Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jesse Clegg coming to Chicago as part of first North American tour


Jesse Clegg, the son of legendary South African musician Johnny Clegg, continues to carve out his own musical path.

He has released four Top 10 singles and has been nominated for three South African Music Awards. Clegg,, and his father will perform April 18 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are available at  

I had the chance to talk to Jesse Clegg about the upcoming show and his other activities.

Q - Great talking to you. This is your first North American tour. What made you want to tour North America and is the tour living up to your expectations?

It is inspiring to be touring in such a musically rich place - the States and Canada are home to some of my favourite artists. I’m very excited not only to be performing here but also to experience the different places and cultures that we visit. 

I really enjoy traveling and meeting new people. So far, the reception has been very positive. 

The audiences have been welcoming and I’ve felt a good connection during the shows.

Q - You've made quite an impact with your music, including achieving platinum success in your native South Africa. Does your success surprise you? What were your goals in becoming a musician?

It was very surprising. I didn’t write the songs on my first album with the intention of releasing them, so when it started charting on radio I was shocked.

After that, I became more used to it but it's always a little strange. My goals in becoming a musician were really just to write songs. 

I have grown up in the music industry and so I was always amazed at the power of music to move people and communicate an idea. I always wanted to be able to write songs that had that magic. I never really considered success or fame as a motivation.

Q - You spent the first six years of your life touring with your father, noted musician Johnny Clegg. What was that experience like? Do you think that gave you a taste of what it takes to be a musician?

Growing up in the music industry was a double edged sword for me. On the one hand I saw the power of music, but on the other I saw what a difficult life it can be and how unpredictable it is. 

I had a very unglamorous view of it and it made me hesitant. But when I started writing my own material, music became my outlet and that’s when I really decided that it was my calling.

Being a artist is a life of risk, and that risk is only worthwhile if you love what you do.
Q - Your father actively campaigned against apartheid through his music and he formed the first prominent racially mixed band in South Africa. What's it like to be a musician performing in South Africa post apartheid?

It’s very different landscape today. There is a lot of unique music emerging now that there is no state censorship. 

The industry is still small, but there is a lot of progress being made. Music festivals are becoming more popular, there are some amazing new venues and online platforms and there is a general sense of excitement among the artists. 

Being in the rock genre myself, it’s interesting to see how much things are progressing. Rock, which is a niche genre in South Africa, is becoming more prominent and there are some excellent young bands coming out.
Q - Of course, you will be performing with your father in Chicago on April 18. What is the best piece of advice that he has given you?

To be disciplined and work hard. The harder you work, the luckier you get. 

And also to stay true to your own sense of self. As a creative person, it's very important to be sensitive to that part of you that feeds your creative world.
Q - You have carved out your own musical path. In becoming a musician, did you feel pressure to be as political as your dad has been in his music? What does it mean to you to be an ambassador for the Nelson Mandela 46664 foundation?

I live in a different time to my dad and I interpret the world in my own way. I am not an overtly political artist, but I often write with political issues in mind. 

The song "Winston (Another Time)" for example, was written about Orwell's "1984" and the plight of the individual in a totalitarian state. The yearning for freedom in that character was very real to me as young person living in post-apartheid South Africa. 

Sometimes writing about an issue through implication can have a stronger impact than charging at it head on.

I feel very honored to be able to contribute in some small way to Mandela’s aspirations for Africa. The 46664 Foundation did some amazing work to raise awareness and provide treatment for Aids victims. 

It is a privilege to help with this cause.
Q - I understand that you are working on your third album. What should people expect from the new album? Will you be building on what you created with your second album?

I like artists that are unafraid to reinvent themselves and experiment with different styles and genres. My next album will likely include some electronic elements and some experimental songwriting ideas.

It will still be routed in melody and lyrics but I think the production will be edgier. My music is very personal and so it evolves as I progress through my own life. 

Q - What are your short term and long term goals?

Short term, I have a lot of shows this year in the States, South Africa and Europe. I want to really focus on those shows and bring as much emotion and energy to the performances as possible. 

I am also going to be recording my next album towards the second half of this year and so that is a priority as well. Long term, I’d like to do more work overseas. 

I’d like to release this third album in the states and tour as much as possible here. I love traveling and taking my music to new places so I hope I can continue to do that.