Jesse Clegg is a South African singer-songwriter whose three studio albums, When I Wake Up, Life On Mars, and Things Unseen, have made the 27-year-old a platinum-selling success in his home country.
We met with Jesse Clegg to talk about his North American tour with his father, Johnny Clegg, another legendary South African musician, and their joint efforts to raise awareness and funds to support children in need through SOS Children’s Villages.
Since we last worked with you, “Breathing” has been a hit. What feedback have you received about how that song affected people?
Jesse: The song did very well in South Africa and went to number 1 on the national charts. It’s a song about the importance of keeping hope alive and always looking to the horizon, never giving up. I think people responded to the positivity of the song and were moved by it. It’s always a wonderful feeling to know that someone connects with your song in that way.
Touring all over the world is physically demanding. How do keep up the strength and energy to impact a live audience night after night?
Jesse: It's important to keep yourself active both mentally and physically. I always have a book that I’m reading or a TV series I’m watching, something that engages me. I also exercise whenever there’s free time, that helps a lot.
Speaking about social justice comes very naturally to you. Where does that come from?
Jesse: My family has always been very politically and socially engaged. Living in South Africa, you get a real sense of the impact that activism and artistic expression can have when facing societal challenges. I also studied politics as part of my degree and have always had an interest. It's a huge honor to me to be able to use my music to help spread awareness for a cause that I believe in, that is one of the most powerful influences you can have as an artist.
Our staff have been inspired by the life and work of Nelson Mandela. How did his life touch you?
Jesse: He was a compassionate, talented and far-sighted leader with the sensitivity to understand both the oppressed and his oppressors. He sacrificed so much for his beliefs and managed to unite a country that had been deeply divided for decades. He was always graceful, eloquent and had a wonderful sense of humor. He taught us the power of will and of forgiveness. He was a giant of a human being.
Tell us about what emotions you are experiencing going into this tour with your father.
Jesse: It has been bittersweet for me. It is inspiring to see the outpouring of love and gratitude for my dad and the impact he has had on people from all walks of life. There's also a sadness in that this is his final world tour and he still so full of life and energy. Ultimately, it’s wonderful that it is ending on such a high note and we couldn’t have asked for a more special celebration of his life and career.
SOS is about creating a family context for children who wouldn’t otherwise have that experience. What are you most thankful for within your family?
Jesse: The trust and support of my family have gotten me through many difficult moments. We are very close and always confide in each other. I can’t imagine my life without them. That is why I feel strongly about this cause, I hope all children have the opportunity to feel the love and support of a family unit. It is a cornerstone of who you are and gives you an emotional foundation.