We have a saying in Germany, it goes: “Was lange währt wird endlich gut.” Basically it means that if anything takes long enough, it’s gonna turn out good in the end. It’s something that I feel is a bit of a pattern in the story we’re about to embark on.
We’re drinking a slightly weird, weirdly tasty Vanilla Chai drink, and eating gluten free donuts in Adriana’s living room. Her cat, Javier, comes to visit and to meow sometimes. We laugh about the fact that the drink is called “Go nuts!”, because that’s a phrase Adriana has been saying a lot lately.
There’s quite a few moments like this in SOLAS story: seemingly random connections, that turn out to be not so random in the end. Or at the very least, gain some meaning in hindsight.
Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to find a beginning to tell this amazing story: Because everything seems intertwined, connected. So maybe let’s start at the beginning: with Adriana’s early childhood memories, where she was “making herself a stage” in her Mom’s kitchen by climbing up onto a chair and singing about butterflies and flowers… “things”, she says, “that were in my reality. The nice things, anyways.”
Life throws us curveballs sometimes. And that was definitely the case for Adriana. Growing up in a home that was far from functional and at times abusive, moving around a lot, and on an emotional level needing to be an adult way earlier than most of us… all these things left their trace, in her life, in her music. I feel that it’s no coincidence she became a singer.
“As far back as I can remember I’ve been trying to use my voice.”
For Adriana that meant picking up the cassette cover inserts every time she got into the family car, singing along to Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and then to Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys in her bedroom when she was a teenager. She took some piano lessons as a kid, but when her mother encouraged her to pick up the guitar she refused at first. Only after Mom – very cleverly – bought a guitar for herself and then suddenly realised her fingers didn’t work the right way to actually learn it, did Adriana reluctantly pick it up and started taking lessons when she was 19.
A little later, on vacation in Cuba, listening to a local band at a bar, Adriana had an epiphany that this was what she wanted to do: Music. Be on stage. Play in a band, maybe. But mainly just: Make music her life. Her career. All the memories, all these early incidents connecting her to music flashed before her eyes.
“It all made sense, all of a sudden. My whole body lit up.”
Her cousin, whom she later told about this moment, had one remark for her: “I could have told you this years ago!” Ah well. Sometimes it takes a little time, and being in the right headspace for us to see what’s happening, and what we’re meant to do.
Alas, as things go, especially when in your twenties and with so many distractions around, it took her a while to get there. Adriana picked up some cover songs on her guitar, but couldn’t commit to even learning the lyrics by heart: “I knew in my heart that I was gonna do music, but I couldn’t follow up with doing the work. I was too distracted […] with numbing myself.”
Even when Adriana did play in public, she wasn’t able to acknowledge people’s positive reactions, or to accept their praise: “I didn’t have any belief in myself at that time”. Regardless, she kept coming back to the music, and finally moved to Vancouver to study Audio Engineering at Pacific Audio Visual Institute. This was not “a very thought-out decision”, she says, but rather originated in the desire to be closer to where the music was happening. So about nine years ago, in 2009, she took the course she was sold on by a friend, seemingly at random, but oh did it open up a whole new branch of her story. Because at PAVI, she met Will Lloyd, and Michael Averill, and both have been a playing their part of what is now the musical life of Adriana Parejas, aka SOLA.
SOLA is what Adriana goes by when she’s playing her original tunes. Up until May 2018, this project was mainly something she talked about to people. We’ll come back to that in a minute. And then there is, of course, MudFunk, the brainchild of Adriana and the mentioned Will Lloyd.
It’s impossible to tell SOLAs story without talking about MudFunk. When she met Will, and they started writing songs together, there was still a long way to go until MudFunk was brought into existence. For one, Adriana says, she was nowhere near the singer she is today back then, and people that she and Will would have liked to work with were simply out of their league. Others weren’t able to commit to a degree that was necessary to actually build something. So it was 2014 until MudFunk finally came to life. You’re starting to see the pattern by now, I take it.
“It was just one of those moments in time where the energies were right and the stars aligned and we had the right people and we started making some songs together.”
MudFunk has been through a few ups and downs, as all bands do, I guess. At some point, Adriana remembers being at a Snarky Puppy show at the Vogue in Vancouver. It was a band outing, and MudFunk’s bassist at the time just kind of casually mentioned the possibility they might be playing a gig there in the near future. Adriana was stunned, as one should be if you’re gonna be opening for Booker T. Jones in one of Vancouver’s most legendary, prestigious venues. Because indeed, February 2016, almost two years after Adriana and Will founded MudFunk, exactly that happened. Definitely one of the “up” moments, I dare say.
