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NewTracks New Artist: Soul Brown

NewTracks New Artist: Soul Brown

There’s always somebody at the party getting rowdy – and Soul Brown is happy to admit that quite often it’s him, though given that cheeky smile, those twinkling eyes and an evident way with words, he’s clearly the sort of social hooligan who always somehow gets away with lighting the party fire. Fittingly then he embraces that part of his persona with Fire, his latest single, proving yet again just how evocative of the simplest of good times the ukulele can be. NZ On Air Music were evidently charmed by the track with its uplifting beach dance floor video, adding it to their NewTracks compilation this August.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Soul Brown, aka Solomon Brown (see what I did there), and I think I can sing and play guitar. I’m from Māngere, South Auckland and a proud Samoan/Fijian who has five sisters and two brothers. Small family right? (Sup fam.)

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Went to that institution of legends known as Sacred Heart College. When you realise Sir Dave Dobbyn and the Finn brothers went to your school you get a kick to make some magic.

Any other previous (or current) projects might we know you from?

In November 2020, I released Weekends ft. Colombian rapper NAFTA. 

What’s the background story of how Soul Brown came to be as an act? 

I started writing when I was in and out of hospital for chemo and I needed something to take my mind off things. In many ways, songwriting saved my life and now all my life experience inspire songs. I learned to love singing from Mum and learned guitar from Dad, but throughout my family everyone liked their own style of music and that was important for me to appreciate the many genres of music as a songwriter.

After a little too long thinking about it, and talking, I reached out to a producer and made some music. Since then, me and Emmanuel never stopped making music and at this stage I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon! As for the name, I was born with it man, it’s just a shorter version of my full name, Solomon. And with that being the name of the wisest man who ever lived I thought I’d try channel some of that wisdom…

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings to now?

I did a bit of a Benjamin Button with my songwriting – see when I started it was a lot about keeping the classic sound and format – like that Elvis swing or The Four Season jive. Nowadays I still keep that swag but fuse it with newer vibes, and it’s amazing what works!

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

In 2019 I released my first album. I’m old fashioned I still love albums, and it was always a massive goal to be able to make an album and I did, with the help of my family and friends. I’m able to say I have (at least one for now) released an album.

What makes Fire stand out for you as a single?

It’s fun. You ever just get behind a mic at the party and take over the show? That’s how it feels with Fire and how I hope it feels for the listener. The uke is always stand out for me too, it takes me to the islands as soon as I hear it.

I was leaving Samoa after a tour with Conkarah and was still buzzing from the crazy nights before and almost missing my flight. I was humming a tune on the plane and kept thinking about the partying. The first line is the most important for me, if that hits, the rest of the song flows and later that night it came to me. And then the hangover happened.

Who did you write/record/produce the single with and where? 

The one and only Emmanuel Ensink. We’ve been making music at his studio in Otara since 2013. It’s been heaps of fun working on music with Emmanuel, one of our favourite parts of the session is lunch. One day we had some Uber Eats delivered and it never came! We were looking by the front door because it said “left at door”, we checked the mailbox, we looked over at the neighbours doorstep… then finally we cancelled the order and got a refund. As we walked past the back door we saw this brown paper bag… oops.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The Pe’e (chant) courtesy of the Kabin Bread Boyz, is definitely the highlight. The collaboration has been a blessing, starting with the ukulele, log drums and then the icing on the cake was the Pe’e. A massive Meitaki Maata to Jay, Anthony, LJ and Moana.

What would you like listeners to take away from the song?

I want listeners to let loose, feel good and shake your shoulders for a few minutes and put that chip down for a sec. That’s what’s important about music for me, might be a little cheeky, a little naughty but all in the name to make people feel good!

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

It’s a feeling, man. Blending melodies and music, trying different sounds. For me, if the song fits with syllables, melodies, rhymes and structure. There’s, a special tingle I get as a songwriter when the song writes itself.

Who else is in your team?

Big massive shoutout to NicNak Media. The dynamic duo, appreciate you so much. Of course, the maestro Emmanuel Ensink and last but definitely not least, my chaperone, counsellor, life coach, Mum and sisters, love you.

Are there any other endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Yeah at the moment we are putting together an EP, and just like Fire, it’s a little different. A little spicy, throw in some sauce, and a dash of coconut, it’s exquisite!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Can’t Help MyselfPoetik ft. Chevvy
  • Tiaki Mai RaRex Atirai ft. Chelsea Cuthers
  • Pe Moni EaThe Western Guide

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

I’ve been applying since New Tracks was Kiwi Hit Disc and new, so just a few times. Definitely encourage others to keep at it, keep making music and enjoying that, it helps to network or even just reach out to those around you especially the wonderful team at NZOA who would love to help the best way they can. 

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

I struggled heaps with the “planning” questions. Like articulating the plan and strategy for a song is easy when you say it out loud, but to put that into words is a different story. You need to make the funders understand why they should invest in you. I finally put my ego down and admitted that I just don’t have the words and I was blessed to get some help with that, shoutout to Paula.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Kava Corner by Melodownz, it’s cool to see the yaqona setting with local celebs and artists. Gets me feeling like mixing the basin asap. The LMBW Podcast is awesome, again hearing local figures talk honestly and give advice about their fields, inspiring stuff.

Who did you make the video for Fire with?

Made by Connor Pritchard, massive thanks to the master!

Any last words?

Massive shoutout to NZOA for the funding and support, NZ Musician for this cool korero and everyone else supporting the massive amounts of talent and music in Aotearoa. To anyone slugging it out making music at the moment, don’t quit… Rest, take some time away from the hustle to catch your breath, go back to the drawing board, but never quit.