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Watershed

Watershed (n.): 1. Line of separation between waters flowing to different rivers or basins or seas. 2. (fig.) Turning-point e.g. in history. 3. (pop.) Catchment area. (f. water + shed ridge of high ground (cogn. w. SHED after German Wasserscheide) – or so says the New Edition of The Concise Oxford Dictionary.

In South Africa and Europe however, 'Watershed' is better defined as the band around songwriter and lead singer Craig Hinds – one of the most popular export products the Rainbow Nation has on offer.

Their latest album "Staring at the Ceiling" (translated into German: An die Decke starren - rather in the sense of contemplation than complacency) was released in August last year and has already reached Gold Status in South Africa. After Craig's return from a five week stint in America (including song writing collaboration in Nashville), Watershed will be on tour in the UK and on an extensive concert spree in Germany before the band returns to South African venues to consolidate their triumphant accomplishments on all levels, locally AND internationally.

The name of the band, 'Watershed', indeed refers more to the figurative meaning in the sense of turning point, in Craig Hinds' case a 'watershed' in his personal history. "We all come across turning points in our lives. They tend to come in the blink of an eye and can turn your life completely around. Negative or positive, you have to face them", rationalises Craig Hinds. The teacher-turned-musician/songwriter never considered music as a serious career choice. After his compulsory year in the Army, Craig studied teaching English and History for four years and worked two years as a high school teacher before he reached his personal turning point. "I had piano lessons as a youngster, but gave it up because I was bored of it", Craig confesses, "it only was during my time in the army that I picked up music again." Then, during his teaching years, Craig started playing music more and more, initially cover songs in restaurants and bars and, with growing confidence, "I threw in a few of my own compositions…" The reaction was overwhelming: requests for his music grew to such an extent that Craig had to decide which route to follow. "I guess I was always keen on the idea of bringing messages across in a positive way," muses the multi-talent, "as a teacher or as a musician. But I came to a point where I could not fit both under one hat anymore." He undertook to follow the musical direction.

A decision which 'propelled' him and Watershed into fame. Since their early beginnings in 1999, Watershed have delivered three previous albums ("In the Meantime" [2000], "Wrapped in Stone" [2003], "Mosaic" [2005]), of which one went Gold and two made Platinum. Each released single turned into a hit and dominated South African as well as European charts. Their single "Indigo Girl" was even recorded in Mandarin for the Chinese music scene.

It was "Indigo Girl", taken from their debut album "In the Meantime", that catapulted the band onto the radar of foreign territories right from the word go. A German radio disc jockey who heard the song whilst being on vacation in SA, was so enchanted by the ballad that he aired "Indigo Girl" on his German radio channel, SWR3, where it was play-listed due to popular demand. The song hit the Top Ten and the band visited Germany, where they performed at "Top of the Pops" and SWR3 New Pop Festival. "In the Meantime" was nominated for two South African Music Awards whilst Watershed was voted South Africa's Hottest Band by People Magazine for two years consecutive.

The extraordinary launch of "Wrapped in Stone" via a concert on Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg attracted more than 10 000 fans. The album received a much acclaimed SAMA, and Watershed an invitation to perform alongside the likes of Queen, Bono, Beyoncé, Annie Lennox and The Corrs at the Nelson Mandela 46664 Concert, held in Cape Town 2003.

For the production of "Mosaic", Watershed brought South African music guru J.B.Arthur, as well as Mark Hunter and Saul Davies (from the British rock group James) and songwriter/producer Ali Thomson on board. "Mosaic" won a SAMA and sold well beyond Platinum.

"Staring at the Ceiling" has effortlessly joined the success of its predecessors. So far, all three single releases from this fourth album, ("Breathing", "Train Ride" and "Future Sunshine"), went instantaneously Top Ten in the SA Airplay Charts. Plus: it earned Watershed an appearance in the music bible, the US magazine Rolling Stone, which refers to Watershed's sound as "feel-good, Mid-Western acoustic rock…"

Asked in how far "Staring at the Ceiling" differs from Watershed's previous albums, Craig analyses: "It has slightly more edge than the others. The first album was innocent, the second introverted and slightly darker in its lyrics. The third was harder, rawer and we started experimenting with sounds and producers. The lyrics were based on my personal thoughts on love, life and pretty much everything else, whereby 'Staring at the Ceiling' draws more on other peoples' lives, expectations, hopes and dreams and what could come from it. The track 'Jerry and Jenny', for example, tells the story of two people who are both experiencing a negative situation – the one tackles it, the other does not," elevates the songsmith. "But above all, we were fortunate to work with major talents in England. Their guidance was invaluable."

The 'major talent' Craig speaks of, includes next to tried-and-tested Mark Hunter, Saul Davies and Ali Thomson, the acclaimed British producer Eliot Kennedy, whose list of production credits range from Bryan Adams to Take That and the Spice Girls. The sonic touch of the UK based musical magicians is certainly present, but producers Eliot Kennedy and Ali Thomson have expanded rather than dictated the band's unique style.

There is a breathlessness that runs through the song "Breathing", "Train Ride" is an irrepressibly thought provoking song with a chugging, acoustic guitar driven rhythm, "Future Sunshine" brings back the charm of classic rock ballads and on "Jerry and Jenny" is the melodramatic character of the song masterly captured by using subtle piano, heavy guitar riffs and prevalent drums.

'Staring at the Ceiling' is most probably Watershed's finest album yet, another testimonial of their signature sound, piano-based rock of class and quality. It is a superbly composed amalgamation of organic sound, inimitable vocals, impeccable musicianship and Craig's gift for song crafting that creates the distinctive sound responsible for Watershed's instant success and fast growing recognition.

The next generation of dictionaries might want to include the additional entry 4. Watershed (etym.) popular South African piano-based rock band headed by lead singer and songsmith Craig Hinds.

Watershed is:

  • Craig Hinds – vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, harmonica
  • Nic Rush – lead guitar & vocals
  • Peter Auret – drums
  • James Sunney – bass & vocals
  • Hylton Brooker – keyboards

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