Self-Portrait: SOLA

There’s a timeless quality to South London-based artist SOLA‘s productions. Raised on a diet of Timberland and Neptunes beats, before saturating herself in the cinematic sounds of Burial, Portishead and Arca, her own sonic efforts are a result of these multifaceted influences that have shaped her musical upbringing.

Drawing from ambient, electronica, R&B and soul, SOLA crafts experimental electronics laced with raw, unfiltered vocals à la Nina Simone, which she self-terms “warped soul”. Having released her debut EP a few years ago which caught the ear of Radio 1Xtra DJ and producer Jamz’ Supernova, this summer saw her become the latest signee to Jamz Future Bounce imprint with the single ‘Oh My Love’, which will soon be followed by an EP titled Mami Wata.

Ahead of the release we chatted to SOLA about her approach to production, alongside a mix of unreleased original material.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory

Playing Sebastian in The Little Mermaid in a musical in primary school. I did an embarrassing rendition of ‘Under The Sea’ that my mum still makes fun of me for.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

I got forced into classical piano lessons at a pretty early age which I hated at the time. My parents aren’t particularly musical but are big lovers of music, so pretty much tried to live their dreams of playing music vicariously through me. I definitely appreciate it now and really grew to love it as I entered into my teens.

What led you into music production?

I remember using GarageBand in a music lesson in year 8 and thinking it was the most mind-blowing thing. I would create the most silly joke beats that my friends would rap over. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided I wanted to take it more seriously and learn the craft. I wasn’t a confident singer at the time so producing just allowed me to have a musical creative outlet outside of the piano.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

I’m absolutely obsessed with early Timberland and Neptunes beats, they’re 20 years old and still sound like something out of the future to me.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

I work out of my bedroom, so I often go for a walk or run to get energized so I’m not tempted to get back into bed. I also find meditation really impactful, but I try not to put any pressure on myself before trying to create.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Sometimes, but I usually just go with the flow and see where I end up. If I start with a pre-planned destination it feels a bit restrictive, I rarely will end up near what I imagined.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

I used to be more of a perfectionist and as a result hardly finished anything. I’ve come to learn that perfectionism and creativity don’t mesh well for me. It’s all rooted from fear a of not being good enough. The past few months, I’ve been learning to let go. I’ll never run out of ideas, but have to accept that not all ideas will be great or perfect. As a result I’ve been making lots of impulsive sketches and then never listening back. At the end of the year I’d like to go through and see how much progress I’ve made.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

I used to start with harmony and chords on a piano. But now I’m finding myself starting out by just jamming on my drum machine, creating loops and then deconstructing them into a wider arrangement. Writing lyrics and melody usually comes later, but it’s not a set routine.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

It’s like 90% original. However I do lots of resampling of myself if that counts.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a SOLA track?

Me! I dunno, I would have said the piano before but I’ve been using it less and less these days, but keys always help provide a solid foundation to any tune.

This mix is comprised of 100% original SOLA material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

This mix is so random and I wouldn’t call it a mix in the traditional sense. It’s a collection of songs some sketches and unfinished, some older songs and some stuff from my new EP. It feels a bit weird letting some of the more raw, rough around the edges pieces out into the world as is. It’s also a bit of a mismatch in terms of genre and mood, from more hip-hop influenced beats to piano improvisations, but it’s definitely a holistic representation of myself as an artist.

Congratulations on your recent EP, Mami Wata. Can you take us through the production process on one of the tracks?

Seeing as I mentioned resampling earlier, I made ‘Try’ through sampling the vocals from the outro of ‘Prologue,’ another track off my EP. I then added drums and formed a more cohesive song around it.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

I’m excited to be releasing my new EP, ‘Mami Wata’ next month, the title track is out August 7th.

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