(December 23, 2021) Rohan Solomon could well have been a Taekwondo champ. Until 11, he was obsessed with Taekwondo. In fact, he participated and won every single state and national tournament. Rohan represented India in the junior league too, though he ended up losing in the semis to his South Korean opponent. Taekwondo then took a back seat as destiny gave him a new plan – a musical one that he has embellished and became a few Indian artists who are known globally.
When a relative taught him a few chords on the piano, it altered his career path completely. Self-taught, he not only figured out the rest of the chords, but he did so on the guitar too. By the time he turned 13 in October 1997, he had written his first song True Love about a girl he had a crush on. By 16, he was the frontman of alternative rock band Cyanide, which lasted 10 rocking years.
That was then, but now the tune is different
Today, the 37-year-old is a singer-songwriter-composer-vocal coach and audio engineer. “I also have an MBA degree, and it feels good to have a degree to fall back on. I am also a huge squash enthusiast,” chuckles Rohan Solomon, in an exclusive interview with Global Indian. He is among few Indian artists and a global chart-topper is on a musical high after he got a Grammy submission for his much-talked-about release in 2021, We Demand Change — which led the song straight to the top 5 and top 20 spots on international radio charts.
Born and brought up in New Delhi, Rohan listened to Michael Jackson and The Beatles, later it was Bryan Adams and Michael Learns to Rock, and much later Savage Garden, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls. His music evolved, and Solomon’s taste steered towards rock with greats like Metallica, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Iron Maiden, Megadeth on his play list.
The 10 years with Cyanide saw Rohan tour across the country playing at The Great Indian Rock Festival, Eastwind Festival and NH7 Weekender. Cyanide was also featured on the reality TV show Channel V Launchpad in 2007. This was also the time he explored solo with his debut album Lead The Way (2009).
Cyanide, which released 2 EPs and a full-length album Sugarcoated, saw huge success. The signature crunching guitar riffs and pop chorus giving the band a solid, melodic and powerful sound. When the members parted in 2012, this erstwhile frontman of Cyanide moved to New York to study audio engineering. While doing his Recording Connection masters programme, he got placed at Engine Room Audio where he picked up the nuances of production. “It’s not easy being an audio engineer in New York city. The hustle is real. You have to be fast and on point or else one of the 20 people waiting in line will take your place,” recalls the Delhi University alumni who went from student to production manager and senior engineer in just three years.
The riff, they keep coming
In 2015, Rohan released his second solo album Moving On produced in Nashville, USA by renowned musician Scott Moffatt. “The first single from this album Dream Girl also released worldwide, and was an instant hit on the radio,” smiles Solomon, who did his BBA and MBA from IIPM in Delhi.
His learning curve was immense. “Just the calibre of people whom I learned from (in the US) was amazing. Mark Christensen, J Chris Griffin and Michael Brauer – it was something you can only dream of,” shares Solomon, who had also started a band with Indian artists in New York, By Chance, and released a trilogy of songs. After a four-year US stint where he had the opportunity to work as assistant engineer with John Legend, Toni Braxton, Immortal Technique and Anderson Paak, with whom he incidentally has worked on a Grammy-winning song Bubblin, Solomon moved back to Delhi to set up his own home studio.
The year 2019 saw him compose a trilogy — Blue Sky, Hard to Breathe and Time, 2020 as the pandemic led to Keep Holding On, Victoria’s Secret and Without a Trace. “Covid affected the live music scene. It became hard for gigging musicians to get out and make money. But it certainly increased the number of singles released,” he adds.
His song We Demand Change which came out this year was produced over a couple of weeks among other songs of Indian artists. “It takes time and works to produce a song, especially since I am the one performing. I had the basic structure worked out on an acoustic guitar but I was not able to find the right voicing with the standard guitar tunings so I had to choose a different tuning called DADGAD, which just fit the emotion of the song so well,” Rohan explains of his musicology.
One of the striking features of this track was the use of stomps, claps, gunshots, and breaking glass instead of the traditional drums, pieced together to form the beat. Rohan, who is an NBA fan, juggles many roles – singer-songwriter, composer, vocal coach, and audio engineer. “The saving grace is that I genuinely enjoy each process, so it comes naturally to me,” says the self-confessed Star Wars and Harry Potter fan. His creativity lies in going by the feel of the music. “Is the song telling a story that I want it to tell and is it plucking at the correct heartstrings, is it communicating the emotion that I want it to communicate — that matters to me,” informs Rohan.
Looking forward to going back to New York for a few months to work on some projects, Solomon has some new strains up his creative sleeve now. “There is an album set to come out in 2022. Some singles (already released) Victoria’s Secret and Set Me Free will be a part of it. I wonder who can tell me what the vibe or sound will be after they listen to both the tracks (DM on Instagram @rohansolomon and there might be some goodies for Christmas for the winners). The talented musician is open to trying different genres as long as he feels the vibe,” says Rohan, who is a fan of Sara Bareilles and Ed Sheeran. He is currently in talks with a few singers & Indian artists for collaboration. His musical journey has taught him to, “Chase happiness, not money. If you are great at doing what you love, money will follow. Trust me on this,” insists the musician, adding that the pandemic has shown him that, “it’s your own mental health and happiness that is important.”
ON HIS GRAMMY-WINNING TRACK
I was the assistant engineer on that track. Honestly, I got very lucky. I wasn’t even on shift that day. Vinnie Pagano (the recording engineer) was on a shift and asked me to come in and help him because it was Anderson Paak and he needed help. There was a load of troubleshooting before the artist reached the studio. Once everything was set up, I was around in case Vinnie needed help – changing a faulty cable, swapping a microphone, getting a cuppa, running pro tools. We were lucky that the song won a Grammy.
Rohan has released a cinematic Christmas song It’s Christmas aimed at cheering up people during this pandemic. The song has been pre-released on global radio platforms in a few countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, and a few in Europe. It was released in India before its worldwide digital release on December 9, 2021, on all major streaming platforms. “It will make you want to get up and dance next to the Christmas tree with a glass of eggnog in one hand and a Christmas cake in the other,” smiles Rohan.
Rohan along with other Indian artists also runs an online school for music production and audio engineering – Synergy Audio Productions. “I am producing some really good artists. My stint in New York helped me become a good teacher and mentor. I definitely put a part of my soul in everything I produce,” signs off the musician who is busy with regular online classes for his students.