23 Jul 2012 Comments 0

This interview was published on this weekend:


Durban North Musician: John Ellis Releases 2nd Album “Rural”


We recently caught up with John Ellis to ask him a few questions:


Can you tell us a bit about yourself before your career in music?

Besides music, I’m a father of three little beauties, a proud citizen of Durban North and an obsessed book collector! I also lecture English, politics and Communication at Varsity College part-time.


When did you get involved with music, and who influenced your decision to get into it?

As a young kid I just became obsessed with Elvis and then The Beatles, thanks to my parents, and while other kids were playing sport I focused on playing guitar.


What do you think has been the key to your success in the music industry, firstly in America with Tree63, and now as a solo artist in South Africa?

That’s a very hard question to answer, because there’s absolutely no guarantee that your talent or your ambition will be enough to get you success in this world. I’ve spent my ‘career’ so far becoming as good a musician and songwriter as I possibly can, although there’s still so far to go. Maybe perseverance is a key thing.


What are some of your most recent highlights or achievements since returning to SA?

I’m proud of the fact that despite resounding indifference from the SA music industry, I’ve managed to put out two solo albums, of which I’m prouder than anything Tree63 ever did, and I’ve managed to make some sort of living for myself and my family by doing what I’m good at and what I enjoy.


How does a typical day in the life of John Ellis unfold?

If I’m not lecturing, I’m trying to avoid writing songs by spending all day selling “Rural” online!


You have just released a new solo album, called “Rural”, which you have been promoting through your Social Media sites. If you had to describe the album in 3 words, what best sums it up?

Rustic, poetic, protest.


Speaking of Social Media, you recently had a go at Gareth Cliff who was moaning about the lack of SA musicians challenging our politicians through their lyrics. Firstly, did he respond? And Secondly, does South African politics inspire a lot of your music?

No, Gareth would never stoop down from On High to bother with us little people! I did get a ‘happy birthday’ message from him the other day though, so he’s at least acknowledged my existence! Haha. We’re mates; he just doesn’t know what to do with people who insist on treating him normally. Yes, politics in this country is a big deal for me. It always has been. You can’t really address it in a three-minute pop song, but it’s worth a try. Somebody has to say something, surely?


There are so many aspiring musicians these days, kids with a guitar and a dream, but it’s certainly not an easy path to success. You have experienced success at the highest level in your industry, so what advice can you give to those starting out with a dream?

First of all, the current music industry is no place for dreamers! It’s the most cut-throat, brutal, soul-destroying business there is (other than politics), and if you really insist on doing it for a living, get an MBA first. It’s a business first and foremost. I don’t mean to come across as a cynic, but I’d be the first to acknowledge that any kind of a creative life in this modern world of ours is a really tough way to live.


What did you enjoy the most about growing up in Durban North? And what do you miss most about this beautiful part of the world when you are off on your travels?

Durban North contains all my childhood: Broadway, Chelsea Drive, the library, the beach…it’s a self-contained village in a world of shopping malls and golfing estates. I love the view of the sea heading east on Beachway, hadedas and red-eyed doves in the garden in the early mornings, hazy autumn breezes blowing in off the sea. It’s home.


Finally, how can people get hold of your latest album, “Rural”?

Right now, it’s only available to download or buy from my website,, but it’ll be in the shops soon enough.




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