Sola Rosa’s Savvy Seven

Music Industry Inside Out Interview with Sola

Sola Rosa is one of Kiwi music’s most evolutionary and enduring internationally successful touring and festival acts. It has been a near 20-year labour of love for the man behind the music, Andrew Spraggon. And this year, a new chapter begins for Sola Rosa with the release of the EP, IN SPACES.

IN SPACES is Sola Rosa’s fifth EP and it sits alongside seven full-length albums, as well as a handful of hits, including the iconic 2009 tune ‘Del Ray’.

Sola Rosa remains one of New Zealand’s most successful touring and festival acts, with Spraggon dividing his time between his hometown of Auckland and cities such and London, where he’s built up a loyal following. Recent shows include Secret Garden Party, Greenman Festival, Kendal Calling and Nozstock Festival.

We caught up with him so he could share some of his industry wisdom for our latest Savvy Seven, go on, have a read!

1) Who was your first musical inspiration? Why? Who inspires you now?

I was born in the 70’s. My Dad was all about yacht rock and my Mum was all about Abba and disco. My first real musical epiphany came when listening to Supertramp’s – Breakfast In America, I still have a photo with these big old 70’s headphones on and I was listening to that album. Fleetwood Mac’s – Rumours was a mainstay in our house also. My Mum had a shop called Rumours.

My first serious inspiration is hard to nail to one artist but the first band I was obsessed about would have to be Depeche Mode. I was so into synths at that stage in my life. At age 11 I started doing my paper round to buy my first keyboard, I was obsessed. The first album I remember being obsessed with was Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier. That album was so heavy with two drummers and a wall of guitars, it blew my mind. I was so into that album I did my own performance at a school camp and won first prize. I then had to perform it in front of the whole school. Hilarious!

My brothers were a massive influence on me musically in the 80’s and during this time I was introduced to a lot of punk, post-punk and US hardcore, though my influences were very initially still very synth pop based. I then discovered The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxsie And The Banshees and basically became a teenage goth. I got over my goth phase thankfully and in the 90’s it was all about indie guitar bands.

I was in my own band for six years by the name of Cicada, we loved Fugazi, Sebadoh, Sonic Youth, a lot of American bands as well as bands from the UK like Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 etc. In the late 90’s going into early 2000’s I started getting into bands like Public Enemy, Parliament, Funkadelic as well as being heavily into labels such as Mo Wax and Ninja Tune and producers such as Howie B and David Holmes. They were a big influence and so ended my life as an indie rock guy. I decided to quit Cicada and try something more studio based. Out of this came Sola Rosa.

Since then I’ve been inspired by countless artists but more recently I’m really digging people/artists like Jordan Rakei, Noah Slee and Tom Misch to name a few. There’s a real depth to this new breed of soul music. I still love reggae and hip-hop but I don’t hear as much that excites me these days. That’s partly due to being a full-time self-employed musician and Dad of two kids. I don’t have the time to spend searching for new music as much as I once did.

2) What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?

Pace yourself. Know when to party and know when to not. Be prepared for any disaster, they do happen, what are you gonna do if you lose your passport, credit cards and/or luggage?! Pack light otherwise the tour is picking up your excess charges. Be considerate at all times and treat people with respect, both in the tour group and externally. You’re the artist, when representing the artist, don’t be a dick!

3) What has been one of the most defining moments in your career?

I had been on a bender and had to then go and perform at a major festival. I got up on stage and totally sucked. I ruined the gig essentially from not having my shit together. The whole band was looking at me and a whole bunch of my musical peers came to check us out. It was an epic fail and a total game changer for me.

4) How has your music practice changed over time?

I haven’t practiced an instrument for a good few years. I do practice with my production and mixing every day though. I don’t think you ever get to a point with music where you feel like you’ve mastered things. That’s what I love about it, there’s always things to learn and room for improvement.

5) My top business tip for new artists is…

Remember that the music business is a business. It took me a long time to learn that and I paid dearly for it. Keep an eye on your own finances, don’t let management take control – ever! Unless you have worked with them for years and there is trust involved. Even then, it’s your business at the end of the day, not theirs. Make sure you have a good lawyer and don’t rush into any contract without having your lawyer finalise details. Again – treat everyone with respect and pick your battles.

6) My biggest career mistake has been… What would you do differently now?

Letting other people bully me and take control of my business. My career took off around 2009 with constant shows and international touring, I was so busy I let management look after things as it was all too much, also I had major surgery for four years and toured throughout. My European label Melting Pot Music ripped me off with two successful albums and have never paid a cent. I ended up in massive debt and things unraveled. My mental health went downhill and things got very bleak.

I pulled myself out of the hole and took control of my whole business. I now am completely independent and have put together my own team of publicists, distributors, assistant and social media manager. Life is good!

7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is… What do you think can change that?

Things have drastically changed since I started. When I first began I was pressing my own CD’s, one copy at a time and selling to stores on SOR (sale or return). The demand was so high in the end that I signed things over to a major label. I’ve lived through the golden age of vinyl, the CD and digital; yeah I’m that old. I embraced digital when it came in and I embrace streaming. Things change, you either adapt or die. I love Spotify, I have a playlist called Sola Rosa Selects and love all those facets of the new digital platform.

The biggest fail for me is radio. Yes, there’s some good indie stations but mainstream radio is so homogeneous, it’s awful. I’d love for there to be more diversity. People aren’t stupid, they’re open to different kinds of music but mainstream radio is all about the lowest common denominator, it’s insulting. I’m not sure there’s much we can do to change things apart from turning off the radio and only listening to good shows. I’m hoping for a music revolution from the youth.

Everything on the Top 40 etc. is so bland. I mean Ed Sheeran says it all. There has to be a revolt at some stage, surely. I live in hope.

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