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Exclusive interview with Solo Noi

 



Where are you from and could you tell us a little bit of your upbringing?

 

I was brought up in an Irish catholic community in Orpington, South London UK. Weddings and family events were driven by singing and dancing, were I was told not to try to join in, as it was dangerous, with legs flying off the floor and pints of Guinness wobbling on tables.

 

My dad worked on the building site around London with his band of workers, mainly also from Ireland. He came to England in 1948, greeted by landlords with notices that said No blacks, No Irish, no Dogs. But there was work and the pub at night, which was a much better prospect than working on the family farm in Limerick. My mum was from Mayo, one of 13 children, brought up on a farm that only got running water and electricity in 1972. I’ve got three brothers and a sister.

 

At primary school I met priests and nuns and some crazy teachers who told me I was “thick”.  This description was applied generally to immigrant Irish kids. Those teachers must have felt a bit foolish when I got my degree in Economics. All my siblings got to University. One of them now has his doctorate in psychology. The song “Ellie May” on my second Solo Noi album, Due, is all about this part of my life.

 

Orpington was a bit of a suburban nowhere land, so the only escape was via the transistor radio, listening to pirate stations like Caroline and Radio London.  That’s where I got drawn into music, singing and playing a cheap vox guitar..with a watkins dominator amp. It was only 15 watts but you could really crank it up, which the neighbours soon tried to stop. West coast USA bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat and Country Joe and The Fish were my early inspiration. The English bands I liked were Cream, Family, The Stones and the later psychedelic Beatles albums. The white album was top of the tree.

 

What genre of music do you make and when did you first decide to be a musician?

 

I initially started playing prog rock with a band called “Meat Axe Jackson and the Tri-state Bootleg” a great name! We played support slots to Genesis, Fairport Convention, Dr John the Night tripper, Supertramp and Jucy Lucy among others. I then moved into glam rock - I was the lead guitarist and I loved the dressing up and make up madness. Bowie, T Rex and  Mud were major influences. The band was “The Might Plod” and I got my first record deal with a small label in London. The album we made now sells for over £100 a copy. Then I moved on to a country rock/ USA funk band in London, landing a few publishing deals until the punk/ new wave hit.  Started playing reggae/ rock and writing songs that got me my second record deal with “The Papers”. After that I played just about ever genre, including “Irish reggae” with the drummer from The Boomtown Rats until I started the current band Solo Noi. This draws inspiration from just about anywhere but mainly pop and cool jazz.

 

Who are some of the notable artists and people that influenced your career thus far?

 

The Police, The Clash, Bowie, T Rex, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Miles Davies, Janis Joplin, Cleo Lane, Bob Marley, Stones, Beatles, Clouds, Jon Heisman’s Colosseum, Weather Report, Chicago, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Martin Newell,

Maxie Priest, The Upsetters, Cream, Family, Pet Shop Boys, Ultravox, Boomtown Rats, The Henry Girls, The Eagles, Brian Eno, The Dubliners, Mary Coughlan.

 

Could you tell us about your latest projects?

Solo Noi we began in 201, releasing two albums, Uno and Due. Because of the way streaming works, In 2023 we decided to just release singles and we started with a poppy synth rock track “Dreaming of America”, a song about people who wish to live in the USA, hoping to find the American dream. Our next single will be a track called “Holy Water”, about being homeless and alone at night in the city, and then later in the year a couple of reggae based tracks about life in London housing co ops. All in all, we plan to release 8 singles this year.

 

What should we expect from you in the near future?

 

We are still promoting “Dreaming of America” and we will soon be releasing “Holy Water”.  We will be releasing a couple of reggae/ hop tracks in June: “I ain't going to Mars” and “The Au contraire”.  We are currently recording new songs to add to the release schedule later in the year. Along the way we will be making short videos to accompany these tracks.

 

Could you give us some advice that you can offer to someone who is just getting started in making music?

 

First up is “enjoy it!” but recognise there is difference between “making music” and “making it big in music”.  To make music, listen to everything - classical, jazz, hip hop, punk, rap etc and keep developing your skills. Never give up, because every time you learn something new will be an exciting moment. Don’t accept rejections. Sure you’ll get plenty, but move on and don’t focus on the “no thanks brigade”…..  

 

Be careful what you wish for if you are trying to “make it big”. Very few artists make it to the big time, even those with record deals often find themselves struggling to make a living.  Business sharks will try to rip you off - the music business is not much different to the wild west. And life on the road can eventually be a lonely life - you’ll be playing Friday and Saturday nights while everyone else is partying. They’ll be building a career, saving up a pension, getting holiday and sick pay. You wont.  The loneliness can drive some people to drugs to escape the down time between gigs.  Relationships can crash and burn around your ears. Be aware what chasing “the big time” can mean.  Go forward with you eyes open, not shut. Two tips: Get a trustworthy manager.  Don’t sign anything until your lawyer has Ok’d it.

 

Are there any important achievements you have gained since beginning to do music?

Skills in playing and singing for sure, but also in meeting people, working creatively in a team, learning to solve problems on the hoof - I know all the legal ins and outs of  record deals, publishing deals, management deals, merchandising deals etc.. I’ve had over 200 songs published and around 100 or so  released. I’ve played with some top musicians and played gigs at Ronnie Scotts/ the Rock Garden in London and headlined many festivals.  The friends I made playing music are still my friends today.  

 

Besides music, what are some of the things that you are into?  I make films and have a small but exciting production company that concentrates on drama productions and pop videos. I write poetry, contribute to local politics and volunteer to help out and raise money for charities. I try to live life guided by broad spiritual principles - love others as you love yourself.

 

Are you currently on tour or planning to be?

Not currently, but planning for the Autumn.

 

Any last remarks?

One of the great things about being a musician is that you meet people from all over the world. Fantastic people who are musicians just like you. It teaches you that prejudices, discrimination, racism, misogyny, homophobia, ageism etc are all artificial inventions. The truth is we all share the same planet and one of the greatest things you can do while you are on it is play music with others, no matter where they come from, who they are or what they believe.

 

 

John Fitzsimons

Singer/ Guitarist and co songwriter with Solo Noi

www.solonoi.co.uk

 

 

 

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