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Conversations with Joe Niemand

1. Before Filling up the Dome in 2012 take us back 10 years prior to where your journey
as a recording artist started.
I studied music after school and got into writing songs for some established artists.
After my studies I worked in theatre for a couple of years doing different shows and made friends in
the industry. One of my friends asked me to write him a song for a national competition and when
he came to my house the night before the recording, we started harmonizing and something just
clicked. He asked me to record it with him and we ended up winning the competition. The prize
was partial funding for an album and that was the first experience I had of writing an album as a
concept, rather than just individual songs.

2. Your first solo album “Reborn” achieved great success and singles were on the 5FM
top 40 for almost a year. How did you handle the pressures that come with such
successes?
The big difference was that I had found my identity by the time I got to make Reborn. It was a
transformative time and one in which I really wanted to find my voice and express this treasure I
had found among the wreckage of my life. I found God in a piece of music I had written and
followed the trail to something so incredible that I was willing to trade everything I had to pursue it,
or Him.
I have always wanted to have music that was famous but was not really interested in being
famous. I think that helped me to not fall into too much personal pressure. The fact that people
were responding to my music was a dream come true and spurred me on to find ways of
expressing the peace and confrontation I had found between God on the one hand and my human
nature on the other.

3. You were Graced to be part of the Record Breaking movie “Faith Like Potatoes”.
How did that opportunity come to be?
I had a call one morning early from the producer and I was aware of the project, because a close
friend of mine, Frank Rautenbach, was playing the lead. It was a week before I was set to leave for
band tour in the US. The film's timeline was so tight that they needed a theme song before my
return and as I was about to turn it down, When I felt that little voice say to me, "Tell him you'll call
him back" I did that and had this strong sense that I should try and do it in the week I had.
I called him back and asked him to pick me up at the airport in Cape Town and left for O.R Tambo.
That was a Wednesday and I spent the rest of the week in Cape Town having meetings with the
team and watching some of the cuts of the film. I was back in Joburg to write the song over the
weekend, recorded it the Monday and Tuesday and left for the States on the Wednesday.
I often think what a critical moment it was there in my kitchen, deciding to go for it.
That song was the way I got to meet Angus Buchan and be part of the Mighty Men movement.
I would not exchange that for any opportunity in the US and I thank God that I did give up the US
as dream, to stay in SA and be part of what God started doing here then.

4. Having sold over 1 million DVD’s and translated into 36 languages, what doors did
your feature on the movie open?
The most significant door it opened was for me to get to know Angus Buchan and have him
become a father to me. He really valued me and his faith in me and the gift God had given me was
life changing for me. I started believing that God could touch people through my music the way he
had touched me in the beginning. That is what drives me through difficult times, the belief that God
can actually change someone through music, he did it with me.
I have seen great miracles happen before my eyes, I have had the incredible privilege of singing
live before crowds I could not imagine were possible and I have had the joy to know that I was
where I supposed to be, the place He had prepared for me.

5. You have many successes, so much I believe a book should written about your
journey, but with successes come great challenges. Please share with our
readership what challenges you faced and you overcame them
I think the magnitude of who God is has allowed me to look impossible odds in the face and know
that He is always bigger. That does not mean that it gets easier… Somehow it gets harder.

It always comes down to a choice. If I believe that I am in God's will with something, I can run
through walls. But the first price one always pays, is your reputation. If you are not willing to look
like a fool, you cannot follow God into the unknown. He leads me step by step and that means not
being in control. The fear of what people will say if I fail, or what I could lose if I am wrong, are very
powerful limiters on faith. But God has never let me down. Even when it feels like it's all over and I
have no way out, He has always made a way, in His own time. My biggest victories are in my quiet
room, far away from any stage. That place where I kneel before the King and He gives me hope in
spite of my circumstances, power in spite of my weakness and forgiveness in spite of my sin.

