Just before touching down for his debut Australasia tour, veteran UK vocalist Solo Banton kindly took the time to speak with The Groove Thief.

TGT: This is your first time in Australia and New Zealand, so how do you approach shows so far from home compared to an event in the UK?

Solo B: Yes, it is my first time – I’m really excited. There is a big difference when you have never been to a country before: you research what are more popular songs in that particular country, as your ‘hits’ can differ from region to region. As it’s the first time, you’re also more inclined to do a longer set with more songs, as opposed to somewhere you go regularly so you stick to all new material. As the likelihood is most of the crowd have seen you perform older songs already.

TGT: I reviewed your Old Raggamuffin LP back in November, really a fantastic release! Which tracks are your favorite, and any intriguing stories about how the project came together?

Solo B: Thank you for the review, it means a lot. I couldn’t really say I have favourites, as every track is personal and full of emotions, whether it’s the subject matter or the feelings while it was being written.

The combinations are always special as it’s a joy and a gift to work with other musicians who you really admire. Earl 16, Macka B and Mikey General are artists I listen to for many years, so being able to record with them and have them on the album are dreams come true.

TGT: What initially attracted you to the name Solo Banton, and how has your perspective on it changed over the years? Clearly being a storyteller is a key component of your music.

Solo B: I’ve had the name Solo since I was 17/18 old, my friends always used to say that I was an individual and there was no one like me, and they called me Han Solo (Star Wars) for this reason. I was into hip-hop and graffiti at this time. Once I started going back into reggae again I was given the title of Banton. The perspective has never changed, I always try to keep aspects of the name in everything I write.

TGT: Related, how do you describe your style? Is there a song or two from deeper in your catalog that you feel deserve more appreciation than they’ve gotten?

Solo B: My style is EDUTAINMENT, humorous and lyrical. I believe I’m versatile enough to be in different styles, but the banton will always shine through. Every song you write, you hope the masses feel it and enjoy it. On the Higher Levels album there’s the track ‘Rising Sun’, I’m very proud of that song. ‘Rastafari Teachings’ is very special and mystical.

TGT: It’s been just over two years since your epic ‘on the stairs‘” live video dropped with Manudigital and YT. Your tight rapport with YT is clear from the get-go, and the literal mic passing towards the end is a true highlight moment. What were the vibes like when recording this?

Solo B: The vibes were really high, I mean, we were in Spain at Rototom Sunsplash, we had just been reasoning with Beenie Man, Cali P, and Lutan Fyah… so yeah, vibes were high!

TGT: How has the reggae scene, especially in the UK, changed since your first releases on wax, and what advice do you have to younger artists coming up?

Solo B: Things are always evolving, the new crowd members are younger and grew up differently to how I grew up, so what they hold as historic or legendary can be different to the era I have on a pinnacle.

To young artists, I believe you must do you – you are at your strongest being yourself – don’t try to be anyone else. Of course be influenced by the greats who came before you, but be yourself and don’t stop. Keep pushing.

More info:
Solo Banton Facebook
Solo Banton Australasian Tour

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