Soulidium is a band that’s been creating a buzz with their independent release which features Lajon from Sevendust on track “Fly 2 The Sun” as well as a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell.” The Album Awaken was released on October 30thand has already garnered excellent reviews. The music is conceptualized by singer/songwriter Michael McKnight who began in 2006 in Tampa, Florida to produce music that had a solid focus on rock and a theatrical emphasis on live performance and showmanship. The band released their debut album Children of Chaos in 2007 which got attention with singles like “Drama,” “The Light,” and “Trapped,” which also appeared on the Saw IV Soundtrack.
The band has toured supporting other artists such as Alice in Chains, Breaking Benjamin, Sevendust and Taproot. In 2011 Soulidium took a break only to reappear four years later with their highly anticipated sophomore effort Awaken being released on their independent Soulidium Records, a route many bands are choosing these days as they are more able to self-manage, for some acts that have the hardest work ethics a record label is no longer always needed for guidance, although can help with distribution!
I got a chance to catch up with band founder Michael McKnight recently and he was able to answer questions I had about the future of Soulidium.
RS: Can you tell me how you got your early start in music?
MM: My start in music began with coming from a family of musicians. From a very young age I was exposed to multiple genres and was in a house where music was always playing. My step father was a classical pianist and my biological father a Latin percussionist & horn player. When I was around 5 I told my mother that I wanted to be a singer like Jim Morrison and the idea never changed. I spent a lot of my years recording songs off the radio onto a tape deck and obsessing about songwriting. As the years went by I started to work as a songwriter in a studio and it just developed into where I am now. Music has definitely changed a lot since then, but I am still pretty addicted to great melodies and lyrics that speak to the heart.
RS: Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
MM: That would be a huge list, but some of them are Mozart, Beethoven, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Kinks, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Elton John, Santana, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Pantera, Wasp, Dio, Ozzy Osborne, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Motley Crue, John Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Blondie, Hall & Oates, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Kid Rock, Green Day, Sevendust, Alter Bridge, Alice in Chains, Linkin Park, Weezer, 3 Doors Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Breaking Benjamin, Bush, Chevelle, Hole, Mudvayne, NIN, Manson, Papa Roach, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, Shinedown, and a ton of other artists. I love to listen to and write in all genres of music.
RS: What would be the defining moment of your career, for you, is there one moment that stands out?
MM: It was the first time I ever performed. I was in the 7th grade and was the not too popular, nerdy, music geek who kind of kept to himself. My chorus teacher wanted me to sing at a school talent show that was going to be held in the auditorium, and while I was nervous, I agreed. It was my favorite teacher, and I didn’t want to let her down. It was going to be a duet with a girl named Yolanda of a song called “Endless Love” which was originally sung by artists Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross. Yolanda was very popular and everyone knew she was an amazing vocalist. When it was our turn, I prayed I wouldn’t get nervous or suck and grabbed the mic. Kids are merciless and have no problem tearing you apart if they don’t like what they hear. Halfway into the song everyone was standing up and screaming and applauding. I got to admit it was epic. When we were done I was instantly popular from that moment on. That first moment on stage hooked me and made me realize that being a singer was, in fact, exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Moving that many people at once is just one of life’s greatest artistic pleasures.
RS: How is Awaken different musically then the debut album Children of Chaos?
MM: It’s definitely night and day. Children of Chaos was an album done by a new band who knew 5 chords at best and were still trying to figure things out. It’s at the moment where you stop thinking so much and just tap into the power of your musical spirit that things really get awesome. When we first started, we had no idea that our music would touch people as it did. When fans are running up to tell you how your music touched their lives, or led them to take a bold step for the better, it makes you realize that what you do matters. The confidence and objectivity that kind of impact leaves leads an artist to be more fearless and dig in deeper. Awaken lyrically represents my inner soul. It’s an album about dreams and self-discovery, pain, fear, inner demons, and hope. It is a soundtrack for the human spirit that sums up that we are all humans on the same journey, enduring the same experiences and reaching for the same dreams. This album represents a band who grew up and came into their own vs. a band who was just getting started.
RS: Can you tell me a little about the production? It was polished but in a fantastic way
MM: This time around we produced the album ourselves, so it really does reflect what we were aiming for in our hearts. We had some great people involved that definitely brought some great ideas to the table like Wes Dearth from Porcupine Tree who tracked the music, and my friend Toby Wright, (Alice in Chains, Metallica), who consulted with us. The only production exception on the album was Fly to the Sun. those vocals for Lajon Witherspoon and myself were produced & mixed by Shawn Grove, (Sevendust/Collective Soul). The vocals for the rest of the album were recorded & produced by myself and Angelina McKnight who has always worked by my side on vocals. She has always been a big part of how my vocals are done and is an irreplaceable part of Soulidium’s music.
