DHLA pres. the Mr Serious aka Thato LePhoto innerview


Thato Lephoto, commonly known by his stage name Mr. Serious, is budding songwriter, DJ and producer from Sebokeng the Vaal Triangle. He started getting into dance music in 2013 and has been working on remixes, cover versions and original songs to introduce music lovers to his unique sound.

DHLA: Why Mr Serious?

MrS: Well it all started as a joke really, some of my friends would call me “Mr. Serious” claiming I take things way too serious. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m a fun loving person, I believe that when you take life too serious, it stops being fun. So ironically the name reminds me that I don’t have to be serious all the time.

DHLA: How would you describe your style of music?

MrS: The kind of music I always aim to make is one that is uplifting and that people can dance to. Something housey, with a touch of some funk. I play acoustic guitar and piano, so that’s my “go-to” starting point, then I fuse it with virtual instruments and synthesizers. That’s a typical Mr Serious track.  Normally I don’t categorize it, but if I had to choose, I’d say Tropical House, which is a sub-genre of Deep House, just a little less dark and less ominous.

DHLA: What do you love most about creating new music?

MrS: It’s an exciting and unpredictable journey, occasionally frustrating. But what I love is the ability to turn a vision out of my head into reality, that is a priceless asset I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world. For me song ideas always begin with a piano/guitar chord progression, then either a recurring lick or a story to tell in terms of lyrics, from then on I let the song take its shape, sometimes I end up sculpting away the original melody I started with. When a song develops into something better than what I had in mind, it’s like watching your baby grow. I love every part of it

DHLA: Where are you now in the music industry?

MrS: At the moment I am focused on singles, be it collaborations or solo projects and writing more songs. I believe that as an independent musician, I should always have longevity in mind and not be obsessed with the illusion of overnight success. Gradual growth and a steady pace will get me where I want go. All I can say is WATCH THIS SPACE!

DHLA: ... And where is it that you want to go?

MrS: Obviously releasing albums and being able to perform them around the globe. But my number one aspiration is to have my own record label and sign artists that make music that changes people’s lives. Music is one of the most unifying tool in the world, I mean the idea that two strangers can meet at a music festival and in just a few seconds be jumping, singing and hugging each other like they’re long time friends,  is magical. So I want to continue this magical process, pass it on to others and watch them pass it on too.

DHLA:What sets you apart from everybody else?

MrS: I am sincerely concerned with promoting other artists. I genuinely believe there is a lot of talent out there which should be experienced by others. I’ll share another artist’s work before I even start promoting mine. To me music is not just about the dancing, the parties, the money or the fame, it’s about connecting to people, sharing this magic that even plants and unborn babies respond to.

DHLA: Which artists do you listen to in rotation ?

MrS: Oh man, locally EnoSoul, Dino Michael, EchoDeep, ZuluMafia, Stones and Bones, Chymamusique and a lot of Kaylow, I love his vocals. Internationally it would be Syney Ferdinand, Kygo, SeeB, Sam Halabi, London Bridge, etc. I do listen to other genres apart from dance music like jazz, RnB, gospel. All these play a part in influencing and inspiring me.

DHLA: What are some of the difficulties you face as a budding producer?

MrS: At the top of the list of challenges is time. It can be your friend or your enemy, depending on how you use it. For freelance musicians such as myself, who do this on a part time basis because they either have a regular job or are still studying, it means you have very limited time to do everything you have to do, that translates into a lot of sleepless nights and less time to spend with friends and family. The other one would be the fact that it is almost impossible to get your songs heard on radio, even some local radio stations don’t want to play aspiring musicians in their area. And there’s also the legal issue, the dreaded copyright, exploitation and profit war. For an independent, you’re poorly protected when it comes to legal battles.

DHLA: The most memorable song you have ever worked on?

MrS: I can’t single out one, but the remixes are my favourite to work on. Taking another artist’s idea and giving it my own interpretation, it always leaves a smile on my face. I did an unofficial remix of George Michael’s Careless Whisper. I did a remix of Uwe wedwa by DJ Tears PLK featuring Sizwe, I had tons of fun with DJ Muzi GP’s Umalume. The current one I’m busy with is a remix of “For Your Love” by Stivie Wonder, I’m excited about that one.

DHLA: What is your Dream collaboration?

MrS: I would love to do something with one of the South African jazz legends, Selaelo Selota, Jimmy Dludlu, Ernie Smith or Ray Phiri. An ideal collaboration would be Toshi Tikolo on vocals, Mo-T on trumpet and a funky riff from Jimmy Dludlu plus a Mr. Serious beat. What I wouldn’t do for that. Something that can be played at a club as well as the Cape Town Jazz Festival.

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