In a short period of time, Lucille Slade has managed to build a considerable buzz in the industry, through a viral cover video of Cassper Nyovest’s “Tito Mboweni” song, as well as a number of stellar performances as a featured artist. With her own solo work also gaining traction, she is determined now more than ever, to build on her momentum and prove that she is a formidable R&B star. As a formally trained music performer, she already has an invaluable edge which when considered with her natural talent and work ethic, renders her poised for greatness. We sat with her and dived deep into a discussion on the music business, women’s placing in the industry, her journey so far and what her plans are for the foreseeable future.
When did you realize that a career in music is what you wanted to do professionally?
Taking Music Performance as a major at university is what made the dream and aspiration real for me. I studied at AFDA, so once I picked that major, I knew that this is what I was meant to do and most importantly, what I wanted to do professionally.
Have your parents, family and/or ones closest to you been supportive of the career choice you made – that of being a singer?
I have always had a strong support system. My mother didn’t try to discourage or dissuade me from pursuing my career. And my family was always supportive so I have never had to deal with a lack of support. If anything, I have always had it in abundance.
How has your perception towards the music industry changed overtime, from when you first entered to now?
The music industry is very layered and I think one aspect that most people tend to overlook – and as such, is generally not spoken enough about – is the music business side of things. I think it’s important that anyone aspiring to get into this industry is aware of that part of the industry. It’s not all glitz and glam, and more than anything, one has to familiarize themselves with their rights within the music business. It certainly puts you at an advantage.
Did you have a clear plan when you first started this journey?
When I left uni, there wasn’t a clear plan honestly. Fair enough, I sort of knew what I wanted to do ultimately, but the reality of the music industry would prove to be very different from how we imagined it, and things weren’t as easy as we initially thought. I also learned very quickly that there wasn’t one set way to go about being part of the industry – for the most part, one learns as they go.
Right. And did that have any bearing with regards to your chosen genre?
R&B/Pop has always been the genre that I wanted to do. I’ve certainly ventured into other genres by way of collaboration but as far as my solo work is concerned, R&B/Pop is what I love doing. When I started, the reality is that it wasn’t that much of a big genre at the time and people did try to convince me to explore other genres that may have been a lot more profitable and in demand. But something about that never felt authentic to me, so I just stuck to my guns and as of late it’s paying off.
Is there a specific individual who was instrumental in helping you find your footing in the industry?
Dave Thompson, who is the first person I sort of signed to after uni. He’s been in the industry for years. His guidance, the way that he worked, the trust that he had in me as an artist and someone whose opinion he trusted – all these attributes made for a great working relationship. One of the best ones I’ve had thus far. My voice was trusted and I was not asked to be anything other than what I am. It was a great working relationship that I still value to this day.
In the few years that you have been in the industry, what are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned along the way, given your own personal and professional experiences?
I have learned that one has to have a strong sense of self because being in the industry can get emotionally taxing. One has to be very careful of the people that they surround themselves with because not everyone’s intentions are genuine or good. Some people can see you as just an opportunity for them, when they don’t get what they wanted out of you, attitudes can quickly change. So, for me, it’s very important to be aware of the people you keep around you. Another important thing is knowing more about the business side of music – that way people can’t take advantage of you. If you know exactly what your rights are, they can not be taken away from you. Knowing about your splits, the legalities behind what artists need to know when their royalties are paid out, the ownership of master recordings, what to know before you sign record deals, and knowing what it is that you actually need and what you can provide for yourself. This is all extremely imperative information to know. But yeah, to surmise, I would say the biggest thing that I have learned is that you have to know the business. You have to know the laws. You must know your rights.
How would you advise someone like you – a talented young lady – wanting to get into the music industry?
I would say if it’s something you really want to do, then you’re going to have to be patient and persistent. For some people it happens quicker and for some it takes a little bit longer but the longer it takes, that should be the time you’re learning things so that you can be at a better standing. For women especially, I advise that they should look at other women who are already in the industry as inspiration and as people to learn from – not as competition. There really is no competition – we are all different and unique, and we each bring something valuable to the table.
What are some of the things that you hate about the music industry?
I wouldn’t say hate but I think it’s important for people in the industry not to take advantage of young artists who just entered the industry – whom it’s evident that they are novice and don’t know a lot about the business. If you want to help somebody, help them. If you want to own someone then that’s problematic because I don’t believe in people owning other people. It’s a strange thing that I see happening a lot in the industry – people attempting to own other people or their work. I don’t believe in that. If you want to help someone, help them from a good place, not from a place of entitlement to them or their work.
According to you, in 2020, how are women treated in the industry – what are the general attitudes that people in the industry still hold towards their women counterparts?
I find that not enough credit is given to women in the industry, yet women are some of the greatest tastemakers of most of our favorite songs, be it House music or collaborations in general. I think their opinion should be valued a lot more than it currently is. I also think women should be allowed to be assertive, and should be allowed to speak their mind without their characters being discredited in their place of business.
Who are some of your biggest local and international influences musically?
Locally, I still live by the admiration I have for Brenda Fassie because there was no one like her. Her level of authenticity – she would speak her mind and was not controlled by anyone. She was always herself. That to me, was amazing. Outside of the fact that she had one of the best voices in our time – musically in South Africa, I also loved her free-spirited nature. Internationally, I honestly enjoy what Beyonce does. Her constant reinvention and evolution, and also her consistency over time. She just keeps getting better. That’s quite difficult to do and sustain in this day and age, and for her to have done it for so long – it completely blows my mind.
“Khuluma Nami” was released as a single in preparation for a full-length EP, Love Me Slowly – how was the song conceived and what are the plans as far as the EP is concerned?
“Khuluma Nami” won’t actually be on the EP anymore. It originally came about after I was approached by a specific show whose producers asked me to remix any of my songs for them. I chose “Khuluma Nami”, which at that point, only existed as an acoustic version. I then remixed it to what was later released. What will be on the upcoming Love Me Slowly EP though, is my single “Velvet”.
Got you. As someone whose biggest and most loved songs have been collaborations, who are you most proud to have collaborated with, and who would you like to collaborate with moving forward?
My collaborations thus far have varied considerably. I have done Hip Hop with Stogie T and also ventured into House with DJ Zinhle and Dr Duda. Those three artists are exceptional and I have learned a great deal from them. I enjoyed working with them, particularly because of their work ethic and willingness to share ideas. The artists that I would love to work with are any of the Nigerian Afro-Beats artists currently making and riding the wave globally. I think they’ve done an incredible job in breaking down barriers. Busiswa is also another artist I would love to work with. I think she is a powerhouse.
What is Lucille’s five year plan from here on?
Five years, actually – in hindsight – is quite (laughs) short, but it’s ample time to get things done nonetheless. What I would like to have done by then is to complete my project and have it released. I would also like to be able to curate the type of live shows that I would love to see – basically, curating my own live shows and making sure that they are amazing. I look forward to cross-continental collaborations, as well as cross-country collaborations. I would like to then diversify within the entertainment industry at some point. Lastly, I hope to write for other artists and sell some of my songs to them.