PDBY spoke to singer and songwriter, Thulaganyo Motau. Motau is a student at UP and recently released a vibrant and funky debut single, “Souls Have Chosen”. She spoke to us about her musical journey, the industry and some of the life lessons she has learnt along the way.
What inspired “Souls Have Chosen” and what made it all come together?
It is funny because most people think that “Souls Have Chosen” was inspired by or is about someone. It really is not. At the time of its birth, I had just gone through a breakup and everything that I had said on the song was essentially a manifestation of what I would like in a relationship because it came from the heart.
This was because the song was never formally written down. I remember playing the beat over and over again until I started humming particular words to fill in the spaces. Some words just stuck with me like the chorus that got stuck in everyone’s head […]. This includes the verses which I also did not formally write because they were freestyled. As I recorded them, I listened to what I liked, what made sense and then just cleaned up the words so that it was not mumbled, or I was not stuttering. I also made sure that it had intentional meaning that I actually wanted to convey. It became the beautiful song that it is today after individuals had given input, feedback and constructive criticism to better the original version of the song. And through the collaborative effort that I had with the producer @onlyonewithwings!
Apple Music categorises your song as an R&B/Soul track. Is this how you would categorise your song in terms of genre, and will your upcoming songs fall into this category too?
To be honest, it was categorised as that because it needed to be categorised but I think that “Souls Have Chosen” is a mixture between funk and pop. I am not too sure if that is an actual genre or if I have created one, but I would not necessarily categorise it as just an R&B soul track.
Additionally, I would not say that my upcoming songs fall into this category because I like to experiment and explore within different genres. I also like to see how I can expand my vocal capabilities and creative capacity within music in general.
“Souls have Chosen” was released in November 2020, which is still very recent. How has your following and your platform grown since the release of the song?
My social media platforms have grown slightly. I gained about 300 followers, although I am not too sure because I was not really keeping track. I know there [are] more people who engage with my posts, my feeds, my stories and my tweets. It has just been an interesting experience on streaming platforms because I am able to see the analytics of each week. It shows how many people have listened to the song, how many listeners I have gained, how many people have Shazamed the song and where it is being streamed. For instance there are countries I would not have thought listened to SHC. Like Kenya, Singapore or Finland.
When did you know that you wanted to release music and what was your first step in the direction of achieving this goal?
The relationship that I have with music is very healthy and it has gotten me through a lot of upsetting, toxic, hurtful, stressful and joyous moments in my life. I knew that I wanted to release music when I was mentally prepared for the possibility of being criticised by people who do listen to it or come across it. It takes a certain level of vulnerability, confidence and certainty when accepting that you are being vulnerable to the public with the works that are essentially parts of you that you have decided to share. However, I intend to heal not only myself but others through music because of how other artists’ music has made me feel.
Has your experience as a drama student given you the confidence you need to produce the music that is important to you?
It absolutely has. One of our practical components was singing, in first and second year, which was basically a great way for me to learn how to sing using techniques that assist in singing optimally and effectively. It allowed me to find my own singing voice rather than mimicking or trying to sing like other artists.
Also, there are some life long friendships that I believe that I have made in my drama degree year group who have been very supportive and encouraging in the same way my family has. This has been the energy we have for each other because we all want to see each other win, we are all going to win. And it was in this environment that I became more confident.
Is there a musician who has influenced you as a person and potentially your sound?
I cannot say there is a musician that has really influenced me as a person. My sound is heavily influenced by choral singing which is evident in a lot of the songs to come. This is usually heard when Africans come together to express what is felt by an individual or community, like struggle songs, church songs or songs sung at weddings and graduations. It is in these spaces that I often find myself singing from a source that transcends the physical.
However, I am also heavily influenced by urban 90s music within the genres of funk, neo soul, soul and R&B. I would also toss in Amapiano and Afrobeats. But as mentioned before, I do not limit myself to genres that I am familiar with, I enjoy pushing the boundaries that are set to box artists in particular genres of music.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt through the process of creating your music?
One of the most important lessons that I have learnt through the process of creating music is being exposed to the administrative aspect of running a musical career or business. It was interesting to note that 20% of your success in the music industry is attributed to the skill/ talent, but 80% is most definitely what happens behind the scenes. This is why having a team is essential in making sure that you are covered within other aspects of being an artist. Most people do not understand that being an artist is actually a business. You are a brand, a manager, who is running a business where you need someone who will take care of finances, book gigs, assist in maintaining and developing your brand image, having a legal advisor, making sure that your social media presence is kept to date whether it be through video content or photos (that is one thing that is always going to be in motion), having a publicist to make sure you are constantly in the spotlight at all times so that you are recognised by more people in order to reach a wider audience, having a sales and marketing team. It is all a business.
Do you have any advice for any fellow musicians who may be feeling a little discouraged about their work, or feel as if they have hit a creative block?
My advice would be to start, just start. The only person standing in the way of securing the bag, a future career, accomplishments and success is YOU! And 9/10 supporters mean way more than having 1 hater, who is low key also a supporter.
Is there anything you are currently creating that you would like to give the readers a little bit of a hint about?
I have said too much