Rohan Solomon, the former Cyanide frontman, is at his own tipping point. He's been toiling in the fertile ground between the popular format of music and the grandeur of a symphony orchestra, and now he's ready to tip into the mainstream consciousness. This Grammy-submitted artist, who's no stranger to the top spots on global radio charts like the Euro Indie Music Charts and World Indie Music Charts, has renewed his commitment to mental health awareness in 2023. His recent singles Serenity and Happy Place were well-received dialogues on the state of our internal worlds.
The singer-songwriter and producer with roots that stretch to New York city, is out with a conceptual and orchestral record that he's titled Strung Out To Dry. It's a blend of the personal and the universal, the particular and the symbolic. It took nearly four years to complete, and was recorded across multiple countries. Backed by the familiar ensemble of guitars, bass, piano, and drums, his narrative is given wings by the symphonic embrace of a full orchestra, offering listeners not just a song, but an experience. It takes you back to the concept rock albums of the 70s and 80s that told a cinematic story.
Standout single Victoria’s Secret is a haunting composition that explores the veiled realities of our world. It's a song that plays with musical expectations, shifting from a minor 7th chord vibe to a major chord fullness with a band and orchestra. This track peaked at no. 2 on global radio charts. Pop-rock anthem Keep Holding On was inspired by the isolation of the Coronavirus lockdown. This is the second take of a song released as a beacon of hope during a time when the world was grappling with an unprecedented pandemic. Solomon has revisited the track, shining a light on the protagonist’s journey, reminding us all to keep holding on.
FPJ talked to the artiste about Strung Out To Dry, mental health, AI in compositions, and social media staples.
Which is your most personal song off the new album? Why?
They are all pretty personal to me. But if I was to choose one, I would say Serenity. This is because it is written in a place and about a place where I have written so many other songs. It’s a place where I’m always truly happy. To be able to capture that feeling in the form of a song is very personal and rewarding for me.
Watch the music video for Serenity:
You've talked about your evolution over the past two years leading up to Strung Out To Dry. Can you share some pivotal moments that contributed to this growth?
Yes, my style of writing and music has definitely grown over the years, last few years not just two years... One of the most pivotal changes was, when I started producing my own songs. In the past, I always had trouble explaining exactly what I wanted. Those producers got close, but not quite there. But now, ever since I studied production and started producing and mixing my own songs, I am able to capture that emotion and sound exactly how I envisioned it. It opened up a whole new avenue of expressing myself.
What were the challenges in putting together an orchestral album of such magnitude and depth?
The most challenging and time consuming part was transcribing. Getting all those MIDI notes to actual scores was a challenge. This was necessary to be able to pass on to the conductor of the orchestra. There are quite a few steps involved before the actual recording. It surprised me for sure. The software makes it easy, but when we would double check everything, there would be a lot of corrections that we would need to make. Harshit (Verma - Orchestra Composition & Arrangement) did a great job at handling that aspect.
Do you feel the song Victoria's Secret will get mistaken for American popstar Jax's hit single of the same name?
Haha .. Not at all. I love Jax’s song, but that’s literally about the company and how it’s run by an old man living in Ohio. My song is a little darker in its theme. It sheds a little light on depression and follows a protagonist and how she has to wear a “mask” and pretend to be a certain way because of the pressures of society. My song has a more sombre vibe to it, whereas Jax’s tune is pretty upbeat. I love both songs in different ways.
You have a variety of tracks under your belt, from It’s Christmas to protest songs. How do you decide the theme for each new project?
I just basically go with the flow and follow whatever emotion is in my heart at that moment. We are all capable of feeling a variety of emotions. While I am working on a particular track, I just hold on to that particular emotion until I’m finished with the track. It helps me stay in the zone. Having been doing this for 20 years, it’s just a skill and muscle that we as songwriters learn to develop.
How do you balance the two roles as a solo musician and as a producer for other artistes?
I approach both these processes very differently. When it’s my song, I already know exactly what the emotion is, what the history is behind the story of a particular song. But when I am producing a song for someone else, I always spend some time talking to the artist and listening to the story that inspired that song. I tell them to treat me like their therapist. Whatever they tell me is confidential, but it’s important for me to know the story to allow me to understand the vision of the artist and try to put myself in their shoes and feel that same emotion. Once I’ve been able to pinpoint the direction and feeling, then we move ahead with the actual production. Then, the way forward becomes clear.
You've acknowledged the role of social media trends like Instagram Reels in music discovery. How do you plan to leverage these platforms for your upcoming releases?
Social media is such a huge platform and such a great tool for promoting music. I always try to use the approach of honest and open communication. That’s my strength, so I try to connect with my followers by telling my story. For example, when I released my single Happy Place, I spoke out about my own battles with anxiety and how I deal with it on a daily basis. This really connected with a lot of people and they would DM me and get advice or just talk about it with me. It forms a connection. I try to build this type of connection for all my songs. The most important thing is how we connect with people and how our music can help people.
You've been vocal about the impact of AI on the music industry. What are your thoughts on the future of musicians in an increasingly automated world?
I don’t think that humans are going to be obsolete anytime soon. The trick is to use AI to help us make our tasks more efficient.
Your song Happy Place delves on mental health. You've openly discussed using yoga and therapy to manage anxiety. How important is it for artistes to open up about mental health?
I think it’s very important for people to be open about their mental health and start up conversations about it. It’s much better than keeping it bottled up. Just by talking about it to a friend or therapist can very possibly save your life and help you in the process. There is so much pressure on musicians to perform and always release a hit. People don’t realise how much work goes into just making one song and it’s not always going to be a hit. It’s important to realise that musicians are also human and need to deal with their mental health in a healthy way.
Which band/ singer do you dream of collaborating with in the future?
I would love to collaborate with The Foo Fighters some day. That would truly be a dream come true.
Watch the music video for Croatia off the new album: