The Meander Chronicle spoke to musician and songwriter Winston Owen recently about his new, fun-filled track and video shot in the Midlands, titled (you guessed it), The Midlands.
Question: What made you write a song about the Midlands?
WO: The beauty of the Midlands is catalytically inspirational. As an artist of any form, you cannot help move into creative mode when you spend time there … or even if you spend time reflecting on your time there.
Q: How did the song come about?
WO: My son was playing cricket in the traditional Michaelmas cricket festival in Maritzburg. We were staying at a BnB that felt rather “country-like.” So, early one morning, I went outside with my guitar to be greeted by a white frosted lawn … within a few seconds I was playing the beginning of this song and singing the first line which is, “Well it’s cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon.”
Four seasons in a day
The line reminds me of time in the Midlands where you experience three or four seasons in one day and I enjoyed the groove of the song, so I continued to work on it until I got a gap to record it.
Q: Where was the song recorded?
WO: “The Midlands” was recorded at Sonic Studios in Durban with Colin Peddie (see the video on YouTube, below).
Q: Right. This is the second song that you brought out that was recorded with Colin at Sonic Studios. It seems to be a good relationship?
WO: Colin is just fantastic to work with. I have worked with a number of producers and engineers in recording studios, both in Durban and Johannesburg, and I can say without a doubt that Colin is the best I’ve worked with. His intuitive understanding of what it is that you want for the song is fleet, and he also knows when to push you to get something even better out of you.
Because most people will listen to the song on their electronic devices, they will not properly hear the bass groove. This is unfortunate because it’s a really nice groove. Colin conceptualised the groove and pushed me until I got it right. Similarly, I was not expecting to play any lead in the song other than a bit of a slide guitar, but Colin encouraged me to do some lead work and coached me on the feel until I got it right.
He also loves what he does and has a great sense of humour, so working with him does not feel like work.
WO: Well, yes! I mean Andrew has performed literally all over the world. He has a deep and broad knowledge of music. He also has a great attitude; you literally can give him any instruction in the studio and he will pull it off. He also has an amazing vocal range and a good sense of fun, which is important because this song and Atom Trippin were both about fun times in the Midlands.
Q: Where did you film the footage for the video?
WO: The video was filmed over two-to-threedays spent in the Midlands. On the first day my daughter (Paige) and I went out as “location scouts” and filmed pretty much from Howick all the way through to The Bend, near Nottingham Road, making some detours along the way. The next day we took two cars loaded with the team of teens and the Truter family and retraced our steps.
We ended up in Nottingham Road where we filmed the final scene in the garden of Terry Sandy.
We also literally had answered prayers, because we wanted to film the second verse – about the old stone bridge – at Glen Arum, in Balgowan. It really is an exquisite garden. So, we prayed that we would find someone there who would let us in. Within five minutes of sitting outside the gate, one of the owners drove up and after a brief chat, allowed us in. Paige said that it was her favourite location to film.
Q: Who came up with the video concepts, was it you or your daughter, Paige?
WO: My daughter and I worked well, synergistically, on both this and the Atom Trippin project. She has a clear picture in her head as to what the video needs in certain parts of the song. So, she conceptualised and directed the merry-go-round theme at the Belgian Waffle, the Mandela Capture Site scene, some of the romantic scenes at St Ives and, of course, the dance and guitar play-off scene in the playout. The rest, I had a hand in.
Q: Each verse of the song seems to tell a different story visually and musically, culminating in the romance of the third verse. Was that done on purpose?
WO: Yes, the first verse is from the point of view of a city dweller thinking about the Midlands and wanting to be there, whereas the second verse describes some of the enchanting scenes during a day trip to the Midlands. The third verse pays homage to the romance of the Midlands. And it can be argued that my wife and I first seriously thought about marriage when we spent a little bit of time at the Nottingham Road Hotel, about 26 years ago.
Q: What are your plans for your next music video?
WO: Well I was thinking of doing something in the Drakensberg or the Underberg area. However, with the lockdown and subsequent travel bans, we are now looking at maybe doing something involving Durban – where I live – maybe the inner city or maybe the beachfront, or maybe just a song about my veranda at this point.
**The track is also available for download on ReverbNation.