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Rob Rodell: News

on going gold & releasing my 8th album... - December 15, 2012

I wrote this on my Facebook page yesterday: "Hey Dad! Happy 68th birthday for yesterday. Miss you, but know you are still with me in spirit. How's Rod? Just wanted you to know that I have just released my 8th album, which is dedicated to you. Hope you love it! It's called 'A Cappella Christmas Vol. 2.' Enjoy. Much love, Rob. Xxxx" I couldn't help but cry, and I am glad they weren't tears of sorrow but of joy, like the ones I experienced in studio the other day - for the first time in my life!

What a year 2012 has been! It's been brilliant and it's been challenging, like every year before and every year that is yet to come in my life. And that's okay, because I know that we, the entire universe, are surrounded and enveloped in an amazing love that is eternal and omnipresent.

Last year perhaps my single biggest musical achievement was my South African Music Award (SAMA) nomination, but this year there have been quite a few:

  • It's official: the "Could This Be Love" house single with Cuebur and Shimza went gold in SA, which is just amazing! I set myself a goal back in 2006 to achieve gold status by June 2007 and platinum by December the same year. Little did I know how much work would be involved! But I am soooo happy that I achieved the first part of that goal, five-and-a-half years later... That's okay too - better late than never, and now at least I am on my way...
  • We finally did a video for CTBL as part of the 48 Hour Music Video Project, which Johannesburg had the awesome privilege of being involved in - one of only 14 cities in the world.
  • The song was nominated as the second-best song at the prize giving for the MVP, and a well-know local group, The Muffinz, said they absolutely loved it, and fought hard for it, so it became a two-hour fight between my song and the winner. I could never have done it without Cuebur, an amazing and humble producer and DJ that is just such a pleasure to work with.
  • A Cappella Christmas Vol. 2 was released this year, and became my 8th album release in 4 years, since my 1st release back in 2008. Shameful that it took me more than 10 years to release my 1st album, but I was waiting for a major label to pick me up. Eventually I woke up and started using my brain, and since then the albums have been coming thick & fast. I like being in control of my career!
  • I may even get a 9th album out this year still, if I can get my awesome graphic designer to finish the cover before the 31st!

I am deeply, richly blessed, I have had an amazing life, and I am incredibly grateful for my family and my life. Just all that good stuff, you know? Every human being has tasted it, no matter how tough they have it/have had it/will have it. There is always something to smile about, even on days when you're totally pissed off.

Musica, grata Deo.

criticism & praise - August 11, 2012

Urban legend has it that if Madonna gets 10 critiques, with 9 being positive and 1 being negative, she tends to forget about the 9 good ones and fixates on the bad one. Maybe this is just the sensitive nature of the artist, or maybe she just wants to get it right and prove her critics wrong.


Either way, I can relate! I am doing a stint at Hyde Park Corner, a very snooty shopping centre in Johannesburg, every Saturday and Sunday in the month of August (like Madge, it's also my birthday this month). I started last weekend, and I must say it's damn hard work! This is the not-so-fun side of the music biz. Glamour, what glamour?


Because it's in a shopping centre it's an acoustic nightmare. I find it very difficult to hear myself over the PA system, but some of the tenants have been complaining that it's either too soft or too loud. It has been rather unsettling, but I have tried to march forward, despite my aural insecurities, and deliver the best damn job that I can.


In some cases it has worked. Last week on Saturday I had a gentleman walk up to me and say, "You have a beautiful voice. Very nice to listen to." Another gentleman called me as I walked past him sitting at a restaurant and said, "I just want to tell you, you have the most extraordinary voice." Of course these are the wonderful compliments a singer wants to hear. I thanked them both and said that I appreciated the feedback, because it was hard to know what people actually hear - and of course what they think.


The one gent said that he had owned an interior design shop in the centre for 30 years, and that I should take his advice and bring a gun with, because he thought it was a shame that people just walked past and did not even acknowledge me as a singer. A lady on Sunday walked past me and said practically the same thing - that she and her family had been listening, and they appreciated it, and that even though there was no audience to speak of (I am doing background filler music, though thankfully some of it is original), that it was still great. Of course I thanked her and said that we singers really need to hear that sort of encouragement.


