Entertainment, Interview of the Day, Interviews, Music|November 10, 2011 1:38 pm

Meet Jesse Clegg

Jesse Clegg

In just under four years, Jesse Clegg has achieved what many South Africans artists could only dream of in their lifetime. His debut album, ‘When I Wake Up’ spawned five chart-topping singles and sold gold, despite him never performing a show before its’ release in 2008.
As the son of legendary South African artist Johnny Clegg, it would have been easy for Jesse to drown in his father’s footsteps. Instead, the 24-year-old has defied critics and carved a powerful mark for himself on the local music scene.
Born and raised in Johannesburg, Jesse has continued to study law at Wits despite his demanding music commitments.
Jesse worked hard to make sure his live shows complimented his recordings, performing to packed houses at the Joburg Theatre in 2009 and 2010, and even bagging a slot at the Mandela Day Concert ini New York alongside global superstars.
In 2009 Jesse was nominated for two SAMA’s for Record of the Year and Music Video of the Year
Jesse took time out in 2010 and early 2011 to record songs for his second album, ‘Life on Mars’ in Canada with Grammy Award-winning producer, David Bottrill (Muse, Tool, Staind, Silverchair, Placebo) – an experience which greatly enriched him and left him with a new songwriting perspective. ‘Life on Mars’ has already been storming the local radio charts.

Q: The all important personal profile. How would a close friend introduce you at a social event? i.e.
Name, age, company, interesting fact etc.
A: Jesse Clegg, 23 yrs old, Gold Selling musician and university student.

Q: Tell us something that not many others know about you. This could be anything from a phobia to
your favorite movie.
A: I’m a huge film buff, I love going to cinema Nuevo to watch foreign and independent films.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you want to get away from it all?
A: I like to play squash. Nothing gets your mind off stress like competitive sports and exercise.

Q: How would you describe your dream home and where in South Africa would you like it to be?
A: I would like to live by the sea in a small town away from it all, like Plettenberg Bay for example.

Music Career:
Q: You’ve just completed your 2nd studio album. How is it the same or different to those that came
A: It is a darker album, and talks about transmission and conflict within the self. There are themes of disillusionment, longing, appreciation and at times regret. There is far more experimentation, musically and more upbeat rock tracks. But all the songs are still very much rooted in melodic songwriting and the album still has the couple of acoustic ballads that bring sensitivity to the darkness. The songs are dealing with difficult issues but emphasise that there is hope and growth from any challenge that we face.

Q: How would you describe the writing and recording process of this album?
A: My writing process is very meticulous and takes a long time. This album took over 3 years to write. I like to craft the songs from the bottom up. I start with chords and melody and piece it all together one idea at a time. Some of the songs on the album took over a year of experimentation before I felt they were right. The recording process for this new album was very much influenced by the producer, David Bottrill, who is a 3 time Grammy Award winner. He has produced some of my favourite artists of all time including Muse, Tool, Peter Gabriel and Placebo. Working with him brought an incredible intensity to the recording process and an acute attention to detail that I had never experienced before. Every note that was played on the album was a deliberation and discussion between me and David. It was a very inspiring and humbling experience.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with this album?
A: I hope to explore my music and become a more edgy and daring song-writer. I believe every album should be a progression from the last and my aim for this one was to push my sound to a new height. I’m very proud of the final product and I think I am finding my own voice and style in what I do. I can only keep going down this rabbit hole and keep challenging myself. That’s my broader goal as a musician.

Q: You’ve been surrounded by great musicians all your life. Once you took the decision to play music professionally, did you feel like you benefitted from their guidance over the years?
A: Being exposed to the hardships of the music industry at a very young age I was always hesitant about becoming one myself – the travelling is hard on family life and the lifestyle can be difficult to handle. However I was also exposed to the incredible power of music to convey a message and move people of all different cultures. When I became a musician myself I did so with a very disillusioned and realistic view of what it means to have a career in music. I think this has been a saving grace for me. I am able to see things from the perspective of past experience and prioritise my life. Celebrity culture can be very distracting and industry politics can drain your creative impulses, so I feel lucky to have people in my life who can share their wisdom with me if I lose perspective.

Q: How do you feel South Africa’s musical landscape has changed in recent years for better or worse?
A: I think there has been a definite improvement both on the industry side and on the artistic side.
Furthermore the audiences are beginning to take pride in uniquely SA music and support it with a
newfound enthusiasm.

Q: What kind of shows do you enjoy playing most?
A: Every show is different and I like them all for different reasons. Club shows are the most fun to play because the audience just go crazy from beginning to end. It’s fantastic to see people enjoying the songs together. Theatre shows are also very enjoyable as your audience is seated and more attentive to what you are saying and playing. It is very intimate and can at times be more artistically rewarding as you can explain each song and interact with them in a way that wouldn’t really go down in a club environment.

Q: Do you have any shows that stick out in your mind as particularly special?
A: Our first major production at the Civic Theatre was great. We played to a sold out crowd 3 nights in a row and had Arno Carstens and Dan Patlansky come onstage and do a guest performance with me. It was a truly incredible memory. Another amazing show was the 46664 show in New York at Radio City Music Hall. I played alongside Stevie Wonder, Black Eyed Peas, Nora Jones and many other Grammy Winning artists. It was also a fantastic experience to meet these artists and watch them handle the technical side of their show.

Life in South Africa
Q: Have you or any of your immediate family been affected by crime? If yes, has it changed your
perception of the country and the way you and your family live your lives?
A: My family has been affected by crime. It is very worrying how high the crime rate is but I think we must always remember that South Africa has come out of an incredibly traumatic political past and what we are experiencing now is a process of re-inventing ourselves as a democratic nation. History has shown that a functioning democracy is a very hard thing for a country to attain and it takes a long time to do so. These periods of upheaval and imbalance are perhaps necessary for us to find our feet and realise our massive potential as a country. So, yes I remain very positive about SA and I believe we will make it through this tricky period, we all just have to keep the faith.

Q: Have you ever considered emigration? If yes, where do you think you would emigrate to?
A: I don’t think I could ever leave SA forever. But I would like to live in Hong Kong or Toronto for a year or two as an experience. Emigration is not something I have considered.

Life in Joburg

Q: What do you enjoy the most about living in Joburg?
A: I love how eclectic and diverse this city is. There are so many different cultures, languages, social scenes and artistic influences all interacting with one another. The city has incredible character for that reason and is completely unique.

Q: Favourite restaurant in or around Joburg for a romantic dinner?
A: Wang Thai in Sandton Square. I love Thai food and it also has a great view overlooking the square.

Q: What is the one place in Joburg that is a must visit for all tourists?
A: Arts on Main

Q: One book that you would make required reading for all matric pupils?
A: Either “1984” by George Orwell or “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera.

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  • Jesse Clegg is one of the great artist in South Africa, I love his music so much. It is obvious that he sings from the heart and what makes a true artist is definately feeling and understanding what you’re singing about and he definately does that perfectly. I hope that Jesse is part of this year’s Joburg day concert (94.7) because he sure does make Joburg proud, all the best for you Jesse in the new year 2012!!! 100% fan of Jesse Clegg