Chasing the Dream with Gavin Ferguson

Gavin Ferguson has been a staple on Durban’s gigging circuit for a few years now but few know what he gave up to pursue his dreams. Lisa Welsh gets to know the man behind the guitar.

Photo by White Lens Photography



Picture the sun slowly setting as you relax in a buzzing beachside bar, listening to the sound of a qualified engineer as he strums a melody to get you in the mood for the weekend.


Strange, but true. If you have spent time enjoying live music in Durban recently, you may have experienced this very thing. Gavin Ferguson, a talented singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer, started life on a very different career path than the one he is enjoying now.


As a young boy, he made the decision to pursue a career that would allow him to help his single mom wherever he could. This meant that any dreams of a musical life were strictly confined to playing guitar and writing lyrics in his bedroom, and singing in the shower.


But one evening, while on an engineering project in Botswana, he was struck with the realisation that he simply wasn’t happy and made the decision to do what he could to make it in the music industry. I had the pleasure of chatting to Gavin about this part of his journey, which has led to some incredible opportunities and radio playlisting.


DIY: It must have been tough to make the change from engineering to music! How did you get started?

Gavin: It wasn’t easy and in fact, the hustle never ends. While I was working as an engineer I had been playing at any open mics I could find in the evenings after work, plus I have been writing songs since I was 16. I think that made the transition a little easier.

The very first gigs I received were from the artists that I had been supporting and watching for so long. Musos like Majozi, Stef Perlman, Roly Struckmeyer, The Kickstands, Phil Moffett, Rob Warren, No Fly Zone and of course Murry Caetano helped me tremendously. It started with opportunities to open for them and then eventually they offered me any spare gigs that they couldn’t take.

I felt so nervous at first, being on stage in front of an audience really brings out your insecurities! The pressure to maintain the standard that these guys were playing at was huge, but I was also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and follow my dream. I remain grateful and am still close friends with these guys today.


It’s great to hear that Durban musicians are so supportive of one another. How were you received when you started to play your own gigs? And how did it feel?

The feedback has been fantastic. I am a songwriter before anything else and feel that Durban has way more talented singers, producers and guitarists. So I am constantly humbled when I receive great reviews. One that stands out was a description of my voice being “just like honey: sweet but not over saturated, best served warm!”

The feeling of performing live is like no other. There is such an atmosphere when you can feel the crowd zoned in on you, and that moment of silence before applause is electric. I love learning songs that people enjoy and mixing genres to keep things interesting. It often translates to more work, because many of my bookings are from people that have seen me perform.



Photo by White Lens Photography


And how about those songs you wrote as a teenager? Do you perform many of your originals?

Singing my own music is my favourite thing to do. The whole process of songwriting, from capturing an emotion, coming up with the melody and chords to fit and finally playing live on stage is just so satisfying. I often slip my own songs into a set to see how the crowd responds.

My live shows include a groove of rock and soul, with a flamenco rhythm, plus electronic beats to get people dancing. I listen to a lot of commercial trending music, which has moulded my produced style, but I try to maintain originality in the songwriting process. I really believe a well-written song, regardless of genre, will be a success. I like to think that I write catchy songs. They drive my friends crazy because they can’t get them out of their heads!


You’ve come so far. What do you consider your highlights?

Without doubt, one of my greatest accomplishments is having my song “Graffiti Blues” played on 5FM, Good Hope FM, East Coast Radio and many other stations. And of course, I am proud to have played at many festivals, including Splashy Fen, and to have opened for some fantastic bands. My favourites would include Khan from the Parlotones, Shortstraw, Locnville, Jeremy Loops, Matthew Mole, John Ellis from Tree63, Majozi, December Streets, and Crash Car Burn.


What have you learned through your music career that might help others in Durban to follow their dreams too?

I thought that once you got a song on the radio, that things would change. But, the truth is I’m still hustling just as hard as when I first started. If I could give advice to any artists out there, it would be to lose the rock star attitude and always support other musicians. Play anywhere and everywhere, you never know who is watching!

Finally, I would say it’s important to respect the people behind the scenes of the industry. Those that do your sound, organise gigs and promote the music scene.

I love living my passion. It is definitely not the easiest lifestyle, but I wouldn’t change a thing!


Sound advice! Where do you hope to see yourself in the future?

I want to be a pioneer in the Durban music industry, not only for myself but for every other artist in Durban. I’d love one day to be an international songwriter and performer, but also to start my own label to give opportunities to others. So much talent is lost to us because future artists are held back by their financial backgrounds or the place they were born.

So, the next time you are looking for live music in Durban, keep an eye out for Gavin Ferguson. I hear he even gives out free shots sometimes! You can find Gavin’s music on SoundCloud, where it’s currently free to download.







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