How did going to a school for arts prep you for your career?
More than anything I believe that the institutions of music that I’ve been to have allowed me to articulate my ideas and to understand my voice fully, like I understand my instruments so well now and I know how to manipulate them because of that education. Before it was more of an assumption, of “the last time when I did that, this is what came out, probably this is what happened” but now those type of assumptions were affirmed by knowledge, you know? And even my ideas, I wouldn’t ever walk in and want to do something completely random, but I sort of have a plan, like we’re going to start with chord 1, chord 4 and we’re going to start in this key. It just made the ideas easier to articulate but what I enjoyed the most about my education in arts was the people, I was exposed to so many talented people, so many passionate and disciplined people. It made me want to work harder because, in primary school where I was the only singer, I was almost made to feel special like as if I’m the only person with this kind of talent, whereas, when I saw that there was so many other kids with talents similar to mine I learnt how much hard work can set you apart and I learnt that passion will keep you going more than anything else, more than the talent, more than the knowledge but passion will really be the thing that makes you push on.
How would you describe love?
Love feels like home to me. I always say to my friends, when I feel seen, heard and accepted I feel love. When I say seen, I don’t mean the facade, not what I put on but when you see me for who I am, for my heart. When you hear me when I speak, when you listen and you hear my spirit and my soul talk to you and you accept all of that, not just tolerate it. And it feels like home because it’s almost like a hug, or a cushioning of some sort. I write about that feeling a lot because it’s either I am yearning for it, or I’m hurt and disappointed by it or I’m remembering it. I recently was in it and for the first time I was able to write a happy song, I was like “OMG we finally have a happy love song.”
But there are so many different variations of it, love is also God for me. To be able to create something after yourself and to have it go on this journey to find the God within itself again, an amazing thing for me. We’re constantly guided and protected through this journey. There are so many things that I could say about love. Love is that thing for me that I can go on and on about in different ways and in different angles. But yeah, love for me is being heard and being seen and being accepted.
Do you believe in the idea of soulmates?
See it’s so hard for me because the person that I believe was my soulmate died and I’ll never know if we had still been together now because we were 18 and we were different then and I think that I am different now, and I think that he would’ve been different now too. But I do believe that there are people where the connection that you have with them is deeper than our own understanding so I would say, I definitely believe in soul mates.
In my life, I’ve only been in love twice and both times, I was not in control. I have dated other people, I’ve dated more than two people and in some moments I went on Instagram and was like “oooo you’re cute, you look like what I am looking for!” The two moments that I fell in love with the two people that I write about or have written about in my work, it completely happened to me you know? And because I can’t explain it and I could have never have conceived it and created it, I do believe that there are people on this planet that are put here specifically and perfectly made for you. I could have been with both of those people had they had nothing, had they had everything, had they been nothing and had they been everything – the connection, the creating to one another was so far beyond what I could fathom or could understand. I think even in our struggles or challenges, it was really struggles of the flesh, we were going through very human problems, I never felt that in our love we ever started to love each other any less or ever lost our love for each other, I just think that we had gone into a place where our love couldn’t meet our human experience.
I saw in an open letter to yourself that you’re not what the 6-year-old version of you had hoped? So, what had you hoped for yourself at that age?
I don’t know, I just thought that I’d be good, that I’d be different. I had imagined a different place for myself, like the person to who I am now. Life has just happened to me and some of those moments have really changed me as a person. I have lost a lot of really important people in my life and that made me different to who I thought I’d be when I was 6. I mean when I started really struggling with anxiety and depression at 17/18, it was not a life that I had imagined or wanted for myself but it didn’t make me any less worthy of still wanting the dreams that I had envisioned for myself but it did shift how I did things, who I interacted with and why. Losing my grandmother, who was like my mom was so hard for me and that really changed the way that I associated with my family, I love my family to death but losing her taught me that I could survive without them. I can go for months by myself and work and do all of these things.
