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Living the music - interview with Josie Field

We recently sat down with Joburger and proud ambassador of SA music Josie Field during her Cape Town tour. Self-managed musician, festival organiser and all-round lovely lady, Josie Field shared her experiences - good, bad and ugly - on her musical journey so far.
Josie's recently completed Cape Town tour had her playing a mixture of intimate and larger shows from Stellenbosch to Kalk Bay with producer and fellow musician Kevin Leicher. "It's just so nice to be in Cape Town; last time we were here was November last year and it's always so nice to take a break firstly and get out of Joburg, but also we do have a fan base here and I think it is important to visit them regularly."

Josie's first time big introduction to the SA music industry was a brief involvement with the first production of SA Idols in her last year of school. Urged by her dad to enter, she attended first rounds - the pre-camera ones in which everyone but the super bad and super good are weeded out. Unfortunately, Josie didn't make it past the first round, but in a satisfying turn of events she had the last laugh as a couple of months later she played at a club and opened for Season 1 Idols winner Heinz Winkler. "So I didn't even get to the first round, but it's quite a bizarre story, it wasn't three months later and I was opening for Heinz Winkler at a club in Joburg - so it was ironic that we ended up on the same page anyway. I don't really believe in competitions that try to test people - they are great stepping stones and many do well in them, but I also think that it can be quite heartbreaking for artists who have to leave after getting to a certain point."

Early success

Enjoying a fair amount of success early on: radio air time, healthy CD sales and SAMA nominations, Josie Field had the courage and insight not to get involved with the first recoding deal thrown at her. "I met a producer and I thought this is it. But we went into studio and I realised this is so not my sound and I was so upset about it. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, just to say no. They wanted me to do whatever they wanted me to do, so it was not like I had a say. They were going to tell me how to dress, when to speak, how to sing and that was so scary that I has to say no." Luckily, the decision was the right one and in forging her own musical path she was able to remain independent. "After that I found my first manager who was amazing and who put me in a studio with an amazing producer - Kevin Leicher who I still gig with. We took the album to Gallo Records and they liked it and bought it, and that was that as they say."

Building a brotherhood

Not happy to settle with the commendable accomplishment of making it as a musician in SA, Josie is always striving to learn more, expand and promote the industry. In her off time she makes a habit of visiting live performances of new bands. "I like to support live music, if I'm not playing I will always go out to watch some band. I like to watch up-and-coming bands just to see what else is happening and I often get very inspired by that." And last year she took on the rather massive task of starting and managing her own music festival: The Drake Music Festival, which will be returning to the Midlands of KZN in December this year and sees a tasty looking line-up of folky acoustic acts, including Rambling Bones, Laurie Levine, Naming James and many more.

"Last year in June I was in the shower and I just thought I love what I do, this is my career path but what else can I do? How can I give back? How can I create more platforms for artists? So I decided to put on my own festival and we called it the Drake Music Festival because it's in the Natal Midlands and I have spent a lot time there with family because we have a farm there. Then it was just the act of putting it all together and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it went so well. It was quite small - we had 200 people there - but it was a whole day of folk, acoustic and blues, and I had all my favourite artists that I love. It was an utter and total success. It's up to us to create. As South African artists we have the responsibility to decide what our future could bring. The main reason for the Drake Festival is for the sustainability and longevity of SA original music. It's about art, about creating a brotherhood. The Drake Festival has something called the Drake Hour, when all the artists collaborate in groups. The idea behind that was to create a brotherhood between artists."

What do future plans hold for Miss Fields? Well one of the more unusual ones involves her and Rambling Bones playing at a women's prison. "I'm playing in a women's prison, I am so excited about that. It will probably just be me and Rambling Bones. This opportunity just came about and I thought: Wow how cool would it be to make one of them smile? Also I would be living out my Johnny Cash dream." She also has plans for spreading her sound to other parts of the world. "I would love to go overseas, I just don't know when. I think every SA artist dreams of going overseas, not to get out of here but to experience something new." But before that she continues to champion SA music. She is passionate about promoting the arts in the country and her ultimate ideal would be for a government and society that supports its artists and musicians as much as its sport stars.

You've definitely got our vote, Josie Field!

About Ruth Cooper

Ruth is the production manager at Bizcommunity, as well as a editor of the Lifestyle section.