Born to sing

2010-02-20 00:00

THE joy of writing and performing his own songs is what keeps 25-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist Rowan Stuart­ motivated in the challenging South African music business.

Stuart, who hails from Durban, will be performing at The Red Door in Pietermaritzburg next week and fans can expect to hear songs from his latest album Soul In A Suitcase.

The new album took roughly three months to record, starting with Stuart working in his home studio. “I wrote the songs and did the demos at home. Then, through my record label, I used a studio with better equipment and acoustics to do 90% of the arrangements,” he explained. “The final recordings and masterings were done in a professional recording studio.”

Asked how Soul In A Suitcase differed from his first album, 2008’s A Thousand Brand New Places, Stuart said his latest release was “all about the guitar”.

“It’s meant to feel like a live band with two guitars and drums,” he added, “and I’m confident that when we play the songs live, they will sound as good as they do on the album, if not better.”

To create the sound, he used a Fender stratocaster, Fender telecaster and a Sterling rock guitar.

The concept has clearly been a success. The first single from Soul In A Suitcase, a track titled Miles Away, reached number one on East Coast Radio’s Top 9@9.

Stuart, whose influences include Jimi Hendrix, Sting, the Beatles, John Mayer and Jason Mraz, first picked up a guitar at the age of 11.

“My parents were musicians and there were always guitars lying around the house,” he said of his decision to be a guitarist. “And then my older brother began playing in a heavy metal band. I thought that was cool — not the metal, but being in a band.”

Stuart honed his guitar skills in musical theatre shows, including The Guitar that Rocked the World in 2000, and the South African production of We Will Rock You, the smash-hit musical, conceptualised by Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen. Playing guitar in this show he toured South Africa and New Zealand.

And, it would be easy, he says, to carry on performing in musical theatre, but Stuart prefers to write and perform his own music, which has been described as poetic pop rock. “I need to do original music. This is what I do, what I am,” he said.

For The Red Door gig, on February 23, Stuart will be joined by guitarist and vocalist­ Lester de Freitas. “We’ll be playing music from both my albums, but mainly from the new one — and there will also be a few surprises,” he said.

Doc Paul will be the opening act at the venue at 5 Quarry Road, off Victoria Road. Doors open at 8 pm. Admission is R20. There will be a cash bar. Inquiries: Dee at 084 555 6830.

If you can’t make it to the Pietermaritzburg show, Stuart will be performing at the Vagabond Café in Salt Rock today at 7.30 pm. Tickets R40 at the door. Inquiries: Kerry at 083 618 5596.

He’ll also be doing a free show at uShaka­ Marine World’s Upper Deck on February 25 at 7 pm and will be joining the Ryan Calder Band for a double bill at Durban’s Alliance Française on March 19.


• For more information on Rowan Stuart, visit, or Facebook “Rowan Stuart Music”.

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