Catching up with Werner Bekker

Werner Bekker is a full time performing musician with five years of experience in songwriting, composition, performance and teaching music. As a young boy music was ingrained into his existence. Growing up with creative parents, he traveled on tours throughout most of his young life. His musical upbringing and studies have allowed him the opportunity of writing film scores and acoustic singles for various artists; paving his way through the South African music industry. We caught up with him for a quick chat.

2018 has been a busy festival year for you including performances at Splashy Fen, Mieliepop and Oppikoppi. When it comes to preparing your set-list for a festival, how do you determine what songs make it onto the set-list and which stay at home?

I generally have a basic set list of songs that flow well. I mostly include songs that I have recently released or written seeing as they are quite fresh in my mind and the emotion behind the songs is still fresh in my mind. I also try and evaluate which songs evoke the most crowd participation at my local gigs and add them to the setlist to ensure the audience enjoys my set. Often I will veer away from my original setlist that I planned if I feel that the emotional dynamic of the crowd is steering me in a certain direction.

Of all the festivals you’ve played this year, is there one in particular that stands out as the most memorable?

They were all amazing for various reasons, I had a great time with my friends and family at Oppi, I really enjoyed the murky atmosphere at Mieliepop which brought out the darker side of my music and I really enjoyed the sit down audience at White Mountain and Splashy Fenn. I suppose each festival has its own draw and unique atmosphere!

I really enjoyed the murky atmosphere at Mieliepop which brought out the darker side of my music and I really enjoyed the sit down audience at White Mountain and Splashy Fenn

Are there any festivals, local or international, that you’d like to add to your “I’ve played there” list?

I would really love to play Barn on the farm in the UK one day, as well as Lollapalooza in America. Locally I would live to play Rocking the Daisies, Park Acoustics, Up the Creek and so many more. Strab is also on my wish list.

Your performance of “Run” on Balcony TV really showcased your unique playing style. How did you develop your style and did you find it came naturally to you?

I realised this style when I started listening to the likes of Ben Howard, Jon Gomm, Newton Faulkner and Andy McKee. I tried it out myself with a couple of covers and it came quite naturally, although I suppose one forgets the amount of practice that goes into honing your craft. Sometimes it feels like you just arrived at the spot you are at and the past is a bit of a blur.

Sometimes it feels like you just arrived at the spot you are at and the past is a bit of a blur

You worked with Deon Volschenk and Ruan Graaff on your recent single I’m With You. What was the recording process like?

It’s a sobering process to go from individual creativity to working with a team. You start nitpicking at your own songs and it can be hard to let parts of them go. But it’s so worth it in the end when you see the final product and it’s exactly what you have been envisioning since you wrote down the first lyrics. It’s a stressful and brilliant experience all at once; I’m always excited before hand, stressed during and absolutely pleased afterwards. These guys make every step look so easy and I really love working with them.

When it comes to writing your songs, is there a particular process you follow and what influences your song writing?

Deon and I had a chat about this the other day. It varies a lot, sometimes I just have a gut feeling and start writing, sometimes it comes from my own experiences and those of the people close to me, sometimes other art, music and films inspire me to the point of writing. I mostly start by writing a short progression on the guitar or piano and then the song solidifies when the harmonic structure moves me enough to put lyrics to it.

For those that don’t know the story about the guitar you hand built, what inspired you to craft your own guitar?

View the video here (forward to 2:48)

I have always liked building things with my hands and got inspired to build a guitar because of my passion for music and crafting. I contacted a local luthier and heard that he offers lessons. Hearing this I could not wait to enroll as a student and I am doing it to this day. It’s about 2 years since I started and I can’t stop. We built everything from raw materials. Holding an instrument you crafted with your own hands is really something else!

Do you have any plans to perform over the year-end?

I am playing at Smoking Dragon festival over new years and I am really excited to play for the awesome Natal crowd again, I’m pretty sure I was either a surfer or a dolphin in my previous life!

I have always liked building things with my hands and got inspired to build a guitar because of my passion for music and crafting

Where can people follow you online?

Facebook
Twitter: @WernerBekker_
Instagram: @wernerbekkermusic

Thanks so much, appreciate the support.

Interview by Free T-Shirt Stan
Photos by Xavier Saer, Nico Welgemoed and Greyline Photography