Aligned to the release of ‘Love & Time’, we chat to Ross Harding about this new single, his muse, some gear, and his anticipated upcoming EP ‘Chapter II’. Stream ‘Love & Time’ on all platforms from 16 September, and pre-save ‘Chapter II’ releasing 4 November.
Welcome Ross and thank you for the opportunity to chat to you. I quote a power verse from ‘Love & Time’ (your first new single from ‘Chapter II’) … “restless the place, old bones beginning to take shape. I’m coming home. Love, just give me time.” What is your inspiration, overall muse and meaning behind ‘Love & Time’? Any interesting anecdotes you can also share from this writing process?
Much of what I’ve been writing of late has to do with mortality, life and death, the realisation that things fly by so quickly. I often write lyrics with a darker feel, but usually there is an underlying positive message. The specific image I had in mind here was a kind of rising from the dead, maybe a “Dracula” theme even. It’s about perseverance, resilience, patience. The song broadly speaking is about perseverance – in life, in darkness, in love, wherever you need it.
As a seasoned Rock Singer-Songwriter from South Africa, you started this year with a bang (with the release of your debut solo EP ‘Rest & Resurrection’) and will now be ending this year on another high note with ‘Chapter II’. Tell us more about your upcoming sophomore solo EP; how many tracks; their titles, and what we can largely look forward to when it drops on 4 November?
Chapter II, although written and recorded closely to Rest & Resurrection, is a more mature work for me. It touches on the music that I like – blues, grunge, hard rock, 70’s rock n roll, so I think it will appeal to fans on a wider spectrum than my music has before. The version of Let It Go is the second time I’ve recorded it. Since the original demo of that song, I felt it deserved to be done properly and I’m stoked about how it turned out. I really am proud of this EP and can’t wait for folks to hear it.
Chapter II has 5 songs on it:
- Love & Time
- Fire Away
- Black Sun Blues
- Blood & Bones
- Let It Go II (Return)
Please can you also share with us some of the inspiration, and interesting stories behind your other tracks on ‘Chapter II’?
Much of the inspiration for the songs comes from the live stage, blues guitar jams, and the overarching feel and emotion of the music itself. The main riff for the song Black Sun Blues was inspired by what many fans would know as Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” which I’m sure Hendrix borrowed and modified from older blues songs like “Catfish Blues” and “Rolling Stone”. I do this often in my music – if something feels right when we’re jamming in the rehearsal studio, then there’s already something to it. These kind of trancy rhythms hit home for me, and I utilise them often in my interpretation of 12 bar blues feels and other rock grooves. The song “Blood & Bones” also has this kind of approach, with a repetitive rhythm and guitar tones and effects that makes you sink into the music.
When and where did you record and produce ‘Chapter II’, and who were all the instrumental artisans working with you in recording, producing, and mastering to bring ‘Chapter II’ to life? What also stands as absolute highlights from this period?
I recorded Chapter II with my good friend Byron Muller, a fantastic producer and recording engineer. We tracked everything at his studio in the East of Johannesburg. It was mastered by Rogan Kelsey, who also did Rest & Resurrection. I wrote all the songs and performed all the melodic instruments – guitars, bass, and vocals, and the drums were recorded by the extremely talented Matt Rennie. My dear friend who’s also been working with me for years now.
We understand you had assistance from the ‘Southern Africa Music Rights Organisation’ for ‘Chapter II’, as well as support from the Mobile Telecommunications Company ‘MTN’ for an upcoming Music Video. It is amazing to see corporations back artists like this. Can you tell us more of how you managed to get such amazing support, and what Music Video can we look forward to from ‘Chapter II’?
I feel massively grateful to have had support from both SAMRO and MTN, and in the past I’ve also had financial assistance from fans and my personal network. I think reaching out to these people is important, setting clear goals and structure so that those willing to invest in your music have the full picture. Financial assistance helped me build the infrastructure for Ross Harding, including recording and studio time, building a great website, music videos and so on. MTN assisted with the music video for “Black Sun Blues” which was shot by Russell McCallaghan in a very cool black and white, behind-the-scenes style.
We learn from the past, the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Who do you rate had the most influence on developing your emotive and moving rock-blues-rooted creative consciousness and artistic expression?
I attribute so much of my musical inspiration to the band Soundgarden and Chris Cornell. Those are possibly my biggest influences, at least in the last 10 – 15 years. The blues guitar itself, specifically electric blues guitar, has had a profound influence on me too. Learning the blues, trying to understand it, changed the way I think about music, about how I play guitar and how I write songs.
As a full-time performing artist rooted in classic rock, grunge and blues, share with us some of your favourite gear to record with, and take on the road on tour with you (what lies behind the magic of that signature Ross Harding sound, and what gear can you simply not go without)? Is there also any bucket list gear on your must-have wishlist you are yet to add to your gear cache in future?
Love this question! My guitar tone is essentially a Marshall Origin Head and Cabinet. It’s based on a “Plexi” style Marshall amp from the past. Sounds amazing live, and that is pretty much the tone of the EP. We did use a Jim Root Orange head and cabinet for layering rhythm guitars in studio as well.
I use my black Epiphone Les Paul Custom (named “Blackie”) for most of my live performances and studio. I occasionally use a black Fender Stratocaster and a white Fender Tele, and here and there I borrow our bass player Merrick’s amazing red Gibson ES335.
To be honest, the only guitar I’m aching for is a black Gibson Les Paul Custom. I’ll acquire one of these one day!
What are your plans insofar as playing live and taking ‘Chapter II’ directly to the fans, and expanding the Ross Harding brand footprint?
Performances, touring, collaborations, and just trying to get in front of fans as often as possible. I believe in the music that I have to share, and I believe that fans will love my music too.
Thank you for your time, Ross. We wish you all the best for your new release of ‘Love & Time’ and we look forward to the release of ‘Chapter II’. Any final words in conclusion before we go listen to ‘Love & Time’ from your LinkTree.
A massive thank you to all the fans who have been on this journey with me so far, and a warm welcome to the new ones joining now. I am so grateful to you all and I look forward to meeting you in the near future!