writing music of her own. As an adult, Monique began performing, using the power of her beautiful singing voice to bring her emotive songs to life, and to make them personal to her audience. Combining her songwriting, vocal and guitar playing talents, Monique started performing live - first in her native New Zealand, and then extensively in Australia. At first she found it tough - performing in pubs and clubs where people would chat and continue with their evening as if she were not there. Not to be defeated, and always being one to strive for perfection, she studied various well established and famous performers, to try to unlock the key to capturing the full attention of an audience. Bingo, one day in Sydney Australia everything came together, and the magic happened. “Playing solo is such a vulnerable place. If you are not able to hold the audience really tightly they become distracted and talk. I knew this was normal but found it so disheartening. At this particular gig I held the whole room and you could have heard a pin drop. And then I realised I had become a real performer.” She hasn't looked back since, and in addition to her solo work, Monique now also plays with her own band. The realisation that her music was touching people, encouraged her to continue with her music on a new level. She performed extensively in Australia, including at The Basement Club, a landmark venue in the Sydney music scene. It took only eight months to complete her first album and she has taken the big step of moving to Europe where her following is now even bigger than in her native New Zealand. The Here and Now She has recently settled in France, in a small village near Montpellier. Having grown up in a relatively young country, her move was prompted by the inspiration she finds in the cultural history of Europe. She fell in love with the south of France when she visited for the first time in 2004 and ever since she felt the need to return. She still calls New Zealand home, and its spirit will always run through her, but now she knows that you can call more than one place home. “Musically France is so interesting with many different styles encouraged and accepted. It's very good for me here, both as a classical and a contemporary musician. And the bonus is that the UK and Germany are both so close - and these are countries I have known and loved since my first visit to Europe as a teenager.” Monique is a strong believer in many things; she believes emotions of all kinds should be faced and celebrated as they are part of the very essence of all of us. “I want my music to move people emotionally, to open something in them that they cannot usually access. We are all so controlled so much of the time that we hide our emotions deep inside and far out of reach. So when people cry to a song of mine I know I have touched that dormant place in them. I think that is what good art should be, an expression that takes you somewhere that other things do not access.” Music is even more important to Monique now than when she penned her first song as a little girl. Her list of favourite musicians is long yet filled with talented artists from different decades. Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Joan Armatrading, Angelique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Leonard Cohen, David Gray, Ben Harper, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow, Everything But the Girl, Della Reese, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Jill Scott, Jet, Indigo Girls, Jewel, Lucinda Williams, Mariza, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Michelle Shocked, Rickie Lee Jones... and so on! She has a great appreciation for masters of any craft, but musicians turn her head perhaps more than any other artist as she understands the journey they are on. Monique Rhodes - Awakening It's natural for people to try to make comparisons, especially when they hear a musician for the first time. Monique is enormously flattered to have been likened musically to Sarah McLachlan, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow. Those who have seen her perform live, or heard her music recordings will know that she has her own sound and performance style. Awakening is her first album. Many of the songs have been co-written with Australian Jane Bye who is also based in France. It took eight months to complete. She is very proud of the album, and when asked to pick out her favourite tracks, she says it's like having 12 children and being asked which one she loves the best. Each song has something to say, and they are all too personally entrenched in her to single out any one of them. “They all have such meaning for me, and are part of my journey. My preferences purely change with my mood!” Performing live is still Monique's passion, and listening to her has become a passion for many others. Visit her official site at MoniqueRhodes.com Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.