The last time I interviewed Dominic Neill, he was still part of the duo ‘The Illustrators’. Now, he’s a solo artist who dominated the airways the past 12 months with club thumper ‘Better Day’ and the soulful house-inspired ‘Love You Still’. Recently he released his debut solo album titled ‘Out of My League’ and I was lucky enough to catch up with him and chat about the album, and a few other things.
How would you describe the sound on ‘Out of My League’? It’s quite different from ‘Better Day’ and ‘Love You Still’. It’s a little more production focused.
It’s always difficult to put one word or genre to anything but if I had to, I’d call it commercial pop. I’d also have to disagree with it being more production focused than the previous two singles. Production is always incredibly important to everything I do and I was so lucky to work with incredible producers on this record who shared a similar drive to create something that would make everyone proud.
What was the experience like working on this record?
It was pretty amazing. Honesty in performance, delivery and writing are so important for me and this meant that everything was really natural. The fact that we set out to make an EP and ended up with an album speaks for itself. I’m just lucky I got this opportunity thanks to Universal and all the incredible people they enabled me to work with.
Where do you see this record fit in the South African musical landscape?
I think I’ve picked a space that is locally quite open in terms of dominant forces or established artists. You have my good friends Shekhinah and Kyle Deutsch doing great pop stuff but other than that it’s quite sparse. So you’ll find my sound “competing” with the like sounding international stuff as well. Let’s see.
What music did you listen to during the recording of the album? What influenced you while writing and recording these tracks?
It’s so damn cliche but I listen to EVERYTHING. But my two very important factors when listening to anything is originality and the stories that artists tell. The combination of those two things is what draws me to songs that eventually influence me.
Do you have a personal favourite track on the album? Why that song?
I really can’t answer that. Just too difficult to pick one!
The songwriting on the record is honest and emotional, which is probably the thing that most excites me about your growth. It’s pop but with real emotional heft, which is what the best edgy pop music should be.
Is it hard for you to write about raw and true experiences? Or does it just come naturally to you?
Honesty is everything I believe. It really is! So I try be as honest as possible in telling stories. So I’d say it’s something I strive to do and I’m glad it came across on the album.
The record also features some stripped down renditions which are really, really cool. Do you ever see yourself recording an album that showcases that side of your voice a little more predominantly? Vocals and instruments.
I’ve never really thought about it, but I doubt it. I think it’s cool that I can include these sort of tracks on an album and then I get to experience the best of both worlds on that front. It was a lot of fun recording those sessions.
You know I’ve always been a big fan of your voice. That tone is ridiculously cool, smooth, and soulful. Would you say listening to other artists have had an influence on what you do with that warm tone of yours?
Definitely! James Arthur, Jamie Cullum and John Legend were the guys that I really looked to as vocalists when I really was working to improve after Idols and I think listening to them has definitely influenced my delivery.
Which artists are you listening to at the moment? What’s on your playlist? Gotta admit, the solo effort from Harry Styles has been a constant on mine. As well as the new Imagine Dragons.
Dua Lipa’a album is a masterpiece of pop music in my opinion. But a constant on my side is also Jarryd James, I’ve listened to the album top to bottom over and over for the last couple years.
What do you want to achieve in the music industry? Where do you want your career to go?
I want to be as successful as possible and I think that open minded approach without exact targets is something that will help my drive moving forward. Making an impact internationally is also a big goal of mine but right now, making good music and improving as an artist is all I need to keep doing. Everything else will happen when I’m good enough.
What’s next for you? You know I want you to visit Port Elizabeth as soon as possible.
Live shows are what I’m targeting now. So hopefully more and more travels and that’ll hopefully mean that PE ends up on the list of destinations too. I’ve also got an international released planned for later in the year, so let’s see.
Author: Reinhardt Botha
Writer, producer and occasional asshat.