Michael Lowman. Durban born. Jozi raised. L.A made. Cape Town based. Michael is far from your regular, run-of-the-mill, schooled and bread musician. His story is different. Something penned straight out of the Hollywood-Underdog playbook. At the not-so-tender age of 17, Michael picked up a guitar for the first time. Songwriting came naturally for this John Mayer inspired guitarist and he soon found himself in Los Angeles, heart firmly pinned and exposed.
Forward three years and you get a 20-year-old Michael Lowman posting videos of himself, up on YouTube, performing some newly written song ideas. It was these fledgling songs that would catch the eye of LOS ANGELES record exec Scott Austin (formerly of Maverick/Warner Bros and Capitol Records). As the head of, at the time, independent record label, Authentik Artists, Austin was focused on recording emerging artists and securing film and TV placements for their songs, and was immediately captivated by Lowman’s sound. Risking everything and completely of his own steam, the brilliantly talented young singer-songwriter made his way over to The United States of America to set in motion a series of events that would, ultimately, kick-start his career in music.
During Michael’s time in The US, he recorded an EP with industry legend, producer Mark Needham ( Fleetwood Mac, Chris Isaak and The Killers). Together, with the help of some incredible musicians and expert industry knowledge from Scott Austin, they pieced together a 6 track EP titled ‘ In My Own Words’ – this would be Michael’s first ever recording. The EP went on to do extraordinary things. To date, it has garnered a slew of T.V and FILM placements in the US, Canada and the UK. Many of which are still airing around the world. Perhaps the biggest of these being the use of Michael’s song ‘The One For You ’ in a season finale of The Kardashians show ‘Kourtney and Khloe take Miami ’ – the episode has since received several million views across the globe, all experiencing Lowman’s husky, tone-filled ballad in accompaniment.
It was these accomplishments, and more, that got the attention of the Major Labels . He decided to come back to South Africa and sign with EMI Music . He calls it Paying His Dues.
Since signing with the Major Label, Michael has exploded onto the South African music scene. He has played nearly every major festival and venue in the country and has had numerous hit singles. He has been nominated for a number of awards, including a SAMA (South African Music Award), an MK Award and an MTV Music Award .
Michael released his debut album , Crayon Boxes , through Universal Music (as a result of the merger with EMI Music) in September of 2013 – the response has been unforgettable. Just like in the US, the single Crayon Boxes was also soon snatched up by Property 24 in South Africa for a campaign, and Michael Lowman soon became a household name. Not only has he since performed for and supported international stars like Tori Amos and UB40 , but he has also shared the stage with African Mega Stars Mafikizolo , when he was asked to open up the 2014 MTV African Music Awards ceremony.
Staying true to his talent and perfectionism, it comes as no surprise that the follow up to Crayon Boxes took Michael no less than 3 years to prepare and release to the world. He is excited to finally set it free, and it is set for release in March 2017, with quite a few surprises in store.
Fans got a sneak peak into the new album, entitled PopRadio , when Michael released the first single from the album in October 2016. The single, called Mixtape and featuring renowned South African singer Karlien van Jaarsveld , was play listed on more than 25 stations nationwide, including charting on the JacarandaFM Top 20.
There is no denying that Lowman is one of South Africa’s most prized musical talents. It’s only a matter of time before the world starts making their claim.
Interview: Michael Lowman
The pleasure is all mine, thank you.
MA: Can we please get started with a short 101 on who Michael Lowman is? Where in SA are you from? Where did you grow up? How did music become a part of your life?
I was born in Durban, grew up in Joburg. I lived in Benoni for all of my school boy days. I studied a Jazz music course after school up in Pretoria, but dropped out when I got an opportunity to go to Los Angeles to kick start this musician life I now am lucky enough to have. Music was never an obvious choice growing up, it was a passion, but never a life long journey up until one morning when when I was seventeen. It was as if a switch was flipped. There was no going back.
MA: Was music always an influence in your life growing up? Was it a big part of your upbringing?
Yes. It was a massive part of my upbringing. My parents were always listening to great music. I was constantly being introduced to new artists through their love for the art form. They were just fans, of course, the muzo thing is first generation with me. My love for music comes straight from them. My talent for it however… who knows 😉
MA: Your “big break” came when you ventured over to the USA to work with Scott Austin & Mark Needham, who assisted you in recording your very first EP. How did this international connection happen? What did you learn from these two gentlemen in the process of your first studio recording?
Has someone ever told you that they willed something into existence? That they believed in something so greatly, it came to be? This is kind of the best way to explain my international connection. I am destined for something greater. I know it now and I knew it then. I remember waking up one morning with an infallible notion of what I needed to do in order for me to move into the next phase. Right then I grabbed my mom’s old SONY digital camera and recorded three live performances, nothing fancy, just a guitar and a voice, and I put them up on a newly created YouTube channel. From that moment it all just fell into place. I risked everything and boarded a plane with my guitar and I’ve not looked back yet!
MA: You then came back home and recorded your first full album, entitled Crayon Boxes. What were some of the different experiences from recording your EP in the USA and recording your debut album with Universal Music in SA?
The difference between the two record is solely down to the level of production and engineering. The US EP ‘In My Own Words’ was masterfully recorded by someone who is currently one of the best in the game for that style of music. My SA debut wasn’t, but that’s not necessarily a negative. Those songs were stronger than those on the EP and you can clearly hear an underlying theme of exploration, which would follow me into my latest album ‘PopRadio’ – music for me is a journey, not finishing point. I’ll always change.
MA: You have now released your 2nd full studio album, called PopRadio. Why did it take three years in the making?
I wrote and recorded PopRadio in just over two months, not three years like everyone seems to think. There were three years in-between the two albums, but that’s only because that how it played out. I fell in love with a girl, moved to Cape Town, set up a songwriting/production company (which I have yet to use) and made some mistakes in trusting people with my career. Life lessons, I guess. I am better off for everything that happened in that three year period, I feel that sense of knowing creeping up on me again. I’m excited.
It’s no secret I worked with Karlien Van Jaarsveld, Khuli Chana and Ross Jack on this album. Three amazing tracks out of a 10 track album that I am incredibly proud of. PopRadio is my deviation, it’s my exploration into production and pop music. It’s a banger!
MA: Where can people get a copy of your album PopRadio?
It’s available digitally everywhere.
MA: What are your thoughts on our local music scene at the moment?
I think its growing. I think the music is better than ever and the musicians are as skilled as ever. It has a long way to go still, but those flying the flag are flying it as high as it’s ever been. We’re in good shape.
MA: Is there anything else that you are currently working on that you wish to tell us about?
I have a habit of getting ahead of myself and shooting my mouth off. I’d rather let my work speak for itself, whatever work that may be. I’ll tell you one thing though, this is just the beginning 😉
MA: Where do we follow you on social media?
MA: Thank you for your time.
Photograph By: Glen Montgomery
Style By: Daisy May for ‘RealLifeStyled’