Martin and Cheryl Engel are Connecting Stars, a South African Folk Pop Duo. Both have extensive experience in the local music industry… you may remember Martin as the bass player for rock band Tree63, while Cheryl has many years worth of experience as a session singer.
We caught up with Cheryl to chat more about Connecting Stars.
I think definitely one of the major and more positive changes have been social media. I remember us trying to help break out a new band 11 years ago and it just seemed almost impossible. Music and events have a bigger platform for marketing and it feels as if our fans are more accessible. We have been able to reach people in the US, England and even India because of our online presence, so it is possible for South African musicians to have an international audience. That being said there does seem to be an overload of music being produced because many people seem to be producing their own material from home. It does seem harder to break through the mass of music content that there is out there. There has also been a devaluation of music as Vince Gill said, “I can get an app for 99c that makes fart noises – the same price as the thing I create and speak to the world with”. More negatives are obviously, all the free streaming of music online, illegal downloads and music retail stores are not willing to take physical copies of albums. Which makes you question, what are musicians getting out of it? My answer to that is, in a world of constant change, there is one thing you can’t take away from an artist…Live performances. Every industry evolves so musicians will have to roll with the changes, hone their skill to make their live performances something that people will pay for and want to see. I feel we live in an exciting time, there are more talented musicians, the SA music scene is more vibrant and doing music is a risk but when it comes down to dreams, you need to be willing to take a few risks.
Congrats on your single “Stuck” charting in the US. We see you’ve got a US tour planned for 2015 – do you think you have found a stronger audience overseas than what you’ve had locally?
Thank you, getting onto the charts has been an amazing achievement for us as a band, definitely a major highlight of our career. We are hoping to head back to the US in March. In the US it honestly did feel like the audience there welcomed us with open arms and it took some convincing to get the support of some audiences here in South Africa. We’ve experienced more doors closing on us here in SA than in the states strangely, but that does seem to be changing and our local fan base has grown tremendously. Perhaps it’s because we were still new on the scene and not many people were willing to take the risk of playing our music because we were unknown. We also have a country feel that comes through in our music which obviously doesn’t appeal to everyone. That being said, we have always had amazing feedback during live shows and events and different types of audiences of different racial groups have all enjoyed the music.
Although there have been a couple of noteworthy successes coming out of Durban lately, it still seems like a tough city to make a music career in. Do you think this is true, and if so why do you think this is?
I think Durban has had a reputation for being a tough city to make a music career in the past, possibly because of low attendance for shows, but I really feel Durban has been amazing at supporting us. Our local radio stations have played our music, local newspapers have interviewed us and fans have supported our shows. What more could you ask for? I also think to make a music career you can’t put your eggs all in one basket, you need to play in other places and try build a career in as many cities as you can.
What can fans expect from your debut album?
Our album is self-titled and has a Country pop, adult contemporary feel, which appeals to a broad audience. It blends heartfelt lyrics with memorable melodies and understated, yet moving production. The 12 tracks take the listener on a musical and lyrical journey spanning the lofty highs and crushing lows of love found, lost or betrayed as well as the confusion and helplessness when loved ones die or suffer needlessly. It seems that different people from different walks of life love the music and can relate to the songs.
Where can fans see you live over the holidays?
We will be doing a few shows in Durban before we head off for our coastal adventure and drive from Durban to Cape Town. Some of the gigs that have been booked so far are:
7 December 2014 – Carols with Connecting Stars, Kainon School Hall, 36 Perth Road, Westville North, Time: 5pm, , RSVP Kerry on (031) 262 2342
11 December 2014 – Raggies in East London – 9pm
13 December 2014 – Tin House in Knysna – 7pm
21 December 2014 – The Rock Bistro in Umzumbe – 8pm
31 December 2014 – Pablo Bar in Eshowe – 9:30pm