Story by Michelle London Bell and Photos by TakiYah Wallace
On Saturday, January 8, 2011, the local nonprofit Project Still I Rise hosted a benefit concert at the South Dallas Cultural Center to raise funds and awareness of current programs and initiatives throughout South Dallas. Sōl Blackman was the main draw with an intimate, up close-and-personal “unplugged” type of performance from the emerging young artist on the rise.
To the surprise of many who were new to both the venue and his music – Sōl Blackman delivered a high energy performance, rounded out by a phenomenal band and instrumental set. His smooth falsetto and tenor vocal combined with throwback sounds and classic melodies had the crowd enthralled and engaged throughout his two-hour set, which encompassed everything from soul classics to modern rhythm and blues.
His new single, We’ve Got Love, was recently picked up by the Def Jam record label, and is not only a mid-to-up-tempo ballad, but a declaration: an ode to love with an appreciation of the melodies that unified and soothed our souls through sounds of old. Beyond that – it truly demonstrates the depth of his talents as a songwriter and as an impresario of live instrumentation.
I recently caught up with Sol Blackman to discuss his stake in the realm of modern music, and his plans to convert fans and audiences across the nation, one performance at a time.
Michelle London-Bell: What sets Sōl Blackman apart from any other artist out there?
Sōl Blackman: I think that given the musical climate that exists right now – I am different; I really do make a concerted effort to create a “soul” sound. [I try to include] a lot of the elements of classic music – to make it timeless, to make it real. It’s still important to make it modern. But the real instrumentation is the key to make it a real project, whether you listen to it now or five or ten years from now.
Writing wise – it’s just as important. To me, I try to always make songs that are real in every way. I don’t deal with a lot of fantasy; [I]try not to use subject matter that you couldn’t actually imagine coming out of a brother’s mouth. [In my songs, I’m] not rolling around in my this or that, walking up in the club and buying out the bar, with a million girls falling out the sky! Even if I got to the point where that was my life, I still would not make music surrounding that because most people cannot identify with that.
MLB: I hear you. Why do you choose to not write about all that is hyped on the radio right now?
SB: Just because it’s just not real! I think if you delve into the writing and the music on the radio now– a lot of songs are period-driven. If you make things about that period, then once that period is gone, you are gone too. I don’t like trends. Just like clothes – a good suit will always be a good suit. A good song will always be a good song. I think I have found that men and women equally dig my songs. They are universal.
MLB: Are you currently shopping for a label right now or are you doing the independent artist thing? I know that your first single was recently picked up by Def Jam.
SB: We are actually still open to a lot of different possibilities. We have been doing this since 2009 – just a little bit of time in the game. Our company, 7th Letter Soul
Entertainment, is our [entity] together. We are in talks with people on picking up 7th Letter Soul under their label. If anybody is interested – it’s not too late! No seriously — I am an independent artist at the moment, but open to any potential business possibility that makes sense.
You come down to this dilemma that all independent artists have – you like your ability to create freely without anyone looking over your shoulder. But of course we would like to make a few nickels at the same time. Labels are a machine that can obviously do many things that you cannot do on your own. So in a perfect world – I would like to combine creative freedom with the business aspect.
MLB: I know you are a native of Dallas. Where did you hone your craft initially? Did you attend Arts Magnet, or was your talent born in the church, like many other artists?
SB: Really, some church – partly church. I attended Duncanville High School and while I was there, I had no artistic training at all — no band, no choir. A lot of it was sitting in front of my father’s old record player – he had a lot of albums from the 1970′s which were a major influence. I listened to those inspirations over and over again – borrowing from those styles, and once I started writing myself — that is how I honed my craft. A little untraditional, I suppose.
MLB: Have you collaborated with any other artists? If not, who are the artists you would die to collaborate with?
SB: To this point, no collaborations. A dream collabo would be – Prince, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu – that would be an awesome collaboration. I like Cee-lo and Andre 3000 as well. Who else? Common, Kanye West, Ledisi, Marsha Ambrosius, and India Arie. You know…real music artists.
MLB: Anything else to add? What’s next?
SB: I just wanted to let you know that individual support means a lot to us. Please go online to “Like” us on Facebook or visit my single page; also – come out and see the show. I promise you will enjoy yourself. We have some upcoming shows with Donnell Jones, Calvin Richardson and Anthony David in Austin, Texas. If you are a fan on Facebook, you can receive alerts and announcements on upcoming shows.
MLB: Thank you, Sol, so much for your time. I wish you the best with your career in music, I look forward to you blowing up because the industry has gotten away from real music. I can appreciate an artist like you.