Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've become such a square

My cat Moto (as in "Hello Moto" - we inherited him from other folk...) is sitting on top of my big fat book with my dissertation, biting my hand as if to say, "Why the hell are you studying on a Saturday night? You are so dull and boring." Truth is, if I want to continue with my doctorate next year I need to submit some work by Monday... Maybe I'm just becoming a boring old fart, and I sometimes wonder if that's good for my music career. How will having a doctorate help me make hits to burn up the charts and win millions of adoring fans? Truth is, I dunno... Okay, so the study IS about music, but I'm reminded of a quote from Elvis Costello: writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I think I should go write a song rather.

Mind you, I did have a great gig this past Monday night (got the crowd rocking) and I did go out partying with a friend last night, so maybe when my work is done I can have a life. Truth is, I'm sociable but I don't need to be at a party every week to have fun. We age, we sage... Go figure...

Well, Moto has inadvertently worked his way into The Purr Factory, that musical I co-wrote which debuts at the UJ Arts Centre next year. He's such a lovable brat!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lessons from Eminem

Just recently finished Eminem's autobiography, "The Way I Am." Here's a link where you can buy the book:

I never thought I'd say this, but as an artist I am truly inspired, primarily for two reasons that are completely different to the reasons other people like him:

1. He writes that when he was 18, he wasn't sure which direction to take with his life, because he was good at basketball. Both basketball and rapping were long shots, but he knew he wasn't that great at rapping. But he also writes that he and his best buddy Proof wanted the dream, so they dropped the basketball and went for the gold, as he calls it - the rap dream.

I can so relate! I really only started listening to my music voice in my 30s (way past 18), even though I had been doing music all those years in between, and music was a faithful friend that had never left me, even though it feels like music didn't always love me. But I also knew that I had to make the switch or die.

2. He goes on to write and say that rap was a pipe dream for him, but it was all he had, so really, what was he going to do with his life? He then goes on to speak about his first album, Infinite, which he released in 1995. It sold about 70 copies and it didn't get great feedback, says Eminem, because he hadn't found himself yet. But he had an album out, and at least he could say that.

Again, I can SO relate! My first album was released last year, a collaborative effort with my very good friend Tzipora. It hasn't even sold 70 copies, and the feedback has never been that great either, though I believe one or two of the songs have potential. But at least I can say that I have an album out, even if it's not a great one. I also, in hindsight, think that I haven't found myself yet (although I'm a lot older than the 23 young years when Eminem released his first album), which is why my first solo album of mostly original stuff is to be called Finding My Own Voice, because hopefully by the time I release it to coincide with the big party I'm having for my 40th birthday, I will have found that elusive voice of mine! It is to be preceded by at least two albums of covers (the first, All Wrapped Up This Christmas, will be available from CD Baby in time for Christmas '09; the second, The Spirit Within, hopefully in time for Easter '10).

So there you go... I never thought I'd be able to learn anything from Eminem. I was wrong.

I keep realising that you don't need talent to succeed in music (not that I'm implying everyone's favourite white rapper isn't talented). What you need most of all is heart, which will drive your work ethic. John Lennon, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin and David Bowie all made Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Technically speaking, they all suck as singers. But there's no denying their amazing talent. Heart, baby. Heart.

I walked away from some serious money in the marketing field to pursue my passion, mission and vision of a full-time career in music. I want music to define me, to be what I stand for. Not that I'm ever planning something as archaic as an epitaph on a tombstone, but if I was, I would want it to read: "Here lies Rob Rodell, a man who loved music even on days when it didn't love him back, and who made music his career, because that was his purpose, his very reason for existence." Kinda like Gregory House, who lives for medicine (even though he's also a really good musician). I love House.

Some people would say I'm nuts. My response: The Way I Am...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Here's my version of music piracy:

This past weekend my sister's car got broken into, and they stole the master CD of my Christmas album out of the car. Initially I thought, "How strange!" But then I realised that music does actually have VALUE! As a musician, I sometimes forget that music is emotional currency and that people desire it. Now of course, it depends on whether or not the thief/thieves are part of my target market or not. If they're not, they will listen to the intro of the first song and chuck the CD away. If they are, they might well listen to the first track and be overcome with remorse and mend their ways - since the first track is O Holy Night!

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh at life...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Licentiate Part III

Whew, been so busy!

Just found out a few weeks ago that not only was I the first person in the world to do my LRSL in singing through Rockschool (the world's only accredited pop and rock music examinations board), but I also passed with distinction! Happiness!!!!!!!

