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RIYADH: As the music scene diversifies in Saudi Arabia, from psychedelic rock to electronic dance, young artist SOVL is bringing a new flavor to the mix.

SOVL is a self-taught independent musician who was on a quest to create a top-notch, industry-standard album on his own that reflected his personal artistry and carried a meaningful narrative. He platformed a distinct blend of alternative, modern, and indie rock, all rooted in the DNA of guitar music.

“As an independent musician, it’s a harder process than someone, say, signed to a label. But I try to take advantage of what I have,” he said.

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SOVL visually represents the theme of ‘Too Much Is Not Enough’ on the album’s cover with the image of the artist pouring water into an already large and abundant sea. (Supplied)

The Saudi rockstar, 22, debuted his first album “Too Much Is Not Enough” last December. The album represented a bold artistic leap as SOVL, a producer, songwriter, and singer, ventured into the captivating realm of full-length storytelling through his music.

The 10-track work is an emotional odyssey. Open to interpretation, the songs become a canvas upon which the listener’s own feelings are painted.

In a world where the pursuit of “too much” often takes center stage, “Too Much Is Not Enough” offers a message that resonates with all: In the pursuit of everything, we must not forget to preserve the most essential part of our being — ourselves.

I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

SOVL, Saudi music artist

But before the full body of work came along, his journey was nothing but relentless.

“When I laid my hands on my first electric guitar in 2019, I was taking a different approach in learning the instrument,” he said. His technique was more makeshift than anything: placing his fingers wherever they landed or strumming whatever sounded right until he began learning some basics of guitar chord theory.

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SOVL, Saudi music artist

He later began recording his music on the beginner-friendly GarageBand before moving on to using the Logic Pro software and experimenting with different sounds.

SOVL released his single “What’s Going On?” in 2021, his first official launch into the local music scene as an indie alternative artist. The refreshing sound brings listeners back to the rock gems of the 70s like The Who and The Clash, who inspired much of his music.

He also tries to infuse a bit of Arabic spirit into his music; the oud instrument makes an appearance in some of his songs, including “Ana.”

While making music is the easy part, some other aspects of the industry like marketing and distribution can be difficult to tackle.

A record label, for example, would handle cover art, music video production, and music distribution. “It (would have) been much easier to sign with a record label so they could get all that sorted,” he said.

Regardless of the challenges, SOVL expressed his joy in having the freedom of creative direction: “I’m a strong advocate for the do-it-yourself approach. I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

“Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with signing to a major label,” he noted. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for those who have it. However, in a world flooded with too much music content, it can be challenging to stand out and get your unique sound heard.”

For his first album’s cover art, he enlisted the help of his friends. They took an impromptu one-day trip to the Eastern Province for the makeshift photoshoot and ended up filming one of his music videos there as well.

“It takes a whole lot of belief, and my friends have had my back since the get-go,” he said about the experience.

Many independent artists now are utilizing social media platforms like TikTok to promote their music, but SOVL says their approach is a bit “cliche” for his persona.

Personifying a rather mysterious image, hence the anonymous stage name, and presenting a style that is much more nuanced than generic pop, he allows his sound and lyrics to speak for themselves.

His album, although niche in genre, presents an exploration of a rather universal experience. He narrates the battle within to settle for what we already have. The theme is encapsulated in the album cover, which features the artist pouring water into an already plentiful and vast sea.

What distinguishes SOVL is his continuous pursuit to diversify not just genres but the very composition of albums in the novel Saudi music industry. Concept albums, which can tell a larger story than what could be contained in a single track, enhance the listeners’ experience of various notions.

SOVL is adamant about making and releasing music that is authenticated by genuine and soulful feelings, and his name serves as a reminder of that.

He said: “The album is super focused lyrically, on the theme, the sound, and some of the listeners criticized me on that point. Because it was my first album, (they believe) it should be a showcase of what you’re capable of, but on a broader aspect.

“With the Extended Edition, going forward, I’m going to broaden the sound, experiment a bit, but still with the same themes … It’s also to compel the story.”

While the writing and producing process is personal and self-centric, the product may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he said. Pop sensibility is not the artist’s goal, but he understands that broadening the scope of his work, even slightly, will create a more palatable experience for listeners to get into more psychedelic and grunge alternative rock.

“What I’m trying to do here is get people interested in different colors of music,” he said. “This is one that hasn’t been targeted yet here (in Saudi Arabia), but I’m really glad to try and start it.

“The scene here and the talents are still developing their musical identities … If you’re interested in music, just go for it. Once you start and find it’s really interesting, you’re maybe gifted, so try to invest more time on that,” he added.  

SOVL’s goal is to prove, not only to himself but also to his friends and aspiring musicians, that artists can take an indie approach and still achieve their dreams in the world of music.

His album is out now on all popular streaming platforms.

 

 

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