BY BILLY SUTER
ONE of Durban’s most hard-working, talented and modest music stars, Rowan Stuart, has released a sixth album which sees him return to his acoustic roots and promote his rebellious optimism.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist, who released A Map of Forever digitally, worldwide, on March 31, recorded the album mostly in his home studio over the second half of 2019, during a challenging time in his life.
His father had just been diagnosed with advanced cancer (he has since recovered) and over the same period, his home was invaded by armed criminals, who fired 13 shots, riddling his house and car with bullet holes. Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured during the attack.
Through a period of anxiety and tension, the completion of his sixth album became Stuart’s mission.
The son of working musicians, and a natural creative from birth, Rowan began his career as a session guitarist in multiple theatre productions before taking a leap of faith and releasing his first solo album, A Thousand Brand New Places, in 2008. He has since completed multiple South African tours, and received radio success on major stations countrywide, most notably with his singles Survivors, Silver Balloon and The Kingdom of Leaves.
Over the last few years, Stuart became more drawn to the folk aspect of his writing, taking a step back from the hyper-produced and perfected sound of modern Top 40 pop. He decided to self-produce his latest album as a way to return to his most intrinsic sound, and to reconnect with his fans on a more personal level.
Recalling the recording of A Map to Forever, Stuart recalls: “Those dark times got me thinking about what was most important, and what I most wanted to say to the world through my music.”
As summer drew nearer, the sounds of tree frogs and crickets outside his home studio grew so loud that it became infeasible to record between sunset and sunrise.
Stuart jokes: “I’m sure some frog and cricket sounds ended up in the final mix”.
He enlisted the talents of his good friend, multi-instrumentalist Andy Turrell, to record the live drum parts. To create a unique sound, they decided to record only one or two drum pieces at a time, instead of the whole kit at once.
A Map of Forever contains 12 songs, including the singles Into the Heart of Life, Sense of Touch and Sacred Rhythm which Stuart has been releasing since January – one a month. The album was mixed and mastered by Brent Quinton.
Stuart explains: “A Map of Forever comes from the lyrics of Sacred Rhythm – it mentions looking up at a starry night sky, and being awed by the vastness of space, which seems to spread out forever. It’s about journeys – physical, spiritual, and cerebral – into the unknown, and the search for truth. And despite its birth in troubled times, it’s about a kind of rebellious optimism”.
To support the release, Stuart had planned a South African tour, which has had to be postponed due to the national lockdown. He hopes people will instead stream, download and enjoy the new album during this period of self-isolation,. He also hope the uplifting spirit of the songs will inspire listeners, until he is able to get back on the road and perform the new songs in person.
A Map of Forever is available on all major music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and Bandcamp. Visit www.rowanstuart.com/music for the links.