“I pride myself on not being boring, and thinking out of the box.So before I start our “chit-chat”, shall I apologize for being too direct and forward 🙂
I think not, after all its part of my charm.I guess a man could do with some mystery and to keep your fan base guessing and coming back for more “tidbits” of info from you”?
Let’s get going.
“Thank you, for the chat Gino and accepting to be my ‘first’ interview”. You know what they say; a girl never forgets her ‘first’ *wink, wink* While I am on that topic, has there ever been an older female or male that took a fancy to you, hahaha trust me to jump right in there?
Q. I think the real question is –How do you balance starting a new relationship or attraction with somebody while in the midst of kick-starting your musical journey?
It’s all about keeping focused. At the moment music is my first love, and I’m devoted to it! Sure we all like to take a little sneak peek here and there lol!! For me I gotta focus on what’s most important, and that’s making great music for people to enjoy.
For those who may not be familiar with “Gino Lee”, tell us a little about yourself and your sound?
I’m a pop singer/songwriter, musician and actor originally from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I have been professionally performing for 9 years now. In 2010 I decided to start my solo career as a musician, performing around P.E and the Eastern Cape area. A few years later I was invited to perform at an artistic showcase called the ARTS Convention in Orlando, Florida, USA. There I was able to perform in front of numerous acting and agents, record label executives and managers. At this convention I received a scholarship to study at the New York Film Academy where I studied in 2014. The following year I relocated to Los Angeles to work as an actor and musician. I was fortunate enough to work as an assistant producer at Skylight Studios in North Hollywood and the Compound Production house in Burbank, California. Last year I decided to temporarily move back to South Africa to promote my music. I am also signed with an agency here and working as an actor too. My sound has evolved over the years but I always stick to pop. Right now I am experimenting with the Future RnB genre.
What message are you trying to communicate to the audience through your music?
I try and give out as much of a feel good vibe as I can. I want to send a message of positivity though my music. There is so much unrest and turmoil in the world right now, in every aspect of life and I think as artists and creators it is our duty to reflect these issues. Our content should be a mirror and catalyst for positive change and progress.
I know you have been abroad also acting and performing as a musician!
What influence has Hollywood had on your music and did it influence the genre of music you write or sing about?
Hollywood is one of the most influential places in the world. I’m so happy that I decided to start producing my own music just before I flew over, because it became such a pivotal tool that I used to evolve and better the quality of my sound. Hollywood has always had and still has such a mystical lore to it. We’ve all heard the stories of hard work and broken dreams of aspiring actors in LA and being there to actually see that and experience it first hand was magical to say the least. It had a profound effect on my writing and producing.
The first time you performed overseas & heard your music on the local radio. What was the experience like and how did this become a reality at such a young age?
The first time I performed overseas was at the ARTS convention in Orlando, Florida. It was really awesome to perform for an American crowd, their energy was off the charts. The first time I heard my song on radio was in 2010, on Algoa FM in Port Elizabeth. Words can’t describe how excited I was, jumping up and down in the car listening to the song play on the radio!
What do you think was your biggest break or the greatest opportunity been so far in your musical journey?
There are two, first was performing at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. It has always been a dream of mine. Performing in that beautiful venue was a life changing experience. The other was when I had the opportunity to meet and perform for the head of A&R of Atlantic Records in New York, Success Davis. That, as you can imagine was one of the most surreal moments in my life.
You spent the last 3 years in the USA- What was it like obtaining a prestigious scholarship at the New York Film Academy?
Receiving the scholarship was a dream come true! Although I started my career as a singer I realized and learned that being a multi faceted artist in the industry can afford you so many more opportunities. I grabbed the scholarship with both hands. Studying at NYFA in New York City was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.
How does it feel being back in South Africa, is it a culture shock. After all you left SA as a teenager and returned as a young adult?
Spending the end of my teenage years in the US was a very unique experience, I left South Africa when I was 17 and came back when I was 20. When I returned I was pleasantly surprised at how big the music and acting industry has gotten here. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to hear the difference between a local track an international one! There are also so many big budget international films and TV shows being shot here in SA now, and local actors are given the opportunity to audition for great roles in these productions. It definitely feels good to be back.
“As you know from our talks, my background is from the publishing side of the music industry.I know currently your work is released only via digital and that you are an independent artist.Are you in the market for a major to scoop you up for publishing or a record deal”?
The industry is always evolving, with more and more artists realizing that it is possible to make a major success of your career being an independent artist. As an example, Chance the Rapper recently just broke the mold by being the first unsigned artist to ever win a Grammy without selling a single physical copy of his music. Most of his music has been released online for free or to stream. Yes, I am definitely open to signing with a major label. It will be great and it will do wonders for my career, but I am not limited by it.
“ Over to the more climatic question”
Your single ‘Life After College” –tell me a bit about why that title was picked & what sort of lyrical sound you got going on?
