Fronted by New Zealand music stalwart, Andrew Spraggon, Sola Rosa once again pushes into new sonic landscapes with In Spaces. In Spaces builds on Sola Rosa’s trademark fusion of genres, from hip-hop and jazz, to neo-soul, latin and funk. It includes the already released singles Leave A Light On, which features Kevin Mark Trail, who rose to prominence in the early 2000s working with The Streets.
Back To You, featuring rising Kiwi sensation Noah Slee; and party- starter, So Fly. The record is Sola Rosa’s fourth EP and sits alongside six full-length albums, two remix albums, as well as a handful of hits, including the iconic 2009 tune Del Ray, which has amassed more than 2.5 million plays on Spotify and Turn Around, feat. Iva Lamkum, which has clocked more than one million plays. Andrew shares a few words with Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about the EP.
Is there a feeling of relief knowing the EP is done?
Definitely. There’s always a sense of relief after finishing any release but the EP was particularly good to complete as during he making of the EP I was also working on the next Rosa album. They are two different beats and I struggled a bit at times to focus on both. Can’t say I’d care to repeat the process again. Lesson learned. I’m very happy with how it came out regardless.
How do you think the Sola Rosa sound has evolved?
My music influences change all the time and therefore my sound evolves with them. In the early days I was very sample heavy in my production, then I started to collaborate more with players, then singers, then I put a live band together so there’s been plenty of changes in the sound on each album. I’ve dipped my toes in all sorts of genres but I’d say at the heart of it all I’m still a sucker for beats, soul and a head nodding grooves. The EP is quite electronic sounding with a fair bit of live instrumentation but definitely some new territories in the sound of tracks like Back To You and So Fly. Quite angular and assertive tracks. The album material I’m working on now is more laid back, simpler grooves and more live collaborations. I’m always trying to move forward, no real artist wants to repeat the formula again an again.
Did you feel challenged by In Spaces?
I did at times yeah. I’ll be honest, I really struggled to complete a couple of the tracks. I almost gave up at one point but then I collaborated with Jazz keyboard don Michal Martyniuk and the tracks started to sound more complete. Some tracks write themselves almost, some are like a problem child, they need time and love. Eventually you find the missing piece of the puzzle and its quite often something simple that leads to its resolve.
How was it working with Kevin Mark Trail?
He’s incredible both as an artist and as a performer. Kevin is a rare breed. He comes in to the studio loaded with ideas, positivity and is willing to try whatever it takes to get the takes. He’s not afraid to try crazy ideas. They don’t always work but often they do. I know him well enough to say if I don’t like something he’s sung and he’ll just say “cool, lets try something else”. That is very liberating in a studio situation. If you can leave your ego at the door the possibilities are limitless.
Is an EP the preferred focus now rather than a full length album?
Definitely not. I’m an album guy. I love the album format. Its hard to make an album and even harder to make a really good one. I’ve made some good ones and I’ve made some average ones. The average ones were made under duress and financial pressure. I’ve vowed never to be put in the position again so I’m taking my time with this next one. I like a good EP too but the industry is still very album focused. Don’t believe the BS about it being a singles market. Maybe if your Justin Bieber or Beyonce but not for Sola Rosa. Even with releasing the EP we were told by quite a few blogs and publications that they would give us more coverage for an album but not an EP.
Are you staggered by the number of plays on Spotify?
Plays for Sola Rosa? Yeah kind of. 3 million for Del Ray is crazy. Though if Spotify was as popular back in 2009 as it is now I imagine our numbers would be a lot higher. I really like Spotify, I’m not getting the revenue I was in the golden age of the CD and downloads but its not too bad and the platform itself is great, I have a playlist called Sola Rosa Selects which has 700+ followers as well as a few other playlists, I like that feature. I’ve discovered more artists through Spotify than any other. Also their Spotify for Artists site is incredibly important for seeing exactly who your audience is, where they listen to your music, age, gender etc.
Is it to early to think about the next release?
Always thinking about the next release. As mentioned prior, I’ve been working on the next album for the last 3 years or so. I’m off to the UK in September for the final vocal sessions and then its just finishing things off, mixing, mastering etc. This will be album number seven which is pretty mad.
Where does the inspiration come from for your music?
Music in general inspires me but usually my tracks start from a vinyl sample. Sometimes that sample gets flipped, buried or removed but I pretty much always start from a sample. The inspiration comes from that. I’ll then add a beat, bass line, keys etc. Then I’ll bring in players that can play properly and add more depth. I’m not much of a musician. More a producer guy.
Is there an Australian tour planned?
I wish. I think after the new album is released we’ll seriously look at heading back. Its been a while. Australia is in our top three markets. We have a fan base there, things just unravelled after the relentless touring post Get It Together and the Low and Behold album. I was burnt our physically, mentally and financially. I’m self managed now and life is good so its definitely something we’re talking about with our Australian booking agent. We did play Perth and Margaret River recently. That was a blast!!
Interview by Rob Lyon