I really enjoyed this interview with Al (who is a budding musician himself). The bold letters are my thoughts I just had to add!
Written by Al Clappers
Sitting on the front stoep at A Touch of Madness, having a cigarette, a striking woman walks into the venue we lock eyes.
She points at me and I know this is the woman I’m here to meet.
“What’s your star sign, darling?” she opens. Scorpio, I respond. “Honey, me too. This is gonna be good, I can feel it!” Arm in arm we make our way to our table. Our waiter swings by and she immediately takes charge: “Let’s get some whisky. And also I’m smoking your cigarettes because I’ve just run out!”
I’d sent her the questions prior to our meeting. Her first reaction when she got the questions was: “Sjoe, die is n essay!”. But she understands because she adds “I could tell that you are here to learn.” ( Only a musician would ask the kind of questions Al asked me. I knew that he absorbs a great deal every time he interviews a musician). I ask her if she minds me whipping out my questions and she responds: “You can whip out anything darling let’s just do this!” She double checks that we’ve got lots of time because she really wants to ask about little ol’ me! I feel honoured.
This queen has been slaying the music industry for over a decade, everywhere from township pubs to the Montreux so I ask her if she ever turned to the haters with a massive “I told you so” and she pauses for a second. Her response catches me off guard: “You know, maybe it’s a Scorpio thing, but I don’t care what people think. I went after my dreams for me.” “If anyone told me, when I started, that right now I would be sitting in a mansion, overlooking a moerse pool, having a glass of gin darling, I’d tell them to stop talking nonsense” she laughs incredulously. “And every good thing that has come into my life has come into my life through music.”
I ask about her current show schedule and she says “Over the last two years, I haven’t been playing too many shows. I’ve just been living!” She squints her eyes cheekily as she mentions her Afrikaburn experience this year: “Of course I was apprehensive! Ten days with people I did not know, in a desert, listening to music I did not like, radical self reliance, radical self expression, drugs, weird costumes and then there was the issue of all the naked balls I would have to see. Afrika bladdy Burn baby! It was one mad adventure and I loved every second of it.”
We talk about foreign audiences, more specifically her Montreux Jazz festival audience. “It was an eye opener, but not in the way I wanted it to be. When I saw the level of musicianship, even their cover bands, I knew I had to change my band.” And she did, as soon as she got back to South Africa.
Montreux is also where she saw Ben Harper for the first time, in 2010. She instantly felt connected to him and exposed by his lyrics at that particular time in her life. Everyone in her life knows that she has a very special relationship with Ben Harper’s music. (They all think I am insane by the way!)
“With You” is one of the songs she wrote about Ben and how she imagined it’d be to meet him. This was years ago. “When I perform it I call it my stalker song in jest,” she laughs. “My entire music career has led up to this moment, opening for Ben Harper. It’s all I’m thinking about right now. When my family talks to me I tell them they can talk about stuff after Ben,” she laughs. (Ps, I never thought it would ever really happen to be honest. I don’t know that my entire career has lead up to this moment. I mean that is a bit weird don’t you think?)
In her excitement I try and catch her off guard, asking her about her outfit for the show. She reaches for her phone and catches herself, telling me I’ll have to wait for the pics on all the socials, but she does tell me that the materials is to die for. (I am being dressed by Unknown Union)
Do yourself a favour and acquaint yourself with Ms. Auriol Hays and her music. She’s a beautiful, honest storyteller and a willing sharer.
If you haven’t got your tickets to the show as yet, make a plan and make it quick. She is as much of a highlight as Ben Harper promises to be.