Life After College is a reflection of the choices people make in life. It speaks about the frustration young people face after spending years studying to build a sustainable future. Kids often study and pursue careers they don’t enjoy or love, pressured into it by either their parents, mentors or even by their own fears. Being a musician and actor means you work in a very unstable and unpredictable environment and you find yourself asking the question: Should I have chosen differently? Should I have studied something else? But then, you realise that you wouldn’t have it any other way. You would never give it away. The song was influenced by the Twenty One Pilots track, Stressed Out. Its got a laid back old school hip hop/rock vibe. I also rap/speak in the verses which was new for me. I enjoyed exploring that avenue of my artistry.
Take me through your song writing progress. What is usually the catalyst for a new song & what comes first, the melody the lyrics or harmony ?
I normally start the process with a beat, or sample that inspires me. Then I decide the theme of the track depending on the vibe of the sample. From there I make a baseline skeleton of the track and write the hook first. Then I finish the verses, choruses and everything else that’s needed.
You are a performer, composer, producer, actor and so many more titles I am sure my old age as made me forget a few hahahaha. How does the transition happen for you, is it hard to jump into your actor face to playing a role in an advert ..oh my, how can I forget and wearing your model pose for the cameras?
I’ve been performing since high school and with each and every year I learned to keep good time management and focus. My parents also gave me the guidance and tools to make sure I apply myself 100% in what ever I pursue. It is difficult to transition at times, but I think that all the different facets compliment each other.
By the way “ how on earth do you have such great hair”? [laugh’s]
As you see..I can ask a bunch of question in one go…but that’s how my brain is wired. How on earth do you keep your S#!T together and play so many roles in life?
My passion for music makes it easy. If a difficult decision is to be made, I will always come back to my first love of music.
How many music instruments do you play?
I play the piano/keyboard.
What are your current favourite things @this moment?
Music you listening to?………… Slide – Calvin Harris
Books you reading? …………… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (a Screenplay)
Movies/series you watching? ………… Just finished binge watching Game Of Thrones
What’s your take on religion, does your faith play a role in your everyday life.
I would say that I am more of a spiritual person. I believe that everything that happens in our lives are for a reason, and if something is not meant to be, it is meant for another time.
“That is a great answer,I never looked at it that way.I imagine that music plays many roles in your life as it does mine.Consider the way music has influenced your life, it has the power to take your down memory lane to have feelings of joy, sadness in a split second.It takes you out of your funk!! There’s such a fulfilment in music ,but earning a living from art is what artists want, that’s the end result!It’s not just for the joy of music-we all need to make a living and It can be hard and depressing for musicians”!
Any insight you can offer aspiring musician or peeps out there that want to follow in your path will be greatly appreciated?
I would firstly encourage every aspiring artist to grab EVERY single opportunity that they can get their hands on. Surround yourself with people who uplift you, not bring you down. I am so fortunate to have the most supportive and loving parents who give me drive and fuel my passion to succeed. Not many kids have this, but that shouldn’t stop you. Use social media to your advantage. Create opportunities for yourself. Make content that uplifts others and feeds your soul.
To wrap this up, can you tell me how is the Woodstock open mic progressing along?
None! Woodstock Open Mic is a long-term project. With every week we get stronger and stronger and the word is spreading fast! The venue, Three Feathers Diner is the perfect spot for the event. The vibe there is so great, with muscle cars and art sprayed across the walls. Many tourists and locals also pass through from the busy Old Biscuit Mill market next door. Their burgers are delicious and it really has a “man cave” vibe to it. I’m so thankful for the owners for allowing me to host this platform in their space.
Anything you could have done better when you tackled this project?
So far things are going great. Yes, there is always room for improvement but with every week I enjoy it more and more as I see it grow, and it can only get better from here.
The funniest,weirdest thing that happened at Woodstock?
Luckily we are fortunate enough to have not had any mishaps!
Anybody that I should look out for that appeared in Woodstock open mic via the social links?
In my short time at this Open Mic I have met so many talented people in almost every genre. Some stand outs include,
Julianno Beukes who killed the show with the help of his Ukulele: https://www.facebook.com/julianno.beukes
Vocalist Jade McAvinchey: https://www.facebook.com/jmcavinchey
Guitarist Keith Bellamy: https://www.facebook.com/keith.bellamy.39
Rapper Dimitri Rymgees Stuurman: https://www.facebook.com/dimitrirymgees.stuurman.9
…while I stop to breathe after that burst of questions, I think it’s only fair after so many that have interviewed you, to be able to ask 1 question in return to your interviewer???
Don’t make me regret this, make it interesting …shoot?
I’ m gona keep this one simple, hehe. What is the thing you love the most about your job?
Haha,I wish I can say its the ton of money that comes my way:-) Even thou I am not in my own field yet(which is fashion design), having to resort to a job outside my field thanks to the weak economy. I still love that my job is not all consuming and I get to go home at a reasonable hour and live a healthy life. It’s become part of my DNA, so all the many CD launches & industry party we attend for work is not a chore!!The crazy, fun, loving people in all walks of life I come in contact with is actually a bonus .Keeps life interesting & motivated.” Bloody hell how many questions did I just answer”……did you trick me ?
I like to end by wishing you ‘congrats’ on your signing with Geneview Vieira from “Indie Does It”. You surely will be #OneToWatch
To keep up-to-date on Gino Lees going about follow him on: