Balthazar Getty has been making music in various capacities for the past 25 years including producing the highly acclaimed Ringside project as well as various hip hop and electronic albums. It was extremely liberating,” says Getty, describing a manic three weeks in which he holed up in his pool house-cum-home studio, self-producing an album using a Pro Tools rig that his wife and close friend Joaquin Phoenix together bought him, roped in a slew of his talented musician friends for impromptu recording sessions, and walked away three weeks later with an organically created debut album under the moniker of his new project, Solardrive.
“It was one of those things,” he says, still seemingly dumbfounded that an album was the end-result of an almost obsessive, self-taught three-week crash course in new-age production. “I just sat there for a week and taught myself by trial and error. And I ended up making what I thought is a very interesting progressive album.”
Solardrive is a nine-track LP, and one that Getty describes as a “serendipitous” affair, made on the fly with whomever happened to temporarily take up residence at his LA digs. “Whoever was at my house at the time,” he recalls, “I’d be like, ‘Hey man, you know how to sing right? Well, you want to jump on this thing?’ The right group of people kept showing up at my house and I pulled them into the studio.”
What emerged is a cohesive collection of songs, veering from new-age funk to blues and electronica that Getty says draws elements from many of the albums that shaped his adolescence; specifically, artists such as Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead stand out in his mind. “It’s a throwback record to the records that I grew up loving,” he says, reflecting on the sessions. “It’s a very moody kind of album that you can kick back and chill to and you can put on from beginning to end.”
Solardrive’s highly versatile debut, which Getty says “captures a moment in time,” is speckled with guest appearances from several of his longtime friends, many of whom also happen to be fixtures on the LA music scene. There’s Ozomatli multi-instrumentalist/lead vocalist Asdru Sierra showing up on the Prince-echoing, Eighties-style ballad “Go Away”; Mother Tongue bassist David Gould rolls through and lays down a world-weary, blues-drenched vocal over 4-bit keyboards on “Desperate”; Rain Phoenix, Joaquin’s sister and a supremely talented vocalist delivers an achingly beatific jazzy turn on the minimal “Monster.” Phoenix’s guest appearance, much like the album, Getty says emerged from a set of beautifully coincidental circumstances.
“It was a total fluke,” he says. “I had done this beat and I was with Joaquin and he had this a cappella from his sister. And we ended up dragging in Rain’s a cappella for this song she’d already written. I literally just placed it right over the top of [“Monster”] and, like a freak of nature, it linked up almost perfectly. The fact that it was in key and in time was like a one in a million.”
Key to the album’s tight aesthetic, Getty adds, was his ability to exercise restraint: even when feeling the impulse to add, subtract or alter the ten tracks that now comprise Solardrive, he ultimately felt it best to leave them in their originally created form. The album “was almost like it was a painting,” he says. “And I didn’t want to go back and start adding new colors and different shapes on top of something that I feel really encapsulated that time and those three weeks. I just left it alone as a testament to the space we were in then.”
The forthcoming release also marks another milestone for Getty: Solardrive is the first album to be issued on his new record label, Purplehaus. Getty views this new business venture and creative undertaking as something made possible by today’s ever-evolving music-industry. “These days, if you have the focus and a little bit of funding you can create something substantial,” he explains. “[The Internet] leveled the playing field. For so long the labels and the publishers had all the power.
“Now you do a song on your Pro Tools rig, you upload it onto YouTube and for whatever reason it connects with the public. 24 hours you’ve got 100,000 people that are listening to your song. Nothing’s stopping anybody from chasing their dreams.”
And Solardrive is only the beginning of what promises to be a jam-packed year for Getty: the multi-talent also plans to release the debut album from his hip-hop duo, The Wow, alongside rapper KO The Legend, in addition to another Ringside album.
“In some way I feel the most at home there,” he says. “There’s nothing like the instant gratification that you get from going in the studio and leaving in a couple hours with something you can listen to. It can be an addictive feeling!”