Arno Carstens sounds as chilled on the phone as he does in most of his songs, his mellow voice fluid and sonorous as he gently answers questions during an interview.
We’re well into our conversation when I ask him about the old days and his journey and where he’s arrived in his life. The former Springbok Nude Girls lead singer, who switches effortlessly from English to Afrikaans in his prolific ballads and rock numbers has been a hit ever since he made his debut round 1994.
It’s not so much that he keeps reinventing himself as that he’s developed well – at the age of 47 he’s like a full-bodied smooth red wine at its peak of enjoyment that’s simply getting better and better.
Countless awards, countless headliner acts for major concerts, an incredible discography and both intimate and big concerts have not given him a bigger head.
He’s headlined just about every major South African music festival, performed at the Isle of Wight Festival, the amazing Glastonbury fest, V Festival, T in the Park and Hard Rock Calling. He’s toured with The Rolling Stones, U2, REM, INXS, Bryan Ferry, Simple Minds, Ultravox, Paulo Nutini and The Police.
And as if that’s not enough he also featured as lead vocalist and co-writer on three tracks on the Mike and The Mechanics 2011 album The Road.
His demeanour could almost be said to be softer these days as he comments: “Today it’s the best time of life. I’m deep into music and also painting. When I was younger I was really busy socialising.
But nine months ago I stopped drinking completely and now the creative juices just flow. (He paints in oils and acrylic on canvas and draws with charcoal on paper and has worked with well-known artists Lionel Smith, Beezy Bailey and the late Barend de Wet.)
He adds, “I just don’t seem to be tired anymore and it’s been incredible – how I’m bringing my music to more and more people.”
To that end, two new singles have just been released – the simultaneous third and fourth singles releases Don’t Let it Be and Out of the Blue. He tells me, “Don’t Let it Be is a juxtaposition of what’s going on in our world and I couldn’t believe the way it worked out – it’s just really beautiful and sits on the other end of the spectrum from the more up-tempo feel-good vibes of Out of the Blue.”
They follow on the two releases earlier this year, Lift my Spirit and Empire of the Night, all part of the puzzle pieces that’ll ultimately form part of a seventh solo album.He refers to the emotive ballad of Don’t Let it Be as “an honest reflection and yearning for a positive outcome against the harsh nature of reality” and says of the sum of the parts, “With these two songs, a fuller picture takes shape of what will be the scope and depth of a fractured album release that will evolve in parts, and complete – once all of the pieces are compiled .”
Talking about 2019 he says, “As amazing as it has been there’s always space for more success; for more shows and to bring my music to more people. I’m busy writing this new album,” and he says, “As amazing as it has been there’s always space for more success; for more shows and to bring my music to more people. I’m busy writing this new album,” and adds, as if we don’t know that already, “I want to show it’s not a flash in the pan…”
And the good news is there’s also be plenty opportunity to see the man live with a host of shows as the year winds up on a high note for this talented musician.
His positivity about things in general is tempered with a sobering thought on the state of affairs in the country. “The debt stays the same and things are definitely more costly if you’ve got a child but, ja, there’s no space for pessimism.”My new year’s message is in fact just be positive and think outside the box…”
* Here are some of his gigs he’ll be performing in the next few weeks if you’re in the Eastern Cape for the holidays:
December 20: Emerald Vale Brewery, Chintsa East, East London.
December 28: George Showgrounds, George.
January 5: Cape St Francis Resort.
* Check out Arno’s Facebook page for more on his concerts and ticket details.