Previews & Features
Sol searching for greatness
By Phil Daley
Eighteen-year-old Country guitarist Sol Philcox has swapped North Walsham in Norfolk for the lights of Nashville in the United States, with the intention of taking the music industry by storm. He spoke to BBC Norfolk on the day of his departure.
Sol has left North Walsham for Memphis
In just a short lifetime, Sol Philcox from a small town in Norfolk has met and impressed some of the most talented guitarists in the world.
As Sol prepared to travel to the United States of America to meet up with his child hood idol Brent Mason, the young guitarist took time to explain his story so far and what's in store during his trip across the Atlantic.
Like many of his heroes before him, Sol taught himself to play the guitar when he was in his early teens. He went through stages of playing in different bands and playing different styles before he really found his talent in Country music.
"Gradually I got more and more into different styles. I chose to study different styles like Jazz and Country. That isn't very common for people my age, especially someone in England," said Sol.
It was whilst playing Country music that he realised he had a special talent for the genre and he was intrigued by a certain session guitarist from the USA.
"When I first started playing Country guitar I heard Brent Mason play. Brent is the number one session guitarist in Nashville. He has been for the last 25 years and he plays on nine out of every ten records that come out of the city. He is A-list and generally considered one of the best guitarists in the world. I just loved his style and it got me into it," said Sol.
Little did Sol realise how much of an influence Brent would be in the future.
When Sol was 15 or 16 years old he experimented with his music, playing around in his room with cheap software and equipment and recording guitar tracks so he could hear what he sounded like.
Using the social networking site MySpace, Sol added clips and tracks he had recorded so people could hear what he was doing.
E-mail from a hero
"I did this one track that was a badly recorded, under produced, under written Country guitar instrumental called Toad Rag. It was a fast paced 'chicken-picken' type thing that was inspired by Brent Mason and all these heroes of mine", said Sol.
Sol always has a guitar in his hand
"I got an e-mail that said it was from Brent Mason in Nashville, Tennessee, and thought it must have been a joke. There was some low level attention on the Internet from a few people all over the world but I thought it was just people who spend too much time on the web.
"This long e-mail said someone from a guitar company that works with Brent had sent him a link saying 'listen to this kid from England'. Brent gets at least 20 links a day saying 'listen to me', 'listen to my son', but he doesn't always have time. He told me I was the first person in his whole career to jump out at him.
"Its rough, raw and there's a long way to go with it, but it sounds like I've really got something," said Sol.
Brent was so impressed by Sol's talents, he invited him to come to Nashville to see what went on.
"I couldn't believe it. I had this silly idea that I should pack my bags and go. My mum didn't even believe that it was him. I found that it was him but it was a stupid idea for someone whose just 16 years old to go to America and I'm glad I didn't go," said Sol.
A year or so later
When Sol was 17, he decided it was time for him to record an album. He used the equipment at Paston College in North Walsham, where he went to school, to put together his masterpiece.
"It was terrible and not something I put my heart into, but I thought I needed to do it because I was bored," said Sol.
Despite Sol's opinion of his debut album, he set up an online site so his fans could buy a copy.
"The first copy I sold via the Internet was bought by someone going under the name - Brent Mason," said Sol.
A while after Sol's album became available online, a record company based in Texas showed some interest in signing him to their label.
"They paid for me and my mum to fly to Texas. We went there and met the big boss guy. I just didn't like him and he was trying to put himself across as a Simon Cowell type of figure. I just hated his attitude and he didn't like the fact that I wasn't jumping through hoops for him, so we went home," said Sol.
"I think the most important thing is that I'm not desperate for fame and fortune. There are so many situations where you'll get people my age who'll get in with a bad management company and you end up signing your life away," he added.
But while Sol was in the States, he had a call from someone very special.
Brent Mason had received Sol's album and had been listening to it with interest.
"He really liked it and said he'd like me to come and stay with him at his house. I went home, set my sights on that and went over in August 2008. While I was over there I played on Broadway and a couple of other clubs in Nashville," said Sol.
Musicians Brent Mason and Paul Franklin
"Brent introduced me to this producer who's worked with Shania Twain and he was very interested in me. We sat in his home studio for a couple of hours and talked about what my plans were for the future and what I wanted to do.
"He thought it was pretty apparent that I knew what I was doing and said he would love to work with me. He asked me to come back to Nashville, do some recording, get me in the studio with some musicians and see what I can come up with. If it worked out, he said we should pitch it to some major labels and go from there. I was terrified," said Sol.
Brent Mason was Sol's main musical inspiration and he was now spending time in his house and studio!
"I got to go to the studio with him and I think that was the best experience of my entire life. Just sitting on a stool in the corner of his recording booth for eight hours, watching him record guitar tracks for people like Toby Keith and Alan Jackson - these huge country mega-stars," said Sol.
The next step
After coming back from America, it was always a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' he went back.
Sol left for the second time on Tuesday, 25 November, 2008 for some more time with his tutor and role-model Brent.
"At the moment I'm just looking at going for a little while. It's looking most likely that I will have to come home after the 90 day holiday period, because it's going to take a while before things like visa's get sorted out.
"I know it's what I need to do and it's where I belong, but I've also got to be realistic and realise it might not happen straight away. I might have to come home and go back out there a few times before it really starts getting going," said Sol.
Sol playing a Gibson 335 guitar
So what's in store for Sol when he gets out to the capital of Country music?
"Basically, I pick up from where I left off. Going to studios with Brent, practicing, watching other bands and learning.
"Brent's been talking about playing a gig with his band The Players. They are a band who play every month at a top club in Nashville, made up of all the top session players. They are all the number ones of what they do.
"It's essentially a tourist attraction. People drive from miles around to see Brent play guitar in Nashville because he doesn't normally play live. Brent said he wants me to come along to one of them and maybe play too," said Sol.
Despite his confidence and self belief, Sol will be sad to leave the home where his music career began.
"The typical answer is I'll be glad to go and be rid of it [North Walsham], but I like the place and Ill miss it.
"I've got good friends and I'll be sad to leave my family, but I can always come back," he said.
last updated: 01/12/2008 at 10:19