6. I stand to be corrected but in 2011 you did something that no other artist had done
before and no other artist has done since, you released “Ek sal nie bang wees nie”
which achieved Platinum status and you released ‘Revival: The anthems of Joy”
featuring Tshwane Gospel Choir within two weeks of each other. WHAT DROVE YOU
TO DO THAT?
All I know is that it seemed like a good idea at the time! I am Afrikaans and had not made an
Afrikaans album since my first one and I have always loved African voices and music. It was a
crazy time between the two projects at the same time, but I had the opportunity to work with
Tshwane Gospel, whom I love and I think we really pulled it off.
At the Mighty Men Conference in Polokwane at that stage there were not a lot of black people and
I was nervous about klapping the boere crowd with full on black gospel music, but that is what I
believed I should do. I will never forget, on top of that the Friday night it started raining and
everyone was huddled together. It was a disaster, here I am trying to make a largely Afrikaans
farmer crowd dance to black music and it's raining! We started in full swing and everyone just
looked at us from under hats and jackets pulled over their heads to try
and keep dry. From about 20 rows back an old man stood up and in front of everyone started
walking down the middle. I knew that if he left, any chance of us reaching the crowd would be
gone. He walked to the front and as he turned towards the exit he stood still and then, there in the
mud, started dancing. Here and there somebody stood up and started dancing and them
something just broke. Everyone was up on their feet and going for it. Right in front at one stage a
very big farmer fell over in the mud dancing so wildly and there were two black guys trying to help
him up. He was so huge and covered in mud that every time they almost had him up, they would
down too. It was chaos and it was brilliant.

7. If that wasn’t enough you also wrote, co-produced and played the lead role on the hit
production “Ester Die Musical”, all in the same year as the albums. What kept you
pushing for more?
Initially I was only going to writing some of the music and then it turned into all the music, and then
I got involved with the script and ended up as a producer of the show. When we couldn't find the
right king, the other producers asked me if I would do it. The reason the Ester musical will always
be the most important one to me, is because the lady that played the lead opposite me ended up
becoming my wife. The musical was a hit but finding my partner changed my life forever.

8. Let us into your journey with Christ, how did you meet Him and how has your
journey been?
After some initial success in my career I started to realise that success did not mean what I thought
it did. I thought it would be fulfilling and give me peace. It actually had the opposite effect. Every
time I reached a milestone I was confronted with the reality that if I could achieve that and still not
feel fundamentally different, that my chances of anything ever doing it for me were getting smaller
and smaller.
There was a song I had written for a film and every time I listened to it on tour, I felt peace. I must
have listened to it 100's of times and the moment it ended, the peace was gone. Eventually I
started realizing that there was something about the song, or in the song, that was lacking in my
life.
I ended up on a mountain in Cape Town one night after a production and said to God that if He
wanted to say something to me, He should say it or leave me alone. I was very depressed and felt
like He was hounding me. I decided to sit there until He spoke to me and while I was waiting I
made a list of things I would say if He arrived.

It was a long night, but in the end, I really knew that I had met with a God much bigger than me
and my world. I didn't change overnight, in fact I’m still changing, but that was the night my life
turned around. I walk with Christ in a very simple way, I spend time with him and I try to get over
myself every day and when I work very hard, he does everything I can't, which is by far the most of
it.

9. What keeps you grounded in Him amidst all your successes?
My family, friends and my church.

10. In the years 2017 and 2015, South Africa celebrated two its sons, Gospel artist Dr.
Tumi and Hip Hop artist Casper Nyovest for Filling up the Dome. You Filled UP The
Dome in 2012 with “Night of Lights”. What drives your ambition to keep going for
greater milestones?
The only reason I attempted the Dome was because I felt lead my God to do it. My career was
going well, but it did not make sense for me to go for something as huge as that on the strength of
it. I salute Casper and Tumi and I hope that more SA artists will get the chance to play the Dome.
The biggest challenges come in the dips, the quiet times. I have started a family and I took a
sabbatical in 2017. One of the most liberating things to learn last year, was that God does not need
me. I am His son and He wants me, but my destiny, my life and my music is at His disposal. I have
learnt that that is where the amazing things happen, even when it means that nothing happens.

11. What can our readership expect from you in the mere future?
I am going to put a team together and create a musical that we are going to open on the West End
in London. We have incredible talent in this country, but we tend to not tell our stories.
My dream is to take a beautiful musical to the world stage with our own talent, telling our own
stories.

12. What collaborations can we look out for?
I will be focusing all my time on the musical for the next two years and I hope to work with the best
our country has to offer the world!

13. Any last words of advice or wisdom you would share with a you artist seeking to
follow in the path you have travelled?
I would say that you must work hard and make sure you do well at the small things. You must build
trust with people and be dependable. Many talented people never reach their full potential,
because they get impressed with themselves and start believing that the world owes them
something. Fear God and nothing else and be sure to take people with you. Being goal driven is
good, but it means nothing if you can't share it with the people you care about.