He appeared on the first season of The Voice South Africa and went on to release his debut album ‘Exposure’ recently. The album includes his new single ‘On My Mind’ which has gotten a fantastic response from fans around the country so far. Now, as he readies the next step of his musical career, I chat to Chris Werge on the reality show, his new music and where his passion for music began.
You were a contestant on The Voice South Africa. What was that experience like?
The experience was absolutely incredible. I was incredibly honoured to be part of the debut season in South Africa. Getting to meet Lira, Kahn, Bobby and Karen was also incredible. They are really down to earth people who genuinely care about you and your career. I would recommend the show to anyone who wants to kick-start their musical career, gain more experience, a bigger following, and develop friendships and a network with some of the top guys in the SA music scene.
You were knocked out during the battle round. What knowledge did you leave the show with?
I wished I could have won the battle but I was really happy for my battle partner Kim to go through. I know I did the best I could have done at that point in time so I left with a positive spirit.
I left knowing that I had potential in me. I also begun to see that becoming a success in the music industry is not an overnight accomplishment. It takes years of hard-work, gigging, networking and song-writing. In this industry, it is a lot about who you know and about being a good people person.
Shortly after being knocked out, you dropped your first single independently. What sparked that decision?
Throughout my last year of gigging I begun to understand that radio really is the key to make it as an artist locally and internationally. I saw that even if I went on to potentially win the voice or any other competition and get a record deal, the end goal would be to write a hit song and get radio play to promote that single. With no label interest as of yet, I realized I couldn’t sit around waiting for someone to help me push my music. I had to do it myself. I fully believe in relationships in the industry and working with your manager or label as a team, but my point is that a lot of artists sit around waiting for something to happen. We wait for the perfect timing, the right amount of money, the best production, a record deal. One of the most important lessons I have learnt in my life is from my Aunty. She said, “If you wait for perfect, you’ll never end up doing anything.” This idea is was I repeat to myself throughout the year. I knew that ‘On My Mind’ was the strongest song I had written with the most radio potential so I decided to release it as my first radio single. My goal for this year was to get a song on radio and to release a music video for that song. ‘On My Mind’ was the song I knew had the most potential. I’ve heard waitress and friends humming it to themselves.
What inspired ‘On My Mind’?
The song is actually written from a painful place of anxiety. Two years ago I was really struggling with anxiety and the trigger at that time was a girl I really liked from Stellenbosch. Relationships can often trigger the feeling. We went on a few dates I and started to like her a lot, ‘almost to the extent of a crush’ I wanted to know if she liked me too, what she thought, were there any feeling on her side? I think a part of anxiety is the phycology and wanting to know the outcome, to be certain that the outcome is positive, that what we hope will come to be.
The track is on your new album called ‘Exposure’. Talk to us a bit about the album.
The album is a collection of songs I wrote over 8 years. The beauty of the album is that each song was written with an emotionally trigger or experience. I think people can hear when a song is just written for the sake of writing a song but every song on the album tells a story of what I experienced at a particular time of my life. Many of the songs are about girls I liked, had crushes on, and or dated etc. My sister has started calling me the male version of Taylor Swift, haha. Writing about all my breakups etc. As my first record I am really proud of the album. I think the production and quality of the album are outstanding. The album is self-funded so it was a big learning curve having to finance it myself. The album is a big milestone for me in my career, one of my lifelong dreams. My ultimate goal is for the songs on the album to encourage and inspire people.
Where do you think your passion for music started?
My passion for music probably started the day I was born, haha. Jokes. It probably began in grade 2 when I started piano lessons. I’ve always been fascinated with instruments, with sounds and the infinite amount of melodies we as humans have the potential to create. Throughout the years I have learnt the piano, drums, acoustic, bass and electric guitar as well as the voice. I did vocal lessons for a few years two but currently I just play the acoustic guitar and sing. A big influence for my musical passion was my friend Mike Hastings who shared a lot of music with me in my teens. These included artist like Death Cab For Cutie, John Mayer, Sigur Rós, Reliant K, Sufjan Stevens, Mutemath, Switchfoot etc. Apart from those bands, my biggest influence and fan is definitely my dad. I grew up listening to all his CD’s and LP’s including the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Sting and The Police, Toto, Eric Clapton etc. He really has supported me from day one, always encouraging me to pursue my dreams and work hard at fulfilling my potential.
Many up-and-coming musicians have looked at your journey so far and have been inspired by it. What advice do you have for fans who also want to venture into the music industry?
There are four main things I always share with other artists. 1. Be a good people person. This industry is based around relationships. You can have the best song in the world but if you don’t have good people skills it is hard to get gigs, radio play etc. 2. Accept that success is not an overnight achievement. I used to have horribly unrealistic expectations, expecting that I would drop my album on iTunes and be famous and a millionaire in a day. In reality, it doesn’t work like that. 3. Don’t chase perfection. Perfectionism is a struggle for myself and for many creatives around the world but imperfections are what make us human, what make music real, relatable and beautiful. 4. Be yourself. There is only one person like you, and that is you. You are unique. Be yourself and encourage and inspire others with your story.
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