Maree Sheehan’s early musical environment was a joyful, if not paradoxical mix. “I was brought up with a lot of American pop music, a lot of disco and Top 20 Hits,” Sheehan said in 2014. “But on the other side, culturally, I was influenced by my mum and her singing, and the whānau getting together and playing guitar and signing waiata. Being Māori, I was exposed to the whole cultural side of waiata, the way we sang together and the family came together.”
Sheehan was born in Leeston, Canterbury, with iwi affiliations to Ngāti Maniapoto-Waikato, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whaoa, and Irish heritage from her father’s side. Both of her parents were musical: her mother and aunts sang waiata together in a group and sometimes performed local gigs, and her father played the accordion in a band.