Dane Rumble mystified by New Zealander of the Year nomination seven years after music career ended

It's been more than seven years since Dane Rumble last released a song, but that hasn't stopped Kiwis from voting for him as New Zealander of the Year - an award for which he's now an unlikely frontrunner.

Rumble, a founding member of Kiwi hip-hop group Fast Crew who embarked on a solo career in the late 2000s, was one of 12 nominees listed in a press release outlining some of the accolade's top contenders last week.

His name appeared alongside the likes of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Newshub journalist Patrick Gower, Wellington's celebrity cat Mittens and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

There's no doubt Rumble was a prominent figure in New Zealand's pop music scene for a time, pumping out singles 'Cruel', 'Always Be Here' and 'Don't Know What to Do' alongside a number one album and a flurry of awards across a five-year period.

But in March 2013, after releasing his final single 'Not Alone' with Jupiter Project, the singer disappeared suddenly from the public eye. 

It later emerged he'd left music behind to move his family to Sydney, where he owns a company selling luxury watches and has a stake in former drummer Scott Rushton's jewellery business.

So what are Kiwis seeing in him now that they weren't a decade ago, at the peak of his success?

Dane Rumble performs beneath Auckland's Sky Tower in 2010.
Dane Rumble performs beneath Auckland's Sky Tower in 2010. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The New Zealander of the Year Awards Office wasn't much help. A spokesperson told Newshub that while they found it "amazing who people are motivated to nominate", they weren't able to share any details of nominations so as not to influence the judging process.

However it did confirm that there had been multiple nominations for Rumble, and that the decision on whether he'd go forward to the next stage was now up to the judges.

Rumble himself is mystified by how he made the list.

"Someone told me about it. I didn't really know too much about what was involved or where the nomination came from," he told Newshub.

"It comes as a bit of a shock to be fair. Obviously I'm very grateful for someone to submit me for something like that, but I'm sure there's plenty of other people more worthy than myself."

Asked why he believes New Zealanders have been nominating him for the award this year when they weren't a decade ago, Rumble puts it down to fans reminiscing on the good old days.

"I have a feeling that it's sort of come about probably because a lot of my younger fans, back in the height of my music days, grew up - it's that element of nostalgia," he said.

Rumble's resurgence in popularity was fueled further by a handful of DJ sets he performed in New Zealand last year, at which he says the crowds were much bigger than what he was getting at the back end of his career.

"They're obviously really resonating with it. I'm super grateful for my music to be having an impact on people's lives still - it's pretty cool."

Dane Rumble says his nomination for New Zealander of the Year came as a shock.
Dane Rumble says his nomination for New Zealander of the Year came as a shock. Photo credit: Getty

But don't expect a return to peak Rumblemania any time soon. He says he made a deliberate choice to end his music career on a high to avoid going down "the sliding end of the height of fame".

"I just fell off the face of the Earth," he said of his sudden career switch in 2013.

"I could see it [the end of my music career] coming, and I didn't really tell anyone but I thought 'I'm gonna end on a high'. Once we put out 'Not Alone' and it was a success, I was like 'that's me, I'm done - I'm ready to move into the next stage of my life'.

"I regret it a little bit because a lot of people invested their time, energy and money into supporting me and my music. I'll always be forever grateful for that but... I wanted to step out when it was good."

Rumble has tough competition if he's to take out the title of 2021 New Zealander of the Year - most notably from Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who the Awards Office says has earned a "significant number" of nominations.