Sun Setting on RA as Vocalist Focuses on Solo Career
By BRIAN HEATON
When RA broke on radio airwaves with the hit single "Do You Call My Name" in 2002, it appeared the band was on its way to being the next big thing in hard rock. With an edgy, middle-eastern flair, the songs on RA's debut album, From One, stood out from those of its peers, showing promise for a long career.
Seven years later, however, RA finds itself still searching for that elusive brass ring. Despite a cult following online, the band struggles to pull in audiences and generate sufficient income as a headline act.
As a result, lead vocalist and guitarist Sahaj Ticotin is winding down activity with RA and is focusing his creative efforts on his solo material.
"I really don't want to tour the U.S. with RA," the frontman explained. "[The band] is alive as far as being international is concerned though. We want to tour next summer in Germany and play the festivals and do shows in front of European and hopefully Japanese crowds. That's our only torch at the moment."
But difficulty touring in the band's home country is only part of the story behind RA's decline. The loss of CD sales throughout the industry and learning how to operate in the midst of the digital music revolution effectively pulled the carpet out from under the band's feet.
When RA was working on its second album, Duality, Sahaj was under the impression to spend the budget he was given by Universal Records to make the best-sounding record he could. But as he found out, that investment cost RA the funding needed to properly promote Duality once it was released.
RA brought producer and songwriter Bob Marlette aboard to work on four songs for $170,000. Yet, only one of those songs, "Tell Me," was something Ticotin liked. Ironically, it was the songs Sahaj did himself for $35,000 – "Fallen Angels," "The Only One," and a cover of The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" – that ended up being the more popular singles off Duality…songs that initially received a lukewarm reception from the label.
"Universal wasn't making decisions based on artistic merit, they were making decisions based on balance sheets," Ticotin said. "They had an option to support us … or they could take a band like 10 Years for $150,000-$200,000 and work them and that is what they did.
"Several things could have been done better and much cheaper so [Duality] could have been supported in a meaningful way," Ticotin added. "I made Black Sun (RA's latest studio album) for $7,000. Had I spent $15,000 on Duality, I still would have had $375,000 to spend on our own promotion."
Proving a Point
Black Sun was released in 2008 on Ticotin's own label, Sahaja Music Records. It climbed to #193 on the Billboard chart, selling 4,400 copies in its first week. While that doesn't sound high, take into consideration that the only marketing done for the album was by Sahaj himself, using social networking platforms such as MySpace.
"It was an enormous amount of work," Ticotin said. "For six months, I'd wake up, post bulletins, add friends and I went out of my mind. But I had a point to prove to Universal. We've only sold 20,000 copies of the whole CD and 18,000 of the single, 'Broken Hearted Soul,' but I've made more [money] off this record because I get 80 percent [of the royalties]."
Putting Black Sun together wasn't easy, however. Sahaj had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in his back during the writing/recording process and admitted to rushing things, given his physical discomfort. That said, reaction from fans and critics has been positive, comparing certain elements of Black Sun to RA's popular debut release.
It was a comparison Ticotin was aiming for, calling Black Sun an album "for the fans."
"I don't want to offend anyone, but I made an effort on Black Sun to slightly dumb down the sound and make it a little clunky," the singer revealed. "It is a part of From One that people liked. It's a little chunkier."
After describing the record in such a fashion, one could reasonable assume Sahaj isn't thrilled with the album, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Despite an admission that he "edited his creativity," when writing it, Sahaj is very proud of Black Sun, saying it has "three or four gems" that made the process rewarding.
"'Broken Hearted Soul' is one of the best songs I have ever written and 'Don't Turn Away' is my favorite RA song," Ticotin said. "Those songs were really expressive and as good as I could be in that band."
Forging a New Identity
Sahaj's greatest passion these days is his upcoming solo album. Four years in the making, he hopes to release the record in the spring or early summer. While RA fans can expect to hear some familiar sounds, Ticotin stressed that the album was a significant change in direction, describing it as a "modern pop rock record."
"It's going to be familiar, but not what people expect," Sahaj explained. "The goal was to create a Sting-meets-Peter Gabriel-meets a smidgen of Nickelback and Rob Thomas. It's a bunch of love songs that have their own identity."
One of the recognizable elements will be the drummer. Sahaj is reuniting with Skoota Warner, who played drums on RA's first two albums. Warner, who left RA after Duality was completed, is going to be an integral part of the solo album's sound, according to Ticotin.
"The stuff in RA, I sort of told him what drum beats to play, but with this album, Skoota can play within his own element," Sahaj said. "There is more precision and virtuosity than what was played in RA. Skoota is going to be much more important and noticed."
For fans that want an early taste, two songs that will appear on the record, "Come What May" and "Another Minute" appear as demos on Sahaj's MySpace page, although the singer cautioned that the final versions would sound different.
A buzz is already building over the songs, however. Sahaj revealed that a number of people have asked him for the demo of "Another Minute" to serve as a wedding song, further illustrating the vibe he's going for with the record.
"I'm going for adult contemporary and I think I am targeting the right people," Ticotin said. "I feel like when the record comes out, people will understand. In comparison to RA, think 'Swimming Upstream' and 'Walking and Thinking.' [It's a] record with that kind of production."
When asked about fan backlash that may ensue as he is going from the hard rock and metal leanings of RA to a pop rock sound, the singer shrugged it off, revealing that he's not overly concerned.
"Some of these songs are easily the best I have ever written," Sahaj maintained. "The songs of RA exist for those types of fans. I'm hoping to find a larger audience with this record. If I look decent and put on a good show, I can go far with this."
Touring-wise, Sahaj is anxious to get out and play his solo material, aiming to perform in larger venues by opening for artists such as Rob Thomas or OneRepublic. Until then, however, Ticotin is concentrating on getting the album done and if the opportunity presents itself, getting a major label to push a single to radio in order to build momentum.
At the end of the day, however, RA will always be in the back of the singer's mind, knowing that the band could have been much bigger than it was.
"It's a cool, whole fresh start for me," Sahaj said about his solo career. "But if I sold a million albums, I might do another RA record just to shove it up peoples' ass."
Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.