By BRUCE DENNILL
Megan Victor-Carelse is a triple-threat in the traditional sense – she acts, sings and dances – but her official CV lists a much longer list. That document identifies her as an octo-threat: a singer, songwriter, actor, presenter, model, director, teacher and producer. Given that she’s just released a new single called Home, however, it seems worth checking where music fits into all of that in terms of being a passion and priority.
“First,” she says, without hesitation. “I’ve always been a singer. And writing songs, too – I’ve written poetry for years, and it came naturally. Now, it’s something that I’m encouraged to keep going with. My wife Natalie allows me space to write, and I make use of whatever time I can find – often in the bath!”
Does music fill a different gap to any of Victor-Carelse’s other creative pursuits?
“I think it probably does now,” she suggests. “I had a terrible 2016, with a car accident and an attempted hijacking, and I grew through that. A big thing for me is to be authentic. I have this incredible tribe – my friends and family – and now I can be honest; no lies like in the past. Now, I’m letting my inner dork out completely, and wearing my heart on my sleeve. The romantic in me is getting a workout and I’m more transparent; talking about everything. I’m not playing any games now.”
What about the creative pressure in this particular niche – it must be different to learning a script or posing for a photographer on a shoot?
“With this project – Home is just one song; we’ve recorded a number of others – I’ve taken my time. I haven’t been in any rush, which has been wonderful. My neighbour is [engineer and producer] Marius Brouwer, who I’m recording with, so I’ve had technical excellence while hardly having to leave home.”
Your current sound, which you feel is perhaps your “true” mode, is a version of country pop, which you’ve said has taken you 10 years to discover.
“I grew up listening to both country and pop,” Victor-Carelse smiles. “Celine Dion was one of my heroes, and Dolly Parton was another. But it’s taken me all this time to get back there. I had help, though. I worked on a production for [arts college] AFDA, which dealt with Aids education. Because of the topic, I didn’t feel great about charging for it, but I made a deal for the time I spent on the job. I had the students come and spend time in the studio with me finding my sound. I went in with 60% of what I wanted and then get the kids to come up with ideas and harmonies.”
Victor-Carelse has changed the branding under which she performs, now using her full name rather than the more generic “Megan C”, which was her moniker for a while.
“The first time I released music, started with some club stuff and hip hop, which did get a bit of airplay,” she remembers. “But I wrote that music from a place of rebellion, which is why I created that ‘Megan C’ persona – she was able to perform that stuff better than I am.
“No I’ve discarded what wasn’t me. I’ve realised that I don’t need to be sexy all the time to get somewhere. And that’s good – the real me is a jeans and T-shirt girl who likes to plant vegetables in her garden! Now the greatest challenge is to get people to spell my surname correctly, dammit…”
This shift is part of what seems to be a general move towards greater authenticity.
“I think so,” offers Victor-Carelse. “A couple of years ago, I ditched self-respect – which can be quite an aggressive goal – with self-love, which is something I try to embrace more every day. I don’t break myself down anymore. I tell myself, ‘You got this, babe.’ I sometimes even send myself emails when I achieve something so that I can read it later and remember.”
She pauses, trying to verbalise a thought.
“I suppose you could say that I’ve now given all parts of myself room outside of my body where they can live. I now know myself well enough that when someone says something that is the opposite of the truth, I can be sure of what is true.”
As an independent operator in the contemporary music industry, there are a number of choices to make regarding the best way to get songs out to an audience.
“I think one at a time is best,” ventures Victor-Carelse. “In the digital age, downloads make the most sense. What this is forcing me to do is to choose my songs well – they must be the best possible options. Even once that’s done, though, it’s difficult to get onto mainstream radio, which is still a goal. There are challenges with the systems now, where you have to get people to request your song in order to get it played rather than having them respond to it after it’s been played.
“Videos are important too. Natalie will direct – we have a couple of concepts we want to work on for Home.”
What about the emotional aspect of working alone? Taking responsibility for everything can be a heavy burden.
“Definitely,” agrees Victor-Carelse. “I know who I am now, but what I’m doing needs a new definition. Where does the music fit, for instance? I also arrive with a band now – no more synthesised backing tracks – so there are new things to think about. I apply myself 100% to everything I do, even if parts of it aren’t part of the dream.”
How do you stay motivated where the latter is true?
“I know that something will come, and if I give up now, I’ll miss it,” says Victor-Carelse. “If you don’t have the courage to live your dreams, someone will pay you to live theirs. I’m paving my own way now. I have regular conversations with my ego – we’re good friends. I made promises to a five-year-old me who wanted to be a singer and an actor.
“I aim to take all the opportunities I can to do what I love. Even auditions: I enjoy that time, and then it’s not the end of the world if they don’t call back. I’m finally getting better at leaning on people, which helps. I don’t know what it’ll mean if I don’t hit my target, but I’m just going to let things happen. We’ll see.”
To listen to or buy Megan Victor-Carelse’s single Home, go here.