With an acoustic guitar on a stage set with a single barstool at Loser’s Bar & Grill, Solon Holt spends many an afternoon on Nashville’s Music Row connecting with the audience by playing covers and requests of country’s greatest hits. It is a skill all its own to perform others’ songs while keeping the audience entertained. According to Solon, it is something you cannot fake, he has to “be on” and engaged for every song.
There is a dichotomy to this life with many treating these regular gigs as their career and others to learn the ropes, all while many hopefuls wait in the wings. When you speak to Solon about it, what is striking is his authenticity and his humble desire to just be around music while he finds his sound and what career might be in store.
Like the first verse of a country song – I wake in the morning and make my bed, As soon as that’s squared away, I turn an hourglass on its head, Writing whatever comes to mind as the grains of sand pass thirty minutes of time.
This ritual is emblematic of many songwriters, but it is this consistency that will hopefully bring about songs we will all be humming along to or have stuck in our heads. Solon is making his own path in a highly competitive industry. He is spending his time reading extensively, listening to other musicians, picking apart their songs, looking for what works in the hits, what could be sampled in a different octave or what would make a chord sound differently than he envisioned.
It is in these academic pursuits relative to music and life that he is finding source material and what his sound truly is. It was a baptism by talent at People’s Missionary Baptist Church in Tyler when Solon started playing there at fourteen. Under the direction of Pastor Marcus Jackson and then band leader Montrel Sanders, Solon experienced what he describes as being completely one mind in music. Those hours long worship services were a religious experience when it came to how the musicians played together while riffing off each other, accented by the harmonies of the gospel choir. It was a feeling, and they were all completely in sync.
And the chorus hits – When I hear the soulful notes, the sound of pedal steel or the voices of gospel choir in my head, It takes me back, back to my Tyler roots, It gives me strength, strength for where I must go, life is a loop of learning on this long road I have to hoe.
As the son of Jennifer and Edwin Holt, Solon comes from a very musical family. All three of his brothers have been involved in music or theater. His mother is a classical pianist. His father has performed live with various groups for over 30 years. Edwin’s sound is moody, classic delta blues. It has the beauty of strong instrumentality, a melancholic, somber sound, and a wealth of emotion. It is the influence of his family that has given Solon experience being immersed in and playing the blues, jazz, classical and bluegrass. With this immersion he is a combination of all their influences.
As part of Solon’s musical evolution, he started a band with twins Harper and Oliver Bisagno. Adding pedal steel, banjo and bass fiddle to the mix, the boys would spend hours each summer playing around the pool. Playing together was also a meeting of the minds for these three, like Solon’s playing in church. They played bluegrass, blues, country – you name it. All music full of feeling and taking the music “down to the teeth” as Solon would say. It was during this time that Solon really started to have an affinity for country music and songwriting. Wanting to tell the stories for which country music is renowned. You may have seen the Solon Holt Band perform in Longview or at Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue. Don’t be surprised if you see this threesome pair up again in the future as they still enjoy playing together.
But as circumstance would dictate college came calling and Solon would find another group to play with for hours in the dorms, forming his second band Frog House. The band met one by one as Solon jammed in his room and they came by to listen and join in. At Ole Miss, this group would play for fraternity parties for upwards of 3,000 people, at Rooster’s Blues House and at the Lyric Theater in Oxford. It was a video of one of these shows that really sealed the deal for his parents that this was something Solon had to pursue and a Tik Tok Video with 187,000 views that had the music industry calling. Both videos prompted Solon to leave Ole Miss after his freshman year and move to Nashville to develop his talent and opportunity.
We come around to the second verse – I spend most of my time in these four walls, thinking, reading, listening, and playing, Writing five songs that find the bin, just so I can find one beauty at 2 a.m., Before I get up to do it all over again.
It is invigorating to speak to Solon about music. Starting with Guy Clark you can start to see Solon’s taste and appreciation for the legacy before him. Clark was described as the King of Texas Troubadours by the New York Times in his obituary and is responsible for helping create the Americana genre. He was also a prolific folk singer, country star and songwriter. Clark has written for or been covered by artists in every decade since 1960 and certainly had a career Solon believes to have been “quite a life”.
