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by Andrew Spraggon

Sola Rosa: Chasing The Sun – Track By Track

by Andrew Spraggon

Sola Rosa: Chasing The Sun – Track By Track

Looking at the evolution of Andrew Spraggon’s Sola Rosa over the 19 years since the release of first album ‘Solarized’, one thing is clear; he has increasingly creatively engaged with more and more artists to collaborate on his music. His sixth album, not counting a variety of remixed/enhanced ones, the funky neo-soul groover ‘Chasing The Sun’ was largely recorded in London. Released in late September 2020, the album features 10 guests, plus a small legion of talented studio musicians both local and international. We asked Andrew to run us through the album song by song, without holding back on tasty technical details. Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.

For The Mighty Dollar feat. Kevin Mark Trail & Sharlene Hector

Written by K. Trail, A. Spraggon, M. Short; Vocals – Kevin Mark Trail, BVs – Sharlene Hector; Keys – Andrew Spraggon, Peter Leupolu, Michal Martyniuk; Guitar – Dixon Nacey, Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Andrew Spraggon; Drums – Julien Dyne; Trumpet – Mike Booth; Saxes – Andrew Hall; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey; Strings – The Black Quartet

In its early stages of just being a beat, this one had something special about it, or at least to me it did! I wrote the piano chords and Matt Short laid down this great fuzztone high bass line, which together became an anchor for the direction of the song.

Michal Martyniuk added Rhodes electric piano parts and those are the essence of the song. The music was written well in advance of the vocals. I met Kevin at Tileyard Studios in London for a session and he said, ‘Play me what you’ve got’, and this was the track he picked on the day.

On a subsequent trip to London, I had a session at Resident Studios to record with the incredible Sharlene Hector. This particular session was supposed to be a BV session. I originally wanted to use a gospel choir so I approached the Brixton Gospel Choir, but never heard back, so I decided to just layer the vocals. Sharlene ended up doing such an outstanding job, her performance lent so much to the song that I decided she really needed to be titled as a featured artist.

Drums were tracked by Julien Dyne, replacing my programmed beats. The brass section parts I wrote with Hadyn Godfrey, which we recorded at The Lab Studios in Mt. Eden, Auckland, somewhat of a Kiwi music mecca. The strings totally elevate the song and were the last instruments to be tracked – arranged and recorded by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and performed by the Black Quartet.

Runnin’ feat. Shach Seven & Sharlene Hector

Written by M. Broderick, A. Spraggon, M. Short, J. Toy; Vocals – Shach Seven; BVs – Sharlene Hector; Keys – Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion and Beat – Andrew Spraggon; Trumpet – Mike Booth; Saxes – Andrew Hall; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey

As with all the album beats, I wrote the essence of this one in my Avondale studio, starting from samples and some basic tambourine parts I played. Things progressed during a session with Peter Leupolu who cemented the melody, tracking Rhodes parts. Matt Short added the same plodding wah-funk bassline that ended up in the final mix.

I worked on horn arrangements with Hadyn Godfrey which we later recorded at The Lab. Shach Seven, aka Meshach Broderick, was an artist recommended to me by Kevin Mark Trail. We met up at Tileyard Studios in London and wrote the lyrics together in a day. Sharlene’s vocals were part of the aforementioned BV session at Resident Studios, and again her performance was so strong and her vocals mixed so prominently in the song we felt she needed to be a featured artist.

Jeremy Toy wrote the fuzz tone guitar parts which especially help establish a hook for the intro and outro of the song. The rest was just synth sprinkles I added, including Microtron and Monark synth sounds.

Something Good feat. Thandi Phoenix

Written by T. Phoenix, A. Spraggon, P. Leupolu, J. Toy, L. McCallum; Vocals – Thandi Phoenix; Keys – Andrew Spraggon, Peter Leupolu, Lewis McCallum, Jonathan Crayford; Guitar – Jeremy Toy; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Andrew Spraggon, Julien Dyne; Beats – Andrew Spraggon; Flute – Lewis McCallum

This track almost didn’t make the album. It started out as a much slower beat and gradually came up in tempo. I have never been that comfortable above 100bpm, for whatever reason, so this was new territory for me – a 119bpm four-on-the-floor, disco-type groove.

