I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Lloyd Cele and his music. Even when he was on Idols. One week he’d impress me, the next he’d bore me. So when he released his first album, One, I was disappointed.
For a person with his voice and talent, I felt doing pop was a copout. He’s an R&B singer, for Pete’s sake. With his second album, No Limits also having a strong pop-electro feel, I just had to sit down with him and talk about it. After talking to him, I finally understood his reasons... not that I agreed with him.
The past two years have seen you dominant in the music industry. Did you expect that?
I honestly didn’t expect it. I worked very hard while recording the first album. When Idols ended and Elvis won, I realised I’d need to release an album soon because I didn’t want to be forgotten.
I had to strike while the iron was hot, while South Africans still had an interest in me and my music. I didn’t want to fade into obscurity like some of my fellow Idols. And a Sama later, I haven’t faded and it’s great to be doing well. I have a number one single, Hero, so hard work pays.
What’s your view of Idols – is it still needed?
The thing about Idols is that it’s a competition about music and that’s the only thing people care about on the show– if you perform well and choose the right songs that complement your voice.
The second thing is media presence. People mustn’t forget about you. The show gives you that exposure to the public. It’s like Idols says: “Hello world, meet Lloyd Cele, he’s a musician.”
What you make of it is your own issue. But Idols is a good show, and a great platform when used correctly. It pains me to see that an Idols winner can have a great single and after that we don’t hear from them. I just don’t get it. And it’s not just in South Africa.
Did Idols make it easier for you to be a success?
It opened up doors, speeded up the process. But I also worked damn hard. I didn’t just rest on my laurels and think that someone was going to do it for me.
That’s why after Idols I made sure that I hit the studio. I wanted to change my life and also make great music that people would love. Relaxing was not going to do that for me. So Idols is a great platform – it’s just how you use it as an artist.
No Limits- what’s the album about?
My personal struggles with this album. I went the independent route after record companies didn’t see my vision for this album. On One, I had one ballad, Thando, which I sang with Loyiso (Bala) and it became one of the best songs on the album.
So, for this album, I wanted to make pop songs and some R&B songs. They didn’t think that would work; so that’s how No Limits came about.
I can’t be boxed into one genre. I’m a versatile musician who appeals to various target markets. Yes, I can’t please everyone, but it’s great having songs on your album that people from different walks of life would love.
Music evolves and pop five years ago is different from what it is now. The whole Europe dance scene influence on pop music is the current trend right now and I’d be stupid to not tap into it.
Not everyone is doing it in South Africa, so I thought why not be at the forefront of the trend?
Don’t you think that your voice is better suited to R&B?
I’ve only been in the music industry for two years, so I’m still learning and carving out my niche. I thought about doing a strictly R&B album, but realistically how many R&B musicians are really successful in South Africa?
So why not have the best of both worlds? I’ll have the urban stations play the R&B songs and the music stations play the pop tunes. I don’t want to limit myself.
So you’re a crossover artist?
Absolutely. The album is exhibit A of it. I’d really love to do just one genre, but the tricky thing about the South African music market is that to be really successful, you have to appeal to all the different races. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.
What’s the creative process like? What goes on in the studio?
Before going into the studio I already have a plan of what the album should look like. I wrote more than 50 songs for this album and only 13 of them made the cut.
Then it’s talking to producers and collaborators and getting the feel of the album. It’s a long, but very exciting process.
I always look forward to it as that is when I know I’m doing the right thing and I’m in the right industry.
So how are the family and the new edition to the family?
Man, its great. Janice (wife) is great, I love her (laughs). And my children are also doing well. But juggling everything is not easy.
I’d be lying if I said it’s a piece of cake. My family comes first in everything I do, so I make sure that I don’t abandon them for my career.
What’s the point of being a successful musician with no one to share it with? I’m just grateful that I have them and God has kept me away from the temptations of the music industry.
Will you ever come back to Durban and actually be based here?
I miss Durban so much. I actually try to come back here at least once a month with the family. We are Durbanites and it’s hard to move up to Joburg and live there, leaving all our loved ones in Durban.
Durban is home. I only live in Joburg because of my career. I hope one day I’ll retire and come back and have my studio at home and work there.
So what’s next for Lloyd Cele?
A book. I’ve asked a ghost writer to do a book on my life. I know people will say I’m too young to have a biography, but I feel that I have so much to share with society – tell them my story, from the beginning, the music, the drugs and gang-related stuff.
There will be a chapter just on Idols. The rest is going to be about my life, my problems and triumphs. It’s about knowing that if you really want something, you can get it. Nothing limits you. That’s also how I feel about my music.