There’s a certain power in doing things when the timing is perfect, that helps everything fall into place without you having to try too hard. Take Thiwe Mbola for instance, who first joined the music industry in 2007, signed to Arthur Mafokate’s 999 Music.
She walked into a studio armed with her angelic voice, and even though she sang her heart out to songs that had been penned for her, her career never quite took off. Fast forward to 2015, and she’s learnt to be involved in every creative aspect of her music.
Do you think the sound on Soul Therapy defines who you are, as well your talents?
I wouldn’t say I’ve found my sound yet because this is my first album in eight years. Musically, I’ve always done what people wanted me to do and now that an opportunity for a full album presented itself, I can’t walk away from what people have known me to be, which is a house vocalist. I’m a live music girl – put me amongst adult contemporary and afro-soul artists. But this album was a compromise of my sound and what the people are expecting. I’ll probably only start crafting a sound that I can call my own on my next album. I wonder if an artist ever confidently finds their sound – I don’t think that exists!
What have you been working on in the past eight years, other than the features you’ve done?
I’ve been a corporate and events girl. I’ve been doing events since 2005 and this is an area that I’d like to turn into a business opportunity some day. Live music does not have a platform in South Africa any more. As a house vocalist, I will have gigs every weekend, but a live music artist will gig once a month because we don’t have enough venues to accommodate us. Out of the whole of Johannesburg, the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg and The Orbit in Braamfontein are literally the only two places that are live-music friendly.
If you had to sell Soul Therapy to someone who’s never heard Thiwe sing before, how would you go about it?
I’m a terrible salesperson [chuckles]! Soul Therapy is my therapy. I’m not an expressive person – in fact, I’m a better writer than speaker. I also understand that my experiences are not unique and that what I sing about will always resonate with one or two people. You can actually sense my growth as an artist and a lyricist – I write from the perspective of a 31-year-old black woman, but this doesn’t mean that other age groups, older or younger, won’t find something to learn from my music. I’m actually surprised at the number of men responding well to Soul Therapy despite the feminine songs on there.
You have no idea how many times I considered giving up on my music career!
Would you say that this album was something you wanted badly for your career?
I collected my box of CDs on the fourth of September and holding it in my arms made me realise how badly I wanted it – it felt so surreal. You have no idea how many times I considered giving up on my music career!
Which producers and musicians contributed to the album?
The album is produced by Demor Skosana from Shana, as well as Mondli Ngcobo, who wrote the tracks Sekwanele and I Care For You. We also worked with Sanele Sithole, a new up-and-coming producer who worked on my current single I Am Woman. I feature Zano, Busiswa and Ziyon. There’s also a gentleman called Sbu Nkomo who co-wrote Just A Matter of Time and also penned a beautiful Sesotho love song Pelo Kgutlela Hae.
The album dropped last Friday, 11 September. What would you like people to walk away with after listening to it?
First and foremost I’m hoping that people will go out and buy it [laughs]. As musicians, there’s nothing we appreciate more than seeing people post pictures of your album (that they’ve purchased) and giving you feedback on it. I also want people to get into their cars after a rough day and to listen to Soul Therapy because they know it’s going to lift their mood. There’s a song called Rapela, featuring Zano. I didn’t think people would pay attention to its message because it’s accompanied by a house beat. I didn’t write the song, I literally stood in front of the mic and out came these simple and inspirational words about praying. There’s also It’s Just A Matter of Time featuring Zyon, which I consider my version of Mary Mary’s I Can’t Give Up Now. Soul Therapy has songs about hope, faith and so many other positive themes!
What were some of the important lessons you learnt while making this album a reality?
I realised that I needed to believe in myself, to believe in my talent. That played a huge role in me being confident enough to get into studio and make decisions about the creative direction of my music.
I used to cry a lot every time I’d come across a negative tweet about me, but that was only because I had deep insecurities as an artist. I didn’t realise just how talented I was and when you don’t recognise your talents, you let everything else affect you. If it’s not about my music, then I refuse to listen to it.