And then, of course, there is the other side. A few years ago I delivered what I thought was a great Christmas programme at Greenstone, another large shopping centre on the other side of Johannesburg. When I phoned the marketing manager in January to ask her if she wanted to hire me again for Valentine's Day, she said that the tenants didn't like my singing. Ouch! I certainly have my critics, and it's hard. A music publisher that I submitted some original music to for a possible publishing deal once said to me, "Rob, some of your stuff isn't bad, but please get someone else to sing it!" I guess I just have to make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to be a fan of my music and my voice. That's the brutally harsh reality of the music industry, and if I want to be in it, I need to live with that. Hey, if somebody is willing to pay £1,000 to see Barbra Streisand perform and then heckle her, why should I expect anything different?


So yeah, I have had my detractors at Hyde Park. One tenant, who said she was very glad to hear that I was singing and was looking forward to hearing me the next day, was one of the first to complain to centre management about how I just was not cutting it. Another woman came down from the optometrist on the next level up, and asked me to please turn down the music as she could not hear patients over the phone. A few days later a friend of mine went up there to speak to her, and she did not know who he was. He fished for info, and she eventually said, "Well, I can honestly say that he does not have the voice of an angel!" C'est la vie.


My singing teacher always used to relay the story of Pavarotti, who as a youngster went with his father and uncle to go and listen to some opera. Apparently his father couldn't stop booing, and his uncle couldn't stop lauding the singer. Young Pav then decided that 50% of people will like you, and 50% of people will hate you. My teacher always then said that it would be the same for me, so I should just get on with the job. I take comfort in the fact that my music will resonate with some, even if it doesn't with others. Is that not the way of the world?


John Demartini always says that if you're not being crucified and opposed for what you stand for, then you're not on purpose - you are not making a difference in the world. I believe it was Einstein who said that people with a vision and a purpose will always be violently opposed by those who are against them. I think John Demartini is a visionary who has helped me live my telos, which is music. Some people think he is the anti-Christ.


As Robert Palmer sings, it takes every kind of people to make the world go round. Ain't that the truth! As for me, I am just gonna keep on singing, whether they love me or hate me, and I hope that I will touch the lives of many with my music. I desire to serve people with it.


Well, let me be off. I have to go sing now at Hyde Park. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing right now.

confessions of a busker - July 24, 2012

Katie Melua once remarked, upon seeing a 6-year-old Russian boy busking in Moscow, that busking is a rite of passage for a musician, although she also said that she felt 6 was a little young!


Well, at age 40, I have decided to return to busking, and I have been doing it for almost 2 months now, on and off, every week. I must say it has not been easy!


I first tried busking at The Zone in Rosebank in Johannesburg 10 years ago, when I was in my early 30s. Since then they have built the Gautrain (Johannesburg's subway or underground or metro), which has brought a whole new bunch of people to the area. South Africa has also changed a lot in the past 10 years, and now you will see all race groups with money, not just White people anymore, at the centre. Initially I was a bit worried... would a young hip Black lady give a bald White dude a tip for singing in her ear as she pays for her parking? To my shock initially, and great happy surprise, some of my biggest tips have come from the awesome Black people who now shop in Rosebank - and they are loaded. Chalk one up for my stupid prejudice...


The stuff I busk is quite different to my House music, which I do with very cool young producers. No, at The Zone I sing stuff from musicals and theatre and a bit of opera and a few of the oldies. It is beautiful music. Occasionally I throw in an original. Not being great at guitar and with a keyboard being impractical, I just stand and sing a cappella - which is still awesome. In the underground parking areas my voice sounds amazing because it has built-in reverb.


Today a lady came up to me whilst I was singing and said to me, "Your talent is wasted in this place." I was so encouraged and thanked her for her kind words. About 20 minutes later I thanked a lady for giving me a tip, and she said, "No, thank YOU! It is beautiful." I was truly encouraged. Apparently today I made more than most buskers did.


But I won't lie... It is hard, and I really didn't feeling like doing it today. I felt introspective and insecure, but I kicked my own backside and decided to do it anyway.


Still, the people who are closest to me think that I am a professional pauper, standing, and I quote, "...on the side of the road begging for money." I can understand why they feel that way. I left a lucrative career in corporate marketing to pursue my dream of a full-time career in music, and I am much the poorer for it. It is the fourth time I have shunned the marketing world in pursuit of my musical dream, because I know that music is my telos, my calling, my highest value, my purpose and mission for this world.


I wonder sometimes, though: is the price too high? I am making so little money compared to what I used to, and on a day like today I am not happy that I have chosen music, because it has made me poorer. How can I find a way to make money from my music career? If others can, surely so can I. Well, that's the brave story I tell myself, but I certainly don't feel that way today...


No, I won't go back to corporate marketing, and even though I am now doing my doctorate and I should be earning the big bucks, still I find it hard to make music my career. Well, John Demartini would tell me that at least the addiction to my fantasy of music being a glamorous job is being shattered, so that I can deal with the reality of what music is really about. At least now I know what ABBA and Danny K are talking about when they say music is such a tough job, and you really have to love it.


As I was busy doing my hour of busking, and after I had finished, I felt better. Did I enjoy it? Very, very much. I loved singing. I love singing. It's so hard, but I still love it. And as I was doing it, and placing my voice higher and higher in my head, to get the best possible sound, I gave all my breath, and I loved it. And that's when the lady complimented me on my gift...


Does this blog entry have a happy ending? No. Music is a pain in the ass. But what to do? I am in love with music. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it. So I guess I better just get on with it and sing. What else should I do? Nothing. Sing or be damned. Sing or die. Make music till I die. As Pavarotti said, that is a life well lived, and that is what I have dedicated myself to...

It feels amazing being at #1! - April 20, 2012

Quite inadvertently, 2 days ago, I was doing a routine check of my G Score, as suggested by Catherine Kaputa, when I stumbled across a link on Google to Energy 100 FM, a youth radio station broadcasting out of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

To my utter shock and delighted surprise, I discovered that the house remix of my track "Could This Be Love" with Cuebur and Shimza had hit no. 1 on the radio station on 5 April 2012 - two weeks ago already! The track was at no. 5 in March. This means that the music has now truly gone international! I performed the track at a gig in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, in November last year, and now it has moved onto neighbouring Namibia.

I posted the news on Facebook, and the encouragement received from family, friends and fans was amazing, as follows:

Wahooo!!! My "Bel Canto" teacher makes it to number 1 on 100FM Radio in Namibia! What an achievement! (Lisa - singing student, on HER Facebook profile)

‎"CONGRATULATIONS!!!!" ... "mWAH!". This is fantastic to say the least. The hard work is starting to pay off Rob!! (Lisa - singing student, on MY Facebook profile)

Well done Rob! This is just the beginning of a whole string of number one great hits for you all around the world!please Don't ever give up on something that will soon be a awesome future for you. Remember, don't reach for the stars, reach for the galaxys (Sascha Orlofski - fan)

WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Diana Cavill - sister and brilliant novelist/scriptwriter)

2 nice (Bojwa Seewell - former music business student, DJ, music entrepreneur and fan)

Go Rob thats awesome!!! well done!! (Debbie - former colleague from my 'day job' days)

congrats my bro dats my song of da year 2011 (Harold Lebese - DJ)

You go rob!! (very proud) (Master Sdj SA - DJ)

Well, there you have it. It is wonderful to be acknowledged for one's art and craft and hard work, and when the going gets tough it's achievements like these - and the support, love and encouragement of people - that really makes the journey, which is sometimes perilous, really worthwhile.

Musica, grata Deo.

10 things I learnt releasing my Christmas album - January 19, 2012

I released my A Cappella Christmas album into stores last month. Even though it was not my first physical release, I still made a lot of mistakes and learnt so much from it. Here are 10 points I specifically want to document:

  1. Always start earlier! I was only able to afford the cost of the physical production at the end of November, so I only got my stock in December. It was way too late, and I did myself a grave disservice and damaged my sales by doing it so late.
  2. It always costs you more than you think it will! Stores don't take duplicated CDs, they only take replicated CDs. It's a much more expensive exercise, and the minimum quantity is 200, so save money!
  3. People will let you down... I had guaranteed distribution into a whole bunch of CD stores that had been confirmed in writing. Just a few days before Christmas I still couldn't find my CD in certain stores. It was disheartening, but hey, I just had to be grateful for what I got. This leads me to my next point:
  4. Nobody owes you anything! And my next point:
  5. You have to get off your rear and do it yourself. This is a hard lesson to learn... Once you start doing this, and people see you are serious about your career, then they start taking you seriously. Before that, you might as well be an Idols finalist.
  6. You can NEVER do enough marketing! So, I got a CD into stores. So what!???! If nobody knows about it and nobody knows who you are, then it means very little. I always say marketing has 2 simple elements to it: i) give people what they want, and ii) tell them that you have it! Sometimes knowing marketing from a book (I am doing my doctorate in marketing communications for music) is different to actually getting down and doing it on the street...
  7. It's a tough and competitive world out there! Especially over Christmas, there is a lot of competition. My album was up against old Christmas favourites like Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, and Michael Buble's new Christmas CD, which was everywhere. I was swallowed up by the big names. But I take solace from the fact that the big names were once small names too. You just gotta start somewhere...
  8. I am building up my bullet-proof vest. Every time I release something new and get it out there, I am becoming more used to the hard graft involved, and I am better able to handle the disappointments and deal with the hard knocks. If the Rolling Stones go out on tour every time they release a new album (and they are a 50-year-old brand in 2012), then what the hell is my excuse?
  9. If I could, I would do it all again! I have no regrets about releasing my music for all the world to hear. It is my calling. It is my telos. I will release more albums in 2012 and beyond...
  10. I still love music and the music industry. I can sometimes get so discouraged by the toughness of this industry. But I have to remember what Seth Godin said: "Hey, if it was easy, everybody would be a rock star!" The truth is, I really love singing, and I really love music. That is never gonna change, no matter how much I fail. As my friend Obita always says too: "You cannot change your design. It is who you are." I just love that!

The Demartini Institute's Inspiring Client of the Year Award - 2011 - January 1, 2012

As we move swiftly into 2012, I want to take a moment to celebrate a recent victory I had when I was named as the Demartini Institute's Inspiring Client of the Year for 2011. This was the verbatim message I was sent by the team:

Dear Rob

At our year-end wrap-up meeting today the Demartini staff were asked to nominate the clients that they thought had been an inspiration for them in 2011, and we wanted to share the below comment that was made about you:

The Inspiring Client of the Year Award goes to ROB RODELL. He came on board as a client a bit skeptical, but has subsequently embraced the work and continues to consistently manifest new opportunities and has grown in a very real and amazing way! Rob is an inspiration for doing ‘the work’ and living his values and dreams!

We honour you Rob and thank you for being such an inspiration to us at the Demartini Institute

Wishing you a successful, empowering and loving 2012

Kindest regards

Clarissa, Gail, Heather, Hugo, Kirsten, Dana, Minalli, Maryna and Blair

GAIL FREATHY

Manager

Whenever I have a bad day this year, and in the years to come, I am going to remember this! Someone who is extremely close to me had a nephew who committed suicide last year. He had just been accepted to AFDA, the film school, where he was going to study a BA in Motion Picture - no easy task! He chose instead to end his life, causing much sorrow to those around him who were left behind. I say what a waste! If he had seen how much he could have offered the world I know he would have thought and felt differently.

I have much respect for John Demartini and his team, who have taught me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get off my bum and make a contribution to the world. That is what I intend to spend the rest of my life doing, and of course, the biggest contirbution that I want to make to the world is in the field and endeavour of music.

Carpe diem! Musica, grata Deo.

Freddie Mercury & My Doctorate - October 29, 2011

I attended a lecture at Unisa on Thursday this week, which detailed the brand that was Freddie Mercury (well, he is still a brand actually - all good brands outlive their shelf lives). I was encouraged to attend by my academic supervisors at the University of Johannesburg, who had heard the lecture. They believe that this is a very strong topic for my D Litt et Phil degree, which is my doctorate in marketing communications.

When I first met with them, I told them, "I have to do this about music, or I will never finish it." They told me initially that they wanted me to do a study on socio-cybernetics, which involves systems theory, complexity theory, and change and chaos management (think The Butterfly Effect). It would no doubt have been a fascinating study, given that the music industry is forever changed when we get a new technology (vinyl, tape, CD, MP3). But it's not as sexy as doing a study on people as music brands.

When my supervisors attended the Freddie Mercury lecture, they immediately thought of me and what a great angle this would be for my doctorate. I am so thrilled that they did. This is the kind of topic that will get me out of bed in the morning, and I can use it to build my own music brand. For the first time this year, I am actually excited about my doctorate again - and I love it, because this study will force me to build my own music career, and I have no excuses not to.

As I wrote perviously, we can sometimes not see how the things in our lives are linked, and I used to wonder what marketing communications and music had in common in my life. I see it more clearly now than ever.

As I listened to the lecture on Freddie Mercury, I felt happy, sad, angry, relieved, encouraged, discouraged, envious, inspired. My dad loved Queen, so it also reminded me of him, and I felt a twinge of nostalgia and realised again that my life is so blessed and so perfect, simply because each and every experience I have had is on the way, not in the way, as my guru/mentor John Demartini reminds us.

