That’s a tricky space, as on the one hand, people expect such music to be useful; to have a function – which requires sticking to a template to some degree – and on the other artists need to have room to experiment to avoid becoming bored and stale.
“I realised from a young age, when people refer to gospel music they’re not talking about a style of music, they’re talking about something else,” says Diedericks.
“As most people know, the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’, not R&B or Baptists in long robes. So if people have already made up their minds about the way I should sound before they hear my music, they’re going to be disappointed. You’re not going to find Rebecca Malope or American gospel here. My new album, Beauty Of Difference, in particular, is all over the place.”
Diedericks has worked with some big names in international and local music, including Israel Houghton, Keith Sweat, Deborah Cox, Judith Sephuma and others.
What does he feel is so valuable about the collaborative process?
“I’m going to just say this,” says Diedericks, with a big, goofy grin.
“I’m coloured. I’m mixed. So it comes naturally for me to mix everything up! There are some dimensions you can’t get to on your own, but it’s different when you get these powerhouses into your space to write with you and produce with you. On this album, nearly every song has another artist on it.”
What about ego issues?
“You have to be unselfish,” says Diedericks.
“There are some things you’re just going to have to say: ‘I wouldn’t do it like that, but that’s exactly why I have you in here.’ Things have to hit you as workable, though. If something sucks, it sucks.”
Is the multiple-songwriter trend in Christian music likely to reverse anytime soon?
“I’ve always written about whatever I wanted to write about,” says Diedericks.
“And coming from Cape Town, I’m surrounded by music, from jazz to ghoema to gospel. You need to feel partnerships. I caught the end of the previous generation’s way of doing business with music and then, if you didn’t have a publisher to introduce you to another artist, you couldn’t set anything up. And he had to have a whole business model set up for that work. Now you can just call someone or perform with them and follow that up if you enjoy the experience.”
As a producer and successful crossover artist, how does Diedericks shape the work of those he collaborates with or guides?
“Social media has changed the way we record today,” he says.
“If you do a live recording, you have that immediate feedback from the audience, so you can see what is working and what not. Now, with social media, even if you’re recording in the studio, you can get in touch with your audience and see if they like what you’re doing. I know some people like to be in their own headspace, but it’s good to get feedback.”
What about mentorship? As a worship music writer, for instance, it’s important to ensure lyrics are on point and so on.
“I have it built into my setup that if I go somewhere to play, I’m going to speak to people,” says Diedericks.
“I get to ask questions as well, and that’s very valuable.”
> Neville D’s new album, Beauty Of Difference, is available now
> It’s his seventh studio album
> To listen to free MP3 versions of his music, go to facebook.com