I don’t know, life just happens to you, I feel like when you’re younger you’re more optimistic and I think the optimism for me went away the more I grew up and I became a realist and more of like, I just prefer a more logical way forward. The kid in me was such a dreamer, anything was possible. I think it’s that specifically.
You say that you like to keep the narrative in your songs incomplete, what do you mean by this?
I think this is the first time I have spoken a lot about the songs and where they come from, I don’t usually like to put faces to the songs, or names to the songs or my own stories. When people hear them I’d rather keep it a little bit broad because there are things in the songs that are very specific to my experience like in love lost I wrote: “Blue Rose Wright, that’s all you sang.” That’s a song by Lizz Wright called blue rose but for someone else, they can imagine it as if they sang each other flowers for songs and I don’t want to take that away from people – I want them to completely receive the music in whatever way that they want to receive it and associate whatever they want to associate with it. I don’t want people to be too attached to my story because the true healing and the true understanding comes when the music becomes reflective for them and people start to heal their own thing that may be different and completely far away from what the truth of the lyric actually was. That’s what I try to do, I try to keep it as broad as possible – It’s specific to me but I don’t try to make it too specific, I don’t want to be too literal in the way that I write.
I think in the beginning it was really because I just preferred to keep my life, my life and the music separate from it – I find that when people know too much they also start to pry into the details of things.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling with anxiety and depression?
A support system is so important. I think that’s been the most important thing for me – to build a community of people you can rely on in your lows. I have seen a psychologist since I was 17 and I think it is so important to sort of have an outlet of someone you can speak to. Writing for me has been so therapeutic, I went from love six which was like the most grief-filled song about this person to love lost and that reflection came from being able to listen over to the feelings that I felt and to remember – every time I sing that song I’m sort of having to walk back to that place with myself and the more I have done that, the more I have understood my part in things; just the dynamic of relationships with people and I have made peace with life, some of the pain it has come with.
I think it is incredibly important to have someone to speak to and have a community or support system but also to get help. It’s hard. It is so hard to not be able to wake up in the morning, like to sit there in bed and not have the strength to get out of bed, it is really painful. When I was at UCT, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get out of bed, it was a FIGHT to get out of my bed and it’s not because I was hungry, it wasn’t because I was heartbroken. I was just really struggling to deal with the challenges in my life, to understand and compartmentalize things in my life; I didn’t feel supported enough so when I was going through something I felt isolated and alone. And the moment I came back home, I felt love, I felt support and I was able to push through things, you know?
If you could collaborate with one person dead or alive who would it be and why?
I love Whitney, so much! ooooo This is a list; it’s Luther, Whitney, Ringo in South Africa, Shekinah in South Africa, Rowlene in South Africa, Ami Faku in South Africa and then internationally, there is a producer male who did a lot of the work on Frank Oceans album Channel. I’d like to work with frank just to see his genius. There is a lot of artists that I love and would love to work with, so one day when the song comes I ‘ll pitch it and ask to do something with them.
So, you wrote a letter to your younger self, now I want you to write an open letter to your older self, 10-15 years from now. What are your hopes and dreams? What do you want for yourself?
Wow. 10 – 15 years, that is a good amount of time! I would like to have afforded myself time, I think the greatest gift of wealth is time; when you are comfortable in your money you are not worried about what you need to do in the next moment, you can spend as much time as you want on things that matter to you. I hope that in 10-15 years I will have afforded myself time to love intently, to live honestly and to really strive without fear.
I would love to have created a programme of music for kids in rural schools and township schools in South Africa. I would like to have started the process of building a theatre complex at my highschool for kids to be able to broadcast all of their talents with the most state of the art spaces.
I would like to have manifested love in the form of children and be able to teach them to lead a life of truth and love in everything that they do.
I hope that I will have created enough music to not have to create any more. I really think for me, what matters in life is the relationships that you create, the way that you touch people, the impact that you make in your physical presence and just being present in every moment that you share with people no matter how small or big it is and I hope that I will have realised that.
Lastly, I hope that I will have found a love that is settled, comfortable. All of these things, that’s me, that’s what I want to have; time, love and light!
Listen to love lost here;