Thank you so much to Sonja Raymond of Trinity in Johannesburg and Nick from Rockschool in London for their phenomenal assistance - and to my examiner, Ed Walker. What a nice guy (and I'm not just saying that because he gave me a distinction)!

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Licentiate Part II

I am so, so happy! I have just become the first person IN THE WORLD to complete my licentiate in singing through Rockschool in the UK. I worked my rear off, every day, for months and months on end, choosing the songs, trekking through to Pretoria to rehearse with Ina, and then rehearsing for hours in front of a mirror. There is no greater feeling then when you know you've worked hard and it pays off. I would encourage anybody to do it - it really does make life worth living.

Thanks again to Moira Schafer, who was the first teacher to congratulate me - what a treasure she is. My life is the richer for her having been in it.

Musica, grata Deo.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dr Sibongile Khumalo

I had the most wonderful opprtunity to meet Sibongile Khumalo at Moshito, the annual music conference in Johannesburg. What a treasure - and what a humble woman. She talked about her father's influence that brought her into music, and how she spoke of him when she accepted her honourary doctorate from Rhodes.

I am the richer for having met her - and I am a total fan!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Living in the moment...

One of the most important things I learnt from Ina Wiegand, my coach, as I was preparing for my Licentiate, is to sing in the moment. Ina rightly says that if you don't think about what you're singing, it's so easy to have what she calles "fish eyes" - those dead-pan eyes that have no expression or feeling. It's what makes potentially good singers bad.

Ina reminded me that you have to think as you sing - that you can't play your mind forward or backward when you're busy with a song - otherwise it loses its meaning. As someone who is often guilty of living in the past or in the future, I'm so glad she told me this. We often say, "I can't wait for this or that," and then when we get to the end of our lives we regret that it all went so fast...

I like what John Demartini says: living in the past is linked to regret, living in the future is linked to fear, living in the present is a state of gratitude, which is love and light. Great advice!

I will strive to live in the present in all I do - including singing...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Licentiate

Tomorrow I will be doing my licentiate in singing through Rockschool...

It's been amazing fun, it's been incredibly hard work. I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a great big precipice, overlooking all the treasures of the earth - kinda like God's Window, that awesomely beautiful spot in Mpumalanga where you can see for miles and miles.

Most of the people I work with, from my Mom to my colleague Ina Wiegand to my business partner Corinne Farber believe that I'll do a great job tomorrow. I just wanna go have some fun! Yeah, I guess I'm a little nervous and I really want to pass, but as Ina said to me, whatever the outcome, I cannot lose because I have learnt so much. She's right. In the last 4 months that we've been working together, sometimes three times a week (what a schlep to Pretoria!), I really have grown as an artist and a performer.

Of course, Cor is a huge fan. We've had so much fun doing The Purr Factory together, and I'm thrilled to be performing two songs tomorrow from my own musical. Narcissus, thy name be Rob!

Ah, my Mom! I love my Mom! I recently tried looking for a day job again so I changed my second cell number's message to a bland corporate message. My Mom phoned me to leave a message and said it sounded so sad, like I was unhappy... I have subsequently changed it back to something far more exciting and musical. I'm now doing music full-time. I have never been poorer. I have never been happier.

As Jayson, a colleague of mine at Soul Candi said, we do not choose music, it chooses us. I'm so glad music chose me. It is my life's work, my undying eternal purpose.

Musica, grata Deo.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Moira Schäfer

Just finished a high school music reunion with my music teacher and some guys from school. Hard to believe I finished 20 years ago this year!

My music teacher, the wonderful Moira Schäfer, reminded me of our final assembly at school (St. Stithians), where I sang The Holy City in the chapel in front of 500 boys. I didn't remember this (probably too nervous), but she said that after I had finished, the entire chapel stood up to give me a standing ovation, and what a victorious moment it had been for me (my school years can best be described as "difficult"). Tonight I sang The Holy City again, probably the first time since I sang it at my dad's funeral 11 years ago. What a beautiful piece of music.

Thank you Moira, for being such an inspiration all these years. I'm glad I followed in your footsteps and decided to do music as a career. I have never been happier.

Was also great to see all the old boys (never thought I'd say that...): Mike Aitken, Stuart Miller, Richard Kyte, Murray Masterson. We actually had a proper reunion a few months ago - this was just another catch-up. Thanks for organising, Mike! Great fun as always.

Musica, grata Deo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SA's REALLY Got Talent

Went & did my audition today. I realised that talent has so little to do with it, since there wasn't a single untalented person there.

