South African Blues Rock Singer-Songwriter Ross Harding is back with his new EP CHAPTER II and music video for 'Black Sun Blues'
By Underground Press
Published Friday, 04 November 2022 08:16
Reminiscent of the classic hard rock, grunge & blues artists, Chapter II is perfect for fans from Black Sabbath to Alice In Chains. Recorded at Audio Nebula Studios, Ross Harding worked hard during 2022 with producer Byron Muller to bring this commanding volume of work to live, potently fuelled by a rock-blues-rooted consciousness that’s emotive, moving, and original. Mixed by Byron Muller and mastered by Rogan Kelsey.
We chatted to Ross ahead of the release of amidst all the excitement.
You have been on an absolute roll, with seeming non-stop momentum and a Midas Touch. You already released your debut solo EP ‘Rest & Resurrection’ earlier this year, and now confidently follow that up with your sophomore release ‘Chapter II’. You are also not just a fulltime musician for your own solo work, but feature in several prominent bands … beckoning the burning question, where do you muster your energy and inspiration from, and how do you fit all this into your schedule?
Thank you guys for giving me this platform, I really appreciate it! To be honest, not everything has felt that way (the ‘Midas Touch’, as you put it). It’s been a long time of working hard at my craft. Lots of blood, sweat and tears. I think what really fuels me is my obsession with music. It’s been my passion since I was a kid, so that’s what drives me to keep going. The foundation of everything I do is my eternal love for music.
The release cycle for your new EP ‘Chapter II’ has been comprehensive to date, with two singles already receiving acclaim, being ‘Love & Time’ and ‘Fire Away’. Your third single ‘Black Sun Blues’ is releasing now with the EP and has a phenomenal video treatment to boot (that had its global premiere with the colossal Metal Injection). These tracks are all distinctly Ross Harding, yet each have their own personality. What are the common inspirations and themes that drove the birth of ‘Chapter II’, yet what does each track bring as unique to this commanding volume of work?
When I think of ‘Chapter II’ retrospectively, the song ‘Black Sun Blues’ is the centrepiece of the record. It’s got all my biggest influences coming through at almost equal volumes – the blues, hard rock, grunge rock, psychology, philosophy, and other perhaps more subtle lyrical / poetic use I like to take liberty of. All the songs started with the music first. The music will convey emotion to me, and emotion will guide me lyrically. Lots of intuitive processing goes on. I try to “paint” with the music as well as the lyrics. The EP deals with themes like order and chaos, love, alchemy, reflection, and catharsis.
Your voice is such a unique and potent quality of your wholistic creative offering, complimented perfectly by your adept guitar-style and songwriting… a winning combination in any book. At what age did you discover you had such a potent voice and natural knack for music, and how have you best honed your skills over the years?
I always loved music from young, but only started playing the guitar at about 11 years old. I became obsessed. Pretty much started trying to write songs as soon as I could pluck a few notes and hammer a chord. I’ve been doing that ever since. I always wanted to be a rock singer, and be in a rock band, and so I started my first band in school and gave myself lead vocal duties. It was pretty bad, but I kept going. I took guitar lessons as a teenager, and some vocal lessons just after school too. I consider myself a student of music and so I’m constantly working at it to this day.
Which artists have been your biggest inspirations to date, and please also share with us your top 3 albums of all time, (why have these classics been so inspirational and timeless for you and influential in your career)?
The band that always comes up for me is Soundgarden & Chris Cornell (musically, vocally, just genius). I first heard Fell On Black Days from the Superunknown album (also my top 3 albums of all time) when I was in high school and it hit me so f**g hard. The songwriting, the tones, the sophistication, the vocals. That’s why Soundgarden is my favourite band.
Led Zeppelin & Led Zeppelin III. This changed my whole view on music. The Immigrant Song and Since I’ve Been Loving You changed my life! Sometimes I can almost forget how obsessed I was with Zeppelin, just because I’ve been listening to them so long. This was also kind of what lead me to the blues more deeply - listening to their mastery of song writing, with those heavy blues influences. I loved Robert Plant even though he had a voice that didn’t always resonate with me, and Jimmie Page is still one of my all-time favourite guitarists, especially in the live stuff. Les Paul guitars, Marshall Amps. John Bonham is also up there with the best rock drummers ever. Often, we speak about that in the Ross Harding band. I think the Led Zeppelin influence comes through a lot in my music, especially live, but more subtly perhaps.
The Blues. Just the blues in general. The style, the 12 bar, the guitar, the stories. The blues and learning the blues changed the way I write, play and approach music wholistically. It got way deep into my soul and I don’t think it will ever leave. Artists all the way from Robert Johnson to Joe Bonamassa, Howlin’ Wolf to Gary Clark Jr, there is just so much musical wealth in the art. Impossible to choose an album. Right now, I’m listening to Electric Mud by Muddy Waters. Probably not the best description of his work, but personally I do love it.
