CREATIVE EXPRESSION: GUITARIST
INTERVIEW AND NARRATIVE BY KENNEDY GACHIRI
PHOTOGRAPHY BY COREY DANIELS
Attend one of Soleil’s concerts and it is immediately obvious. Humans are her favorite animal. “I love people. …I love connecting. I love getting to know people’s stories. …Let’s just enjoy moments. Human contact has always been so important to me,” she starts. “…I try to be as honest and vulnerable as I can [be] because…life is too short to just fake it,” she says. Is Soleil ever afraid that she will be hurt by putting herself too out there? “People fight their good heart. They fight it. They fight it because they want to protect themselves. But when you protect, you keep things out. It’s like a wall. How are you going to experience true love if you don’t experience opening your heart? …You get your heart broken? Guess what? It’s one moment. The minute you lose faith…you miss out on a bigger love,” she says. You are now in Soleil Laurent’s orbit. The lead guitarist of cutting edge rock band, Quantum Split. A true evangelist of The Bigger Love.
“Some people dwell on past moments of hurt so much that they block themselves from true happiness. True love. True success. True friendship…,” Soleil says. “You have to prove to the universe that you want it bad enough,” she says. “You should never settle. The universe is going to give you everything that you want and more. But you have to choose in your heart what you feel it is you want in your life. …You have to be open to it and you can’t settle. …[Your] perfect life is based on what [you] feel in [your] heart is [your] perfect life. As long as [you have] true desire and…are aligning [yourself] with it then there could be nothing that stops [you],” Soleil adds.
What does true desire mean to Soleil? “True desire is what you feel without fear. And what I mean by that is sometimes you want [something], but then [your] fear will block [you]. …But you really want it. And that fire is in your heart. That to me is called purpose,” she says. And how does she think about her purpose? “I really want to break stereotypes so that people don’t allow stereotypes to control their lives. I want people to acknowledge the light within themselves and never let dark times take away that light. And I just want people to be able to stand up for themselves. …I remember not standing up for myself and holding it in so much that I would feel that pain within my chest. …My purpose is always to give inner strength to people,” Soleil says.
Soleil speaks with a conviction that may seem impervious to despair. “We go through ups and downs in life. How are you going to know how up is going to feel like unless you know what down feels like? …Of course I go through bad times. Do I choose to be honest about it? I do. I feel like connection is how we go through life. Through honesty and authenticity,” she says. “…Go ahead. Judge me. I’m not fearful of that. …I haven’t always been happy Soleil. There was a very dark time in my life where I was going to give up. I was really hurt by somebody and I didn’t know that people could do that to someone who’d given so much. …[Nevertheless,] I stepped into his shoes…understood where he was coming from…[and got] healing,” Soleil adds. And so it was through compassion that she responded to disappointment? “Compassion is something that humanity doesn’t truly understand yet. …How about moments when you were struggling to be who you are? I’d rather someone be 100% who they are than…fake it for my judgment,” she says.
How did Soleil get out of her funk? “The love around me. That’s why I believe that the reason people fall into depression and don’t get out it is because they’re not catered to compassionately. Sometimes we make people wrong for being depressed. And it’s so weird to me. I don’t get that. …With my depression, I felt like I couldn’t talk. I felt like it was hard to be in this depression because people would judge me [for] my depression. …It [was] a learning experience. …During my dark period, I thought about my mom. I thought about my dad. I thought about people who really stand for me. And that took me out because it made me think that even if I’m not going to get through it right now, I’ll get through it. They gave me hope. I get messages from people that really do suffer from depression and they tell me that ‘You’re giving me hope.’ That’s what I want to do. I want them to feel like, ‘You’re loved. You’re going to make it.’ Those words could save someone’s life,” she says.
Quantum Split is the name of her band. It is as distinctive as it is edgy. The genesis? “Actually, my father came up with the name for Quantum Split. I hated it in the beginning …He likes physics. …[The band is named after] the double slit experiment…,” she says. Soleil is referring to the famous and mind-boggling experiment in Quantum Physics in which the mere act of observation alters the patterns formed by atoms as they go through two slits. In the absence of a sensor, the atoms display wave-like properties and form a typical wave-like interference pattern on a screen. When a sensor is introduced to track the movement of the atoms through the slits, these atoms display particle-like properties. This experiment remains one of the great unsolved mysteries in physics and speaks to the power of observation in creating our reality. “That’s it. We really want to tell people that you really do control your reality. We want to tell people you are the manifestor. You are what you see. You are creating as you see it,” Soleil says.
