Elvis Blue has come a long way since winning South African Idols in 2010. He’s shared the stage with legends such as Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and James Blunt, released three studio albums and bagged three South African Music Awards – and that’s just the last four years. Prior to entering the competition, he released five studio albums. Music always ran through his veins – if he’s not writing or performing, he’s taking music to orphaned and disadvantaged children via The Elvis Blue Music Academy based in George. According to him, he’d sing in Zulu if he could – he just wants to make music.
Known as a true gentlemen who did the most unselfish thing by sharing his Idols spoils with runner-up Lloyd Cele, a loving husband and father to two little girls, he tells us about the positive effect Idols has had on his career and why life outside of the spotlight is no different to when he’s on stage performing to hundreds of fans.
Can you sum up your Idols experience in three words?
Not in only three. It would be impossible!
You released five albums before entering Idols, one of which was nominated for a SAMA. That was already a massive achievement. What made you take the Idols leap?
Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that being nominated for a SAMA doesn’t actually mean you would have a sustainable career in SA. There are many great musicians out there who struggle to make ends meet. Even though I was nominated for that SAMA, I was unable to make a living out of music. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be that way, so when I was 30 years old I entered Idols to try and find a larger audience.
You were a predominantly Afrikaans artist before entering Idols. Do you think you would have produced two English albums anyway had it not been for Idols?
I released 3 English albums and 2 Afrikaans albums before I did Idols. I would probably sing in Zulu too if I could. I really just want to make music. We are really lucky as South Africans to have so many languages in our country. I have always liked musicians who try different things.
What made you switch back to Afrikaans for your latest album?
I grew up in an Afrikaans home, it is my mother tongue, and it’s a language I’ve always loved very much. I found myself writing in both English and Afrikaans, and felt it was time to record some of the material that was piling up. And it’s always nice to record something that your mom will actually understand.
Which albums were better received, English or Afrikaans?
I feel both albums were received well. I’m currently writing material for a new Afrikaans album but I am also in studio recording a new English single. I will always try to make music for as many people as I can.
Was it your idea to split the Idols winnings with Lloyd Cele and how did that plan come to be?
I wouldn’t say it was my idea. It’s just something that happened. We kind of got the idea through an interview we did during that day where someone made a joke and said we should split the money. Sometimes things like that just feel right. He would’ve done exactly the same thing.
I often hear talk of the “Idols Stigma” – something which artists who participate in the competition can’t escape – Is this an issue for you and what’s your take on this?
By the time I was 30 years old, I had never been anything other than a musician. I felt I had something to offer, but I couldn’t make a living. As a youngster I always bullishly told myself, that I will “make it on my own”. Growing older I realized life isn’t always that simple. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. I then found myself standing in a queue and life changed so quickly. I am very thankful for everything that happened to me.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in your career thus far?
I think touring with Bon Jovi, James Blunt and opening for Bruce Springsteen definitely tops the list.
Who are your favourite SA bands/artists?
Mango Groove, Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger, John Ellis, and many many more.
Every artist makes mistakes along the way, what would you have done differently if you could go back?
I have done many things that I probably shouldn’t have. The things I am most disappointed about, are usually the things I’ve SAID when I should’ve just kept quiet. Repeating them here, would probably get me into deeper trouble. But I promise there are many things.
What would you consider to be your best achievement thus far?
As a husband, getting my wife to marry me! As a dad, having 2 beautiful daughters. Mind you, I didn’t do much to get that done! As a musician, being able to do what I love.
What do you enjoy most about being a South African musician?
Our story. I love our story!
What do you enjoy least about being a South African musician?
Our story. As much as I love it, I sometimes feel it divides us terribly.
What is life like outside of the spotlight for you?
I really try very hard to make life in the spotlight look the same as it does out of the spotlight. This is something I really struggle with, but I believe great artists look the same at home as they do on stage.
Who would you nominate as an ambassador if aliens landed in South Africa?