Four years since his last release, Michael Lowman has eventually released his new album, PopRadio. He not only wrote and recorded the album in a month, he also co-produced it with Howie Combrink. The album displays his versatility as an artist showing that there is much more to him than what we thought. Michael made the trip from Cape Town to Joburg in order to sit down with us and explain just why he describes PopRadio as entirely deliberate:
You were born in Durban, you grew up in Jozi, you lived in LA but you currently live in Cape Town. Would you call Cape Town your home?
No, I don’t think I’ll settle in Cape Town but it does seem quite familiar, which is odd. I’ve been there for two years now and in the first year I wasn’t there fully, I was still travelling quite a bit. But, now for the last year I was there more busy recording the album. I got to know Cape Town. I’m not one of those hikey, outdoorsy people and I feel like you have to be if you call yourself a Cape Townian. From the outside in you have to be a hipster and fitness nutter but then there’s this cool little underground vibe in Cape Town that’s not like that. It’s like guys like me that are into music and are big into motorbikes and bourbon. So, I found exactly where I wanted to be.
Cape Town is definitely a music hub. Durban is another music hub and also obviously Johannesburg. Have you found a difference between the different hubs?
I recorded part of the album in Cape Town and part of it in Joburg. It’s cliche because everyone says it but it is a bit slower down there [Cape Town]. Things still get done because if you’re the one hustling then things will still get done, which is the fortunate position I find myself in. I suppose I own my own business essentially. Growing up here [Joburg] and spending a lot of time here, I still have all the connections. It’s a phone call away, a skype call away or a two hour flight away, it’s not a whole other world.
What would you say was your inspiration for this album?
This album was very deliberate. Obviously, my last album was my first album so I’m still very new to this whole music thing. It’s been a decent chunk of time between then and now and there were a few things personally I had to work through. I left a massive music label in that process and there was a lot of volatility. So, I had to kind of cut away for my own sanity and also just to prove to myself that I can do it even though I knew it was all me anyway. I went off the grid a bit but not in terms of music. I was still writing and producing for other artists.
There’s a difference between writing to release an album and writing in your own space with your own freedom. Do you feel like you had the time to ‘find yourself’?
During that time I could’ve written like ten albums, I did write ten albums actually. They were all acoustic, you know like Bob Dylan-like and John Mayer-like stuff, very emotional and cool but it wasn’t the right thing to put out there. Following Crayon Boxes, to put that stuff out there is asking to be type-cast. Like, look at me, I’m just this dude. I’m this dude, that’s all I am. That’s why this album was very deliberate because I needed to change whatever perceptions there may have been about what you think and who you think I am. I am that guy with an acoustic guitar that sings love songs and ballads and emotional stuff. I will always be that guy, I’m probably more him than anything else. But there’s also this whole other side to me.
How was the music making process this time around?
This time around I got the sound and then I kind of got the lyric. I usually write a song with a guitar first. But with PopRadio, all of the tracks except for Fight were played on a different instrument completely. So the guitar was the last instrument I picked up and it was cool, it was liberating. I produced it myself with a friend of mine. I wanted everything to be very hands on. It would’ve made a lot of sense for me to do something more acoustic, something like what James Bay just bought out, because I’m good at it. Releasing one like that might have been the better move to build my profile a bit more and I probably would’ve got more of the same kind of fan following. I would’ve booked the same kind of festivals, because I did some cool stuff. But it would be the safe play. I wanted to do it now while I’m still introducing myself to the world. It’s a big risky but it’s a good kind of risky.
How was the collaboration process like for PopRadio?
For me, the process didn’t change at all really. It wasn’t a collaboration as such. It wasn’t like a got into a room with Karlien van Jaarsveld [Mix Tape] and we both decided what to write. I wrote everything and then I sent them [collaborators] the track with the spaces in it that I would like them to fill. I said like, look this is what I’m thinking. Are you interested, firstly? Lay down some ideas and send it back to me. Karlien would lay down some vocals and send it to me. I would listen to it and say, cool but I’m hearing this melody and this melody and that’s when I suppose the collaboration happens. So it was right at the end. So it’s more of a feature if you want to put it that way.
How did you decide that Mix Tape was the first single you were going to release?
I knew it should be that one because it’s the closest to Girl Saves Boy on the other album. If I’m going to release an album that is completely different from the last one then I’m at least going to hold their hand so that can transition from the old one to the new one.
I’m going to be working the shows a lot differently. I will have a couple of shows in May. I’m going to get like a tour together in about June. But it’s going to be very gorilla style and organic. I don’t want to do this big production where you have to find the venue and you stress about losing money etc. I don’t think it’s necessary, I think people connect with your passion.
Do you have any plans of going back to LA?
Yes, I’m going back. The entire LA experience was awesome, every step of the way. That’s kind of where I kicked-off the whole music thing. I was just playing in open mics and bars. I’m going to head back with this album, probably towards the end of the year. The connections I made when I was in LA I still have. I’ve been writing for a lot of people over there, for some interesting names that you’ll hear of eventually.
By: Kriszti Bottyan