I often say that my music falls within the “honest” genre, and while that doesn’t really describe a sound, it captures the essence of what my show and my music is about.
This is my first solo tour to London and I’m excited to introduce my music to a new audience. When I perform solo, the tracks are showcased in their raw form, as they were initially written; with just piano and vocals, so it’s very much about the music and what the songs communicate. It allows me to really explore the boundaries of songwriting and engage in authentic and raw intimacy with an audience. The songs are lyrically-focussed and fall within the singer-songwriter genre, with some elements of pop/rock sneaking in once in a while.
I write from personal experience – my view of love, life and everything in between, so my albums generally tell the story of my life as it progresses. I often refer to my two albums as the “broken heart” and “fixed heart” albums, but essentially Fight A New Day is chapter two. There is a lot about love and loss and moving on, but in chapter two there’s also a lot about believing in yourself and fighting for what you want and who you are.
I was trained classically and that has definitely left its mark on a lot of my writing. I grew up listening to greats like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and then shifted focus to artists like Muse and Skunk Anansie. Skin from Skunk Anansie is my greatest vocal inspiration, and there is a wide range of artists who have stumbled across my path and left an imprint on who I’ve become as a songwriter, probably the most notable being Fiona Apple, and more recently Regina Spektor. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of blues which seems to be pushing me in a new direction in my writing, but I’m still figuring out what that direction is.
At this moment, it’s only playing The Black Keys…
I started piano when I was six, and was apparently singing before I could talk, so music has always been a part of who I am and was always going to be what I pursued as a lifestyle. I studied music through high school and did my grades in piano through Trinity College, before joining my first band in 1998. I started a rock band 2 years later and was involved in a few different musical incarnations before going back to my roots as a piano-based songwriter and launching my solo career in 2009.
I would imagine it’s quite similar to pursuing a career in music anywhere in the world, and I certainly didn’t start out with false hopes that it was ever going to be an easy task. Any dream pursuit has its challenges, and most musicians I know are only able to pursue their music after hours because they rely on ‘day jobs’ to pay the bills, but that’s not a reality limited to South Africa. I’ve been working in this industry since 1998 and have seen so many changes during that time – some good, some damaging – but it’s certainly never dull!
Every day is different, which is one of the things I love about this job. I’m self-managed at this point, so have to split a lot of my time between music and the admin of it. On tour, days are broken up into driving, marketing, performing, meetings, networking, press interviews, and a little bit of touristy exploring whenever possible. When I’m off tour, I’m generally planning tours, marketing, researching new opportunities, and writing or rehearsing as much as I can (although never as much as I would like).
To make a reasonable living off music in South Africa doesn’t happen often, and I’ve become quite stubborn in my efforts to prove that it’s possible without compromising who I am as an artist. It’s been interesting finding the balance between what I’m willing to compromise and what I’m not, but my goal has always been to tell my story in a way that connects to the world very honestly, and I hope that I can continue to do that while developing and maintaining a sustainable career. Ultimately I’m a musician. That’s who I’ve always been, and all I ever want to be. I don’t really think of the concept of ‘making it’ as an end goal, but rather as a process of realising various dreams along the way.
I would say the same thing to anyone who wanted to pursue any dream. If you want to be something, if you want to do something, you should go and do that. You get one chance to do this life thing. If you waste your time and energy doing things you hate so that you have enough money to continue living a life you essentially hate, then you’re wasting your life. Make a decision about how much you’re willing to compromise in the pursuit of your dream, and give yourself a chance to see if you can make it work. As hard as the fight can be, I’m happier knowing that I’m doing everything I can to be who I want to be, living the life that I want to live.
A: “My songs deal so honestly with real life and emotions, and I think people often mistake honesty for sadness, but the message behind most of what I write is a positive one, or at the very least a cathartic one (sometimes it’s just hidden a little deeper). My songwriting and headspace has changed since my first album though, and on the new album, the message is more clearly positive, so the response on the whole has changed slightly. I think things are a little more balanced now between the two records.”
A: “When I was writing the new album, I was listening to a lot of Regina Spektor, The Fray, Fiona Apple, Angus & Julia Stone, Mumford & Sons… I don’t know if any of that actually reflects on the album though and I listen to so much music all the time (some very far removed from what I do), but I think the combination of that and my classical background, and the session musicians I work with (each with their own influences and backgrounds) shape the sound of the albums that I produce. I think Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette are probably in there somewhere because I grew up listening to them on repeat through high school, which is when my songwriting started taking shape.”
A: “The most notable venue thus far would have to be The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, where I did the Fight A New Day Cape Town launch. That was a dream come true show for me and I’m really looking forward to playing there again in the new year. The Catalina Theatre in Durban was also a beautiful space to perform in. I’m really enjoying performing in a theatre setting as it serves the music beautifully and allows me to really concentrate on performance and delivery. There are a few festivals that I look forward to every year – National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Aardklop, Oppikoppi, White Mountain and Splashy Fen.”
A: “I’m writing some new material in January before touring kicks off again in February to promote the album, and it looks like I’ll be on the road for the majority of the year again, with the potential for some overseas touring a bit later in the year. I’m hoping to get back into studio to record an acoustic album, and I’m planning some exciting collaborations with a few artists – possibly an orchestra – so loads of cool things to keep me out of trouble.”
Click here to find out more and listen to the rest of the Ketamine catalogue.