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?
There’s a lot of artists. Those who hold a fundamental place in me becoming a musician are Oliver Mtukudzi, Brenda Fassie, James Morrison, D’Angelo, J Dilla and many other greats. These are the ones that I always reference.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
Yes, it has changed, because I now place a lot more focus on production and songwriting. I started listening to J Dilla and that has kept me exploring. I’m currently exploring Bon Iver and Volcano Choir’s sounds. I love their work on processed audio. I’m coming from a background of organic sounds, acoustic singer and songwriter sounds, so I was never a fan of processed sounds, shifted up vocals and all that. I have now grown a huge love for it and want to bring both worlds together.
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?
Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely. Stevie Wonder is such an important artist and he wrote this song for his daughter. I love the honesty, the melody, the arrangement of the song. It feels all-round ‘lovely’ and true. It’s important because it’s a story of love, and stories of love matter.
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?
First is either the production and beat or guitar melody, then the vocal melody, followed by the lyrics.
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 (eg selling CDs from a box in your car) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
I have always enjoyed playing live, and often the songs are written in the rehearsal and then performed. Live performance is definitely my strongest form of connection with my audience, which will lead to streaming on digital platforms. We released the album on physical and digital, and at my live shows people buy the CDs, but we push them to digital as well. I play #WMsessions in and around Johannesburg. I often play new music and some old songs in my catalogue – songs that are not in my festival setlist.
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?
Physical albums are still items people want to have. They are still very personal. It’s always a blessing to have someone walk away with album after the show. I am happy with pushing the way I’m pushing. My ultimate goal is to connect with my audience and playing live is important in building that audience.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
My latest release is the music video for Tell Me. This song is about missing someone you know you shouldn’t be missing, but you do. It’s about those thoughts in your head fighting. I was trying to express those thoughts – “Have I lost my mind?” It’s about finding peace in the insanity, finding comfort in the questions that won’t be asked or heard. The video was shot in Norwood, Johannesburg and Soweto. The concept of the video was to express the vulnerable thoughts and attach them to a story we can understand. Visually, I wanted to recreate the setting that would take me back to when I wrote – alone with my thoughts. The video was shot and edited by Jono Kriyakou. It was recorded at Jazzworx, composed by myself, produced by me and Greg Nottingham, and mixed and mastered by Greg Nottingham and Robin Kohl.
I’ve also released a new single, Peace Of Mind.