Having grown up in South Africa Jeremy Loops, a modern folk singer-songwriter captures the spirit of his native country in his lilting folk with an essence of city rhythms which is all incorporated with the help of his trusty loop pedal and harmonica. With Jeremy Loops imminently embarking on his massive European tour he finds time to answer a few quick questions for us.
Read below as we speak traveling the world, growing up in South Africa and Greenpop.
At university you were studying a business degree, what made you pursue music as career instead of a hobbie?
J: For the longest time, I believed my music could only be hobby. I think that’s why I pursued it so intensely. It was just fun. I’m a pretty pragmatic guy, and my upbringing was such that I always felt that a level of stability in life was more important than creative whims. I look at so many brilliant minds I know who just wallow in debt because they martyr themselves over their creative interests. So I was never going to let music be that for me. But when it came time to pursue a career in finance and property development, the idea just abhorred me. You know, it’s one thing to be stable, but another thing to hate your life and your profession. Luckily, after my degree, I had enough saved up from work I had done on a superyacht that I gave myself a three month runway to see if this music thing could work. It caught fire immediately, and even though we were in the thick of things for some time, especially in South Africa, I didn’t stop having side projects to make money until around the two year mark where other distractions were taking away from making music really viable. So in many ways, it wasn’t so much that I chose to pursue it as a career, as much as I just loved the idea of it being a career and giving myself the scope to see if it could work.
You’ve traveled all over the world, is there any place in particular that stands out for you?
J: I love where I live. I love Cape Town and South Africa for our raw natural beauty, but also because we’re a complex country with a hectic history and fascinating people. Maybe that answer is a bit of a cheat, perhaps you were hoping for something exotic and I’ve got those for sure, but the more I travel the more grateful I am of the place I come from and the person it made me.
What’s the best part about playing live all over the world?
J: Meeting different people from different cultures is the greatest reward of playing live all over the world. Even with all our differences, people all want the same things from life. Music proves it and I see it at our shows. We unite behind music the way everyone unites behind family, and friends, and just wanting a society where we can all be safe and all have opportunities to do meaningful things with our lives. This stuff seems obvious, but turn on the news and they’ll be quick to tell you ‘these people’ are barbarians and ‘those people’ aren’t and so on. Being in places where English isn’t even a first language and having people sing your songs back loudly to you and to see similar emotions no matter where in the world you are is all the proof I need that music’s important and should be celebrated everywhere.
Is there anything you want people to take away from or think about after seeing you live?
J: My music, and especially my album Trading Change, is about celebrating life, having the courage to pursue what interests you, and celebrating community. Whatever community you identify with and or belong in. As such, our shows are never asymmetrical affairs. We don’t sing songs to our audiences, we sing the music with our audience, and being a part of that experience as opposed to watching that experience is what we’re about. I just want people walking away from our shows thinking ‘holy crap, that was amazing, but also I love being around people and I’m totally going to do that thing with my life that I’ve been putting off doing for too long.’
You’re partway through a very extensive tour – what are you going to do once tour’s over?
J: Sleep! Haha. As soon as tour ends in the first week of December, I’d like to get away for about a week to recharge. And then I’ll be putting all my energy into completing album 2, taking just a short little break over Christmas for family time. I’m really excited about the music we’re writing at the moment, so that’ll be my big focus.
Your songs involve a lot of genre mashing, what inspired you to cross genres? Is it anything to do that with you having such a culturally diverse heritage and growing up in South Africa?
J: I think my culturally diverse South African heritage is partly responsible for my genre mashing, but I also grew up listening to anything that sounded dope to me. My parents played the classics at home – Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, and the like – but out on the streets with my friends skating and surfing we listened to punk music and underground hip hop. And I loved all of it and when it came time to me writing my own music, I couldn’t think of anything more boring than sticking to the rules of one genre just because that’s the way it was done.
Looping is evident throughout your music. What encouraged you to first try the technique?
J: I began looping while I was working on a billionaire’s yacht for two years after university. I loved playing guitar and making music and yearned to be in a band, but being out at sea with a crew that wasn’t really into making music, I had no band to play with. So I had to figure out a way to be a one-man-band of sorts, and that’s what prompted me to pick up a loop pedal. Over time, I got pretty good at it.
Not only are you a talented musician, but you also founded Greenpop, a reforestation project, why did you decide to embark on your own social enterprise?
J: On the back-end of my time working at sea and seeing all the unfathomable waste and damage the obscenely wealthy who came on and off that yacht, I felt a huge responsibility to contribute to the restoration of the planet and to help educate people on why it was so critical to do so. Greenpop actually started out as a short campaign where we planted 1000 trees during arbor month in 2010, but we had so much momentum and so much interest from a CSI perspective that it became a fully fledged organisation. We also realised just how big the deforestation problem around the world really was, beyond just buzz-worthy headlines. To date, we’ve planted 69000 trees in undergreen and deforested parts of Southern Africa.
Interview by Sacha Patston