A new record deal, album and an upcoming tour, Watershed proves that not even a pandemic can keep them down.
While many of South Africa’s landmark rock bands have hung up their guitars, there is at least one that has weathered the storm that is Covid-19 and come out of it better than ever. The past two years have seen Watershed secure a European record deal with the German-based independent label On-Stage, release their seventh studio album and now they’re ready to tour not only SA but also internationally.
“It’s been an incredible 21 years,” comments lead vocalist Craig Hinds. Though as a band they started relatively understated, their debut single “Shine on Me” launched the group to national stardom, with the follow-ups “Indigo Girl” and “Letters” making them certified rockstars. Over the years, the pop-rock band have managed to keep up that momentum with plenty of chart-topping hits and, because of this, they’ve continued to tour beyond their home soil of SA.
At the peak of their careers, the band was blind-sided by Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown of 2020. “The pandemic affected our touring schedule with shows having to be cancelled and international tours postponed,” explains Craig.
While many bands weren’t able to survive the lockdown, Watershed regrouped and adapted. Craig and the band used their time at home to reflect on themselves as well as their music with Craig being able to spend this time writing more songs. The result? Elephant in the Room, an authentic, stripped-down album that mirrors the time we live in and daily frustrations felt, which was released last year. “We have had two great singles off the album, ‘Undone’ and ‘Empty Space’, with both doing really well and ‘Undone’ getting to number 1 on the charts,” notes Craig. “Both singles and the album are also doing phenomenally in Europe.” This sees the second time that standing Watershed lead guitarist, Gideon Botes produced an album for the band, having also worked behind the scenes on their 2018 studio album Harbour. “His production genius has added volumes to our new albums and our current sound,” adds Craig.
And, as things stand now in 2022, Craig says that the band is cautiously optimistic –finally, after two postponements, they will be touring Germany in June 2022. “All we can do is hold thumbs that things stay on the trajectory they are now and we can get back to some sort of normal.”
Though this is their first international tour since the pandemic, they have been lucky enough to do some live performances in SA and the band has enjoyed watching the crowds increase in size as things open up. “Touring is what we do,” exclaims Craig. “It’s fun and allows us to visit Incredible parts of our country and the world. We get to see smiles on people’s faces and gather more material for new songs as we travel and share.”
Reflecting on the state of music now, Craig admits that it’s tough. Streaming has had a heavy impact on artists with little to no money being earned through these channels. This leaves touring and live shows as the most important part of music for any band. “There is lots of music out there and some marvelous songs going around but it’s become more about sustainability. Are bands able to maintain a career?” he says. “The consumption of music is rapid. New songs are getting a few weeks in the sun but as quickly as they go up the charts they vanish at the same rate.” But, he says, it’s still very much about trying to build a loyal fan base that will support you to the ends of the earth.
And, Watershed can boast a loyal fan base that has been with them for over two decades. It’s this fandom that will most appreciate their next project which will see them re-recording their classic hits like “Indigo Girl” and “Letters”, while also allowing for a whole new generation to connect with their music. “We won’t change them too much, but it’s just really about recapturing them with more current sounds and a fresh vocal,” admits Craig. “I think my voice has changed over the years and I look forward to seeing the potential of these hits topping the charts again… who knows?”
For those who are going to their first Watershed live performance, you can expect a big show filled and amazing energy. They’ll be touring flat out in SA until May and then they’ll head for Germany for a big 13 show tour. Tickets are selling fast as people are clearly hyped to see the band in the element on stage. “At the same time, we will be working on new tracks.” teases Craig. “We will probably start tracking a new album later this year for a release early to mid-2023!”