Native South African Wesley Collin George is no stranger to music, in fact he was only a fifth grader when he realized it was where his heart was. Music quickly became the place where Wesley felt home, and felt comfortable, and most of all felt the most creative. Wesley Collin George’s latest album title – Vice Versa – is more than just a reference to his personal battles. It also represents an 18 month creative battle. The result: a diverse yet engaging, sonically motivating music, where in it’s diversity many people can let themselves fall into what is being heard. Vice Versa has made an undeniable lasting impression on many listeners around the globe. The album itself echoes the sentiment and we were able to get more of an intimate look into Wesley’s past, present, and future of his music career in the interview below!
Entertwine: Could you tell us about your musical background? What encouraged you to pursue a career in music? What was it like growing up in Cape Town, South Africa?
Wesley Collin George: Growing up as a kid in Cape Town, South Africa, I was always surrounded and indoctrinated into music. There was always something going on in our house and I used dress up and sing or I was making Art with my brother or making music. There was always that creative energy.
As far as I can remember my dad and my mom used to sing in the car and I always remembered them having beautiful voices, especially my dad as a matter of fact he still does it even today but it was not until I was in grade 5 where I really found my passion for the Arts. Miss Veronica Edwards was my teacher at that time and she introduced me the world of music and culture. We visited a ballet in the Nico Malan Theatre (now know as Artscape) and I remember the first time I went to theatre with my class, being accompanied by Miss Veronica Edwards for me this was not a normal activity because most school trips were used to visit museums and memorials of some sort, more to do with our history than culture. But is was not like going to the movies, actual people were standing on stage performing.That captured my heart and opened my minds eye. My love for the Arts deepened and my horizons broadened. I was being introduced to a world where I felt at home, where I felt that I can dream along with the dreamers but it was never easy for the simple fact that, me wanting to be a musician and an entertainer was in the eyes of peers and friends a dream that was surrealistic. Being who you really wanted to be was a hobby and something that was never tangible. It was never taken seriously. I was labeled a “Dreamer“ which was more an insult than anything else because dreamers will always remain dreamers and will never be able to amount to anything. I used to be laughed at for expressing my aspirations and goals which gave music more leeway in my life. Through music I could express my emotions and fill that void inside of me.
That creative exposure really helped shape me in an important way.
What is it like living in Hamburg, Germany? Could you tell us about your experience at R1 Stella Musical Academy? How do the music scenes of Hamburg differ from the music scenes of Cape Town and Switzerland?
I’ve always considered South Africa being my “Mother“ and I would say that Germany is my “Father“. I have learnt so many valuable lessons coming to Europe and experiencing the lifestyle and culture which to me was very fascinating. We were not rich so I did not have the luxury of experiencing anything outside of South Africa until I took that leap of faith and ventured out on my own leaving my family and friends behind. I was terrified because I did not know what to expect but I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
When I arrived in Hamburg, Germany, it was love at first sight. I truly fell in love with the city and being a lover of Art and Agriculture, I was swept off my feet. I had my fair share of challenges living there and it helped me develop my character in a very cutting edge way which I consider as an asset more than anything else especially my experience attending the R1 Stella Academy. It was literally the stepping stone and turning point in my life and opened many doors of opportunity. It sounds like everything was easy as if things started falling into place but I had countless sleepless nights and working early hours of the morning funding for my studies and rent. You won’t believe the many times I was faced with dropping everything and giving up but it paid off in the end.
I then moved to Switzerland in 2006 pursuing my career as a musical performer and I did not really experience a huge difference between Germany and Switzerland but I noticed it was a huge leap from what I knew back home in South Africa. You can’t really be a serious musician without having a day job I or at least that was what I remembered or at least what I was exposed to at the time.
What can you tell us about your solo record “Vice Versa”? What led you to release ‘This Road’ as the album’s lead single? What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of this album?
Vice Versa is all about overcoming challenges. It’s an album about conflict with myself. The album documented this turbulent time in my life, everyone has their fair share of experiences because life happens to all of us and “This Road“ is a song that describes the journey we face and that everyday. I can understand why the track is so special to some people because I think, I believe one can relate to what is being sung. Each day we are confronted with choices. Some may be bad some good but we all come to the cross roads and although we don’t like it, it’s all about choice and I truly believe in doing that what you feel is right in pursuing your dreams, your goals and having the right mindset. Obviously you will be up against adversity but if you don’t believe in yourself, no one will. At least that was what I experienced in the story of my life and growing up in a country where you were automatically labeled as inferior just because of the color of your skin was a tough battle for me as a kid back when Apartheid was a law. Not being able to be who you really wanted to be and always holding back and not really having that freedom of expression without being beat up or bullied. But sometimes you have to fight in order to be free.
I don’t mean to sell the creative process short, it’s essential. For the listener and viewer it’s everything and to some extent almost everyone can make music. But when it comes to being an artist, there is so much more to it even the melancholy of knowing that despite promises, it’s the subtle experiences that define what it means to be an artist. At least that’s the way it’s been for me. It’s not the guitar chords, or the number of albums sold. It’s knowing that you are one of a small percentage of the population to not only have seen but have lived behind the curtain that makes this whole crazy experience worth while.
You’re also an actor, correct? What have been some of the most exciting or interesting theater or video productions you’ve been a part of?
Besides acting for NDR which is one of the largest broadcasting companies in Germany, I would say the experience I had while living in Switzerland and the crew that I had the opportunity to work with and the most interesting or most challenging for me was theater or musical theater simply because you don’t have a thousand takes from different angles like you do working in front of a camera. On stage it’s the here and now, you don’t have a second chance when acting in front of a live audience especially in that moment when something funny or strange happens right before the curtain opens and you know when looking at your fellow associate you need to be that character you’re assigned to be even though you were laughing so hard just a few moments ago.
What does 2015 hold in store for Wesley Collin George?
Music, music and more music! I don’t think that will ever cease. As long as I can write and sing, I will do so. I have a few surprises but revealing them would just spoil everything wouldn’t it? I know one thing for sure and that is I will be on the road a lot in 2015 and I am pretty excited about that. There are many places and cities that I have not managed to visit in 2014 that I will definitely be visiting in 2015.