Music has always been with me. Not just on the radio or from a band playing, but it has been deep within me. In some senses, it is like an organ (not the keyboard, the body part) that works with the rest of me to sustain my life. It is what moved me to first pick up a guitar at age 7 and figure out some basic chords on my own... not a huge feat by today's standard, but huge for me back in 1973. I had no YouTube or internet or the many plethora of outlets we have today to gather information, learn from, or be inspired by. I didn't even have my own radio. I just had this...thing...inside... Within two years I traded the guitar for a piano so I could begin to put the ideas that were in my head into something more tangible than I thought I could from just six strings. As much as I knew about the music within me, I really understood nothing at all about it. Thankfully teachers came along at just the right time.
My teachers were bent on molding me into a concert pianist. The first teacher I had treated me like a virtuoso. Looking back, it was quite an honor. But I was not virtuoso, especially not at the piano. To this day, I view myself as somewhat of a frustrated guitarist. If you were a "musician" kid in the 1970's like I was, being a guitarist in a rock band was sort of the place you wanted to be. But even when I formed my first band (and every band I have ever been in), I was the keyboardist. Though I have learned several instruments over the years, the piano or a keyboard is really where I am the most "at home". Still, I feel that being a musician is only a small part of my musical role.
Most my musical life has been spent writing songs and producing them. By the early 1980's I had a growing MIDI-based studio. One of the most intriguing things was seeing how it all worked together. At the time, I only had a 4-track Tascam tape recorder. In time, I knew all the ins and outs and was producing my own material and handing them out on cassettes. Being an acknowledged frustrated guitarist, most of the material I did followed genres that were guitar friendly (read ROCK) but were largely created and duplicated on keyboards. Of course, as technology moved forward, so did my studio and the sound I was able to get from it. Over the course of all of this I had delved back and forth with a lot of electronica styles as well and finally put my first official CD (read professionally put together and distributed) out for public consumption. That was in 1997. In the next few years, I would be involved in MANY projects both professional and personal. I wrote music for several films. From my studio, I recorded over 40 different artists and was involved in dozens of CD releases. It got so intense that I had to take a break. The fun had begun to go away.
In 2013 I returned in a much more compact form. Personal. Direct. From my roots. But it was more fun than I have ever had with it before. Since then I have released seven original albums. It has been really exciting writing this music and releasing it. But one of the biggest thrills I had was to score music for a live action drama. And that whetted my appetite for more.
I wrote my first symphony when I was 16. It was called Three Butterfly Suite. There was nothing special or grandiose about it, except IT WAS MY FIRST SYMPHONY! Composition has always intrigued me. It really is the platform on which everything musical stands. The structure, the theory, every little aspect about it is compelling.
For whatever reason, I moved from composing to songwriting early on. I guess it came easier, but more likely it was because it was expected. I was in a band. They needed music and I was the music guy. So I wrote and wrote and wrote tons of songs. Despite this move on my part, composition never left me. As I said, composition is the platform on which everything musical stands. And as mentioned earlier music is like an organ in me. Through my entire musical career (producing, song writing, engineering, performing, etc.) the desire to return to composition has been strong. Likely this came from my musical influences.
It is easy to drop names; names like Brian Wilson or George Gershwin, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, or even Mozart. They are all great names to drop...they are all great composers. It is even easy at times to emulate them. I am not alone as one who has "covered" one or more of his spiritual mentors. But what is harder is to become like one of those names. Not just to compose but to compose well; that is the challenge I give to myself. Whether it be for film or just ear candy for mass consumption I want to compose well. And I hope you find my music moving forward meeting that personal expectation!
Therefore, today, I am a composer, a producer, and a musician. In the end though, through all of my musical efforts and achievements and even in the course of teaching music, I am still a student, trying to understand the music that is in me and how to get it out and share it with you.
- Jon Solo, March 14, 2017