As a child who felt displaced in a world of hard facts and harsh realities, South African singer-songwriter-guitarist Rowan Stuart always dreamed of a better place, where reality could be shaped to his will.
At the age of 11, he discovered the guitar, and with it, the ultimate key to unlock the worlds that had existed in his mind. He took to the instrument naturally, becoming a sought-after session guitarist from a young age. But he had always felt the need to tell his own stories, and so in 2008, he took a leap of faith and stepped into the spotlight as a singer-songwriter, releasing his debut album, A Thousand Brand New Places. Now with five more solo albums under his belt, Rowan Stuart continues his quest to bridge the gap between reality and fantasy with his signature style of story-driven dream folk pop.
Rowan Stuart’s latest offering of ‘Empire’ is an alternative-pop track with a motivational, melancholy, and moody vibe to it.
We sat down with Rowan Stuart to discuss his music and much more. Here is what he had to say:
Hey Rowan Stuart, welcome to FLEX! How are you?
I am very well, thank you. I'm happy to be active on social media again, and sharing music and content again after quite a few months.
Congratulations on your brand-new single ‘Empire’ - what inspired this particular project?
Thank you. I think I was just channelling what a lot of people are feeling, especially in my home country of South Africa, but possibly worldwide, where the blows keep on coming, and you have the choice to give up and slip into despair, or keep fighting back, often against your own nature. Learning to cope and maybe even to thrive, even when the world around you seems to be falling apart.
And do you have to be in a certain mood to write?
Fortunately, I don't need to be in one particular mood. I just need to be alone, and have some peace and quiet, and some idea or another usually comes out. In fact, writing during different moods can yield surprising results.
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process was actually quite long. I'm usually working on about 30 – 50 song demos at a time, and I tend to jump around, so songs like this one can sometimes take a few years from initial idea to final release. For 'Empire' the very first demo idea had a strong identity of its own, and I even tagged it as 'possible single'. The lyrics took me a lot longer, because I actually wrote about four different songs' worth of lyrics for it. In the end, I liked the imagery of the ballerina juxtaposed with the apocalyptic feel of the music – it felt like an interesting metaphor for life.
For viewers that don’t know Rowan Stuart, how would you describe your sound?
I describe it as 'story-driven dream folk pop'. 'Empire' is actually a rare song of mine that doesn't feature much guitar playing – most of the music from six albums has been quite vocal-and-guitar-based, whereas this song is very piano-based.
And what are some of those activities that you engage yourself in when you aren't writing or recording in the studio?
When I'm not writing or recording music, I might be conceptualizing, directing, filming or editing music videos, illustrating single artwork, planning social media content, or performing on stage. And when I'm not working, which isn't that often (I love my job), I enjoy a bit of video gaming – especially RPGs, socializing with a small but loyal group of friends, watching music videos, learning a bit about psychology, or space exploration, and I love fantasy and science fiction movies, so I watch those when I have the time.