RS: How did Lajon Witherspoon end up on the track, it seemed to fit perfectly with what you were doing.
MM: We played like 46 dates with Sevendust one summer and became good friends with the band. They are an awesome group of guys and amazing musicians. Lajon and I just hit it off and he really liked the Soulidium sound. We always talked about singing a song together, and one day I called him with a track called Fly to the Sun. I sent him the track and he loved it. He said he was in and wanted to do it with me. I traveled to Atlanta, GA; we ate some sushi and went into Jan Smith Studios, and had a magical moment. His wife and daughter were there while we recorded and it was a lot of fun. Definitely a memory that I will always cherish.
RS: How did you end up on the Saw soundtrack and do you intend to lend the music to anything like that in the future?
MM: That was a weird time in my life. We were charting on active rock radio with our song “The Light” which kind of took off on its own due to the faith of a programming director named Simon at Z106 in Springfield, Missouri. The house that the band was staying in at the time burned down and destroyed everything we owned. Instruments, clothes, you name it. It was an epic fire. In the midst of all of that stress, a falling out happened between the band for many reasons and we parted ways. With our lives in tatters, I decided to move to Tampa where my family lived to start a new lineup. I wasn’t going to let Soulidium go without a fight.
Right after I arrived in Tampa, I was contacted and told that Lionsgate Films loved our song “Trapped” and wanted to include us on the SAWIV Motion Picture Soundtrack. I really needed some good news and its timing couldn’t have been better. I knew it was an amazing opportunity and that I had to jump on it. I wanted to do a music video for our song like Fear Factory had done on the first SAW movie, but we were so damn broke we could barely eat. I managed to get $500 together after being introduced to a Tampa director named Marcus Koch who agreed to join us. We secured a location for a video which was the old Oliva Tobacco Factory in Ybor City, FL. It was a pretty spooky place full of history.
With just $500 and a lot of favors from friends, we managed to get creative and film a music video that ended up winning us a best music video of the year award from the FL film community. Those were hard times, but in retrospect I’m really proud of having pulled off so much with so little. Real artists are resourceful and I got really lucky to meet such amazingly talented people like Marcus, Joe Davidson and sfx makeup artist Chris Polidoro.
RS: Do you think the changing industry is allowing for bands to self-manage and become their own labels?
MM: Absolutely. What’s more is that many artists are proving that labels are quickly becoming a thing of the past by succeeding. At one time, if you were not signed, you had zero chances. But with the emergence of the internet and the simplification of music & video production, things have really opened up for aspiring artists. The internet has been a blessing for us. I will be the first to admit that it’s not an easy task, but if you have a great product and are determined and not scared to work long hours, an artist can use the power of the internet to make it happen.
We launched our imprint Soulidium Records and have some awesome things planned for its future. Keeping music in the hands of artists means that fans are going to get the real thing. More often than not, label artists get pushed into compromise and change until they find themselves in a place they never intended to be. I think the safest place for art is in the hands of artists and not corporate meeting rooms. Artist like Macklemore have proven that one artist with determination and an internet connection, can make a difference.
RS: If you could choose a tour to be on this year, what do you think that’s upcoming that would fit Soulidium?
MM: We’ve been blessed in being able to play and tour with some amazing artists, but I would love a chance to tour with artists like Rob Zombie, Metallica, Manson, Breaking Benjamin, NIN, Slipknot, and several others. I love touring with bands who move me and who have stage shows that rock as much as their music does. A band’s live show is definitely something that should blow fans away, and Soulidium is planning to do just that for our upcoming tour. If there is an ultimate reward in music it is absolutely playing a great live show for your fans. The memories artists and fans hold of epic moments on stage are memories that last forever. I am very grateful for the experiences I have had in the presence of our fans. They are the best, and we love them all.
RS: What’s next once Awaken is released on October 30, what’s in the immediate future?
MM: Now that Awaken has released, we are ready to play some great shows, produce some exciting music videos and get ready for the next Soulidium album. I needed to take a hiatus for a bit to get a new perspective on everything. Sometimes, the business end of music can ruin the beauty of the music itself, but it’s really good to be back to what matters most. After making fans wait this long for an album, our next biggest priority is to keep the great music coming and to keep entertaining the hell out of everyone who comes to a Soulidium show.
For More information about the band please check out http://www.soulidium.com