Raph Solo is an out British musician whose work comes from a very personal place. His new single, “Glass of Wine,” from his recent album “Am I Too Much?” address his coming to terms with being gay and finding true love. While his single has an upbeat tempo, Solo shows his considerable range on his new album. He chatted with The Mirror about being gay, and making music.
What inspired you to be a singer, your coming out, and your single, “Glass of Wine”?
I’ve been singing since 7 or 8. As an artist, I try to be true to who I am. Coming out happened by default. My personal life took some turns, and I got freaked out and questioned: “Am I gay or straight?” I did some reparative therapy and I journaled about it, and turned that into a book, “The Memoirs of Angel King.” Following the book, I went back in to the studio and recorded “Glass of Wine.” It was a song about when you see someone for the first time and you think “Are you the love of my life?” and it clicks. For the video — and I see myself as an audio/video artist—I wanted to something that represented my life. I’m not in love now, but making the song gives me hope.
Do you feel being an openly gay musician is easy/difficult?
It was restricting before I came out. You are more conscious about what you express. I don’t think it’s made things harder or easier. I do what I do, and whatever happens, happens. I still have to create my own opportunities, but on the flip side, when people listen to my music, they get a sense of authenticity. If I wasn’t [real], they would pick up on it.
Why did you produce a whole album, when so much of the music business focuses on singles these days?
I have nine brand new songs on “Am I Too Much.” “Glass of Wine” is one of them. I supposed it’s easier to do singles because people’s attention spans are smaller. You can record a track and that’s it. But I wanted to do an album that was a concept and theme. It was post reparative therapy and takes a musical snapshot of my life as a single man in the 21st century. All the songs are autobiographical. I don’t say I want to write a song about this… but things happen to me and they turn into songs, and they get into an album. I did nine because I wanted it to be concise and I wanted to have every song stand alone as a single.
You mentioned your reparative therapy. Can you talk about that?
After my fifth relationship in seven years didn’t work out, I thought: “Why is this not working out? Am I meant to be straight?” When you break up you are sensitive. So I looked online at reparative therapy, and I tried it, and six, seven months later, I realized I wasn’t going to reorient my sexuality. I embraced that. I was damaged after for a bit, but I’m OK now. I was in denial in my 20s and I thought maybe this is not what I want. I was celibate for a few years. It wasn’t a negative experience. I look at myself more kindly now. It’s your actions that define who you are. I wanted to change because a part of me felt it wasn’t right to being gay. It’s part of who you are as a person.I’m happy for the lesson.I don’t care to be a role model, but I want to give people something positive.
How do you find the right music/beat for your words/messages? Do you write (lyrics) first then find the beat, or syncopate the words to the track?
For me the first thing is the melody and the hook. Something happens to me and I get inspired. The lyric and melody happen all at once.Once I have a chorus, it transpires to a verse after it. Then I sit and write the chords to the melody, then I have a clear idea on how to produce it — this kind of beat, (128 beats per minute) but it could be a ballad if you strip the beat behind.
Why do you choose the dance music genre?
For me, I describe my music as pop music. I chose up-tempo, because I’m an upbeat kind of guy. I like the groove. “Am I Too Much?” has ballads and mid-tempo and up-tempo songs. I had a dance remix version of “Glass of Wine.” If I release a single, I do a remix. Tempo depends on the song. “Glass of Wine” lends itself to being a little intoxicating, but a beat will drum the message into it. But I’m trying not to fit into that cliché [of gay men/dance music] but artist remixes get club play, which is easier for less established artists to break out. But YouTube now is more audiovisual. I have my song, my story, and go through YouTube and other channels.
How much of your look is coordinated to creating your image as a singer? You have a very sexy physique.
My shirtless appearance is not a conscious choice. If I shoot a video on the beach it’s natural to be in swimwear. It’s an act of self-love to take pride in one’s appearance. I’m myself, and how that comes across, I don’t think about it, but I am aware that it can sometimes be perceived in a certain way. I try to portray confidence. I feel I’ve earned that because I’ve had to fight for that. I would like to inspire people. That comes from being open about who you are. I talk about open relationships and infidelity and what I’m trying to say with the album is that it’s OK to stand up for yourself, and is something is not good enough you need to say “No,” and when you do that, you love yourself and that’s a good thing. If you can’t, you can’t love anyone else. That’s the difference between being self-centered and conceited. Going to the gym makes me feel good, and it’s healthy lifestyle. There is a stereotype that if you take your shirt off and go to gym, you’re a floozy. It doesn’t mean you are void of morals and principles. You have pride in your appearance. You don’t apply that [stereotype] to straight people.
Your song is called “Glass of Wine.” What kind of wine do you like?
Rosé. I’m not too fussy. I can be a cheap date. 2 ½-3 glasses is my limit.