Introducing Roland Satterwhite
Text: Jasper van Vugt
Who? Roland Satterwhite, viola and vocals in Tolyqyn
How many? Trio
The track: 'Autobiography'
How would you like to see your music described?
'Music that tries to be timeless, with the communal feeling of folk music and a lyrical focus on the challenges and themes of being a human in the world of today. Music wise we’re drawn to numerous musical traditions. Lyrically I am more influenced by individual artists like Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.”
What genre or which country would you like to explore (and why)?
'The United States (laughs. Satterwhite is from Seattle). I’ve been grabbed by music from Romania, Mali, Senegal, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Argentina. I’m at the point in my life where I want to dive into older and obscure traditional American music, like the music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Culturally that really is my identity, and so far I’ve neglected that part of myself a bit.'
The record I currently listen to a lot is…
'Lately I’ve been listening Elton John, Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band and Dona Dumitru Siminică. Dona is a Romanian singer from the sixties and seventies. The first time I heard his falsetto I thought it was a woman. The record I listen to is called Cine Are Fată Mare.'
What is the biggest challenge in your life as a musician?
'In music it is to unite my violin with my voice and compositions. Outside of the music it is finding dignity, meaning and income. People love to listen to music and music matters to people, but at the same time it’s difficult to make a living. As a musician, if you don’t feel valued it’s harder to deal with any setbacks.'
Do you have a ritual before you go on stage, and if so, could you describe this ritual?
'Yes; I take deep breaths before I go on stage. It lifts the tension from my chest and helps with singing well, when I'm nervous and even when I'm excited.
What can you compare being in a band to, and what is the hardest and most fun of being in a band?
'It’s like being in a relationship. The hardest part is to keep things basic and keep the spark that made us want to play together. When you first start out, everything flows and it feels effortless. After a few years it has become a business and a commitment. it weighs on you. You have to focus on that lightness, even when you change as a person.'
How do you deal with setbacks, and how do you celebrate successes?
'This was a huge thing this year, thanks to the pandemic. Not being able to play gigs had a paralyzing effect on me, as it gives value and meaning to what I do as a musician. It also meant no income. I was a workaholic. Now, with less work, it forced me to learn how to relax. I started listening to philosophy podcasts, like "Philosophize This!". I also learned a new skill: making music videos. Last month we released a video for the song "Our Love Will Reach the Sea", which I made myself. I spent a whole year making it.'
If you would not have become a musician, what would you’ve done as a job?
'I thought about that a lot last year. I have studied Biology, but really love working on bicycles. So it would’ve been something where I work with my hands, like carpentry.'
What do you do to totally get away from the music world?
'I never feel I need to get away from music, but I need to get away from the stress in the music world. I pick up the violin and practice for hours, to get in a trancelike meditation. I also like to go jogging, go for a bike ride, socialize with friends or party in a park.'