Went in and met the judge - Duncan Irvine - I know him, although he doesn't remember me (just as well). "Rob Rodell?" he said. "Sounds like a very well-known name in the industry." Great. I chose my brand name well, and my brand is growing. I love it.

My chances: I reckon about 5000:1. It's not that most people that I heard there didn't deserve to go through, it's just that there's so much clutter... How do you choose 1o people from 50,000 auditions? The judges can hardly remember 50 faces, let alone 50,000.

Still, I learned a lot: I want to have more presence when I perform for total strangers... I want to be unique and different more than wanting to blend in... That's what made Susan Boyle stand out.

Chalk it up to good experience, and move on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gigs, gigs, gigs...

Hmmm... Just read up about Chesney Hawkes and Nik Kershaw online. It's so easy to look at these guys and think "has-beens." I'm reminded of a poem I once read that spoke about rather being a wannabe or a has-been than a coulda-been, shoulda-been, woulda-been...

I know I need to get my music more out there, so I'll be striving to do a lot more gigs in the near future. I guess paying your dues is just something you gotta keep doing, although when you love it it should not feel like work. I have to admit: sometimes it does! Does that mean I just don't love the music enough? God I hope not! That would be tragic.

Does Beyonce still pay dues? Not sure - maybe, in her own way...

Monday, June 1, 2009

In a sweet spot...

Had a fantastic gig with Dawnay on Sat nite at the Blues Room in Sandton...

Thank you to the wonderful Addi Lang and photographer Anne Brest for the pics and the exposure I'm getting as an artist - Addi, you're the best. Mwah!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Art of Men CD

I submitted one of my songs, "If I Could", for possible inclusion on a CD called The Art of Men. It was chosen earlier this year.

After final production and mastering, very excited that the CD is being launched at the Mint in Los Angeles on Wed 26 Aug 2009 - the day after my birthday. Sorry I can't be there, but I am there in spirit!

Also recently learned that the double CD has 35 tracks that were chosen out of 700 entries, which is so encouraging to me! Yay - it means that I'm one of the top 5%, and it is such a confidence booster...

Listened to a John Demartini talk last night here in Jo'burg - with music I know I have truly found my passion and my love. It's a joyous, liberating feeling...

For more on Art of Men please click this link:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Ina Wiegand Singing Scholarship

This sounds like a press release because it is one!

The scholarship has been set up by singer-songwriter Rob Rodell to help a formerly disadvantaged student to learn how to sing.

Rodell set the scholarship up as a tribute to Ina Wiegand, the owner of the Respiro Vocal Studio in Pretoria. “Ina really helped me a lot by offering me free lessons in preparation for my Licentiate in singing,” says Rodell. “This is my way of paying it forward – by extending the same courtesy to someone who is really desperate to learn how to sing properly. I will always be grateful to Ina for her help. When I thanked her, she encouraged me to do the same for someone else.”

The singing scholarship will afford one student the opportunity of working with Rodell for one year. The incumbent would need to make their own way to the venue for the lesson, but that is the only cost. After that, the winning student will enjoy a one-hour lesson with Rodell for a year, which includes holidays by mutual agreement, and missed lessons. The full value of the scholarship is over R10,000. “There is no doubt in my mind that if a student comes to me for a year and regularly rehearses and works hard, that by the end of that year s/he will be a much better singer,” says Rodell.

There is no age or race limitation for the scholarship. The student needs to write a motivational letter to prove his/her eligibility and a background check will be performed to ensure that the scholarship does indeed go to someone with limited means. Rodell explains that he’s not even necessarily looking for someone with talent – just great desire – since learning to sing correctly is simply a matter of good technique and plain old-fashioned hard work.
The process of finding a suitable candidate for the scholarship will be undertaken by Addi Lang of the Return 2 Roots Foundation and Caitlin’s Castings, non-profit organisations aimed at assisting abused women and children. To apply, please email The closing date for the 2009/10 scholarship is 31 July. The chosen student will begin training in September 2009.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why I'm quitting the music industry

Yeah right, like that's ever gonna happen... I'll crawl across the stage at 80 to go fetch my Grammy, or they can wheel me on there with my oxygen mask and a standy medical crew. I ain't no quitter (pardon the double negative).

It's like my friend Corinne said after she tried to quit writing: giving it up was like trying to give up breathing - it's impossible.

So there you go - kick me world, I don't care. I am always gonna fight for what I love, no matter how long it takes to get there...

Musica, grata Deo.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Maybe NOT finding my own voice...

