EXCLUSIVE! Richard Stirton: breaking the sounds of silence

I have to admit, when Richard Stirton sung the Simon & Garfunkel hit ‘Sounds of Silence’ (see the awesome performance at end of the interview) on The Voice SA, I almost lost it. What a brilliant version of such a classic song! And I was super glad he was crowned winner of the M-Net reality series. I got hold of Richard as he was busy prepping for his performance at Café Roux in Noordhoek on Monday 11 July (sorry guys, this is already sold out!). And during our chat I discovered there is more to him than just good looks and music…

How has your life changed after The Voice SA? The biggest change is definitely the fact that I am now doing music full time. It was always a goal of mine to be able to do so but I wasn't really sure if it would become a reality. I was very invested in my studies and I had no idea how I was going to be able to break into the industry, especially with all my time being put into economics and stats rather than songwriting and practicing. The platform The Voice has now given me has been truly invaluable. I feel very blessed to have been given an opportunity to pursue what I love. The second most significant change in my life is definitely that of the constant travelling. Since the 10th of April I have been in Cape Town for a total of 10 days. I do miss home and my family quite a lot but it's a pleasure if while I'm missing them I'm doing what I love. Music makes everything worth it. The rewards from doing something like music far outweigh the sacrifices that come along with it, in my opinion. And lastly, probably the opportunities like singing the national anthem at the rugby, which was definitely a dream of mine. Things like seeing my music video pop up on Mnet after an Ellen Degeneres show, is also something I don't think I will get use to either.

What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up a day after The Voice SA finale? Is this real life? Am I ready for this? Do I quite know what this all means? It was quite an overwhelming, surreal feeling. My head was in a million different places because there is obviously a lot more to this industry than just the music making, especially after entering it through a competition like The Voice. You're thrown into the deep in slightly. I did feel up for the challenge though.

How would you describe you music to those who don't know you? Alternative rock. I tend to try and make people understand the music and the lyrics that are being sung. I feel that so often in todays music industry the message of the song is either lost or not there at all. I want to write music that is focused on the message and stirring something emotionally within people. Regardless of whether they're sitting alone in their bedroom or one in a crowd of thousands, I want them to feel something after hearing it. One of the most powerful lyrics to me at the moment is the line from Simon & Garfunkle's classic, Sound of Silence, "And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people maybe more, people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening". People just don't absorb what's around them and take in the messages of others, whether spoken word or through the music they're listening to etc.

Where did you interest in music started and can you remember the first ever CD you bought? My interest in music was present since I was very young as there was always music in my house but my interest in actually making music really started when I saw a guy by the name of David Cook perform a rock cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. He completely reworked the King of Pops anthem and did so beautifully. Seeing peoples amazement and reintroduction to a song they knew so well was just amazing. It was like people were hearing it in a new light and it reminded them of why they fell in love with the song in the first place. It was inspiring and made me want to make music to inspire. The first album I bought was Avril Lavigne's debut album "Let Go". I loved her music after I heard it at a friend’s house, and singing along was easy because I was only 8 and hadn't hit puberty yet, haha. My taste has changed slightly since then....haha.

Where did you grow up and tell us a bit more of your family? I grew up in Rondebosch, went to Rondebosch Boys' from grade 4 (2004). My family and I are very close. I have 2 brothers and I still stay at home with my parents. The sixth member of my family is Nontobeko (Antionette, "Twanny") Zanywa, who works at my house and has been with us for 17 years. She is like a second mother to me. They are immensely supportive of all that I do and it really means the world to me to have a base such as that. My Dad, James, owns his own advertising company, called "Shout Electronic Displays", they sell electronic display boards. My Mum, Jane, is an Estate Agent with Brooks and Michaels property. My younger brother, Craig, is studying film and media at UCT and is interning at Golf Digest, he's an avid sports fan and an aspiring journalist. My older brother, Gregg, works with my Dad doing graphic design and IT for the company. I really feel immensely blessed to have such a supportive family that believe in me the way they do. It's also more of the way they are very truthful with me with regards to being realistic about things such as bad performances and room to improve. You never want to be a part of a 'Yes' crowd when all they tell you is how well you're doing, you grow from when you're told you could do things better. To quote one of my favourite movies, "Whiplash", the two most destructive words in the English Language are "Good Job". Without being told you are not doing things well you will never work harder to improve.

I have to ask this as people wanted to know, but are you single, or in a relationship? Yes, I have a person.

How do you balance your personal life and work life? I try to keep in contact with all my friends and play some golf with my mates when I'm back home. Generally if I'm back in Cape Town for a short time I'll organise for my closest family friends to join us for an afternoon Braai and catchup. I will always make time for those who mean a lot to me.

Before The Voice SA, what was your job? Before The Voice I was studying BCom Management Studies at UCT and working part-time at Stardust Restaurant in Woodstock. Stardust is great because it's a place where the waiters also sing so it allowed me to keep my voice slightly fit, although I only worked in the holidays last year as Varsity was pretty hectic.

What is the one thing people don't know about you? Growing up, professional sport was my dream, not music.

So, when will we see a CD and is there any chance we'll hear a duet with you and Kahn from The Parlotones? The album will be out hopefully by mid to late August and I would love to do a track with Kahn, he is an absolute legend and I feel so honoured to have been able to get to know him and call him a friend. But I cannot make any promises with regards to that collaboration.

Besides your performance at Cafe Roux, where can people see you live? I'm currently bouncing around quite a lot but if they follow my Musician Page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RichardStirtonMusic/, they can keep up to date with all that I'm getting up to. I really would love to meet as many of my supporters as possible, because after all we are nothing without our supporters.