Friday, 20 September 2013

My story after Idols

My name is David van Vuuren and among other things, I’m a singer, songwriter and guitarist from South Africa.

I was born in Durban in 1990. My father, Ivor Jansen van Vuuren a jack-of-all-trades and my mother, Mary Jansen van Vuuren, a nurse. I lived there until I was eight and a half. I then moved to Cape Town and lived there until I was twelve and a half. When I was set to start 8th grade, my family decided to move to Krugersdorp, Gauteng.  If you’ve noticed all the halves it’s because my birthday is in the middle of the year, June 30th. Krugersdorp is a small town in the wild west of Johannesburg, a strange place for one with artistic ambitions, only because of the people. There are no walk in galleries or music cafĂ©’s anywhere and the culture was a big shock for a boy with an Afrikaans surname, raised completely and utterly English. Luckily, I was enrolled into Krugersdorp High School, the English school in the area. I made some great friends and experienced some unbelievable things there, the types of things that define a person and their ways for the rest of their life. I was raised so well, my parents, family and friends being big supporters of my dream. I was always encouraged to pursue it. Music was part of my life from the beginning. The reason being my father, an amazing folk guitarist and my mother, also a music lover. My grandmother is a brilliant alto and organist/pianist too, as well as my uncle Mike, a good guitarist and musically obsessed human being. My grandmother inspired me to sing and my father started teaching me guitar at the age of 11. I have two siblings, an elder brother, Chris Jansen van Vuuren and a younger sister, Sarah Jansen van Vuuren. They are dear to my heart. I met Jessica Nolan in my final year at school and fell head-over-heels in love with her.

I started my first real band, Freedom For Your Life at the age of seventeen with good friends, Michael Joaquim, Victor Monginho and Grant Wells. We were a Progressive Metal Core band with myself on lead vocals. We had lots of fun and played a lot of shows in and around the Gauteng area.  The lyrics and music were very intense and we were a very passionate bunch of performers. I left the band at the age of 20 to pursue a solo career as a singer/songwriter.

I moved out of my parent’s home around that same time and lived in a little garden cottage with Jess. A ridiculously small place, but our first home nonetheless. I dropped out of college (The Academy of Sound Engineering) and got a job at the medical aid company where my mother worked. After a lot of pleading and convincing from my loved ones, I then entered South African Idols, a national singing contest which is broadcast on television across the whole country. Being an alternative musician, you can see why I was reluctant at first. It’s a pop music competition, which consists of people singing covers of popular songs and then, the viewers vote on who stays and who goes. I realised that it’s extremely difficult to break the S.A music scene and so I entered for the exposure. The main prizes being R500 000, a car and a record deal with Universal Music South Africa. I got into the top 15 and was sent to a luxurious guesthouse where I would end up living for three months whilst the competition played out. It was a crazy 90 days of superb and shoddy experiences. I truly loathed singing other people’s songs, but the food was good. All jokes aside though, I met some really good people there and I must admit that it was a beautiful feeling having so much support from so many people, and singing to huge audiences every week. I only got to see Jess, my family and friends in the audience while I was performing, and at a restaurant once a week for an hour. Anyways, to cut a long story short I ended up winning the thing and it changed my life in an instant. I have never been obsessed with money, fame or the high life and there were only two things on my mind. Spending time with my loved ones and cutting a record.

Now, being a songwriter with only five original songs suiting the genre I wanted to pursue for the album, I was in quite a predicament. A week after I had won, I was called into Universal and told that I had to have a minimum of six tracks chosen by them from their bank of songs (A sea of compositions that writers submit to the label) on which I would only do the singing. This came as a great shock and ended up affecting me negatively for a long time. It was my debut album, I wanted to be the sole writer but I signed a little form when standing in the line of a few thousand people for the Idols auditions, which changed a lot of things for me as the future unfolded. I won Idols in October 2011 and they said the album had to be out, latest November, while all eyes were still on me. So, no matter how much it hurt I ended up cutting an album with only three of my own songs on it. I hated the other songs, they were so poppy and they lacked so much soul. I signed the record contract thinking I would be able to write this beautiful album with them. It was a massive dream of mine but it turned out differently. I was a young man of 21 and new nothing about the record industry. The reason only three of my original songs were chosen is because the other two were too ‘out there’. I won a pop competition, they wanted a pop album and it’s as simple as that. Around this time, I proposed to Jess and we moved into our new home.

