Ross Learmonth might love Prime Circle but he doesn’t want that to be the only part of his career

Prime Circle’s front man Ross Learmonth speaks about his new journey as a solo artist. File image.

Prime Circle’s front man Ross Learmonth speaks about his new journey as a solo artist. File image.

Published Aug 6, 2022


Johannesburg - For over two decades, Ross Learmonth has been at the forefront of one of South Africa’s most successful rock bands, Prime Circle.

During his time with the rock outfit, they’ve earned their status as South African rock royalty, releasing eight albums, with most achieving multi-platinum-selling status in the country.

The band have also won several South African Music Awards for their albums and music videos, and have made huge inroads into the European market, gigging extensively throughout Europe, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

As a result of its huge success, Learmonth’s voice has become one of the most recognisable and powerful in the country and around the globe.

But will Learmonth’s success with Prime Circle carry over to his solo career now that the frontman has embarked on a new journey?

That’s the least of his concerns for now, he says. He is enjoying his new adventure and is looking forward to what life has to bring.

“Life as a solo artist has been awesome,” Learmonth told the Saturday Star.

“It's a completely different way of approaching things, especially after having been in a band for so long and having that sound board of four other members to lean on. Standing up as a solo artist, you have to trust your own intuition more but also have the freedom where you can explore more ideas and styles.”

Prime Circle’s frontman Ross Learmonth speaks about his new journey as a solo artist. File image

While the frontman hasn’t abandoned his band members and is very much still part of the band, he recently made the decision to launch a solo career, something that he’s wanted to do for many years.

“I love being in Prime Circle but I didn’t want that to be the only thing I'd ever done and especially within my musical career. I’ve realised that there is a lot more music in me which has resulted in the writing for my solo music to be intentionally different to the band sound, pushing myself to do something different sonically and push my own boundaries of comfort and creativity.”

Learmonth already has two singles, with Wild out in May this year, while his latest, Screaming was released to the public this week.

“I really wanted to explore finding a new sound, so I decided to collaborate with a bunch of songwriters around the globe. I flew to London in 2019 where I wrote Wild (yes, I have been holding onto that song for nearly three years). I then flew over to the USA and spent some time in both Nashville and Muscle Shoals. As well as making the decision to write with some new people locally and I continue to do so.”

Screaming, he says, was written on the first day of his trip to Nashville.

“I went into a session with individuals I had never met before but found the writing process really exciting and free flowing, we worked so well together.

“That morning before I went to studio, I had set out on a run and the sky was so dark, mysterious and somewhat ominous yet it turned out to be such a fruitful day of writing which is reflected in the opening line ‘lovely day with an ugly sky’, I’ve also described the single as ‘rollerskating into the unknown with a smile on your face’ and somewhat reflects my journey into stepping up as a solo artist.”

Prime Circle’s frontman Ross Learmonth speaks about his new journey as a solo artist. File image.

Learmonth says the journey has been filled with plenty of joy and learning curbs.

“I have really loved it, it has been an adjustment as I’m either completely on my own or with some new musicians but that’s been part of the enjoyment of it, taking myself out of my comfort zone and working with new people, new energies and learning new things through it all.

“I’ve learnt to not overthink things as much, I’ve held onto music for years and not released or just been too hard on songs and continuously changed them until they lose their initial magic. The trick is to keep writing all the time and don’t forget to enjoy the process.”

He says that working as a solo artist involves a lot more work than he expected, but something he has fully embraced.

“There is a lot more work behind the scenes, having to trust your own instincts more, becoming a-lot more organised (still a trick I am trying to master). It does feel like I am starting from the beginning again in a lot of ways, having to prove myself in this new light but embracing it and seeing it as this really exciting opportunity.”

While Learmonth admits that his success at Prime Circle has helped him launch his solo career, he knows that there is plenty of work to be done to become a successful solo artist.

“I am beyond grateful for the success that we as Prime Circle have had within SA and internationally, but that success also brings its challenges when stepping into the limelight as a solo artist. I really didn’t want to recreate the Prime Circle sound, which is difficult when your voice is distinctively associated with such an iconic brand but I’ve definitely taken that into consideration through the writing process and the creation of a new sound that stands on its own.”

As with Prime Circle, Learmonth says he hopes to leave a lasting legacy as a solo musician

“I think in the world of music we find ourselves in now, some songs are created for a quick punt and are rather disposable. I really hope that the songs I write are able to connect with people and continue to do so for a long time.

“I recently was paid the biggest compliment by the comedian Jason Goliath. He said there is a difference between someone who can sing and a singer, someone who can sing can hold a note, a singer transports you to a different place and makes you feel something and that's what you’ve done this evening and I really hope that I can continue to do that in years to come.”

While he has had a wonderful start to his solo career and has enjoyed every moment so far, he does admit to missing his band when out on the road.

“Twenty-one years playing with the same guys makes it easy to read each other on stage, allowing us to create magic and we have made so many amazing memories together. But for that same reason I had to put myself in new situations, which leave me a lot more vulnerable, and see what music would come out.”

Asked whether life as a solo artist gets lonely, Learmonth says: “To be honest sometimes being in a band can be quite lonely too, especially when you are on long tours and days become like groundhog day - everyone can get in their own modes.

“But the trick is, getting out into the cities where we are touring and meeting the people, experiencing the local hidden treasures and really making the most of the incredible opportunities we are given, as a band and a solo artist, places in both SA and abroad that I normally wouldn’t have the pleasure of experiencing.”

Learmonth says he sees himself continuing as a solo artist for many years, and will also continue with Prime Circle for the foreseeable future.

“I will do both band and solo from now on. There is so much music yet so little time.”

The Saturday Star