20 November 2009
'Strong bond' by BRUCE DENNILL
Ian Henderson dealt with the “difficult second album” issue by producing a masterwork in 2008’s Superglue, a world-class, soul-enriching collection. Does that make his next release – he plans to start recording in Stockholm in March – the “impossible third album”?
“It comes down to the writing,” says Henderson, packing his bags in preparation for a two-month spell in Argentina (“I’m going to play; work with a flamenco teacher; write; do some research”). “It’s also partly to do with the break I had after the first record (2003’s Freefall). I came back, and I’d changed a lot. I went right back to looking at melody, for instance.”
Henderson fits squarely into the “sensitive singer-songwriter” mould – a niche that, with very few exceptions, is not renowned for churning out big sellers. How does that impact on his career as a South African? “Music is pretty much my day job,” says Henderson, “although I do a bit of web development – I can travel with a laptop. To make a career, you must look at getting out of the country. I don’t want to move, but I do want to play and record elsewhere. Being stuck in one locale changes the way you perform; you have to become a 'local' performer – specifically a performer rather than an artist.
"I'd rather stick to my guns. My music is tricky, though - it has some popular appeal but it's also niche. That's why extra income helps…" During the promotions for Freefall, Henderson remembers getting frustrated with the expected norms – the scene not being particularly friendly to an artist playing largely acoustic music that wasn't necessarily plastered all over the radio. But things are looking up.
"It's definitely changed," he confirms. "South Africa is two or three years behind the international curve. And playing live is a big thing again. Intellectual property has become more or less meaningless. A representation of something is not good enough – people want the real thing. "The word 'record' is supposed to signify 'a record of a live performance'. We need to get our chops up; make the live experience better for fans. Artists making money off studio recordings exclusively is small."
With all of this in mind, Henderson plans to record the next album in just two weeks, mostly playing together with a backing band live in the studio. The session musicians he's planning to use are largely from Scandinavia - people Henderson has already enjoyed online collaborations with and whose work he loves. He laughs.
"I'm planning a short tour in Denmark, using either a Norwegian guitarist or a Swedish Hammond player."