New Zealand musician, Sola Rosa's newest album is titled 'Chasing The Sun'.
Five years removed from his last record, last month New Zealand electronic, soul artist Sola Rosa released his newest studio album, 'Chasing The Sun'.
Fusing soul, funk, electronica, trip hop and indie pop sounds throughout, Sola Rosa worked with a range of acclaimed vocalists on 'Chasing The Sun'.
From regular collaborator and The Streets singer Kevin Mark Trail, to Basement Jaxx's long-term collaborator Sharlene Hector, and rising UK reggae star Kiko Bun, Sola Rosa worked with a who's who of session musicians.
Other collaborators include London pair, singer-songwriter Josh Barry and eclectic neo-soul singer Jerome Thomas, British reggae, dub MC-vocalist Eva Lazarus and Australia's Thandi Phoenix.
"In the early days Sola Rosa was a selfish studio project, but after the first few releases, I realised my limitations as a player, and writer, and started to collaborate with other musicians," Sola Rosa says.
"Through this process I realised how much collaboration contributes to each release. Each player brings their own life experience, style and skillset which creates music that is far greater than the sum of its parts."
There were five years between the release of your 2015 album 'Magnetics' and 'Chasing The Sun'; can you share what you got up to during this time? My whole M.O. for this album was to not cut corners, to take the time to fill it up with good tunes, I didn't want any filler. I also wanted to take time on production, mixing, collabs, artwork, physical product, everything really.
The last album in particular was rushed due to financial pressures. This is not something I would have admitted at the time, but I can see now that I had convinced myself that 'Magnetics' was finished, but if I'm honest it sounds like a bunch of good demos. I could have made that a great record, but we let it leave home too soon, it wasn't ready.
There was a point at the three-year mark while making 'Chasing The Sun' that I felt it was more or less complete but I decided I'd try and collaborate with a few, local music luminaries and they ended up bringing so much more to the record.
So I kept things rolling, and this all took a period of five years to get to the finish line. I should mention that I did put out an EP in 2018 and toured the UK a few times, so I certainly wasn't resting on my laurels.
What experiences during this time influenced and shaped the sound of the new album? To be honest, there have been some pretty dark moments since 2010-2015 with mental illness. I suffered through some pretty severe depression and anxiety, and with 'Chasing The Sun' I wanted to attempt to leave that behind and move forward.
I wanted this record to sound hopeful. I wanted it to sound like a slice of summer. For me summer means happiness, I prefer writing during summer. My happiest memories are being a kid and surfing all summer long, and I wanted to get back to that in some way, even though I'm not at the beach I'm stuck in a studio.
I think also spending so much time in London making this album had an effect on the recordings. I was totally in my element; it was exciting being in a city like London, working day to day in a studio and having artists come through to collaborate. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Tell us about your songwriting process? How does a song evolve from its initial demo to what we hear on the album? I generally start all beats with a sample. I dig through second-hand record bins and sample little snippets from those, cut the sample up and then start adding a drum beat, bassline, keys etc.
Once the beat gets to a stage where it has a vibe I bring in other musicians to add more layers and from there give it a basic structure. It's at this stage I will present it to other artists for vocal collabs. Once the vocals are done it's a case of adding and subtracting to get to the final arrangement: mix, master, boom!
You finally have some New Zealand shows coming up in December; how important to you is the live component of what you do? There have been a lot of moments over the last few years where I've thought about just being a recording artist.
I love live shows when the band is on fire and the stars are aligning, but to make that happen with Sola Rosa is hard work. Sola Rosa is not a band of writers like a normal band. I'm basically a solo artist that collaborates with a lot of people.
So when I work with all the artists from the UK, or wherever, chances are I won't be able to tour with them. Sometimes I can, but not always, and especially with COVID. So I have to bring together the best musicians and singers I can find to give justice to the songs, and the fans.
I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to this stuff. I've experienced great shows both onstage performing and also as a fan of other artists, so I set the bar high. I don't always reach that bar but that's the intention. However, it just so happens that the line-up right now is slammin' and we can't wait to take this album live.
There was plenty of collaboration on this album; from Kevin Mark Trail, Sharlene Hector, Thandi Phoenix, and more. Do you find these sessions bring a new energy to the songs? Absolutely! Historically, I have done a mix of home-studio collabs and remote collabs but with this album, 11 of the 12 tracks were recorded with me and the featured artist/s together in a room.
I reached a point where I am comfortable collaborating with strangers in a confined space, I quite like the process. Each artist is different, some are gregarious, some are shy etc.
It takes a certain amount of humility and patience to figure out who you are working with and allow the session to flow without making the other person uncomfortable, but once you get to that point where you are both enjoying the session there's an energy to that that you won't get from a remote session.
Which of your songs stands out as the most transformative for you in your career? Well if we're going by 'the hits' it would easily be 'Del Ray'. I don't know what it is about that track but it's the clear winner by far in terms of streams and downloads. People love the Mariachi horns and south of the border guitar business; who'd have thought it.
I almost chucked that song away, it was a hard one to write. 'Del Ray' is closely followed by 'Turn Around', which was much easier to write. Who knows what makes a song a 'hit'; if we all knew that we'd all be making them.
What's on your playlist for this year? Any particular albums that you've been enjoying? Albums not so much; part of the reason I wanted to try and make a great album is that I love a good album, start to finish, but they don't come by that often.
However, there has been so much good music this year. I have a Spotify playlist called Sola Rosa Selects; I put all my current faves in there. Artists I've been loving this year include Sampa the Great, DJ Spell, The Kount, Moods, Channel Tres, Suff Daddy, Mura Masa, Kutiman, Tom Misch and Troy Kingi.
What can we expect next from Sola Rosa? Will we see an Australian tour if things go the right way? We have a bunch of summer shows in NZ. I was supposed to be on tour in Europe about now to promote the record but yeah, 2020! An Australian tour is well overdue.
If we all get through this, I would safely say you can expect an Australian tour for sure and being one of our biggest audiences, it would be silly not to jump the ditch tour this album in 2021, fingers crossed!