Soul Majestic — the Jamaican-inspired, California-based reggae band — released their newest album, Keep It Burning, on July 24, debuting at No. 6 on the iTunes chart. The 12-track record is a brew of intoxicating chord progressions, offers a message of unity, and features reggae icons Prezident Brown, Josh Heinrichs, and Dread Kennedy.
Formed in Santa Barbara, the band consists of Eric Iverson, Oriana Sanders, and David Lyons. Keep It Burning, Soul Majestic’s sixth record, was born during the Standing Rock Protests of 2016. The band keeps the heart of reggae beating, combining infectious grooves with a passion for oneness, change, and persistence. Bandmates Iverson and Sanders, now married with two children, have been performing together along with lead guitarist Lyons since 2000. Alongside amassing popularity, they are currently riding their “highest peak of songwriting and musical creation.” I recently spoke with Iverson about their mission, songwriting, and the strides the band continues to make.
The song “Keep It Burning” was written as a response to the Standing Rock protests, but the lyrics speak to resistance in broader terms. Was that your intention when you wrote it? [Our intention] was writing a song to represent being there for each other and showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters. The chorus sings, “I’ll be by your side / We’ll walk all day and through the night / As long as the world keeps turnin’, yeah / We’ll keep the fire burning,” and that just says it all right there. It wasn’t just during Standing Rock but also the election … and it all lined up with the future of what was to come.
What was it like to perform a livestream concert immediately after the 2016 election results? I think a lot of people were going through a heartbreak. It was definitely an empowering thing to do — just by playing that song and showing that everything’s going to be okay.
You’ve been quoted saying that that music is a catalyst for exploring your connection to nature. Are there songs on Keep It Burning inspired by that? The album has a lot of elemental connections — “Feel the Wave,” “Rising Tide,” “Sticks and Stones,” and “Calling All Warriors.” A lot of our inspiration does come from being in or appreciating nature. Specifically, “Calling All Warriors” was conceived with that influence. We took a trip to Yosemite a couple years ago, and I was sitting there with my guitar, the river flowing and deer going by. I felt the presence of the Indigenous people of Native America. I just started hearing this melody and all of a sudden started playing these chords.
Dan Nanamkin, an advocate and educator for Indigenous cultures and a face of the Standing Rock protest, is featured playing Native American flute and drums on the song “Calling All Warriors.” How was your experience collaborating? He was a little bit nervous! It was his first time recording in a studio. It was really special to have him bless the track and have his approval for the track.
Prezident Brown contributed to the album as well. It was a great experience. He’s such a strong presence himself and has been a friend of ours for a long time. He came down to our studio, and we decided to collaborate on this track. He’s such a legend and such a talented performer with a strong voice. He appreciates how we bring [reggae] to the table and how we respect [Jamaican] culture, and he has an ability to reach a different audience with his music.
Your band traveled to Jamaica and spent quite a while there. How did your travels influence your music? We recorded our second album, Until That Day, in Jamaica. We recorded in Bob Marley’s studio and immersed ourselves in that culture. [We] worked with some amazing legends in the industry, including Shane Brown to Errol Brown. We always make sure to prioritize where [reggae] comes from in our music.
Did you experiment with any new sounds on this album? It was recorded over a period of several years and with that comes evolution. Our long-time drummer Jamie Arredondo played drums, but he’s in Thailand, so when the pandemic hit, we had to figure out some new ideas. I play the drums on some tracks and on others there’s a more electronic layering. We’re always experimenting our sound and trying to create new things.
How has the performance hiatus been? Have you done virtual concerts? We’ve done several livestreams and are getting ready to put together an album-release-party livestream. In our current world, that’s the only way for us to perform live. It’s not the same by any means. We’re lucky to have the internet right now.
I appreciate the positive impact Soul Majestic has on listeners. I actually listened to your album to relax today before our interview. I hope you get a chance to listen to it in order! Tracks 1-12 are parlayed into one another. For the album cover, we initially had a different cover that was a little dark and heavy for the times. Our artist [showed us] this new work that had a record on fire with all the elements. It worked with the idea of keeping a [cohesive] album. For us it was really exciting to release a full body of work.
411 | Soul Majestic’s Keep It Burning is available on most streaming platforms. See the official video at smarturl.it/keepitburning.
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