Sometimes you can’t really tell what gets you to the top. You can have the talent, the looks, the hunger and even the right contacts, but sometimes that’s not enough.

This line of thinking is inspired by the manner in which SA has received local singer and songwriter Elan Lea.

Who? My point exactly.

A few years ago, the young man, who lived in England at the time, managed to get esteemed ballad writers such as Dianne Warren to pen songs for his debut album, My Only Excuse. The album had a series of SA launches and campaigns, but there wasn’t much of a buzz after that.

Now, the once clean-shaven youngster is back to reclaim his spot as the Prince of R&B, with a mean beard hinting at his growth.

“My Only Excuse went up and down. I went to the UK and met with the wrong people. It was a learning curve for me and I am glad we went through that,” he said.

This experience saw Lea dump most of the people he’d worked with and build a new team. His new album, Conversations Over Time, picks up where My Only Excuse ended.

“I met a new producer who has been working with me on Conversations Over Time,” he said.

The album came to him as a surprise as he wasn’t planning on recording anything.

“I love writing songs, so I wrote a lot of stuff over time. When I looked back at the work I had written, I realised I had produced what seemed like conversations, and these had happened over time,” said Lea.

If you have listened to My Only Excuse, you know Lea is big on mellow ballads that rest on heavy acoustics and the piano.

But after learning some important lessons about the music industry, he plans to approach the new project differently.

“After doing everything right and still not getting anywhere at home, I learnt you have to make it in the US to make it anywhere else.

“South Africa is not wrong for me and my music, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to absorb what I have to offer. People open up to the same music I am making, but it seems it is only that which comes from abroad,” he pointed out.

He professes this move has nothing to do with chasing the American dream or the fame that comes with it, but his passion is in his music touching someone.

“I want to be a successful musician. I have made headway with some important people in the US, so we are off to a great start. For instance, we have been working with Susan Blond, a seasoned publicist who has worked with Michael Jackson, Usher and Flo-Rida, among others,” he said.

If you think that’s big, then you haven’t heard anything yet. While working on Conversations Over Time, Lea had a chance meeting with the late Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, who took him under his wing.

“I stayed with him and his family and learnt a lot from him. Once we were at his piano and he started playing something and I asked what it was. He said he didn’t know.

“I knew he was trying to teach me something so I kept pestering him.

“He said that when he sat down to play the piano, he didn’t concern himself with notes, but as he played, he’d listen and the song would come to him. To this day I still follow that line of thinking,” Lea explained.

• Dates for the US release of Conversations Over Time are yet to be confirmed and here’s hoping SA feels differently about this album.