Been working with Corinne on the solo album, in between the musical. Now I'm in two minds: do I be true to myself and find my own voice in my first solo album, or do I compromise and look for the hits and respond to the market? Wonder how many artists before me have grappled with this problem...

Seth Godin will tell you that playing it safe is risky, and that if you want to dominate your niche you have to anny some people. Seth my hero...

Time will tell. Meanwhile, just havin' fun with the album!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I've just posted my first video on YouTube:

So excited! John, one of my best friends, sent me the link of Susan Boyle at Britain's Got Talent. You go, Paula Potts! I love Paul Potts too.

Yeah, it's been a great day. Another brilliant friend reminded me today of my strengths as an artist, which solidified my resolve to do what I love with passion: music and singing. Life is truly blessed when you live & follow your dream with all your heart. I am happier & more grateful than I have ever been.

Musica, grata Deo.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blue Moon Hello

Been so busy writing blogs, teaching singing students and generally trying to catch up with Twitter, Facebook and all the rest, that I finally sent one of my best friends an sms that read, "A blue moon hello!" It means I hardly ever see him. I've become a computer slave, like Hal in 2001/2010, but in this case Hal is my HP laptop. Or maybe that should read hell...

Possible future album title? Which part? I like it...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Music videos

So whilst we're busy doing this research for the Gauteng Government on the music industry, I heard from Jon Shaw that he knows the guy at M-Net who'd be interested in viewing our video and maybe putting it on TV. Yay! It's not even finished yet and that is great news!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Music Videos are Fun!

Finished our first music video yesterday. I was born to be up on stage and in front of a camera! I would so strongly encourage anyone to do it if they want to. I'm in my 30s now, and although I always knew I wanted to do music as a career, it took me a long time to get here: not just the guts and the courage (parts of that have always been there - search your own heart...), but also the means (financial, emotional, etc.).

It's liberating singing your own song in front of camera people, extras, make-up artists as they cheer you on. To misquote someone: it's the most fun you can have changing your clothes (we had three wardrobe changes!).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Being a Free Spirit

Had a great chat with Christo Grobler today. He and his wife run a programme in Jozi called Be Sharp Beetles, which is for music and movement studies (

We were chatting about music and entrepreneurship, and he said a couple of things which really stuck with me:
  1. I am a free spirit, which means I hate working for a boss. Much rather do my own thing.
  2. I don't wanna make someone else rich by working for them.

I couldn't agree more. I guess my fear is that I'll become a businessman instead of an artist. But why do they need to be mutually exclusive?

Well, off to shoot our first music video tomorrow. Exciting stuff!

Brainy Music Begins...

I've decided to split my blogs up into:
  • This one, which will track my development as an artist...
  • The singing advice one, for tips on how to be a better singer (
  • The music business advice one, for tips on how to steer through the murky waters of the music industry (

I still feel I wanna share my story with the world (hey, who doesn't???). Anyway, Brainy Music is to help people use their BRAIN when they decide to follow music as more than just a Friday-night karaoke.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why I Write This

I started Singers Inc. in 2002 as a booking agency. Since then this is what I've been up to:

  1. Singers Inc. evolved into an indie label that I use to release my own stuff. It's also a music hub, and I use it as a vehicle to teach vocals - have done since 2005 (
  2. I have released my first album, an Afro-Pop effort (
  3. I am busy working on my debut solo album (
  4. I am a co-founder of the Music Business Academy, a school that aims to address the skills shortage in the music industry in Africa ( Africa is the cradle of music and yet the people here are the least music business savvy. That has to change.
  5. I teach performing arts workshops to high school students who want to break into the industry.
  6. I'm busy co-writing a musical or three.
  7. I'm busy doing my PhD on trends in music marketing and music branding, and if all goes according to plan, I'll become one of the very first people in Africa to successfully complete my Licentiate in Singing (Performance) through Rockschool. Hope I pass!!!!

As a result of all of these things, I am, for the first time in my life, able to do music as a day job, full-time, and make enough money from it to thrive. I am so happy as a result!

Why would you care? First, I just had to tell the world. As points out, it's Generation C - the content creator is me. Second, as I have been inspired, so I hope to inspire. People ask me all the time how to quit their lousy day jobs. Let's see if I can help - with advice and coaching online. Thanks for reading.

The New Me

I was initially wondering if I should separate my creative music blog, my music business blog, and my vocal training blog. Maybe I should, perhaps I shouldn't. I'll decide soon enough. But this is the start of the new blog. So here goes! Welcome, and thanks for reading. Hope we connect here...