By the time I’d presented it to Thandi, it was so far removed from its original form that I was unsure whether to include it in her playlist of beats. In the end I got over myself and included it, and this was the one she picked! We recorded the vocals at my publisher – Native Tongue’s studio in Sydney. After returning home I then had to write the song. Peter Leupolu laid down the chords over a sample, which I eventually deleted from the track, just keeping Peter’s keys parts.

Julien Dyne added multiple layers of instrumentation including hi-hats, tambourine, shakers and other toys from his suitcase of eclectic and often homemade percussion. In one of the final album sessions, Lewis McCallum added flute and numerous vintage synth parts, including Korg Poly Six, Ensoniq SQ-80 and a Roland MKS-70. Jonathan Crayford added additional synth parts using Monark synth, and finally Jeremy Toy brought in some simple, but essential, e-bow and funk guitar to give it a classic ’70s disco vibe.

You Don’t Know feat. Josh Barry

Written by J. Barry, A. Spraggon, J. Toy, L. McCallum; Vocals – Josh Barry; Keys – Elia Gaitau, Andrew Spraggon; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Beats and Synth Bass – Andrew Spraggon; Percussion – Julien Dyne; Saxes, Flute – Lewis McCallum; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey

This track turned out very different from the original beat. Originally this tune very much had a big swing vibe to it, with Elia Gaitau recording some old honky-tonk piano grooves, Hadyn Godfrey working with me on horn arrangements, and Dixon Nacey laying down the original guitar parts. For whatever reason though the track changed course… as they pretty much always do, and most of the original keys were subtracted from the demo.

The vocals were recorded at Tileyard Studios in London. I had the studio booked one day but the artist I had booked called to say he couldn’t make it. I was at a loss and decided to head to reception to say I was thinking about heading home for the day.

The guy that worked at Tileyard’s reception said he managed this guy Josh Barry, and asked if I would be keen to have a session with him. I think I checked out a song of his online and said, ‘Sure, why not?’ We tracked the vocals in about 3 hours. Josh was easily one of my favourite collaborators to work with, such an incredible voice and work ethic. Nice guy too, which helps!

Additional funk guitar hooks were added by Jeremy Toy, and Julien Dyne tracked various layers of shakers and tambourines pulled from his old suitcase of percussion toys. Last instrumentation to be added was saxes and flute by Lewis McCallum, which really added so much funk and swagger to the track.

Chasing The Sun feat. Wallace & Kevin Mark Trail

Written by W. Gollan, K. Trail, A. Spraggon, M. Martyniuk, Vocals – Wallace Gollan, Kevin Mark Trail; BVs – Sharlene Hector; Keys – Michal Martyniuk, Andrew Spraggon; Guitar – Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Julien Dyne; Drums – Julien Dyne; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey

The beat came together fairly easily as far as the writing of the instrumentation and arrangement. I sketched out the basic melody and structure fairly quickly and had Michal Martyniuk come into the studio to track Rhodes electric piano. After this, it was sessions with Dixon Nacey and Matt Short to track guitar and bass. Haydn Godfrey added texture to my synth horn line by adding trombone. It was one of those tracks that came together easily – which doesn’t happen that often.

The vocals were a little trickier. Kevin originally recorded the entire track at my studio in Avondale but the verses weren’t sitting with me. We tried recording them again on a second trip to London, but I still was not 100% on things. It wasn’t until I went to Sydney for sessions and met Wallace Gollan that the song came together. I played her what we had done, and suggested she try and write something sympathetic to Kevin’s lyrics – and it all just came together after that. Sharlene Hector added BVs in London, again at Resident Studios. Julien Dyne replaced the programmed beat with live drums and added shakers and tambourine to finish things off.

Star To Star feat. Troy Kingi

Written by T. Kingi, A. Spraggon, J. Toy, M. Martyniuk, M Short; Vocals – Troy Kingi; Keys – Andrew Spraggon, Peter Leupolu, Lewis McCallum, Jonathan Crayford; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Julien Dyne; Beats – Andrew Spraggon

This one started out strong with Dixon Nacey laying down guitar and Michal Martyniuk and Peter Leupolu tracking keys parts. However, I never got to a point where I was satisfied with the drums, so I left it alone for some time. Originally I had a singer from the US featuring, but I wasn’t 100% happy with it so the demo got shelved.

Eventually, I presented a few demo beats to Troy Kingi and this was the beat he wanted to collaborate on. Troy recorded the vocals really quickly at his studio in Kerikeri. Shortly after that I came up with a programmed beat I was happy with, and it all started falling into place. At this stage, Matt Short laid down live bass and Jeremy Toy added some great psychedelic guitar textures which really complement Troy’s cosmic lyrics. Final touches were added with additional keys by Lewis McCallum and Jonathan Crayford, and Julien Dyne on percussion.

Searching For Love feat. Kiko Bun

Written by F. Marin, A. Spraggon, J. Toy, Vocals – Kiko Bun; Keys – Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Andrew Spraggon; Drums – Julien Dyne; Strings – The Black Quartet

This one was kind of intended to be a bit of a hip hop-meets-rock beat. The idea was sketched out with various samples and keys parts, which were later removed. Dixon Nacey and Peter Leupolu added initial textures of guitar and keys and Matt Short was brought in later to record fuzz bass.

Vocals were recorded in London at Tileyard Studios. Kiko came in, and I played him a few tracks I felt might work with his vocal style, and this was the beat he liked most. Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper arranged and tracked string parts with The Black Quartet in his studio in Pt. Chevalier, Auckland. The song needed some additional spaced out sounds which I added using Monark synth and Echoboy. Final sessions were with Julien Dyne on drums replacing my programmed drum parts, myself on percussion and Jeremy Toy adding fuzztone guitar.

Shine On feat. Thandi Phoenix

Written by T. Phoenix, A. Spraggon, E. Gaitau, J. Toy; Vocals – Thandi Phoenix; Keys – Elia Gaitau, Andrew Spraggon; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion – Julien Dyne; Beats – Andrew Spraggon; Flute – Lewis McCallum; Trumpet – Mike Booth; Saxes – Andrew Hall; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey

One of the first beats written for this album, Shine On started as most of my beats do with a sample which was eventually removed from the song. Elia Gaitau was first in the studio tracking staccato Rhodes parts, followed by Dixon Nacey on guitar. Shortly after I added synth lead and bass keys, later to be re-recorded by Matt Short.

All brass on the album was arranged by myself and Hadyn Godfrey. The brass section on this track includes Hadyn on trombone, Mike Booth on trumpet and Andrew Hall on sax, which were recorded at The Lab in Mt. Eden. I enjoyed the Australian session with Thandi so much that I went back to Sydney, recording again at Native Tongue Studios. Final sessions were with Julien Dyne on percussion and Jeremy Toy who wrote the opening riff and additional guitar parts. Lewis McCallum’s flute was last to be tracked.

No Idea feat. Jerome Thomas

Written by J. Thomas, A. Spraggon, E. Gaitau, J. Toy; Vocals – Jerome Thomas; Keys – Elia Gaitau, Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon, Jonathan Crayford; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Bass – Matt Short; Drums & Percussion – Julien Dyne; Strings – The Black Quartet

Right from the start this one had a real Marvin Gaye vibe about it. I’m a big fan, so it’s a bit of a tribute to that era of the ’70s. The beat was built around a sample, again later subtracted from the song. Peter Leupolu was first into my studio to add organ parts, followed by Elia Gaitau on Rhodes. Matt Short came through shortly after to lay down a slinky James Jamerson bass groove. I added some synth lines using Monark synth and a Model D and that was the demo ready for vocals.

I first saw Jerome Thomas on YouTube as part of the Colors series where they showcase up and coming talent. I reached out to him via Facebook and sent through some beats. We later met up in London at Tileyard Studios and recorded the vocals in a day. Julien Dyne then replaced my programmed drums with live drums at his home studio and percussion elements recorded at my studio.

The next session was with Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and The Black Quartet. I had written some string parts, and others were samples, so we replaced those with real strings. Jeremy Toy added some special hooks and textures using his fabulous broken sounding ‘King of Kong’ fuzztone pedal. And last up was keys player Jonathan Crayford who helped re-record some of my synth lead parts in the chorus to make the development more interesting.

So Many Times feat. Kevin Mark Trail

Written by K. Trail, A. Spraggon, P. Leupolu; Vocals – Kevin Mark Trail; BVs – L.A. Mitchell; Keys – Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon, Jonathan Crayford; Beat & Synth Bass – Andrew Spraggon; Drums – Julien Dyne

The original beat was built on chopped up detuned jazz guitar samples. Dixon Nacey was first into the studio. We tried to rework and replace the samples, but we couldn’t get anything close to the sample, so I just tried to flip them as much as possible – detuning, reversing, filtering etc to try and make them my own.

