It is late. Quite late – just after 22:00 to be exact. We’re in a car, parked in a half-deserted lot outside a still-bustling tapas restaurant. Rhys Pegram pulls out his phone, scrolls to his trusty notes app, and proceeds to play early iterations of some of his songs.
Through the modest cell phone speaker, bedroom-recorded audios ring out into the quiet night. An earlier form of his single “Infatuated” begins, “I’ll stick around just long enough / To spot the differences between the two of us / So I could say that I’m in love / Not infatuated“. Then “Phases”, “After all, I’m by your side“.
Stripped of their artful licks, the songs paint a candid image of Rhys as an artist: the attentive lyricist armed with an acoustic guitar, a disarming and charming kind of vulnerability, and soul by the bucketloads.
Fresh off an opening for Majozi last year, and with four singles under his belt – the James Bay-inflected “To Be Loved”, “A Little While”, “Infatuated” and the warm, lush and layered, “Phases” – the 24-year-old Jeffrey’s Bay native is gearing up to release his debut EP, The Patience.
A few weeks after our ‘Parking Lot Session, we sit down for a follow-up chat.
Recounting his experience of performing with Majozi, Rhys notes the humility of the artist and his “genuine love for those around him”, adding that, “the opportunity to perform with Majozi was amazing as you’d expect”.
He adds that Majozi’s willingness to share and impart his own knowledge and experience was incredibly valuable. For him the experience was an immense privilege, but this would not be the only time Rhys would share the stage with Majozi… “Yes!” He recalls, laughing.
Not too long after the Music Kitchen performance, Majozi moved on to the East London leg of the tour. “On his way back, he announced a pop-up show at a local restaurant”. At the time, Rhys was at home with his parents but was quite eager to come out and support. Upon discovering that “Majozi had somehow fractured his finger”, Rhys was asked to join him for a few numbers.
Speaking about the impromptu performance, Rhys notes that, “I think that every musician has a dream at some point, that they’ll be at a show and get asked to substitute for one of their favourite musicians so that the show can go on in spite of a freak-accident-injury. In practice, it wasn’t as easy as I had dreamt all those years ago”.
Some time into performing, he realised that only way to navigate the predicament was to “abandon every notion of what the songs were supposed to sound like” and feel his way through the set. “One or two mistimed chord changes (and a sheepish attempt at drumming) later, I found my feet”, he concluded.
Our conversation soon leads to his upcoming debut EP, The Patience, with Rhys explaining the inspiration behind the title, “‘The Patience’ feels like an arrival to me. Artists often go through a journey in life, then write songs about it.
It didn’t feel like I had gone through anything that felt big enough to write about when I started putting this EP together, but I think that the process of recording this project, and how the world has shifted over the past two years, has been a journey in itself“.
He elaborates further on the EP title track, saying that, “(it) speaks of waiting, and this longing for something that’s just out of reach – not just craving a break from the normal and mundane, but awaiting significant life-altering change. I think that’s something we can all relate to in some sense“.
“(We say things like) ‘Everything will change once I finish these songs, once I get to perform them live, once Covid passes’. The uncomfortable truth is that we need participate and take action. We need to make that change happen. Time passes either way“, he adds.
For Rhys, this feels like a metamorphosis of sorts; like emerging from a creative chrysalis. “I feel as though I’ve emerged from the testing fire, a version greater than the one that entered in. I think differently. I feel differently. I relate differently”.
On selecting songs for the project, he shares that it was a matter of “picking my favourite songs I had written, at the time“. Over and above the selected track list, Rhys also admits to having a few aces up his sleeve. “I have songs that I’m very excited about… They’ll have their moment. but right now, it’s all about The Patience”.
After years of being patient, 2022 finally feels like the right time to treat the world to The Patience. “If not now, when?!” He teases. “Sometimes you just know when it’s time, and the time feels right. It feels as though multiple factors have been falling into place, so I want to take the opportunity that’s in front of me right now”.
Speaking on the essence of the record, Rhys frames it in terms of a relationship: “it’s like laying all your cards on the table and hoping the person you’re talking to can live with them. That’s what releasing music feels like to me. “Here’s my stuff. I hope you like it… or at least don’t mind it”.
When putting together a body of work, artists always envision a message or key takeaway they intend the audience to have, and for Rhys, he confesses that, “Every writer wants a song that will bring change. As artists, we have the responsibility to leave an impact on culture. The words we associate ourselves with carry weight, so I’d like to use mine well“.
“The world has gone through massive changes in its understanding of what love is and what it looks like. At the pinnacle of my possible takeaways, would be the hope that someone’s perspective and perception of love is changed through my music”, he adds.
For those who are unaware… when Rhys is not commanding a stage, he is commanding creatives as an accounts manager in marketing. As a bonafide ad man, he tries to give us his finest attempt at a tagline for his upcoming EP, The Patience.
“I’m no copywriter, but I’ll take a stab at it. The Patience – a journey of finding love and finding yourself in the process. That’s right – I found a way to take a Hallmark Christmas movie and split it into five songs“.
Words by Simphiwe Mpho Zondani