A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, CJ Solar moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University where, before graduation, he was offered a job as a songwriter for Sea Gayle Music. While there, Solar honed his craft while penning songs for artists like Jerrod Niemann. Now, Solar is ready to shine as an artist in his own right. On April 15th, he will release his EP, Hard One To Turn Down whose first single, “Tall Boy” was already featured in Country Weekly and the Boot. In advance of the release, Solar kindly took the time to talk about the song, the EP and more.
You grew up in Louisiana and moved to Nashville to attend Belmont. So music was something you knew you wanted to pursue professionally from an early age?
Yes, I start playing guitar when I was eight years old. When I got older, I played with my brothers - one played drums and another played bass. They eventually quit, but I decided to pursue music and move to Nashville. I graduated Belmont in 2014 with a degree in songwriting and a minor in music business. I was a writer at Sea Gayle, but knew I always wanted to be an artist in some capacity.
So after two years writing what spurred the leap to concentrate on being an artist?
Well, people would say they love my voice and my songs and that I should make a record. I always wanted to do it, but was holding off until I had the right songs. When I finally got all of these songs together, I thought they were a really good group that represented who I am, and that made me ready to take the next step.
On April 15th, you will be releasing the EP, Hard One To Turn Down.
It’s been a long time coming and is really exciting. We will be releasing it through Sea Gayle, who have been great, helping me in every aspect from allowing me to write, to cutting the record and just getting things going.
You recently released the first song from the album, “Tall Boy.” Why did you choose that one as the lead-off single?
People around town knew that song from the demo and would always tell me they loved the song, so it felt like a natural fit for the first single. The song was shown to other artists and was put on hold a couple of times, but luckily – or unluckily - no one ever cut it and I was able to put it on the EP. It’s a good statement of who I am, what I sound like and what I stand for musically. I love playing it.
Are the other songs on the EP ones you had in your pocket or new ones you wrote?
There are a total of five songs on the EP, and I wrote or co-wrote them all. Some of the songs I wanted to do were on hold or recorded by someone else, but that helped me narrow it down a bit there (laughing). “Tall Boy” and “Hard One To Turn Down” were probably written a year before we went into the studio, but all of the other ones are pretty fresh. I wrote “Hard One to Turn Down” with Rick Garoutte and Brett Anderson. I’ve been writing with Rick since I moved to town, and he came in one day with this great title. We wrote the song really quickly, and it’s become one of my favorites. “A Little More Time” I wrote with Josh Jenkins [of Green River Ordinance], and Jerrod Niemann sings on “Just Another Day In The Country.” I’m really happy with how everything came together.
The music has a great southern rock lean alongside that country feel. You have said that the EP “sounds like me.” What does that mean?
There are a lot of artists doing certain things right now, and when you hear a song, it could be like, five other artists, but the way this record came together….it doesn’t sound like everything else. It sounds ridiculous, but it sounds like me...whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I don’t know (laughing).
Writing for Sea Gayle every day for two years really made my songs a lot better. It helped me shape my sound and figure out who I am. I always had a little bit more of an edgier rock sound than what’s considered traditional country. My music is a product of what I listen to and my influences. I love country music, but I also love CCR, Skynyrd, and the Eagles. I always really felt connected with the way that music fell, and I think those influences shine in my EP.
You’ve supported Cadillac Three, Randy Rogers Band, David Allan Coe and others, are there plans to play out to support the EP?
I have opened for a bunch of people, but it has been kind of random. We have the EP release show on April 21st, and I hope people come out and like what we do live. You can hear the music on a record, see it played acoustic or hear me talk about the songs, but nothing is like the live show. Ours keeps getting tighter, and I hope people come out, see us and leave saying “Okay, I get it.”
I’m excited to see what this EP can get going and where we wind up, but if nothing happens I will still be proud to have music out there so that people can hear it and have it move them in some way.
For more information visit his official website
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Watch the video for "Tall Boy" here