Peter Leupolu came through to add pitch bend Rhodes, which added a slight bent character to the beat, which I liked. Matt Short replaced my synth bassline with electric bass, which I eventually removed in favour of going back to a classic sine bass sound, from the software app Trilian, as it just sat better in the track. Somewhere in amongst all that I recorded numerous synth lead parts and effects using the Monark and Model D synths. At this stage I had Julien Dyne replace my drum programming with live drums but we ended up using a bit of a mix of both.

Kevin and I felt like it needed some female BV’s and our first port of call was the incredibly talented Lauren Barus, aka L.A. Mitchell. Lauren recorded the vocals in her home studio in Christchurch. There were all sorts of other sessions towards the end of the finish line – trombone with Hadyn Godfrey, guitar with Jeremy Toy, but none of these recordings made their way into the mix. The final sessions were with Jonathan Crayford, who added the simple bass notes you hear at the end of the track, as well as Lewis McCallum adding sub-bass effects with his Korg MS-10.

My Love feat. Eva Lazarus

Written by E. Lazarus, A. Spraggon, P. Leupolu, M. Short; Vocals – Eva Lazarus; Guitar – Jeremy Toy; Keys – Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon; Bass – Matt Short; Percussion -Julien Dyne, Andrew Spraggon; Beats – Andrew Spraggon; Flute – Lewis McCallum; Trumpet – Mike Booth; Saxes – Andrew Hall; Trombone – Hadyn Godfrey

I started this as a big band swing type beat with a D’Angelo vibe, at least that’s what I was going for, but it turned into something else altogether! Dixon Nacey was first in the studio to track guitar parts, shortly after Matt Short was on bass, replacing my synth bass. Peter Leupolu was in next to record the piano parts which we recorded using Keyscape. Peter’s piano chords set the vibe for where this track wanted to go.

I was introduced to Eva Lazarus while touring in the UK. We were playing a show in Bristol and I struck up a conversation with the venue owner after the show. I asked her, ‘Who is the best in Bristol right now, is there anyone I need to look into for potential collabs?’ She said, ‘Hands down – Eva Lazarus’. So I went away and did my homework and next thing you know, on a return trip to London we are meeting up for the first time at Tileyard Studios. We ended up in this tiny writing room which was quite claustrophobic for the both of us I’m sure, but Eva was great, she wrote the lyrics fast and we finished in an evening. I really love the lyrics to this song; they are poetic and clever, great analogies.

Haydn Godfrey came over to my studio and we worked out horn parts and recorded some demo trombone, which we later recorded properly at The Lab with Mike Booth on trumpet, and Andrew Hall on sax. The flute was added later at Lewis McCallum’s home studio in Beach Haven, Auckland.

Closing Statement feat. Wallace

Written by W. Gollan, A. Spraggon, P. Leupolu, M. Short; Vocals – Wallace Gollan; Guitar – Jeremy Toy, Dixon Nacey; Keys – Peter Leupolu, Andrew Spraggon; Bass – Matt Short; Beats & Percussion – Andrew Spraggon; Drums – Julien Dyne

Not only is this track the last on the album but it was also part of the final Sydney vocal sessions. The original beat was made using a bunch of samples I’d been messing with on Serato Sample. I added some lead synth parts using Monark synth, a synth bassline and some simple tambourine hits. Peter Leupolu laid down some floaty Rhodes chords which became the chorus.

It had the same kind of drum feel that ended up on the album mix, more or less, however, Matt Short ended up replacing my bassline with a much funkier one. Dixon Nacey was up next adding some cool guitar parts for the various sections, in particular, the bridge and outro is all Dix!

Wallace Gollan was one of the artists put forward by my publisher. I’d checked out her music on Spotify and really dug her unique vocal style and tone. It was on a hot summer’s day that I met Wallace for the first time, at Native Tongue Studios in Sydney. We hit it off instantly, she’s a super lovely woman, easy to work with. We wrote this one in a day. I think we may have had a follow-up session the following day also. Julien Dyne replaced my beat with live drums, and also added small amounts of percussion. At this stage I added quite a few additional keys parts including Celeste, Rhodes and Monark synth. The last instrumentation to go on this track was Jeremy Toy’s guitar, which sat complementary alongside Dixon’s.