BILLY SUTER chats to Durban singer-guitarist and songwriter ROWAN STUART, who is soon to be in Hillcrest performing alongside The Two Songs – guitarists Yohan Song (Skylaim) and L Song, from South Korea. The gig is on Friday, September 6, at Music In The Shed, Meadow Tea Garden, Inanda Road, Hillcrest – entrance directly opposite Kirtlington Park. Gates open at 6.30pm and the music flows from 7.30pm. Food and light beverages will be on sale. Admission is R100 a head. To book phone Cheryl at 083 381 9080.
WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT OF YOU AND THE TWO SONGS AT THE ‘MUSIC IN THE SHED’ EVENT?
Yohan Song (Skylaim) and L Song are two instrumental ‘finger-style’ acoustic guitar players from South Korea, who are now based in Pretoria. They are highly-skilled, creative and entertaining artists who make magic with the acoustic guitar. I met The Two Songs while on tour in Johannesburg, and we became instant friends and mutual fans.
The evening will be a treat for lovers of guitar music, cross-cultural music and the singer-songwriter genre.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS VENUE IN HILLCREST?
Music In The Shed has become my favourite place to play in the Highway area. Just off Inanda Road, the venue has a rustic, away-from-the-city feel. Audiences love the fairy-lit ambiance and hospitality of the hosts Barry, Jill and Cheryl. It’s one of those rare places where you can really focus on, and appreciate, the live music being created before you without distractions.
YOU HAVE RELEASED FIVE ALBUMS SINCE 2008 AND HAVE HAD SUCCESSFUL SINGLES, YOUR FIRST BEING “SILVER BALLOON”. WHAT COMMENTS?
My latest single, The Kingdom of Leaves, is currently receiving airplay on local radio, and I am now working on material for my sixth album.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF ‘SILVER BALLOON’
It opened new doors for me, having been playlisted on major radio stations across South Africa, including 5FM, East Coast Radio, 947, KFM, Algoa FM, Radio 2000 and others. I previously could not have anticipated a song of mine being added to the 5FM playlist.
I actually can’t say how many downloads it’s received as I haven’t tallied it up, but it is definitely more than any of my previous releases.
Silver Balloon is available worldwide via iTunes and other digital stores, but there are no plans for an official international push of the single as yet. My focus is fixed on South Africa right now.
Lyrically, the song is a fable I created about Earth before she met the Moon, which appeared to her as a silver balloon and became her eternal companion in her dance through the aeons.
I can’t be sure what inspired the music or the lyrics, as both came to me quite spontaneously.
OF ALL YOUR RECORDINGS OF WHICH ARE YOU MOST PROUD?
It’s hard to pick a favourite, as each body of work has had a different intention and sound that I explored.
Most of my fans enjoy my 2014 acoustic album, Hidden Doors, because it is a natural-sounding album and true to the essence of my live show.
The upcoming EP has the biggest budget, and is the most professional release I’ve done… and I hope listeners will appreciate our efforts to create something that feels modern, engaging and catchy, yet is thought-provoking and transporting.
WHAT MUSIC ARTISTS, LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY, DO YOU MOST ADMIRE… vAND WITH WHOM WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO RECORD A DUET?
I am a huge Beatenberg fan, and know most of the words to their album The Hanging Gardens of Beatenberg. It would be a privilege to collaborate with them one day.
I really admire bands and artists who put so much thought into every aspect of their artistry – from their lyrics to their arrangements, their overall intention and their image.
Some of my international musical heroes include Keane, Sting, VAST, Death Cab For Cutie and Bjork.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?
Creative, quirky, focused, over-analytical, escapist.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?
I’m a pescatarian, meaning that I eat fish, but no other meat. I love science fiction and fantasy. I’m good at arty things, but hopeless at sporty things.
I don’t drink alcohol and have never taken drugs. And I am really good at Scrabble.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?
Last year, I was hired to perform one song with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra at a festival – Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and notably Brian May’s famous guitar solo.
When my big moment came, I was a few notes into the solo when my guitar amp just cut out! Something in the amp had dislodged during the drive there.
I spent the remainder of the solo frantically trying to get it to work, before just disappearing into my chair while the orchestra played on without me…
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
Probably Chris de Burgh. I’d pay to have a good conversation with Sting, or have a chat with the Beatenberg lads.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I enjoy drawing. It’s become a ritual of mine to draw an abstract creature on each of my set lists. You can find some of them on my Instagram account.
I also enjoy gaming –RPG games on Xbox. – and when I have time, I like to watch series: most recently Game of Thrones and Dragon Ball.
I really like shopping for clothes. Some of my friends think it’s strange, but I really do enjoy shopping.
My favourite things would be: writing a good song, finding a good shirt or jacket at a good price, and of course, performing for a beautiful, energetic, receptive audience.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
I was recently told by a salesman that I look 19 and as if I am in the IT business.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS ?
If I divulged this information, my enemies could use it against me . . .
WHAT TRAITS DO YOU MOST DISLIKE IN OTHERS?
Ignorance, insolence and all types of bad driving.
WHAT ARE TWO OF YOUR MOST TREASURED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
Can I call my home studio a possession? I have a few guitars I would sorely miss were they to be wrested from my possession.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Besides a few physical quirks, I’m pretty happy to be me. I would like to learn how handle stress better though.
TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
The first time I heard one of my songs on major radio (Late Starter in 2008, on East Coast Radio. Another highlight was performing at the White Mountain Music Festival in 2014. When we finished, there was a long queue to buy my albums.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FIVE THINGS FROM FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE, WHAT AND WHO WOULD THEY BE?
I don’t usually envy anyone, so this is a tough one to answer.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE’?
Andy’s mom’s pudding. A lonely guitar waiting to be played. A 50%-off clothing sale. A gaming store. A crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble.