In Los Angeles, independent music artists litter the streets like cigarette butts. For every star that makes it onto the walk of fame, there’s countless others that burn out. In a quest that arguably began somewhere in the 1940’s, thousands of creative hopefuls head west every year in pursuit of their Hollywood dream. And while the vast majority of them go back home or disappear into the disillusioned abyss, there’s a small precious few of them that stick around. They remain resolute, optimistic, and interestingly enough…grateful.
Soulaire, alternatively spelled Soul Heir, is a former fashion stylist turned independent music artist from the oddly named town of Louisiana, Missouri. By all accounts, the odds were against him six years ago when he moved to L.A. with only sixty dollars to his name. As an openly gay, young black man of Ethiopian decent, you could probably say that most of society is against him too. But unlike so many of his starry-eyed predecessors, Soulaire is one of the few that’s in the entertainment game for the long haul. And despite the adversity he may face, he remains ever grateful.
As so many singers do, Soulaire knew that music was his true calling after singing gospel in the church. So after majoring in Criminal Justice for one semester at HBCU Harris Stowe State University, he sold his laptop and headed for Hollywood at the age of only 19. Fast forward to today and you get the artist behind the B-Slade produced “WYA4 (What You Askin’ 4)” – an upbeat, funky, and fabulous new single that’s poised for mass radio play and maybe, just maybe, is a path to one of those stars on the Walk of Fame someday. Luxe caught up with Soulaire to discuss the hustle, the dream, and the determination that keeps him going.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
I call them the trinity, which is Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Prince. They all give me elements. What I love the most about Whitney Houston is I feel like her voice was so angelic and, she wasn’t a person that needed all the gimmicks… No matter where she went in the world she always gave reverence go God. She always created a time to sing to him and [bridge those gaps]. Gospel music means good news. With Prince I just love his fearlessness. He was a trendsetter. Men loved him. Women loved him. He wore heels. He was innovative. He was badass…Michael Jackson is the greatest performer ever. And then as I got older, I got more into music and then I fell in love with Lauryn Hill [and] Monica.
What is the message you’re trying to convey through your music?
I would just say, walking in your truth. I’m just living free. The message that I would want to convey is [to] just be Soulaire – just me, just my authentic self I guess. I want people to know when they hear me on the radio that you can recognize my voice and be like ‘Oh that’s Soulaire’. I feel like where I’m at in my life, what I’m doing with my music that there’s definitely a lane for me and nobody has quite tapped into that lane fully.
I think that it helps me because, working behind the scenes I recognize…how we’re in a day and age where it’s not just about the music it’s about the whole package. So I understand, you know, that…sometimes people want to be an artist but they don’t look like an artist. You have to look the part, so it’s just like…when you step up on the stage you should look like a performer. I don’t want to see you in something from H&M. You need to have artist attire on. So I think that’s helped me in just the ways of knowing how much of an influencer you are…I am my own billboard.
What do you have to say on growing as a person first, before becoming artist, as opposed to becoming an artist before you know who you are?
It’s very important. I always knew that I wanted to sing…but I think that the nineteen-year-old me versus where I am today, had not been through what I have been through today as a man, and [wouldn’t] be able to even channel those emotions and the things I want to bring out in my music. I think that when you’re younger doing music you’re very much influenced. A lot of the times you don’t know the business, you don’t know the industry. As you get older and have a couple mishaps in the industry you’re like, ‘Okay I don’t want to get played again. What do I need to learn?’. You’re doing your songwriter split sheets when you’re coming to the studio. You’re making sure that you have a proper distribution, or a BMI or an ASCAP that’s protecting you as an artist. Even the single, down to my single, maybe even two or three years ago I wouldn’t have felt as confident or comfortable to say those words.
What’s been one of your career highlights?
A lot of the times when I’m doing these different industry events and stuff everybody’s like ‘What do you do, What do you do?’ and I am a stylist and I am a music artist, so I wanted to create an event that represented me. So I created an event called the ‘Soul Slays’ and we just had our second annual one in September. So, the ‘Soul’ with my name being Soulaire represents the essence of the music, and the ‘Slays’ is the new term everybody uses and that represents the fashion. I used upcoming designers and upcoming music artists, and they would debut their new clothing lines as the music artists would be performing… I felt like I was able to share my platform. A lot of times in Hollywood, people are all about them. It’s never about ‘How can we win together’…we sold 700 tickets, we sold out of it and we reached capacity. It was an incredible experience…And then just coming up with my single being released on iTunes, like that was like a ‘Mamma I made it’ moment for me because it had been such a long time coming.
What’s been one of your biggest challenges?
When people say ‘indie artist’ I have a new level of respect for them, and I mean the true indie artists that aren’t even signed to an indie label. The challenge is really just promoting and funding everything yourself. I mean, it’s…mixing, mastering, and production…and then that’s not even the half of it [with] the social media and stuff like that. You got to pay for promotions and you know, it’s a lot. It’s just the funding that sometimes is what takes away from the creativity. People don’t just put your song on the radio. They’re charging you to put it on the radio. You’re not getting on tours and shows unless you’re paying to headline that show. Those have been the most challenging things, [just that] once you get out of the creativity stage and get into the business you realize how political the music industry is. It’s really not always about talent.
Describe what the phrase “making it” means to you.
To me, it would be, being able to live comfortably, paying my bills, being able to help my family out, and really just doing what I love and being able to monetize off of it. [I just want to be] recognized for what I’m most passionate about which is being an entertainer and a songwriter. That would be ‘making it’ to me.
What’s next for you?
On my next record I’m rapping…in the first and second verse and I just sing on the hooks. So I think that it’s going to be just an eye opener, like a shock factor, because sometimes you see me with my, you know, fabulous, extravagant outfits…but I take my music seriously and I’m really spitting bars. It’s done [now]. But I really want to work [my current] record. What happens sometimes—especially for newer artists is—we’re in a place where I can go down the street and every other person is probably an artist. So, being an independent artist it takes a lot more time to push your record. A lot of the time I’ll see people release a record and then in three months they’re releasing a new single. It’s like ‘no’. [Fetty Wap was pushing ‘Trap Queen’] for a year and a half before he got signed. When you are passionate about something and you know it’s a hit, you got to push it. I’m not even as focused on an album right now…I’m much more singles-driven.”
Get “WYA4 (What You Askin 4)” on iTunes:
Follow Soulaire on Instagram: @_Soulaire