Before my dad passed away, I had the chance to show him the film and explain that he was the biggest influence in the moulding of the older Mandela. I moulded how Mandela moved on my old man, they have very similar traits. Tree is the most personal song on this album for me. After spending three weeks in the studio, I knew it was time to write a song that addressed his passing. The perspective is like, "He's gone, man. I wish I could say this to him." And that's how the first lyric came; it was really sort of a love letter to him.
I'm well aware of the stigma that comes when an actor works on music. I hate that preconception, but the only way to fight it is to be completely honest about it: this is who I am, this is what inspired me, this is what the album is about. I'm not hiding behind any gimmicks. It's been a really long journey to release this album - I spent almost a year playing Mandela - and I'm really excited that people will finally be able to hear it.
If I'm honest, the idea of making this album was an afterthought. I spent eight months working on Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. Mandela was really into his music and part of my research was to understand what he liked. What I probably didn't realise at the time was just how much there was to discover. In the course of that journey, I felt like I discovered the roots of South African music. And there was so much to discover! South Africa has over 60 different tribes, and each has its own style of musical expression and its own unique style.
I thought that we lived in an era that looked back on the horrors of Rwanda and Yugoslavia and said 'never again' and meant it. Sadly I think the crisis in Syria proves all of us wrong and we are all collectively guilty for allowing the country to collapse as it has. Three years on and we see both a biblical level exodus combined with a levels of violence that few of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams. Over nine million people, nearly half of the country, forced from their homes and on the move exposed to a new life of uncertainty, poverty and too often despair.
Many say January is the most depressing month of the year but I love it. It's a time for new beginnings, a fresh start, refocusing and looking ahead to the next 12 months. January is also awards season, meaning that red carpets all over the world are, for a brief few weeks, the focus of the world's media.
In the epoch of the twitterati - when culture is more and more served to us in palatable, postmodern, bite-sized fragments, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is pure old-school - providing the grand narrative of a life very much in the style of the epic film of yore - think Ghandi or Ben-Hur, for instance.