He’s not only popular in South Africa (being nominated 3 times for a South African Music Award), Jesse has wowed audiences in America, too, featuring in the 2009 Mandela Day concert in New York City. I sat down to interview him – open and friendly, Jesse was great to chat with. This is what he had to say. . .
What makes your music different from other artists’?
I guess it’s that I write it – it’s about me, my thoughts and my life. I like to combine different elements – there are acoustic, folk, alternative and heavy rock elements. I’m very happy with the hybrid I’ve managed to create.
You experimented with various instruments, before you focused on the guitar. Why did you end up choosing guitar?
When I was growing up, I didn’t know which instrument I wanted to play – I did piano, I did a year of drums, and I did a year of sax. I actually quit guitar after a year, but then I took it up again. Guitar is quite a versatile instrument – you can play melody and you can play rhythm – that’s what’s unique to guitar and why I chose it.
How is your new album, ‘Life of Mars’ different from your previous work?
I think it’s darker – there’s definitely an element of disillusionment. It’s also a bit more alternative.
What inspires you when you write music?
Life experiences. I’m a varsity student, so a lot of the things I learn become ‘food for thought’.
What role do you think the youth play in the expanding South African music industry?
They play a huge role – they have so much energy and they want to be challenged. The youth definitely push the boundaries by starting movements that latch onto new music, expose people to it and encourage them to follow it.
Jesse took us back in time…
Was your Matric dance an important occasion?
It certainly was. I had a girlfriend at the time who was very excited about it, so she made me excited too. It wasn’t a big occasion for me until I saw how important it was for her.
There is currently debate about the dangers of under-age drinking, and the government is considering raising the legal drinking age. With this in mind, would you say it is appropriate for Matrics to attend after-parties?
There was definitely alcohol at our after-party, one guy even had to be taken to hospital, so it’s probably not a good thing. I don’t think it’s good to ‘institutionalise’ drinking so it becomes a tradition where people go to an after-party to drink. It’s more important to encourage people to become responsible about drinking rather than just banning them from doing it.
If someone makes the choice to attend the after-party, but not drink, do you think they will still be able to have fun?
There is pressure to drink, but the Matrics who are under pressure to drink must just have the confidence to be relaxed about it, say no and enjoy themselves. (Watch Jesse’s song in the video section)
By Maxine Twaddle