Baton Rouge, Louisana native CJ Solar is partly responsible for your obsession with Morgan Wallen‘s summer jam “Up Down”, writing that song over three years ago with Michael Hardy and Brad Clawson. We caught up with the singer-songwriter recently about growing up in a musical family and his career leading up to his very first number one hit.
Solar started playing the guitar when he was eight years old, and his younger brothers followed in his footsteps, learning drums and bass. They all grew up listening to the music that their parents loved, southern rock. He recalls Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd being the first songs that they learned to play and really falling in love with those classic hits. Going on a family vacation to Nashville when he was still in middle school, Solar remembers catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry and three of the performers were Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and Dierks Bentley (back when Blake and Dierks still had mullets, he laughed). Watching Paisley shred on the guitar was an eye-opening experience for the young musician, and he quickly changed his thoughts about what country music was. “Before that, I only knew country music to be sad songs about your dog dying, that’s what I pictured country music as, but when I got up there I saw these guys really rocking and Brad was shredding, I really saw the new kind of country music,” he explains.
All throughout high school he started learning about songwriting, and made his way to Nashville for college, attending Belmont University to get a degree in songwriting with a minor in music business. He had the opportunity to intern at SeaGayle Music during his last semester and after showing them his original music, they signed him to a publishing deal before he even graduated college. Fast forward almost 5 years, Solar has been one of their writers and pumping out songs for artists like Jerrod Niemann and Mike Ryan as well as releasing two EPs filled with a blend of southern rock and country music.
Most recently, Solar had the opportunity to open for one of his all-time favorite bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd. He explains it was a dream come true and playing for those venues, packed with at least 20 thousand people each night was like magic, especially since their fans weren’t the typical country music fans he usually encounters. “A lot aren’t country music fans but they are music fans in general,” he says “People of all ages, it was great to see so many young fans come out too, then to see a surge in followers on social media, it takes a lot for them to look me up, follow me and comment how much they enjoyed my set,” he says.
When he writes, he blends the country lyric with a southern rock flair and says he is inspired by his influences and the music he loved growing up for that. His latest EP Get Away With It had its first single, “Airplane” hit number 15 on the Music Row charts, the highest an independent artist has charted within the last year. He looks forward to releasing the next single from the project “American Girls” and take his own music to the next level. Most recently, he enjoyed success with his very first number one cut, “Up Down” which was written with Michael Hardy and Brad Clawson and recorded by Morgan Wallen featuring Florida Georgia Line. The single shot up the charts and currently has over 47 million streams on Spotify. “Kudos to the whole Big Loud team, they fought for the number one because Blake [Shelton] was also going for number 1 that week. It’s a huge accomplishment and a testament to how hard they worked,” he tells us.
It’s pretty remarkable to think that while he was in middle school he attended a show at the Grand Ole Opry that changed his life forever, watching Blake Shelton on that coveted stage turned him on to country music and now a song he wrote was competing with one of Shelton’s songs for the top spot. “It’s so cool to play “Up Down” at our shows and it helps turn people on to the rest of my music, it’s really a blessing and I can’t believe it happened,” he humbling says.
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