I also loved what the speaker said, as I asked him after the lecture if I could set up an appointment with him to discuss my doctorate. I said I wanted to do a comparative study on the biggest music brands in the world (which would probably need to include The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and of course Freddie Mercury). He said something amazing to me, which I will remember for the rest of my life: he said they all had the balls to be different. This reminded me that in order for me to become my star, I need to have the balls to be different. He said that Freddie Mercury had the courage to grow, and the courage to face the challenges of the music world, to become a brand. As Julie Andrews sings in The Sound of Music, "I am seeking the courage I lack."

But I am gettin' there, baby... Each and every day, I grow in confidence to move my music career forward, and I am loving the journey.

Building my brand's equity - September 13, 2011

The serendipity of the universe never ceases to amaze me. I think I often questioned why it is that I ended up studying marketing communications at the same time that I was studying music. Now it's so patently clear why that was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Everybody bandies about the branding thing: branding this, branding that, build the brand, protect the brand. I think sometimes people have no clue what that means, but when you have had a plethora of brand experts tell you that everybody is involved in building the brand, it should come as no surprise that everybody talks about branding.

Allow me to indulge my narcissism for a minute: I actually studied branding! It was the topic for my master's degree in marketing communications. I have used that knowledge to build the Rob Rodell brand, and it has become one of my lifelong pursuits.

Imagine then, how happy I was, when I went to the Wedding Expo at The Dome in Jo'burg this past Sunday, and a woman photographer said to me, "Oh, but I've seen your logo somewhere before. Why does your name sound so familiar?" You couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I whooped with glee! I am finally building my brand's equity, and brand familiarity is slowly starting to take root. I ain't a global megastar yet, but even the world's greatest brands had humble beginnings.

This is what I live for, baby! Building a powerful music brand is the most fun in the world...

it's raining crazy in my life... - March 24, 2011

The year is already almost in April, and I have barely scratched the surface. The most wonderfully significant news at the moment is that my house remix track done by Cuebur and Shimza is to be released on the Candi Roots album under the Soul Candi Records label. They're brilliant with house, they know what they're doing with releases, and they are damn good when it comes to promotion and marketing. I so appreciate the extra pair of hands...

Potentially sadly, there is a good chance I will need to go back into corporate marketing to be able to make ends meet. Hey, such is life. I must say, I welcome the financial stability, there are still 120 hours in the week to move my music career forward, and I think the big salary will help ease the pain...

"Viva! Amandla!" as they would say here in Africa...

What an amazing year! - December 30, 2010

2010 has been an amazing year, and I'm so grateful to be alive, and to be doing what I love.

This year I made some of the biggest money I have ever made from music, so it just goes to show you that it's true - if you follow your passion, the money will find you. Not that it was easy or always pleasant, but as John Demartini says, you will endure both pain and pleasure in the pursuit of your highest values, which are determined by your biggest voids.

Aside from getting Kiri now at the end of the year - our new beautiful little Labrador puppy to add to our 13 other dogs - one of my highlights this year was the remix of one of my songs by a really talented producer and a well-connected DJ, which was playlisted on a major radio station in Johannesburg. Bring on more of that in 2011!!!

Some of my goals for the new year:

1. Write some amazing music that really serves people.
2. Finish and release more albums - and have greater success getting some CDs into stores.
3. Sell some downloads!
4. Get heaps more radio airplay.
5. Do a stint on radio as a presenter.
6. Get onto TV so that I can shamelessly self-promote my brand.
7. Make some amazing award-winning music videos.
8. Increase my international connections.

Whatever you wish for yourself in 2011, may all your dreams and goals come true.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A cool gig... - November 30, 2010

So my very good friend Kevin, who works at Aramis at Edgars in Eastgate (think JC Penney at Mall of America) arranged for me to come and perform Christmas carols at the Aramis counter in-store.

I'll be singing, but he has also arranged that one of my Christmas CDs will be sold as a gift-with-purchase as part of Aramis: if you buy R1000 (about $150) of stock from the counter, you get the CD free. It's probably the biggest and most prominent promotional event I've done so far in my music career, and I'm just thrilled about it! I'm gonna use the opportunity to grow my brand. After all, I didn't study marketing communications up to doctoral level for nothing...

Thanks Kev - you're a great friend.

house music! - October 9, 2010

So much has happened since my last blog, and I have been so busy (or lazy) that I haven't blogged nearly as much as I would have wanted to. Not that I'm complaining, but I feel perennially tired... My mom says I need a good dose of vitamin B, so that's what I'm OD'ing on at the moment...