As a guitarist and artist, Soleil is driven by message and one can observe audience members waving their hands in the air as if they are in church during parts of her performances. “I think it feels like church because there’s a message. No matter what church you go to. No matter where you go. You’re going to get a message. …My concerts feel like that because I’m giving love. I’m not playing music for me. I don’t care how cool it looks. People are like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool.’ I really don’t care about that. I’d rather you tell me, ‘I feel empowered.’ That hits home for me,” she says. Soleil feels like she is transmitting love in her concerts. What does love mean to her? “…Love is completion. But not that you need someone else to be complete. Because you have self-love too. …It’s acceptance. It’s understanding. It’s communication. …Love in general is supposed to be. We fight it. We fight it. We fight love. …All these facades. But it’s actually the natural way to be,” Soleil adds.
“There’s something called channeling,” Soleil says as she begins to describe the zone that she gets into when she is in complete flow during a gig. “…Channeling is when you transcend your soul. Some people may not understand it. You feel it when you’re in total bliss. People feel it when [they’re] working on something that [they] love or if you’re with someone that you love. You’re transcending into this different place. When I’m rocking out on my guitar and speaking and singing I am transcending into my universal purpose,” she says. And why the guitar? “I’m not even kidding. The guitar chose me. …It came so easy. It was scary. I would [study] with these teachers and learn so quickly. I was aligned with it. It really came to me. I fought it at first and my father forced me to play guitar. …And then the guitar became love,” Soleil says.
Becoming an elite performer was a conscious declaration for Soleil. “You declare what you want to be in your life. I declared that I wanted to be a really big performer. I wanted to contribute to impact people’s lives. I don’t just want to be famous to be famous. To me there’s no purpose in that. I really wanted to contribute to people’s lives. The universe really gave me a tool. …You don’t see black girls being represented as mastering an art skill. Usually they’re confined into their body and how sexy they are. Now we’re getting to this point of life where they’re owning their queendom. They’re owning who they are. They’re mastering different techniques of life and mine just happened to be the guitar. It’s funny because people align guitar with masculinity. Straight up. It’s different energy when you see a [woman] do it. I am going to approach a guitar very differently than a man would and it’s ok,” Soleil says.
While on the topic of performing as a woman, what are Soleil’s views of iconic artists that seem to transcend gender? Like Prince or Bowie. “We all have masculine and feminine energy inside of us. [These icons] don’t limit their energy. And when you don’t limit your energy you get to rise up to places that you may not even feel. That you don’t recognize. We all have it in us. We all have greatness in us. There’s no difference between you and any icon out there. All you have to do is embrace. You have to embrace without limitations. We limit ourselves. And when we limit ourselves, we limit our universe,” she says. Soleil continues, “They went beyond their limitations. And when you look beyond your limitations, it looks like you’re embracing masculine and feminine energy. You’re embracing all of yourself. …Prince had lots of feminine energy and lots of masculine energy. …People were attracted to him because that [is a] level of completeness [they want to stand near to.] ‘Let me be around you, because if you feel complete, then I will feel complete.’ Those icons transcended energy. We call it masculine and feminine but it’s really just a circle within us.”
Prominently displayed on her chest are a series of circles in tattoo form. “It’s [a] West African symbol of greatness,” Soleil says. “It’s an Andikra. It represents greatness and leadership. The Chief. At the time, I was feeling insecure. I was feeling doubt. And I put it in the middle of my chest because [I] could never feel that way again. If I don’t feel aligned, other people around me don’t feel aligned. I went to the shop and was like, ‘Let’s do it!’ And I never regretted it. …It’s part of who you are. You choose it and it’s who you are. …I knew that if I own my greatness, everyone around me will attract their greatness,” she concludes.
While on the topic of greatness, we wrap up with a discussion of which historical figures Soleil finds most radiant. “Two people. Harriet Tubman and Bob Marley. …People don’t understand the trials and tribulations [that Harriet Tubman] had to face. Not only did she set herself free, she set other people free. She sent people to the north, ‘Wow, I’m free!’ And then you go back?! To go get more people?! I would have to ask her. What is it that made you go back? What was it that made you cross that path knowing that you could die. …She didn’t have Google maps. She didn’t have GPS,” Soleil says. And what about Bob Marley draws him to her? “I watched his documentaries. …He risked too. …Bob…brought [rival political] leaders together. …Bob wanted to reach all people. He was not precluded to one purpose,” she says. Soleil’s ending message is one of purpose, “Each one of us is a gift. And we have to align ourselves to be that gift for humanity.”