Top 10 to Watch For – Sol [Interview]

Posted on August 11, 2014 by

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I have been sitting on this interview for far too long but I caught up with Seattle’s Sol after his year of travels to talk how he’s changed, Macklemore’s rise, his creative process and more.  He is one of Da-What’s Top 10 to Watch For in 2014 so take some time to get to know him even better. Definitely cop the Eyes Open EPcheck out the videos/music below and read about why Sol is someone you should be watching for.

DW: To get started, what exactly was the grant/program that you accepted to travel for the last 10 months?

Sol: While a student at the Univesity of Washington I applied for and was awarded the Bonderman Honors Travel Fellowship. It awarded me funding to travel the world for nearly a year soaking up game of all sorts. It was hugely life-altering and mos def had a big impact on me as an artist.

DW: What countries did you visit? India, Haiti…

Sol: India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania/Zanzibar, South Africa, Brasil, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, and finally Haiti which is where my mom is from.

DW: In your “Making Of” video, it looks like there is footage of you performing. What were the overseas performances like?

Sol: I actually tried to impose myself and my career on the experience as little as possible. It was more about having a wide range of experiences and learning from what these extraordinary places have to offer. With that said, as an artist I think certain kinds of situations just gravitated towards me. Even when not looking for it, I found myself in the studio in India or performing at Carnival in Brasil for a few hundred thousand people. It was bizarre.

DW: What was it like to watch Macklemore’s rise to fame from outside of the country? Were you able to keep up with the music scene in America?

Sol: In some countries access to the Internet was harder to come by than in others so staying up-to-date on American pop culture happenings was pretty hard (and wasn’t my top priority). However, I remember going through great lengths to get Internet fast enough in Uganda to download The Heist when it came out. The first time I listened to that album was on an early morning “mutatu” (mini-van turned bus) ride headed back to the capital city Kampala. It was a beautiful experience. Throughout my trip, Mack and Ryan’s successes reached me even in some of the most random countries. I remember being in the club in Sao Paulo, Brasil and hearing “Thrift Shop” and one time I was at someone’s house in Bogota, Colombia and they were playing some of Mack’s music. Having been friend’s with those guys since I was 15 and knowing how hard they work, I couldn’t be more happy for them.

DW: Yours Truly was doing very well, you sold out Showbox, and you seemed to be on the rise right before you left. In hindsight, how do you feel about your decision to leave the country when you did?

Sol: I’ve always had my visions focused on my higher goals. In the short term, leaving the US at a moment when I could have been home pushing my music was certainly scary but it wasn’t a hard choice. As an artist and a human being, the opportunity to step outside of my immediate surroundings and get in touch with people on a greater scale has given me a perspective that reaches way beyond all of my previous notions of music, community, and travel. I can see things that I was blind to before, and it puts me in a better position now that I have returned to my music.

DW: What was the first thing you did when you got back to Seattle? First spot you visited? Pasco?

Sol: I think the first place I ate was Lil’ Woodies. I hadn’t had a good cheeseburger in almost a year. I ate so much amazing food while traveling, but sometimes you gotta just eat a burger.

DW: What was different about making Eyes Open compared to your previous projects?

Sol: I wrote more than half of the material when I was still abroad, so my travels had a huge impact on my content. Even after I got back to the US, I was still processing the experience so anything I wrote and recorded after getting home is all still in the same vein. Another thing that was different about this project compared to Yours Truly is that we (The Zillas and I) locked ourselves in the studio and banged it out in less than two months as opposed to taking a couple of years. This was my first time making music without having anything else like school or another job to distract me and I was able to be much more prolific.

DW: Finally, I was hoping you could give an answer for part of my ‘Da’ What is Hip Hop? series where artists from around the world discuss what hip hop means to them and to their region. So what does hip hop mean to you and to your region?

Sol: Hip hop is a community and a lifestyle. Hip hop has no borders and no single look or sound. As a culture hip hop moves and mutates based on an individual’s history and struggle, liberating them by opening their imagination and creative expression. Hip hop saves lives every minute all around the world.