Pop vocalist and songwriter Brandon October has just released his third self-titled CD. The Beat had a chat to him about the CD, his love for classical and opera music, and he also shares a poem with us!
You took your time with your new CD, why is that? I’ve self-financed this album and didn’t want to make any costly mistakes along the way, so I chose the way of the tortoise; slow and steady. Taking time to craft the album also allowed time to reflect on the sound, direction and production and thus create an album that I’d be happy with.
How does your new CD differ from your previous two releases? I’ve spent the past few years assessing and then re-assessing the musical direction I was in. I’ve always felt that my previous two albums didn’t truly reflect who I am as a singer and songwriter. My new album reflects some of my musical influences. Rock music has always been one of my favourite genres and also a fantastic medium to showcase high vocals and having grown up on a diet of Freddie Mercury (Queen), Steve Perry (Journey), Foreigner, Jefferson Starship it was inevitable that that influence would shine through. This album is edgier, classier and my vocals, showcase who I am and how I like to perform, a lot more than on my previous albums. I have also taken my songwriting to a different level on this album.
We quite like the blend of Afrikaans and English - was that something important for you to do with this new CD? I enjoy singing in both languages and it’s who I am. Half of my family is Afrikaans so I was raised in a bi-lingual environment and there learnt to appreciate the beauty of both languages. It just so happens that I can write in both languages and enjoy doing so, so yes, it was important to me to be able to portray that on this album.
Listening to the new CD, it's almost like you have something to tell the audience. Are you a storyteller by nature? I wouldn’t say a storyteller as such, but I certainly do like to talk a lot. I think all songwriters have something to say and we do so through song. But my songs, do tell stories of this that I have seen happen or that I envisage happening. I enjoy writing and I enjoy being able to put what I picture in my mind, down in song, in order for others to be able to experience it too.
What is the best story you've ever heard and what's the one you always share with family & friends? There were two guys who’d been stranded in the desert and all they had to eat were a few packets of dates. In order to ensure their survival they decided to ration themselves. Every evening, in the soft warm glow of candelight, they’d share a supper of dates and water. A few days later they opened a packet of dates and found it covered in maggots. Every other packet of dates they opened revealed the same wriggling horror. They knew that they’d die without eating those precious dates. So their survival instinct kicked in, so they blew out the candle and had their supper.
We see that Villa Rosa actor Lieb Bester also feature on the CD, how did that came about? Lieb and Harald Richter also recorded their album with Robin and I’d also had a small role in Villa Rosa about a thousand years ago so I knew Lieb and Harald. When Robin and I listened to ‘Liefling, Jy’s nie meer alleen nie’ we looked at each other and almost at the same time said, We need an accordion. Robin got in touch with Lieb who happily agreed to play on my album! His contribution made a huge difference to the song.
And the Jannie Moolman duet is amazing, do you have a passion for that genre as well and how did you get him involved? I first fell in love with classical and opera music when I was about 9 and would spend hours listening and singing along to Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras. Jannie and I performed Vivere during a tour we did a few years ago and something just clicked. When the time came to compile the songs for the album I asked him if he’d like to record Vivere with me. I’ve always wanted to record a duet with Jannie, so it just all fitted into place.
Carla Botha is another big name on this CD. Why did you think she would suit the best to record with? The song that Corlea and I recorded, ‘Dis Waar Liefde Is’ was on the Huisgenoot Tempo songwriting competition songs. It was the first time we’d sung together let alone recorded together. It turned out better than we expected. A firm favourite amongst audiences I believe. Since then we’ve had numerous requests to perform shows together and I approached Media 24 to ask if I could include it on my album, they agreed and so here it is –as far as I know, my album is the only album you can find it on.
How did you end up working with Robin Walsh on the new CD? I’ve known Robin Walsh for nearly 10 years and always wanted to work with him, but because he was so busy it was practically impossible to allocate enough time to record my album. As luck would have it Robin was available when I decided to record my third album. So we finally got to do the album and the production is awesome.
What is it about Robin that gives your music that special magic? We’ve know each other and worked together for many years on many different shows so he immediately understood where I was coming from and the direction in which I wanted to move. Robin is a perfectionist but more importantly he loves what he does so everything he works on reflects that.
Tell us a bit about your family? Wife. Two young boys, aged 5 and two and a half. My family are my sounding board for all my writing and recording. They’re also my haven and they create the balance in my life. Both of my boys, already know the words to all my songs and they both play air guitar like two real rockers. It’s nice to come home to them all, after being on the road. A lot of what I do, wouldn’t be possible without their support and understanding. I
Who are you musical icons? My musical icons are as varied and as different as Ennio Morricone to Steven Tyler.…All of these people living or dead have impacted my music. My late grandfather, Paul Daniel Turner was a man who made poetry a part of his everyday life and it was from him I learnt the power of words. He was also a singer in his youth and understood and loved music. Ennio Morricone – Italian composer (The Mission, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, The Legend of 1900, Diane Warren – American songwriter. Coenie De Villiers – Songwriter and singer extraordinaire, Marlon Brandon, Robert De Niro, Bob Marley and on it goes…the list is vast and varied.
