When you begin to put together a list of living New Zealand music legends, there are names that spring immediately to mind – Dave Dobbyn, Neil and Tim Finn, and of course, former Mutton Birds and Blam Blam Blam frontman Don McGlashan.

In a career spanning almost 30 years there are very few thing McGlashan hasn’t put his hand to. From his humble beginnings playing French horn with the Auckland Sinfonia, to playing drums and singing with legendary agit-punk rockers Blam Blam Blam in the early 80s, to his 10 year stint fronting the brilliant Auckland quartet the Mutton Birds, McGlashan has arguably achieved more than any other current NZ musician.

“I’ve been extremely lucky to have a career which has been as untidy as it has been,” remarks McGlashan proudly. “I think if I’d had better advice I would’ve stuck to one thing or the other and I would’ve probably … I dunno, I wouldn’t have had such an interesting time of it. And whats happening now is that all the different things that I’ve done seem to have come together in a form so I can really use them.”

Throughout his 30 year career, 2006 was easily as important as any other year in McGlashans career. Starting off with the release of Toa Fraser’s film No 2, for which McGlashan wrote the score, and the surprising success of the single “Bathe in the River”, to the release of his debut solo album Warm Hand, it was a busy year.

McGlashan wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The thing that’s really the centre of my working life is writing songs, and I try to give myself time every day to work on that,” explains McGlashan. “But that’s pretty solitary and luckily for me I really enjoy getting my head around other people’s projects and collaborating with them. So working on film scores and theatre scores, or dance, it gives you a chance to hang out with other people and find out the way their discipline works as well.”

“Any given week would contain me sitting down looking at computer screens trying to work out a film score, sitting down with manuscript paper trying to score out an orchestral score for the film, or having a band practice and charging into the studio to record. So just the fact that I’ve done lots of different things, it all seems to be coming together.”

Despite such a hectic work schedule, McGlashan says it was still a surprise that success came as quickly and strongly as it did.

“It was out of the blue. The album I’d been working on since we came back from England (1999) and I really thought maybe in 2 or 3 years I’d be able to get a solo album out, but it actually took until 2006 to release it because I took my time. I didn’t know what a solo album from me would sound like, so I had a lot of fun with it.”

“It was really serendipity,” he continues. “It was very cool the way the No 2 thing worked – soundtrack albums are usually an afterthought; you put out a soundtrack album because it’s nice to have all that music in one place, but you don’t really expect many people to buy it – let alone buy a single from a soundtrack album.”

Since the release of Warm Hand, touring has really been at the core of McGlashans’ work. Putting together his band, the Seven Sisters, was really the first step in tackling such a massive task.

“I got to the stage where I wanted the whole thing to breathe a bit more,” he says, “so I put together a band for the recording, which was the drummer from the Muttonbirds, Ross Birch, SJD on bass, myself on guitar, and a guy called John Segovia on mainly pedal steel guitar, and that bands essentially turned into the Seven Sisters.”

Since that time the band has seen the inevitable move of members, with Marie Thom taking over bass duties and ex-Cloudboy drummer Chris O’Connor taking over on drums.

“It’s a really great unit – we did a South Island tour last year and we just really enjoy working together,” says McGlashan. “Its really flexible – I think I’ve been through my stage of wanting to pin everything down and give every song a neatly ironed set of clothes; the songs can do whatever they want, they’re free agents. So we start playing them, but if the song wants to be a bit longer, it can be that.”

McGlashan and the Seven Sisters live is a veritable feast for audience members, with the set list spanning the entire length of his career.

“I’m going right back through my back catalogue now, as well as working on new stuff,” he explains. “One of the benefits of working with brand new people is that they remind me of songs that I’ve completely forgotten – they say ‘you remember that song off the second Muttonbirds album, I’d really love to play that one’ and I haven’t played it for 10 years! It means I can listen to these things again through someone else’s ears. So we’re doing a couple of Front Lawn songs, a couple of Blam songs and some songs from the Muttonbirds, but not only the really familiar ones.”

“We’re giving everything a new coat of paint.”

Of course, festivals like Meltdown make up an important number of the dates for McGlashan, in terms of touring, but they are a truly special occasion for the group.

“It’s really different – it just depends on what the vibe is on the day,” says McGlashan. “You know, I’ve done festivals where you’re playing on a stage next to another stage that’s running really loud, or you’re playing at a funny time of the day; you never really know what its gonna be like.” “Sometimes it can be a very alienating experience to play at a festival, but I think generally the good thing about festivals is just that unpredictability.”