Jonny Vilakazi – on a solo mission
05 October 2015
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Hello and welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Manono and I am your host. As usual I bring you the latest news and interviews with some of South Africa’s most talented vocalists, song writers, musicians, composers, conductors, you know, everything. Today we are in conversation with conductor and vocalist, Jonny Vilakazi.
We’ve spoken about his upbringing, we’ve spoken about the things he feels could change in the music industry, we’ve spoken about people that own and make a business out of the music industry, which is the next point I’d like to get to with you Jonny. You have been a backing vocalist for the past couple of years, you resigned from an eight year corporate job to pursue your passion for music. Do you intend on maybe one day releasing your own project and maybe doing your own thing?
My own project is in the pipeline
Jonny Vilakazi: Yes, for sure, definitely, that’s going to happen, that’s in the pipeline but I guess the reason why a lot of people are maybe wondering why I’m so relaxed. Why I’m not in a rush to do that, because I believe in doing things the proper way. Even for the next 5 years, but make sure that I’m with the right people, I’m with the right team that is going to push me and that’s going to believe in me.
But I don’t believe in quick-quick projects, I don’t believe in that. I don’t want to have a project that’s going to be sitting on the shelf at Musica. I don’t want to have a project that I’m going to be selling from my boot, for me that’s a struggle. That’s what I’m going through at the moment and I’m paying my dues so that when the time comes that I have to come up as an artist, and don’t think I want everything on a silver platter, no. But I’m just saying, I’m not expecting that from life and I will not take that, I will not.
AU: All right, I’m going to ask you to take us on a trip. This is your CD launch, you are at your desired venue and people have bought the tickets, it’s sold out and it’s time for you to wow the crowd, it’s Jonny Vilakazi, headlining his own show.
I want you to take us through what the audience who is waiting for you, would be listening to who your opening act would most likely be and what the stage would look like, would you have an orchestra, would you have a live band. I want you to take it down to the T to what you are wearing and then just set the mood for us.
Jonny’s perfect show
JV: Okay, number one, it would be really small an intimate, most probably be at a very nice lounge or at a pub, something very vintage, like that, but it would be very tiny. I doubt even I would employ people because I only want people that I know there. People that I know there and people that I; it will be a start and for me it would be very, very important.
So it would really just be for everyone, really just be open to anyone. But it would be my family members, the people that I’ve worked with in the industry, the guys from my church, my close friends, you understand? It would be a very nice chilled set up. My music is very simplified, I believe in simplicity, I don’t like, I’m not really into dynamics and so I wouldn’t have a lot of things going on, on stage.
A three-piece band, a guy on keys, guitar, maybe bass and then drums, or percussion and I believe in music that’s vocal driven. So the band is there, but the music behind it is there to support me. It’s all about me in that space, it’s just for me exploring and expressing my vocal ability, my range and everything that I can be. Pouring my heart out to the people and make sure that they hear and they get each and every point that I have to make.
Like I said, nice dim lights, they’ve got nice little snacks that they’re nibbling on, I could certainly have a theme because my previous colours, they’ve always been black, white and grey. So I have everyone wearing that, black, white and grey or black and white or whatever and of course I’d be looking the hottest.
AU: Never leave the drama out.
JV: I don’t need a stylist, I don’t need a designer, I’ll just get all the stuff, make sure that I look proper. But ja, it would just be me taking people down my life. Telling my story through music, through song because I believe in being thankful. I’ll just take that moment to thank everyone who has been a part of my life, because it’s very important to have good friends or a proper family.
But it’s another thing to have people who support and believe in what you do and that’s exactly what I’ve been blessed with, so I’m very grateful. Ja, it would just be a night to remember, it would most probably be during the week, on a Thursday because I know people always work on weekends. It wouldn’t take forever because when I go to a show and have to sit for three hours, I get frustrated. Well, not like with people like Beyonce or whoever, but it would most probably be an hour, an hour and thirty minutes max.
I wouldn’t have any opening act, I don’t need that. I’d maybe have a jam session at the end where I call a few of my friends, a FEW of my friends to come and do a jam with me because the night is about me. So they’d come and do their jam, but then Jonny will still shut it down at the end. That’s how it’s going to go down.
AU: Jonny, for someone who is trying to get into the music industry, what advice would you give them? Of course you’ve mentioned it seems like it’s glamorous from outside, but there’s a lot of work that goes into actually making this a career. For someone who is considering a path in music, what advice would you give them?
Advice on how to make a career of music
JV: Never get into it for the money, if you’re getting in to make money or make a living, forget it. You must be passionate about it, you must understand yourself when it comes to music. Music must be a certain something to you, it must mean something to you. It’s never about the money and I would say, never stop, I always say this to a lot of people who ask what do you do, my whole life I’m just singing –
AU: Hold on, let’s move around again and start from where you were saying kids ask you all the time on Facebook or whatever.
JV: Okay, can you hear me?
AU: Yes, I can.
JV: I always get asked on Facebook, on Twitter, social networks, people ask me, how do you keep up, how did you get into the industry, what did you do, what do you need to do to stay relevant and stuff like that. I always say –
AU: You always say?
JV: I always say never stop singing, there was never a point in my life which was not singing. You’ve always got to be the singer, you need that for your heart, you need that, your body needs that, your vocals need that, your mind needs that. It’s sort of like a confirmation that this is where I’m heading and I’m very much so and the more you do it, the more you’re going to know if you’re born for it or not.
A lot of people check out at some point. Because it’s not what they’re born to do and they’re not passionate. The talent is there, but the heart is not there and I always tell them, you need to make sure, be 100% sure that this is what you want to do –
AU: I’m losing you again.
JV: I’m moving around, can you hear me?
AU: I can hear you, maybe you need to find a spot and just stand there.
JV: How’s it now?
AU: It sounds good.
JV: Where should I start?
AU: Just wrap that last bit up for me, never stop singing.
JV: Ja, never stop singing, never stop dreaming and believe in what you do, understand what you do and I’ll just say, go on and research on how music is and how being a backing vocal is. Just how the business works and how the industry is so that you’re just very much clued up when you get in full-time. Then it shouldn’t be that hard. A lot of things you’re going to learn when you’re inside anyway, but at least when you have a clue, then it just makes it a bit easier.
AU: All right, now I can’t let you go without asking you to belt out one or two Beyonce lines, so people can find out if you really, really are worth our time, you know what I mean? One or two lines, I just want people to hear that we are not messing around here.
JV: Oh gosh, Okay, I’m going to do one of my favourite tunes by her, one of my songs is My Heart Still Beats from her Destiny Child Survivor album.
AU: Wow, thank you Jonny and how do people get hold of you, where do we catch you performing, can you throw your Twitter handle for us so people know how to get in touch with you.
How to find out about Jonny
AU: Well, you heard it here folks, thank you so much Jonny Vilakazi for joining us on Old Mutual Live Radio and we wish you all the best for the future.
JV: Thank you so much for having me, I totally enjoyed it.
AU: Thank you so much.