At what age did you become a full-time musician, and what inspired that fundamental step? When did you decide to actively peruse your solo career, in addition to playing with bands?
In my mid 20’s. I quit jobs three times to pursue music full-time. It’s not easy, let me tell you for free. I worked for two different guitar stores while doing gigs after work as I tried to build up my career. I think being a rock musician in South Africa is even more difficult. That being said, I eventually just built a kind of business plan to sustain myself from music and went for it. That’s also why I’m so busy, I suppose. My career profile is built up of my solo music, band work, session work, teaching, events. All these things are what pay the bills.
You recorded ‘Chapter II’ at Audio Nebula Studios with producer Byron Muller. Mixing was by Byron Muller and mastering by Rogan Kelsey. Tell us about the process of making ‘Chapter II’ a reality, and working with these fervent professionals.
My writing process usually happens over weeks and months, sometimes years (where I may have had a song from the past that I want to record, as is the case with the song Let It Go II). Once the songs are finished in my mind, I’ll track demos to start preparing for studio. I love working with Byron and I’ve always resonated with his recording and production style. We both agree on a straightforward, raw musical approach. Play the parts right and capture the true essence of the song. That’s it.
I always work on the preproduction at home and with my band in the rehearsal studio. After all the songs are finished as demos, we go into the studio and the recording process is really smooth. I already know what amps I want to use, the drum tone I want, all those variables that can take a long time are sorted out beforehand. Finally Rogan mastered Rest & Resurrection, by recommendation, and I thought his work was excellent so I sent Chapter II to him as well. Love how it came out.
For all the passionate Gearheads out there, please share with us your top pics for shredding the stage, essential to your sound.
A while ago I got hold of a Marshall Origin 50 head and cabinet. That is pretty much my guitar tone. I cart that amp everywhere! And of course, “Blackie” – my Epiphone Les Paul Custom. I use some stomps for delay, reverb, octave, wah and so on, but not for tone. My guitar tone is my Les Paul and Marshall amp. I might use a Telecaster or Strat here and there, but that would most likely be for session gigs.
Where to from here? What can current, as well as new fans, look forward to from you in the immediate future? Any new music already on the card, more singles or videos, or special tours coming per example?
All of the above! I’ve got plans for new releases in the first part of 2023, lots of shows and all that goodness! I’m looking forward to seeing fans at the shows!
Where can our readers find you online and stream your music, Ross?
You can find all my links for Ross Harding Music on https://linktr.ee/rossharding. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram on @rosshardingofficial
Thank you for your valuable time, Ross. We wish you all the best with the release and your shows. Are there any special shoutouts, or particular words of wisdom you want to share with our readers in closing?
I like to take these opportunities to thank you guys, the fans, the readers, all the friends of Ross Harding for your support along the way. Building this musical career up is impossible without your love, and I’m really grateful to you all for that.
More About Ross Harding
Ross Harding is a Rock Singer-Songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. As a songwriter and performing artist, he personifies rich, versatile vocal abilities with expert guitar knowledge, and has gained global industry recognition for his command of blues and rock music, reminiscent of the classic rock, grunge & blues artists of the past. “And ultimately, that’s what Harding has done so well on his debut solo EP – he’s found himself a sound that’s full of emotion, passion, and angst, but more importantly, one that celebrates the memory of rock music.“ (Texx And The City 2022).
In 2017 Harding formed the blues rock band, BLACK HARBOUR BLUES, and has made local and international progress performing, touring, and recording with the band. Notable performances include a headline slot at the Drakensberg’s WHITE MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL, Main Stage at 2014's RAMFEST with Biffy Clyro, Trivium, Fouls and Killswitch Engage, countless local festivals, an acoustic international tour to Italy, and many independent shows throughout South Africa.
In 2018 Harding and Hughes hosted a sold out "HOUSE OF BLUES" show, which included some of South Africa’s top blues musicians - Andre Kriel (Black Cat Bones), Pepi Dimevski (Gunshot Blue), Richard Bruyns and others. Ross Harding has supported major South African artists like DAN PATLANSKY, FOKOFPOLISIEKAR, THE NARROW, and PRIME CIRCLE and is able to enchant all kinds of audiences.
Performing both as a solo acoustic artist and with a band, Harding is able to captivate audiences with his vocal prowess and acoustic guitar accompaniment, while his trio band boasts mastery of the blues, classic rock styles, and original music. His debut solo record, REST & RESURRECTION, was released in early 2022 and has seen local and international recognition, with his follow up EP, called CHAPTER II releasing on 4 November, including his music video for BLACK SUN BLUES that was sponsored by MTN.
Performances have included two Cape Town tours, with shows at the DAISY JONES Bar Stellenbosch and SABC’s ESPRESSO TV, as well as independent club shows throughout South Africa, with live recordings at DISCOVRTV Johannesburg and MIX FM.