But I'm happy and I'm grateful. September/October have been great months for me. I sometimes feel a bit strange that I am being too Madonna-esque, trying to do too many music things at once and being involved in too many genres (this "too many irons in the fire" syndrome, as my mom calls it, has always been a problem for me). But I have been reading up on other musicians and songwriters lately, and I see a lot of people multi-tasking their careers. For example, I didn't know that indie film producer Gus Van Sant had released a few CDs of his own music! I was also surprised to read that Rupert Holmes (the Pina Colada song guy) has written musicals for Broadway and has written TV scripts. Suddenly I don't feel quite so strange!

But back to the good stuff! On Saturday 11 September, Stapura, a student of mine at Soul Candi and a prominent DJ on YFM, a Gauteng-based radio station, phoned me to try and let me know that the house remix of my song, Could This Be Love, was being played on Metro FM, one of the largest radio stations in my native South Africa. What a kick to be watching your music performed live at a theatre at the same time as it's being played on national radio!

Then, to my utter delight (I have to admit that when I found out I squealed like a little girl), Stapura contacted me this past Tuesday, 5 October, to let me know that the same track had been playlisted on YFM, which is a very popular youth radio station broadcasting out of Johannesburg to the province of Gauteng. Does it get any better than this????? AFTER TWENTY YEARS, I FINALLY HAVE AIRPLAY ON MAJOR RADIO!!!!! YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!!!!! A huge thank you to Stapura, Cuebur the producer, and DJ Shimza, for helping me make one of my dreams come true - airplay... Now let's just hope it becomes a massive, smash hit!

I must say, though, in all the years I've been doing music, I never dreamed that I'd be doing house. I researched it a bit on Wikipedia. It has its roots in Chicago, in disco, stemming from the early 1980s. From there it spread to Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and Miami, before crossing the Atlantic to Europe and the Med and the Sahara Desert to Johannesburg, my home town, where it has hugely taken root and flourished. My foray into house is thanks to my connections at Soul Candi, the music school where I lecture, that is linked to a record label. I have access to all these young students who are eager to churn out music, and so I asked some of them if they would work with me. These new tracks, seemingly a million miles away from my own Josh Groban influence, are the fruits of my labour...

I'm thrilled and I'm very pleased, and on the inside looking out, my career feels like a big fat mess, a mish-mash of all sorts of genres and styles. But this is how new music is born, and if there's one thing I've learnt in all my marketing studies, it's that being different is a good thing. Well, it's been a while since someone with a classically-trained voice has forged ahead into contemporary music. Talk about a culture clash! It's like Josh Groban and David Guetta having a baby! You gotta laugh at that!

So, I'm tired, but very happy. Not making zillions yet, but I fully intend to use my brain to move me forward in the finance department too. And that's one thing that I have also realised about myself: I have incredibly high standards, and I have set the bar really, really high for myself. It means being uncomfortable often, but I still think it's been worth it...

It's ironic that I find myself writing about this today, the 9th of October. It was this day 12 years ago that my father died. He was one of my biggest fans, and he would have been hugely proud of me. Everybody would have known that "my son has co-written the music for a theatre musical, and he has a song on radio!" Well Dad, wherever you are, floating around in the universe, I still think of you.

And Mom, I'm so glad you're still around to guide me through the muddy waters of life. What are we without the people we love and those who love us?

baccalaureus musicologiae - June 23, 2010

YIPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! I just found out that I passed the first two subjects of my Bachelor of Music degree WITH DISTINCTION. I considered doing a BMus when I first started university 20 years ago, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it and I didn't think I'd finish it. Ah well, better late than never. Besides, I think I'll do it justice this time around, now that I'm older and wiser...

Cindy Alter - May 29, 2010

I spent some time with the fabulous Cindy Alter yesterday. Cindy was the lead singer of Clout, a girl group from South Africa in the 70s. They had a huge hit with a song called "Substitute," but because of their shady manager they never made much money. In 1990 Cindy decided to move to Los Angeles, where for many years she worked to get her career moving forward, making huge sacrifices.

While in LA, she got cancer, and she decided to move back to Johannesburg once she felt a little better, to recover, to heal, to rest, to contemplate, to work. She was able to do music full-time in SA, which meant she was able to follow her dream. "Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to sing," she told me yesterday. We've had her back in Jozi since 2005, but she may be on her way back to the States, this time to Nashville, with her new band, Alter Irving.

Cindy is one of my mentors. Her years of experience, her pain and her joy, the heights that she has achieved and the lows into which she has sunk, have both sobered me and inspired me. Our 90-minute consult reminded me that I am just trying to be who I am by living my music dream, by following my heart and my passion - because, like her, as a little boy, I also always wanted to sing.

