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We chat to The Lumineers’ Stelth Ulvang ahead of his solo show in SA

2016-11-23 07:00

Cape Town – Stelth Ulvang is no stranger to South Africa. Having toured here before with The Lumineers and by himself, he is once again returning to our shores in December.

Set to play at the Smoking Dragon Festival taking place from Thursday, 29 December to Sunday, 1 January, Stelth says he is super-excited to return to South Africa.

Answering Channel24 from Warsaw in Poland, Stelth lets us in on what to expect from his show, what he’ll be getting up to in SA and his load shedding experiences.

Check out the interview here:
You’ve visited South Africa a few times now, what keeps bringing you back to South Africa?

I met so many great musicians, that in the somewhat seclusion of South Africa, are so talented and excited about music, it feels like a community I am really proud to be mixed into - so first of all, the musicians down there bring me back, but the landscape and beauty of the entire country is certainly a plus.

You’ll be playing at the Smoking Dragon New Year’s festival, what can fans expect from your set? Will you be performing completely solo?

I think I will be performing with my friend Dorota Szuta, playing bass, violin, and singing. That said, I hope to collaborate with some of the folks down there, there will be so many great bands performing that weekend as well (really into the Shabeen, as well as The City.) 

How does performing with The Lumineers differ from performing on your own? 

The music has some pretty large differences, but is similar in its strive for crowd energy, and the push for a big communal experience. When I perform solo, I jump around on different instruments quite a bit, and it shapes the set differently than playing with a more traditional band, on stage. 

Which show has been a favourite? 

I still regale in the energy of playing at Youngblood in Cape Town - I was joined by Albert Frost, Bonj Mpanza (the City), and Lee lips on trumpet – it was a fun collaboration of their music and my own, and they are people I respect and admire (especially after hearing some of their new stuff, Woo!) 

Has anything ever gone very wrong on stage? And what did you do? 

It is very different playing in SA with some of the load shedding dilemmas that occur. I had a lot of fun once in Grahamstown, playing a show with Julian Redpath (of Joburg) the power went out, and we had everyone pull out their phones and light the stage with their flashlights. It's a struggle sometimes how much people will have their phones out during concerts, but in this moment it was a blessing.

What inspires your songs and what is your writing process? 

A good chunk of inspiration comes from podcasts - I love the writers that could mix science and poetry so well like Carl Sagan, Oliver Sacks, and Natalie Angier. Lessons learned about the natural world in a personal and beautiful way... But I usually start with an idea or scrap of a line, and start working outward to it. Almost meditating on it, until it can find a musical rhythm to sit into. I suppose this is one way i go about it...

Will your trip to SA be a quick one, or do you plan on doing some sightseeing as well?

My stay will be very quick - just a few weeks, but I will try to pack a punch. The big push, was finding out a friend of mine is getting married down there, and so I will go to the wedding, and take some time midweek after New Year’s, and then play a few more shows down in Cape Town. I’m excited to come back again in April, and hopefully I can set up another solo show when I am there then.

What has been your most memorable New Year’s celebration ever?

I seem to only ever remember the year previous, and am glad that it resonates in my head greater than the last. It seems like the best way to go about it is always have a better New Year’s than the previous. But last year was the first time I didn't play a show on New Year’s, and that of course, as a musician, is a rarity. This year has all the elements though, to take the cake.

What are you plans for the rest of the year up until New Year’s?

Finishing up a European tour right now with The Lumineers (I am writing this from Warsaw, Poland). We are playing once more at the White House (Feeling very lucky) and playing a few more solo shows on the West coast before a Christmas and a quick flight down to ZA!

Any special message for your SA fans?

Oh! As much as I love playing an engaged, phone-free set - you never know when load shedding might click off the electricity, so bring phones with flashlights!

For more info on the Smoking Dragon Festival click here.

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