Amongst the lunchtime commotion at Third Street Stuff, singer-songwriter Will Solomon would have been difficult to pick out of the crowd if it weren’t for his welcoming demeanor and smile. With a warm handshake and a friendly hello in his slightly Southern accent, he was happy to talk about his latest endeavors.
“From the moment I picked up the guitar, I was writing songs,” says Solomon, who released his first album, The Pelican & The Herring, in April. “I never took to lessons. What really got me to pick up the technique was just writing silly little songs with my friends, and then sitting in on Thursday night rehearsals for the Lexington-based band Wake as a teenageer.”
Solomon is heavily influenced by the creativity in the Lexington community. He grew up in Lexington, went to Dunbar High School and studied jazz at Morehead State University. He left Morehead to move to Nashville and make music.
Solomon worked in construction in Nashville for about a year to make ends meet and started playing lead guitar for a number of different bands, the main one being Johnnyswim, who he played with for four years. He was inspired by what the band was doing in terms of songwriting and instrumentation and decided he wanted to try it out on his own.
After living in Nashville for six years and working on creating his own sound, Solomon felt like Lexington was “calling him back” in early 2013.
“It’s easy to lose your identity,” he says. “You start to question why you are writing songs. I felt like Kentucky was calling me back, so I finally decided to go back. It felt kind of risky to want to continue to do music and move to Lexington to do it. But when you go back home and get some of your mom’s good cooking, it kind of fuels you. And Lexington is such a creative town.”
“There are a lot of good songwriters in Lexington,” Solomon says. “Last summer, I did a series of writer’s rounds where three different writers came out, and it was kind of cool to just see what Lexington has to offer. I know Lexington lends itself to bluegrass, but coming from Nashville, where everyone goes to pitch songs and kind of commercialize their music, I think music makers in Lexington are kind of authentic to who they are, and they have unique sounds.
“One of the cool things, too, is that Kentucky is not really the South and not really the North, so you get all sorts of blended perspectives and sounds.”
When discussing the styles that are present in his album, Solomon says, “There are definitely some bluegrass elements.”
He explains that he didn’t grow up listening to bluegrass, but right when he moved back to town he started to learn a bunch of fiddle tunes. He put together an upright bass player, a fiddle player and a mandolin player, and then he realized that he’s not a bluegrass player. He says, “Basically, I used bluegrass instrumentation and incorporated more pop and folk elements to it, and then over time it kind of evolved to where I ended up adding a pedal steel, a very Nashville instrument, which Elton John uses in a lot of his songs.”
He wanted to blend a very Lexington sound with a little bit of Nashville, and then as the sound developed even more, he added drums to the record to create more energy that would sound better for music festivals.
Now that his record has been released and he is about to get married, he is very excited to move to the next step in his career.
“After this I have a phone call with someone who has a 15-passenger van, because I want to buy it so I can just hit the road,” he says. “The goal is to play as many shows as possible. I’ve got some shows coming up in Nashville, and another one in Lexington this week. My fiancée, soon to be wife, and I have just been talking about hitting the road, since I want to play around the nation. Even if it means we have to stop at truck stops to take showers, that’s part of the fun of it all.”
Solomon says the biggest lesson he has learned as a musician starting out in Lexington is to stay inspired.
“Chase that feeling you get when you leave a concert and all you want to do afterwards is go to your bedroom and practice for hours,” he says. “Listen to lots and lots of music. Find out who inspired the songwriters you’re inspired by and listen to them, and then find out who inspired them and listen to them. Grow where you’re planted.
“The digital age has changed the world of music. You don’t have to move to Austin, L.A. or Nashville to make a career as a songwriter anymore. I found embracing my Kentucky roots is when I really began to get a clear vision for the direction I wanted to move artistically.”