5 minutes with Connell Cruise - We chat new music, Idols SA and becoming a dad

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Connell Cruise
Connell Cruise
Photo: Supplied

He can sing, he can dance, and apparently, he can paint too. Is there anything SA-born singer Connell Cruise can't do?

We took some time to get to know the talented star a little better, chatting about his new track Next Time, reflecting on his time on Idols SA and finding out how becoming a dad has changed the way he makes music. 

Tell us about Next Time - what inspired that song?

Next Time is about two inseparable people being separated by forces outside of their control, against their will. Looking back on their good old days, knowing that when they're reunited, everything is going to feel like those good old days again. There are a lot of stories in the song, the story of my first move to the US and being so far removed from my family and my friends, the same way Sarah felt when we moved to South Africa in 2018, and she left behind her family and friends. It's a song that really speaks to right now. 

Has your music-making process changed, if at all, over the years?

It's constantly changing, evolving. As a person, I am unsatisfied with repetition; I crave the new experience. The most important part of the process for me right now is curating an environment of inspiration - I meditate a lot more now than I used to, I allow myself to zone out now where before I would be so relentlessly focused that I'd forget to even eat or sleep. 

You also became a dad not too long ago. Has that experience changed your life and the way you make music now?

Absolutely! Sarah and I were just saying recently, becoming a parent is the most dominant life force change, there is no question. Nothing else so completely transforms every single part of a life - and what a beautiful, captivating, exhausting, awe-inspiring, explosive, overwhelming, destiny-defining transformation it is. My choices now, in life and in music, are no longer just about me and my vision - they are completely wrapped up in my son's eyes. I've shifted now from vision to legacy, and it's an incredible new frontier. 

Take us back to 2010 when you auditioned for Idols SA. What was that experience like for you, and how did it shape you as a musician?

I don't have many memories of that experience. I kept a very vivid journal back then, so I'm sure I'd be able to find something, but my life has moved so far and so fast since. I don't feel that my journey as an artist is anchored to that moment in particular, but I can't deny that the show would be my introduction to the music industry, and that first step would create a domino effect that launched an entire career for me, so I am grateful to it. 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself back then?

Some things you just need to live through, do it gracefully.

It's been over a decade since then. What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned from this industry?

That it is resilient, hungry, and insatiable. There is no peak; there is only onwards. 

In 2014 you released Into the Wild, which blew up and eventually caught the attention of LA Reid. Talk to us about that experience.

That truly took me into the wild, untamed side of this business. It showed me the scale of it, and it blew my mind. What an opportunity as well; I certainly don't take it for granted. 

In 2018 you proved your skills on the dance floor on Dancing with the Stars SA. What was it like taking part in that show and ultimately walking away with the trophy?

That was an ordeal, gruelling, not only the physicality of it but the emotional and psychological aspect of it too. One day, perhaps, I'll share everything that went into it, but for now, I am just so grateful to have learned such a beautifully expressive skill and to have found an excellent friendship in my dance partner and her family. Sarah and I keep the Swarovski Trophy on our mantlepiece, and when the morning light comes in through the windows, we use it to refract a constellation of rainbows in our living room that Ivor loves to chase around - and we love watching him do it.

We know you can sing and dance, but do you have any other hidden talents we should know about?

Sometimes I paint, when I have the time. 

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