London based, Nigerian born, indie pop singer and songwriter Raph Solo, is in the midst of launching his brand new single, “Star”, a song inspired by his mum, and included within his latest album, “The Anonymous Icon”,( to be released on January 24th 2016 to iTunes, and all major online retailers). He will also be appearing at “The Roof Gardens”, (99 Kensington High St, London, W8 5SA), on Friday February 26th at 730pm.
His new single “Star” as explained by Solo, is a song of gratitude to the woman who inspired him to be the man he has become, as well a tribute to all the unsung heroes who do amazing things for other people. There will be a soulful, passionate video released to accompany the single, where he appears naked, holding a bright star. He explains that “a star is symbolic of the soul and the light is symbolic of the love we hold in our soul. There can be no darkness in the presence of light”.
Louder than War had the pleasure of speaking with Raph about the single, as well as his unique musical career. I found him to be a brilliant artist, with a precious personality, and a lot to say.
Louder Than War: Your new single “Star” is an inspiration emanating from your mum. In what ways?
Growing up my mum was quite pretty, so the first verse is inspired by her physical attributes. The second verse is about how she sang songs to me when I was young. Also she use to be a great dancer, so I also make reference to that. She was very glamorous, kind of like Jackie O. Musically it’s an up tempo pop song, with a lot of harmony, inspired by ” The Carpenters”, and ” The Jackson 5″. The cord structure is retro, as in the 80’s.
You also have your own record label, what made you decide to establish that?
I set it up 5 years ago as an independent artist. I decided to do it because I could be a little more creative. It’s more organic, and authentic. I’ve also found that there could be a little prejudice in the industry.
I wouldn’t classify myself as a gay artist, but as an artist that just happens to be gay. There is a difference.
You are going to be performing in London, what can your audience expect to hear?
It’s a straight venue, but it’s a music venue, and I’m going to be showcasing songs on the new album. “Star” is going to be one of them.
When did you first commit to the music industry?
I remember writing my first song when I was about seven. I was in the bathroom, and it was called “Capricorn Man”. I have a vivid memory of that. I don’t remember the lyrics but I remember being astounded that I could actually sing words. I think when I was 13 I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I then taught myself how to play the piano, because I wanted to write songs. I started recording when I was a teenager with people who would play the chords, and I would sing the melody. The songs never really sounded the way I wanted them to. I said to myself, “Raph you have to learn or you are never going to get the songs out there, way you want them. It was a learning curve. I pretty much learned everything from experience, as opposed to going to school.
But you went to school too.
But not for music. I studied in school Law, psychology, and economics. I ended up wanting to play pop music.
I went to school for nursing and I wound up writing so I understand.
Writing is amazing. I’m a writer too, so I kind of know where you’re coming from. As an artist I’m predominately a storyteller. In my videos as well I try to tell a story. They are all like mini movies. I’d like to make musicals, or movies, or things that tell a story for a purpose. You know I wrote a book right?
No I didn’t.
It’s called “The Memoirs of Angel Kind”. Angel King is a fictional character, based on my life experiences. A few years back I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be gay or straight, so I went through reparative therapy, an experimental. Of course it didn’t work out, but for the 6 months I was in the program, I kept a journal. I decided to do a book. It talks about my experiences growing up as a gay person, and how I came to terms being gay. It was about self-expectance. You can find it on iTunes.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My advice would have been to continue to pursue my dream, but I would have maybe finish my degree. I dropped out a year before I finished. I really wanted to get into music. I realized as I got older that education was so important, and if I finished, maybe I’d be earning more money to fund my music.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.