The album was released in late November and I truly didn’t believe in it. It wasn’t mine. I had no connection with it. My original songs were recorded so slap dash. Programmed drums, the works! It was hard. It hurt. I think Universal realised I had no interest in it and so there was no national tour, nothing.  When I look back on it now, I don’t blame them. They’re a major company. They had a job to do. At the time though, it messed me up in a lot of ways. I didn’t communicate this with them because I didn’t see the point. The album was out and I thought my dignity as an artist, with a dream to inspire the world was lost forever. So I took a road trip with Jess and a couple of our close friends because I needed to get away. The falseness of it all, the image, the people and their humbug parties, it was all too much to bear. I’ve always searched for something real and this was everything of the opposite. We went to a secluded place on the east coast of South Africa called Coffee Bay. There I found closure, I found hope again and I returned with a new lease on life. I was going to do my own thing, no matter what anybody said, just like I’d always done. You must please understand that music is not just my passion; I believe that it’s my destiny and that I was put on this earth for a reason. To create music with a strong message that inspires the listener to follow their heart and soul. To realise that it’s important for us to find meaning in our lives. To use our time to appreciate all of life’s beauty and become the people, who we know deep down, we’re supposed to be. 

I started a band called Free The Animals, left the album behind and started writing. The line up consisted of myself on vocals and guitar, A’ron Harmse on Lead guitars, Grant Wells on Bass and Dylan Hunt (my future brother-in-law and rhythmist for Nu Metal band Pestroy) on drums. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Aron and I wrote together as well and we performed everywhere we could, with a new set of songs including my three originals from the album, but none of the others! So it was quite crazy, people would come out to the shows expecting to hear ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ or ‘Utopia’ and we’d just smash out these Grunge/Soul/Rock ‘n Roll songs and they’d be so confused. It was amazing. We got a new bassist Greg Van Kerkhof and wrote more and more. Anyways, it had been a year since I won and I was asked to perform at the finale of the new season of Idols, where the new winner was to be crowned. We were instructed to play ‘Lover’s Fight Till’ The End’, a song off of the album. Our performance was to be broadcast live on television in front of three million viewers and so we went on stage, without telling our manager, or anyone for that matter and performed a different song. A progressive, heavy grunge song could ‘Feels Like The Ocean’ which I wrote about my experiences post-Idols.  There was nothing they could do, it was live and it was the best feeling ever! It’s the type of song that would never be played on radio. Heavily distorted guitars, screeching vocals and pounding drums. It was my way of saying ‘I’m not going to get sucked in by the bull shit’ and it worked. It changed everything for me. From being seen as a pop singer to being seen for what I really am, a guy just wanting to make real music for people, like myself who depend on it to get us through the day, to bring sense and love into our lives. The label dropped me soon after. My plan worked. Obviously there was a lot of negative feed back from the idols fans but there was also a lot of positive feedback. I could now go my own way. I have written lots of songs since and I just recently played at OppiKoppi Festival, a big dream of mine. I am so much happier these days and it’s all thanks to my friends, family and you. Music is all I want to do with my life and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I have been on some awesome tours since, with some amazing artists, who are now close friends. Music is a way of life for me, a very spiritual thing. Not a money making scheme.

This being my biography and all, I felt that you as my fans needed to know this, my side of the story. Please bear in mind that I have a lot of good memories too and I will always be deeply thankful for your support throughout the competition. Entering Idols is not a regret for me and I will always be thankful to them for what the competition gave me.  

I ended up getting married to the love of my life Jess on March 8th 2013 and I’m about to release my own original EP entitled ‘The Raging Sea’ which consists of all my own songs, the way I want them to sound. I’m currently performing everywhere and anywhere, just being what I’ve always been. A musician.

I can’t wait for you to hear these songs. I appreciate all of you very much.

All my love,