Cindy is the coolest rock chick on the planet. Having her in my life has helped me see my own dream that much more clearly...

Thank you, Ms. Alter.

Not bad for 4 years - March 23, 2010

You know, sometimes we are so hard on ourselves. I like to think that I wasted 20 years not pursuing my music career, but the truth is, 20 years ago I wasn't even sure I wanted to do music. I've always been a late bloomer, so it should come as no surprise to me that as little as 5 years ago I wasn't sure what kind of music I wanted to do.

After doing some musical theatre in 2005, and after singing opera for a few years, I realised that I'm just more suited to the pop/commercial world. So, it wasn't until 2006 that I started looking at those elements of my music career, and I think I have done really well for 4 years:

1. I've educated myself on the music business, so much so that I now teach music business to young music students.

2. I won the Top Billing Music Award in 2006, with Tzipora.

3. I've released 2 albums to date, with another 3 on the way this year.

I'm not rich or famous (yet), no Grammy Awards (yet), but am I enjoying the journey? So, so much. I am grateful for all that has transpired in my life, and I'm grateful that I've finally found my dream and am living it. You should try it - it's a liberating feeling...

Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy! - March 1, 2010

It's no secret that my favourite movie of all time is Rudy - I'm so inspired by the man's life. Went away for the weekend, on a slow train to Durban, and had a lot of time to think and read... I re-read Rudy's book, and it reminded me to never give up on my dream.

So, the truth is, even if I have to wait till I'm 83 to release that album and win that Grammy, as Rudy says, there is no time limit on dreams - just stop making excuses and go live the purpose - and never give up till you get there.

Well, let me reiterate then, and strengthen my resolve: I will not stop until I have made as much music as I possibly can, and have done everything in my power to make it the best music I can make, that the world believes is genius.

And I will never, ever, ever, ever quit. Never. And then even if I don't get that Grammy - and I really believe I will - I will have no regrets - the name of a new song of mine.

That's all, he writ.

Eminem - November 11, 2009

Just recently finished Eminem's autobiography, "The Way I Am." Here's a link where you can buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Way-I-Am-Eminem/dp/052595032X.

I never thought I'd say this, but as an artist I am truly inspired, primarily for two reasons that are completely different to the reasons other people like him:

1. He writes that when he was 18, he wasn't sure which direction to take with his life, because he was good at basketball. Both basketball and rapping were long shots, but he knew he wasn't that great at rapping. But he also writes that he and his best buddy Proof wanted the dream, so they dropped the basketball and went for the gold, as he calls it - the rap dream.

I can so relate! I really only started listening to my music voice in my 30s (way past 18), even though I had been doing music all those years in between, and music was a faithful friend that had never left me, even though it feels like music didn't always love me. But I also knew that I had to make the switch or die.

2. He goes on to write and say that rap was a pipe dream for him, but it was all he had, so really, what was he going to do with his life? He then goes on to speak about his first album, Infinite, which he released in 1995. It sold about 70 copies and it didn't get great feedback, says Eminem, because he hadn't found himself yet. But he had an album out, and at least he could say that.

Again, I can SO relate! My first album was released last year, a collaborative effort with my very good friend Tzipora. It hasn't even sold 70 copies, and the feedback has never been that great either, though I believe one or two of the songs have potential. But at least I can say that I have an album out, even if it's not a great one. I also, in hindsight, think that I haven't found myself yet (although I'm a lot older than the 23 young years when Eminem released his first album), which is why my first solo album of mostly original stuff is to be called Finding My Own Voice, because hopefully by the time I release it to coincide with the big party I'm having for my 40th birthday, I will have found that elusive voice of mine! It is to be preceded by at least two albums of covers (the first, All Wrapped Up This Christmas, will be available from CD Baby in time for Christmas '09; the second, The Spirit Within, hopefully in time for Easter '10).

So there you go... I never thought I'd be able to learn anything from Eminem. I was wrong.

I keep realising that you don't need talent to succeed in music (not that I'm implying everyone's favourite white rapper isn't talented). What you need most of all is heart, which will drive your work ethic. John Lennon, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin and David Bowie all made Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Technically speaking, they all suck as singers. But there's no denying their amazing talent. Heart, baby. Heart.