Following in the folk song and Americana vein Solon lists the Turnpike Troubadours and Paul Cauthen in what he is listening to right now. And then there is the stable of strong Texas Red Dirt music he listens to from Randy Rogers and Shane Smith and the Saints, who he recently enjoyed seeing live. Rounding out his current influences are the Rolls Royce of Country Music George Jones who had more than 160 chart singles to his name and the Louvin Brothers who wrote and performed country, bluegrass, and gospel music from 1940-1963, incorporating a mandolin and popularizing the vocal technique of close harmony in country and country-rock.
Each of these artists or groups have their own unique sound and I think that is what energizes Solon about their music. He sees all the moving parts of a song and is working to figure out what his unique sound will be. And not to mention the strong voices in this group. Solon has one as well and is just chomping at the bit to record his own material as only he can.
Then a triumphant third verse – Nashville oh how it breaks my heart, when it squeezes everything out of me and wears me out, But man it also revives me and gives me inspiration at every turn, It’s the yin and yang, where rainbows never die when all you do is live the music.
Solon said that anywhere he is at any given time he is always writing or thinking about how to make his everyday experiences songs. Be it the grocery store, waiting in line or in route to a show. It is one of the best and worst things to ever happen to him because it is a constant of who he is and how he functions. He is using this time to be a sponge and soak up all he can. Solon is present and saying yes to everything that is available to him in Nashville.
Solon is active in a couple of writer’s groups, as is customary for songwriters in Music City. He has forged a friendship with Aaron Raitiere, an Opry member and Grammy winner for writing “I’ll Never Love Again” with Lady Gaga, Natalie Hemby, and Hillary Lindsey, the theme of the remake of A Star is Born. Aaron also has a publishing deal, a respected, musician’s musician album and many powerful singles making him a solid mentor for Solon.
Solon has also worked with Becca Ray Greene, songwriter and winner of Nashville Rising Song 2019 and co-writer with Megan Moroney and Adam Wheeler of Fix You Too Megan’s 2022 song that has been streamed over five million times and Bryan Simpson, who is known for his solo output as The Whistles & the Bells, as a founding member of Cadillac Sky and writing for artists including Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Joe Nichols.
And now the bridge – I Play on, Play on, Play on as a Barstool Troubadour, I Play on
But back to the stage set with one barstool. Solon is a performer’s performer to boot. He describes performing as the extroverted side of his introverted writing. He is currently working on direct eye contact and bringing the crowd with him throughout the song. His style here to fore came from his total immersion in the music and how it felt to him. To share his talents fully it requires a wink, a nod and a smile to the crowd. That’s the charisma that keeps people coming back to sing along and is keeping Solon employed doing what he loves while he navigates the industry.
With one more round of the Chorus we bring it on home – When I hear the soulful notes, the sound of pedal steel or the voices of gospel choir in my head, It takes me back, back to my Tyler roots, It gives me strength, strength for where I must go, life is a loop of learning on this long road I have to hoe.
As you are reading this Solon will have just completed two weeks in the recording studio. This will be his first experience cutting some of his own country tracks. Though he is only twenty, he has a longer musical timeline and that will show through in what he has written and arranged. The concepts and sound he will be sharing with us now are just the start of his journey. Solon has the spark to do great things. He has a solid songwriter’s base with lots of heart and is comfortable on stage.
To listen to his original work when it is released visit solonholt.com. The site also includes more information and where he is playing live. Hop a flight to Nashville for the weekend and swing by for a Friday afternoon with Solon when you get the chance. This kind of access may not be the norm for long. He will also be a special guest performer at The Mayfair Affair with his father Edwin Holt, Anson Funderburgh, Nancy Michelle, and a host of other musicians in Tyler this spring.
The thing that is most impressive about Solon is that he does not take where he is now for granted, nor will he in the future, no matter what happens. It is an innocence that you cannot bottle. He has the makings of someone that may soon be a household name, but he says he would be happy as a bass player behind someone else, as long as he can be around the music. There is a theme here and much more in store for Solon, but that is probably because an outlook like this doesn’t often come with talent and vice versa.