The entertainment industry grew in the leaps and bounds the day Willem Botha entered it. Since 2006 he’s kissed Idols loyalists and since he’s hugged tens of thousands of his own fans with two award-winning albums and major movie and theatre roles to boot.
At 25 most young South Africans are happy with a qualification and, even better, a steady job to help build their dreams. At the same age Willem stands on the cusp of releasing My Stem Is Joune, his third, highly anticipated Sony Music album, all while waiting for his next movie, Pretville, to hit the silver screen in November.
Never one to take any part of his multifaceted and highly decorated career for granted, Botha makes work of pushing himself, and his God-given talent, to the edge of even bigger things. “I’m living my dream,” he acknowledges. “I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be more than just a musician. First and foremost I’m an entertainer, in every sense of the word.” Singer, dancer, actor and more recently songwriter, Botha’s on another growth spurt, and the benefactors are the ever-increasing number of fans that share a love for world-class entertainment.
To confirm that there’s plenty more where the last two albums came from, July 2012 marks the release of Botha’s brand new, 13-track album. Offering a level of maturity and sophistication fans familiar with 2006’s ground-breaking debut, KôMa Hier, and 2010’s Sê My Nou SAMA-nominated follow-up will relish, My Stem Is Joune is filled with bold progression. “I wrote “Vat Oor By My Jesus”, “Breek Op Met Jou In Stereo” and co-wrote “Sad Song” – something I’ve never attempted before, and I loved the entire process,” he says. “This album is a game changer for me. The songs are all incredibly strong thanks to the great team of talent songwriters Johan Oberholzer and Machiel Roets. Roets, best known for the hit single “Liefling” (the title track from Liefling Die Movie) co-wrote “Sad Song”, and Oberholzer delivered eight songs, including the title track to Botha’s new hit-peppered fan collectable.
Botha may already be successful, but he wakes every day, open and keen to embrace the industry that feeds his ever-evolving ability. Music is also just one facet of this multi-talent’s other gifts. Having made his movie debut in 2010’s Liefling, Die Movie (officially the most successful Afrikaans motion picture of all time) Botha’s equally excited at the prospect of his next role in Pretville, due for release in November. “I don’t believe in luck,” he says matter-of-factly. “You create your own. I work incredibly hard, every day, to find opportunities and work with people great, like-minded people.”
With time comes experience and maturity, two attributes Botha’s harnessing at every turn too. “My vocal ability has grown and improved,” he responds when asked how My Stem Is Joune compares to his previous two releases. “The overall sound of every song is strong. The quality and production is also the best it’s ever been. I write about life, experiences I have lived through, so there’s a level of honesty and integrity there that I’m very proud of.”
As far as the music he writes, sings and performs, Botha’s not precious about any aspect. “I don’t mind what I sing,” he adds. “If people enjoy it, that’s what makes me happy. ”
Botha’s also no stranger to sharing stages with the likes of Steve Hofmeyr, Kurt Darren and Nicolis Louw. “It’s always a great privilege to be invited to play with the like of Steve or Kurt,” he says. “I will be taking My Stem Is Joune on its own tour too, and we’ll go to wherever the demand is. I love playing live, and being on stage, that’s when I am in my element. That’s where I am truly content.”
A stickler for detail, and insisting that every aspect of what he touches is the best it possibly can be, Botha made it his business to influence every aspect of My Stem Is Joune – right down to the artwork that adorns the album sleeve. “We shot the cover on a horse farm outside Pretoria,” he shares. As a Springbok rider, Botha still makes time in his hectic schedule to ride at his horse-trainer brother’s school. “I grew up on a farm in Riversdal, so any opportunity I get back in touch with my roots I jump at it.”
One spin of My Stem Is Joune will have long-time fans beaming that the best parts they’ve got to know and love about Willem Botha are all still very much intact. “I’ve even included a club mix of “Breek Op Met Jou In Stereo”, as well as a three-song medley of songs from my debut, KôMa Hier,” he says. “I’ve been performing the medley at almost all of my shows. Now, for the first time, fans can take the experience home with them and play it, at full tilt, as often as they like.”
Botha knows where his bread is buttered, making work and takes time to respond to every aspect of his social media reality. “I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter,” he points out. “If I have fans making the effort to talk to me, I look to return the favour. Since the early days on Idols I’ve been very active online. It’s a great way to stay in touch with the people who allow me to keep doing what I love.”
Willem Botha may have already tasted success, but he’s hungry for more, and even happier to prepare every meal himself along the way. “There’s a great saying that I’ve adapted. It’s become something of a mantra for me, and sums up how I live my life. It goes something like this: ‘The elevator to dreams is broken, so I take the stairs.’”
Between a family and good friends that all help to keep him grounded, through to strong management and a record label equally invested in his future, Willem Botha surrounds himself with talented people. “What I do is often filled with challenges,” he concludes. How many people get to do what I do? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t stop and give thanks for every opportunity I get. Hopefully fans hear that in the songs, and more especially when I perform live and get to thank them in person.”