I walked away from some serious money in the marketing field to pursue my passion, mission and vision of a full-time career in music. I want music to define me, to be what I stand for. Not that I'm ever planning something as archaic as an epitaph on a tombstone, but if I was, I would want it to read: "Here lies Rob Rodell, a man who loved music even on days when it didn't love him back, and who made music his career, because that was his purpose, his very reason for existence." Kinda like Gregory House, who lives for medicine (even though he's also a really good musician). I love House.

Some people would say I'm nuts. My response: The Way I Am...

Piracy - November 2, 2009

Here's my version of music piracy:

This past weekend my sister's car got broken into, and they stole the master CD of my Christmas album out of the car. Initially I thought, "How strange!" But then I realised that music does actually have VALUE! As a musician, I sometimes forget that music is emotional currency and that people desire it. Now of course, it depends on whether or not the thief/thieves are part of my target market or not. If they're not, they will listen to the intro of the first song and chuck the CD away. If they are, they might well listen to the first track and be overcome with remorse and mend their ways - since the first track is O Holy Night!

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh at life...

LRSL again... - October 25, 2009

Went to go and collect my certificate for my licentiate from Sonja Raymond this week. I am so thrilled that I passed with distinction! Wow... what a great year it's been. Musica, grata Deo.

My Licentiate - September 18, 2009

I am so thrilled! I have just become the first person IN THE WORLD to pass my licentiate in singing through Rockschool in the UK! I'm so happy!!!! Yipppeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

my refugee website! - September 17, 2009

Due to some wobblies from the economic meltdown, my existing record label website has gone under. In the interim, thanks to Yola, I'm using a refugee website as I seek asylum from the economic winter (damn that's poetic).

Here it is: http://singers-inc.yolasite.com.

Cool! I'm still online...

sibongile khumalo - September 7, 2009

Had the immense privilege of meeting Sibongile Khumalo at Moshito, the annual music industry conference in Johannesburg, recently. What a gem! Down-to-earth, approachable, friendly, humble, wise. Love her voice, love her vibe! I'll post a pic.

the exam gig!!!!! - August 3, 2009

I'm doing my LRSL exam this Wednesday 5 August. It's for my licentiate in singing. I'm calling it THE EXAM GIG! Even though it's closed to the public, the address is 16 Grunberger Crescent, Hurlingham Manor, Sandton, Johannesburg. It starts at about 12:45pm (SA time = +2 GMT) and will be finished by 2. Please send LOTS of positive energies my way!

Results are out this Friday, so I'll know by then... Worked my backside off for it, so I hope I pass. It consists of 8 songs, 5 of them original, which I know will be great fun.

August is my birthday month, and aside from the LRSL, the Art of Men CD (it's a compilation with one of my tracks on it) will be launched at The Mint in LA on Wed 26 August (the day after my birthday). What a really nice birthday gift!

For more on that please click here: www.artofmencd.com.

Moira Schäfer - July 4, 2009

Just finished a high school music reunion with my music teacher and some guys from school. Hard to believe I finished 20 years ago this year!

My music teacher, the wonderful Moira Schäfer, reminded me of our final assembly at school (St. Stithians), where I sang The Holy City in the chapel in front of 500 boys. I didn't remember this (probably too nervous), but she said that after I had finished, the entire chapel stood up to give me a standing ovation, and what a victorious moment it had been for me (my school years can best be described as "difficult"). Tonight I sang The Holy City again, probably the first time since I sang it at my dad's funeral 11 years ago. What a beautiful piece of music.

Thank you Moira, for being such an inspiration all these years. I'm glad I followed in your footsteps and decided to do music as a career. I have never been happier.

Was also great to see all the old boys (never thought I'd say that...): Mike Aitken, Stuart Miller, Richard Kyte, Murray Masterson. We actually had a proper reunion a few months ago - this was just another catch-up. Thanks for organising, Mike! Great fun as always.

Musica, grata Deo.

sa really has got talent - June 21, 2009

Did my audition today - I didn't hear a single really bad singer. Even the bad ones were good. There were like 11-year-olds kicking my butt in the vocal arena.

Suddenly made me realise that the people who will get through will be the Susan Boyles - the ones who stick out and are different... Not because they can sing or dance or whatever, but because they look different or did something that made them unique.

Note to self: must start listening more to Derek Sivers...

My chances: 5000 to 1, assuming that about 50,000 people auditioned and only 12 will get through. No pressure...

But like all the peeps on Master Chef, this was just another opportunity, and success or failure does nothing to change my dream - I will sing, because as my friend Corinne says, NOT doing music is like trying to NOT breathe - you know you're not gonna get it right.

So there you have it. C'est la vie...
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