What makes you laugh and cry? I tend to cry more than I used to. I think having children has made me sensitive to life in general. Sad movies make me cry. I’m not a melancholic person and prefer to surround myself with things that make me happy. I sometimes cry just because I’m happy. My children always make me laugh and always put a smile on my face. A really good comedy, a really good book…close friends and family.
What is your motto in life? Do or do not. There is no try – Yoda Jedi
What is it about singing & performing that excites you? I can’t really define it in words. On stage is the one place where I am in control, where I feel completely at home. There is nothing better than an audience showing love and appreciation and enjoyment for what you are doing.
When you're not recording or performing, how do you spend you down-time? There’s never really ‘down-time’. Always a show to rehearse for, songs to be written for the next album, an event to attend…but I devote a lot of my time to my family. They know they come first but they also realise that work time is work time. At home I do pretty normal things with my sons: we mow the lawn together, we watch interesting television programs together ‘Masterchef Australia is one of our favourites, lately we watch ‘The Dog Whisperer’. Our sons love animals and it’s become a big hit in our home. Sundays we sit outside on the patio and watch the birds while munching on popcorn. We’ve even acquired a bird book and have managed to spot many interesting birds. Because I’m such an avid reader my wife and I encourage reading. We also spend lots of time engaging our sons in conversation, going out with them, and encouraging them to appreciate all that is around them. When I can, I enjoy going out for dinner, reading, catching a movie, and or course sleeping…a rarity in the October household.
What's the craziest fan encounter you have ever experienced? Once after a show during a signing session, a fan told me that she always wanted to be a singer and that it was her life-long dream to record and tour. Before I could respond, she launched into ‘My heart will go on’. Unfortunately she wasn’t a very good singer and thankfully the song didn’t go on and on. I did have to endure that ear-shattering high note in the song though. The other people in the queue were just as stunned as I was.
Any TV shows in the pipeline for you at the moment? I am actually conceptualising a new show. Of course it is still in the planning phase so I can’t reveal too much at the moment.
For people who don't know Brandon October the muso, how would you describe yourself to them and why should they listen to your music? Music is in my blood. It's emotion in motion. My music, my inspiration is life and what goes on around me and in the lives of those around me. I write songs that speak from experience and inspiration and motivation. Everyone feels sad, happy, lonely, alone, elated, at some stage in their lives. Everyone has that one special song that picks them up when they're down, or that they like listening to to get them in the mood to do something. My songs are about that. My music tells the stories of human emotion that people will hopefully experience and enjoy as much as I have. I like to sing and write about things that mean something to me whether it be a good rock song or a thoughtful ballad.
What charity work are you involved with and why? I don’t have just one cause that I’m involved in and when time allows I do work for Heart & Stroke Foundation, Alzheimer’s SA, CANSA, Reach for a dream. My sister suffered two debilitating strokes in the winter of 2008 which affected her short term memory. To this day she still has difficulty with her memory. My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s and we watched as this disease robbed this man of his man, identity and life and a few years before that my gran succumbed to cancer.
I am also passionate about wildlife conservation and do a lot of charity work for them when I have the time too.
We see you're also a poet - like to share a poem with us?
Brandon October 28 December 2005 (1:05 – 1:25 am)
As the Red-brown leaves touched by autumn’s kiss,
Softly fall to the ground….I once more think of you.
Hair blowing all over your face, echoes of joyous laughter
Stay with me…
Eyes wide with excitement, perfection caught at once in an instant
In the secret moment we shared, just you and me
Oh I miss you so, so much.
I no longer have any crazy unfulfilled dreams or ambitions of conquering the world,
Making lots of money…
My life’s purpose has been played….
And love, has been revealed to me, like the surprise ending of a story book
What do you know, I know the ending.
Sometimes endings can be beginnings.
You came briefly to remind me of this. That there’s more than chasing after dreams….
Strip away the finery; take away all that hinders the eye from seeing my true path
And as the Red-brown leaves touched by autumn’s kiss,
Softly fall to the ground….I once more think of you.
Are you going to tour with the new CD? I am planning a South African and Netherlands/Belgium tour for 2012. Venues and dates will be available on my website.
Where can people find out about your tour dates? All tour dates and gig guide can be found on my website www.brandonoctober.net , updates are also made to my facebook and twitter accounts.
What is your fan mail address? P.O. Box 692, Bruma, 2026