Rocking for stardom: Brendon Henry Shields

Inside this month’s issue you’ll find some music reviews of South Africa’s hottest new musical talent (Agenda, pg.136). That’s why we asked up-and-coming artist, Brendon Henry Shields a couple of questions.

How has your hometown, Bethlehem, influenced your music? If at all.

Brian Eno often talks about how musicians who live close to great rivers like the Mississippi will have a melodic ‘flow’ to their music. Similarly, writers who live in mountainous areas will carry that sense of space in their sound. My first album would have been influenced by the isolation that a town like Bethlehem offers culturally. Truth and Recession sounds like it was made by an isolated artist and I am proud of this fact.

Describe your genre/ musical style?

I am not a very good musician yet, but I can write an okay lyric. For this reason I think it’s much too early to define my style or approach. I pretty much still just follow my instinct and keep to doing what I enjoy doing.

Explain your album’s title, Truth and Recession.

Society’s relationship with money is a very odd one. I used to earn lots of money and suddenly earned nothing. I lost all my assets but in the process gained a valuable truth about what matters. We feel ashamed if we lose our financial standing. We start to shy away from our friends in embarrassment. I saw so much of this and continue to do so as the recession hits different parts of the world. I wanted to make something that can for posterity bookmark this era.

From what time in your life did you start to seek Rockstardom?

I lost every single asset I owned during the first 6 months of our local recession. I had the option of looking for a job while everyone else was losing theirs or to finally buckle up and pursue my dreams. One is liberated by the thought that you have nothing left to lose. Of course as a kid we all dream of being a rockstar but perhaps we need a kick up the backside to actually give it a shot!

Where do you find inspiration for lyrics?

I usually get a melody sent to me by the gods of music and then slowly try to develop lyrical ideas that seem to compliment the emotions conjured up by the melody in my head. I very rarely have a ‘lyrical crusade’ that I want to pursue through music.

What really irritates you about the music industry? If anything.

The music industry is one of the few industries where you are expected to work for free.  I bet even the children of priests now download or copy music illegally with no fear of punishment of what has become an acceptable crime.

What has been your best gig yet? Why?

I performed in Cape Town at this odd looking club with a skull above the stage. The club “forgot” to market the event and not a single person showed up. As we started playing even the barman felt too embarrassed to hang around so for a good while we performed to absolutely nobody. It was a surreal experience and we sang beautifully on the night.

Where do you go from here? Any exciting gigs coming up?

We are doing a few shows in Durban in support of Michael Cross’ documentary film “Rockstardom-The Journey of a Small Town Songwriter” that screens at the Durban International Film festival. I also play the ‘Night of the Songwriter’ set for Josie Field at the POPArt centre in Johannesurg and have been invited to play at Oppikoppi this year. A really cool idols finalist also recorded a song of mine which I am very excited about that. I will leave it to the readers to find our which song by which artist!

Check out his awesome video here:

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