At Holocene we don’t just love to bring you good music and the best dancefloor in town. We also want to highlight all the awesome creative energy in Portland – design, art, dance, comedy. Our new interview series explores people making shifts, pushing the boundaries, in order to make new creative spaces and places.
This week we chatted with Nick Harris, co-founder of Soul’d Out Productions. Promoting great soul, funk, RnB, hip hop, all across Portland, they fill a wide gap in our city’s musical world. This week is perhaps their biggest of the year – a five day music festival all across the city. Featuring legends like Bonnie Raitt, Trombone Shorty, and Parliament, as well as up and comers like Anderson .Paak and BJ the Chicago Kid. Tonight (4/13) is the kick off, and we’re excited to be hosting one of their shows – extraordinary soul producers Soul Clap. Be sure to be there! The amount of hard hitters that are in town this week is an incredible feat.
When did you join the Soul’d Out team? What kind of work do you do on a daily basis?
I started Soul’d Out Productions, with my business partner Haytham Abdulhadi, in 2008. As “co-executive producers” of the festival, we share in a lot of the buying, marketing, planning, production elements, in tandem with our great team. We are big believers in avoiding too much “over-specialization,” so that everyone has varied skill sets that can be applied whenever needed.
How far out do you guys start planning the festival? What is the most exciting part of the process for you?
We never stop thinking about ideas or making plans for the next year’s event, so we’re already planning the 2017 edition. Most exciting for me is the jig-saw aspect of the planning; meaning, every year we dump a huge assortment of random puzzle pieces out on the table—which vary depending on artists, touring schedules, prior year’s lineups, up and coming acts, budgets, etc—and have to find a way for all of the pieces to fit together in one coherent finished product come festival time. Every year has its own set of challenges and every year has its own unique victories.
What do you think people would find most surprising about the inner workings of designing a festival?
How much work is involved. We work for/on many festivals throughout the year in different parts of the country and the one thing they all share is a committed team of individuals willing to work insane amounts of hours for something they believe in.
Who are some of your favorite acts you guys have worked with? Who are you most excited to see this year?
We have been fortunate to have already worked with some of our biggest musical heroes in the first few years of the festival—-from Gil Scott-Heron right before he passed, to Prince when he did two shows in one night at the Roseland. This year is a particularly stacked lineup, so a lot of great options. But I’d have to say the Anderson .Paak + BJ The Chicago Kid show is going to be extra hot. But having legends like Bonnie Raitt, George Clinton and Sharon Jones is extremely gratifying as well.
What music is especially exciting to you at this moment?
Any music with a conscience / message / intention, regardless of genre. Music—and specifically which kind of music is popular at different times—is a direct reflection on the mood and atmosphere of our society at large. So music that can make you think and make you move always gets me excited.
How do you see Portland growing as a music scene? What do you love about it and where do you see need for change?
Well, PDX is certainly growing as a city. And as new people from different parts of the country move here, they invariably bring their own region’s specific tastes and cultures with it. So in some ways (though not all), I see the increasing diversity in the city and its tastes as a very good thing. Increasing diversity in programming and cultural options was why we started this project to begin with, so that will continue to be our focus moving forward as our city and region continues to grow and evolve.