Oh, and guess who sat in the front row, completely coincidentally? Vancouver Singer-Songwriter Michael Averill. Remember that thing about SOLA’s story being all about intertwined-ness and connections? You’ll see why this is one of those moments in a sec.
Michael ended up at MudFunks after-party, and Adriana remembers telling him about this solo project she had in mind for the first time. Granted, it took another couple of years until that happened, but, you know. Good things taking time and all that. Anywho, despite several “down” moments, MudFunk is still going strong – and the Vancouver music scene is grateful for it, because man, are they good.
And now there is also SOLA. The woman whose name I heard kicking around so much earlier in 2018 and finally saw live at the Anza Live Community Showcase in the summer of the same year. The one with the funky glasses*, and the mesmerising voice. The one with those smooth R’n’B rhythms and that silky guitar sound. She’s been in the making for quite some time, but oh was it worth the wait.
Adriana has tried out a bunch of different things to pay the bills during her twenties, most of them in the hospitality sector. After getting fired from a restaurant job, she finally realised this wasn’t really what she’s meant to do. Or, maybe more accurately, realised it again.
“Sometimes you gotta have the universe screaming things in your face until you’re like: Oh, yeah, maybe you shouldn’t do that!”
She thought about what she liked doing, and since that seemed to have a lot to do with being around places that provided some sort of healing, she got herself an internship at a small aromatherapy company in Vancouver, and from there moved on to Saje Natural Wellness, where she made important connections with other people as well as her own story. She was inspired to get her Reiki Training by one of her bosses there, which later enabled her to get into a trade with Michael Averill: Songwriting lessons in exchange for Reiki treatment. She also completed her 200 hr Yoga Teacher training in 2016 which opened up a vault of memories, and pain, and healing:
“I knew my family was dysfunctional and that I always struggled to have healthy relationships with men, but that didn’t become clear until I went to do my Yoga Teacher training. This was where memories of being sexually abused as a child surfaced and changed my entire life. The many years of numbing my pain with drugs and alcohol began to unwind themselves and clarity began to set in. Years of struggling with depression, low self-esteem and continued unhealthy relationships finally became clear.”
Listening to SOLA’s tracks Fall Into You and Smoked Out, the thing that strikes me the most is how every time I listen, the impact goes a little deeper. Maybe it’s because I got to share Adriana’s presence in a pretty special way during those couple of hours in her living room, but I don’t think so. Not exclusively. Somehow, she manages to transport so much emotion in her music that it has an effect even through my crappy headphones. Even though it’s just her voice and her guitar on those two tracks, playing a sound that is labelled as Blues, Jazz and R’n’B on her Soundcloud, I can almost see an entire landscape unfolding around them. I feel like I get to witness a little glimpse into SOLA’s world through those wonderful, personal, deeply moving tunes. I love how the lyrics seem to meander between telling a situation, a story in “real” life, and the emotions, thoughts and feelings they stir up. I love how they unveil an immense strenght, and the vulnerability within it. And vice versa. I love how the music is just incredibly… real. And these tracks are just the beginning.
SOLA is the female tense of the Spanish word “solo”, which can mean alone, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Because it also means “to stand on one’s own”, which is exactly what Adriana is slowly, steadily, more and more powerfully, doing. First because she had to, and now, because she can and has the will to. With music as her spiritual practice, as her guide, as her outlet, as her therapy. And our immense pleasure.
“Everything is intertwined. There’s a vast interconnectedness within all the things that we do; all the environments we decide to put ourselves in. […] What I’ve done in my healing work has helped me heal. When I lift off more weight, […] when I do these pieces of healing, a new part of me wants to share more on stage, a new part of me wants to sing in a different way, and so I see the connection between both of these worlds I’m in and know they impact each other.”
What the future will bring? Who knows. More music, definitely. A shed in the woods, with a studio, where Adriana can retreat to write more of those beautiful songs, hopefully. To then come back to the city to play some shows, go on a tour with friends, maybe. Either way, I have a feeling, no matter what it’ll be, no matter how long it’s gonna take – it will be not just good in the end, but amazing.
*I know she’s not wearing any glasses in the pictures in this article, but if you go check out her website or social media – or, even better, go to one of her shows – you’ll know what I mean. Speaking of which: SOLA is playing en Early Show on January 8th that you should definitely check out: