In Conversation With: Leroyale

Fresh off the release of his latest single titled Kuwe, and the subsequent release of his debut EP, URANGANI, we caught up with musician and DJ, Leroyale.

Having been an artist DJ for a couple of years, most notably for vocalist Sino Msolo, he has now taken on the journey of a recording artist. With a few releases of his own now out, we took the opportunity to chat to him about his journey so far, his ability to juggle academics with the music as well as other future hopes and opportunities.

Read our conversation below…

Firstly, how fulfilling does it feel now that you have a few of your own song releases out there?

On a scale of one to ten, I would say eight. It feels good to have music out there attached to my name, but I still have quite a lot that I want to accomplish with my music. I have only just started out and can’t really say what my sound is yet. 

Although I know that there are certain concepts that I usually go for that I resonate with, I still want to explore music by trying new and different things, like combining genres in one song to create a new sound.

Having been a performing (gigging) DJ for so long prior to now recording your own music, how has the transition been for you? And how different or difficult is the recording from the gigging?

The transition has been good due to the influences and artists I have worked with. I find myself in spaces I would have never been in if I were just a solo DJ, but because of them, I get to connect with and meet people and be in venues and events that would have taken me years to get into if I were just a solo DJ.

The challenging thing about being a performance DJ is that I find it to be more rigid. As a solo DJ, you are able to play a different set at three gigs in one night, and as a performance DJ, you don’t really have that flexibility; you have to play that hit song. Something we play on Friday, we might also have to play again on Saturday and Sunday. As a solo DJ, I am used to playing for a minimum set of an hour, but as a performance DJ, you are usually given 30 minutes or even 15 minutes. With these short sets, though, you get to learn how to be fast on the deck, how to transition quickly between songs, and other technicalities, so it’s a good environment.

Speaking of gigging, how tough is life on the road? How hectic can the scheduling get? What are some of the challenges you face that audiences might not be aware of?

It gets quite busy, but there are also times when it is not as busy. When it is busy, I do two or three gigs per night, from Friday to Sunday, and maybe another one on Monday. At times the gigs are outside the province; you might have one in Gauteng and then have to make it to another one in Limpopo in the same night; you probably have like three hours to make it there, and that’s what makes it unsafe for us on the road. We’re chasing the next gig with little sleep. Moving in and out of hotels, the travelling, less time with family—it gets hectic. You miss out on special moments because of the work you do. Is it worthwhile, though? Yes, it is, but you also have to be able to manage yourself. There are things that are more important than a gig, and you should be able to prioritise those things.

How important is it to you that you build a brand for yourself that goes hand in hand with the music you offer?

It is important; at times, people won’t really know you for the type of music you make but for the brand that you sell them. Brand alignment is not easy, nor is figuring out what makes you appealing to an audience. I wouldn’t confidently say I know what mine is because I am still trying to figure it out. I don’t know yet what I should focus on; I don’t know if it’s in how I look, speak, or dress. If it’s because ndi MuVenda or the type of music I play, I haven’t figured that out, but I feel like that comes as you grow as an artist. The more you are in the space, you tend to learn more about yourself as an artist, what you like, what you can focus on, and what’s going to help you establish your brand.

You’ve had a phase where you were balancing life as a musician and as a student. How was that, and does being able to “juggle” the two make obtaining your qualification even more significant in hindsight?

When I start something, I must finish it. My thinking at the time was that our industry is not necessarily sustainable in the long term. You could be hot for the next few months, maybe, then not for the next ten or so years; hence, it’s important to still be doing something in those times when you aren’t hot. There will be times when there are fewer gigs, and you will have more time for yourself. You can then balance and maybe do work and have gigs here and there.

For me, at the time, balancing school and gigging was really tough, and it became even more hectic towards the end of 2021 because that’s when I was gigging a lot more as a performance DJ. That peak caught me at a very bad time. At some point, I remember my parents being very worried because they didn’t really get it. I was at gigs almost every weekend, and yet I had assignment submissions. I would travel with my books to gigs and get some studying in whenever I could. It worked, but it needed a lot of discipline. I actually shocked my parents because on the day we celebrated my graduation, they were like they didn’t think we’d be where we are right now because they had accepted that this was not going to happen. Also, we have this thing where no matter how much I get for my tests, I would have to send it to my parents so they would know how much I got for the test—basically, no hiding. Exams were different because you didn’t get the results then, but they knew how I was performing. If you want it to work, you are going to have to make it work because these people are thinking this is not possible, so just try and prove them wrong. It was quite a journey.

You’ve done a lot of collaboration work; is this the tone, and can we look forward to more? Who do you look forward to or hope to work with?

Yeah, on my own, yes. I feel like collaboration works as it blends creativity from both or all angles, which then creates magic. I do try to work with other guys that I meet. It works for me because maybe sometimes you won’t be able to push a release on your own, but if there are 3 or 2 guys in a song, we each have our own audience, and we boost each other’s audiences. Also, building relationships—maybe working with another vocalist or producer—is going to help me with working with other vocalists that they work with.

Collaboration really is the way; I just hate having a lot of collaborative work on one project or too many people on one project. Sometimes there are people who don’t do much or anything at all, but they just want to be there. Less people on the project allow you to tell who is who.

In your immediate future, what can we look forward to? ~ [pre the release of URANGANI]

There’s a project I want to release, but it’s like a very short project—maybe 5 to 6 songs—an EP. I do also have other projects I plan to release, but this specific one is fully Amapiano. I do also have a few songs on Sino Msolo’s upcoming project; we did an Amapiano song and a soulful house song, and this might likely drop this ear as well. I also have two other singles I was featured on that will likely come out now in November.

From next year on, I plan on having a lot more music out and having a consistent pattern for my release, as I’ve seen the importance of that. I also want to but out some music videos from the project I’m about to release. so I can put myself out there; most people just see the name but don’t really know who the guy is.

It’s a bit out of my comfort zone, but important for the brand. I also want to get back to the monthly mixes.

that people knew me for, perhaps in a live format this time around.

I might also add another graduation belt; if all goes well, I should be studying next year, starting in January, and I’ll be back to that balancing.

What is success to you?

For me, success is being happy with where I am and what I have. Being happy with what I have set for myself and achieved. Not being stagnant, having more to work towards.

Connect with Leroyale, here