Dominic Neill is a cool dude. You may have seen him on Idols 5 years ago. You may have heard his new album, Out of My League. What you don’t know is that I got the name of his album wrong. I know, right. How embarrassing? Being the cool dude he is, he corrected me in the most awesome ways; (“it’s definitely Out Of My League last time I checked” *laughs*). But this songwriting, producer, artist, DJ and doer – of – all – things has done a stack in his quarter century. I got some perspective on his work ethic, business acumen and aspirations.
Richard Chemaly (RC): Dom! It’s been a bit of time since you released Out Of My League. It’s therefore a perfect time to ask, what were your expectations of the album and how have you fared so far?
Dominic Neill (DN): Expectation is something I seek to avoid because the music industry is fraught with unpredictability and I don’t think anything has ever gone 100% smoothly, so expectations mean you either get let down or you could even become a little entitled. Having said that, all I really expect to do is work hard and work smart and, in my mind, if I do that, I’ll do well, no expectation needed.
I’m chuffed with myself because I really took to the process well, but I’m lucky that I’ve been in studios for a long time now and I’ve been writing music since I can remember really so it was about making sure I just stuck to my guns. Working with incredibly talented people also helped put me at ease.
RC: When riding the wave of a new release, it must bring up a flood of emotions, time consuming interviews, gaining momentum on the music and the like. As a first timer, how did you keep it together and have you any advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
DN: It does and the first time I was in studio and heard “Out Of My League” play on air, it was super overwhelming and I think that was because I realized it was quite a big step in the symbolic sense. I also love interviews and I am just always incredibly thankful for any platform to showcase my work, my music so the excitement of that never fades for me.
You know, yes I was a first timer in terms of recording a full length album as a solo artist but I’d been in and around studios for years as a singer, songwriter and even as a paper pusher just soaking it all in and learning so the environment in that sense was not unfamiliar. If you couple that with the fact that the biggest record in the world backed me to go out and create a product, I had some serious backing and just wanted to dive right into it all.
In terms of advice, hard work is everything and relationships, relationships, relationships (I don’t mean sleep your way to the top *laughs*). When you meet people that move mountains for you, cherish them and make sure you hold up your side of the deal by working hard and repaying that faith and you’ll be fine. Nobody has ever made a career in music on their own.
RC: Speaking with following in your footsteps, you made reference to your label, Universal. I imagine many think it’s just about getting noticed at a competition but nobody knows the kinda seeds you need to sow before it rains. What kinda graft really goes into it?
DN: Idols or The Voice is one way to do it for sure, but it doesn’t guarantee success even if you are noticed or even signed. In my case, it took 4 years for me to really establish a relationship with the guys at Universal. First as a manager of one of the artists they had signed and then as a songwriter, before I even got a shot becoming an artist myself. This points to the previous answer again, I realized how much value Universal could give me and I made sure I worked hard enough to prove that I was worth what they could give. I also make sure I know as much as humanly possible about what’s going on in music in our industry in South Africa as well as abroad because that gives me such incredible insight and perspective when I’m working on something or writing something.
RC: I’ve been loving Game is Strong so I’m keen to see the video for that one day but now you’ve just released a video for Out of My League. How’s filming a music video make you feel and what kinds of pressures come with it?
DN: Stoked you like Game Is Strong, it’s one of the very interesting songs on the album for sure. Videos are so cool. Again it’s such a privilege to use another medium to showcase my music and I’m just so grateful. But in terms of the process of shooting, being on a TV show like Idols means that you’re so used to the process of filming and getting the shot etc that it becomes second nature.
In the video I just tried to sing the song on camera, the way I would if I were telling the story in the song. A lot of people have come to me and said “wow, you can actually act”, which is cool I guess. If the producers of Bold & Beautiful are reading this, give me a ring.
RC: As an artist who’s put in years of graft, what is your eventual goal? What is the thing that makes you say, “Aweh! I’ve done it!”?
DN: Again, I guess concrete goals are cool but I just want to stick by honest, hard work and the rest will follow. I was in Germany earlier this year to write (I wrote Game Is Strong over there), and I’m heading back in February 2018 to write for another two weeks so the aim is to just keep growing the network, growing the presence and hopefully growing the reputation. If I work hard and deliver and people like what I’m doing, I know doors will open and that’s what I’m going to try and do.
RC: Finally, you collaborate a lot. Who’s next and if you could choose, who would it be?
DN: Yeah, the more minds, the more powerful we are is something I’ve always believed in. I have a couple collaborations in the works that’ll hopefully come to fruition in the new year. Looking forward I’d love to work with people like AKA on a local level and then someone like Anne-Marie or Lauv on an international level. But who knows who might call me one day or who I might meet.