By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Chris Brown and Micheal Jackson are the two artists that brought the idea of becoming a stage sensation to light for me. I enjoy watching them perform of stage and that has inspired me to want to be something similar to them and although I wouldn’t necessarily be writing about the same kind of songs, I believe that they’ve helped me shape who I want to be in the entertainment industry.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
Yes and no . Yes, because over the years I’ve opened myself up to being able to sing about certain things that I wouldn’t have been comfortable singing about in the beginning, because I was starting out and I was still trying to understand how powerful songwriting is. I was very limited in the things that I could speak about. And over the years I’ve learned from other artists that its okay to express yourself however you feel necessary. And no, because even though I’ve come to understand being able to express myself fully through lyrics, I still want to do the same thing I started out wanting to do, which is become an all-round entertainer.
Name one song you wish you’d written (or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be know as the definitive interpreter of). What makes that song so important?
There are two songs I wish I’d written: Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us and Chris Brown’s Fine China. They Don’t Really Care About Us is a song that helped me understand who I am as a black man in this world and my responsibility to use my platform to spread awareness of racial inequality and to help bring change in whatever way that I can. Fine China is a song that really just made me realise how much of a fan of Chris Brown I was, The whole project of the song for me has been one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen and I really just wish I could create a song and a video that is that well executed.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
For me, my lyrics are the most important parts of my songwriting process. You must find a great melody line, but I believe that it is more important to be aware of what you write about, because I believe that words really have power. I find it important for me to write messages that gravitate towards a positive outlook on life as much as I can. I also, however, think that it is important to embrace both the good and the bad side of one’s self and so I wouldn’t be against writing songs that express feelings like sadness or even loss.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (e.g. selling CDs from a box in your car) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
I think I’ve been blessed with a team that has made that process smooth for me. I’m not a signed artist and because I don’t plan on being an artist signed to a big record label, the process of recording, mixing, mastering, publishing and distributing a song for me is a lot more difficult because, unlike being in a record label where all those areas can be covered, as an independent artist I have to build that team of people who help make that process easier for me. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the processes of getting a song to the listener, but I do know that social media is one of the most influential platforms and so, with a combination of putting the song on digital streaming services like iTunes, Spotify and Google Play, I have been able to get my song to people out of my reach. I also make a point of making sure that whenever I have a live performance, I perform and let people know that my music is available online for streaming and downloading so more people can discover me. I have had the assistance of a publicist and a radio plugger who have come on board to help with a further stretch of the song and that makes the process easier.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
I’ve always known that it isn’t easy to get your song played on radio or even on someone’s cellphone, but with the people that have been placed in my life, it hasn’t been as hard as I imagined it to be. I think that the more material I release, the more I am going to be able to reach more people. Building a strong following through my work is another thing that I believe and hope will help give me the power to remain independent and release music.
What is the story behind I’m Just A Boy – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
I’m Just A Boy is a song that’s just about my truth. It explains briefly who I am and kind of who I want to be in this musical journey. It came from my original story of being a boy who left his hometown to pursue music as a career and a passion. It explains how I want to help others discover the power that they have inside of them, that no matter who you are or where you come from, your dreams are valid and that they can come true. This song is my way of explaining that I want to be those people’s voice of inspiration and even though I don’t really want to be looked at as a role model, I do want to being motivation and a sense upliftment in people’s spirits. I was blessed to have Matthew Marinus and Ryno Zeelie join in to help write this song. Their involvement has come from nothing but passion and belief in my dreams and I’m so honoured to have them in my life and my journey.