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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Fireball determined to fuel his musical dreams
If 50 CDs are sold for the week at $30 per CD, then that would cover the bills for the month. Simple math is a system of survival that has kept soca star Fireball afloat for some time now. So, to see him neatly attired in jeans, a shirt and a cap—knocking at the woundup windows of cars, trying to get the attention of drivers waiting for the green light at Trincity Central Road to turn onto Churchill Roosevelt Highway, the image is a shock to some. To others, it’s a joke. Radio DJs have sniggered on air about his present state. But for Fireball, whose real name is Rohan Richards, it is not necessarily a down-in-the-dumps scenario. “It is one of my strategies to make it in the (music) business,” he said frankly. “This business has its ups and downs and when you are down, you have to fight up.
At the end of the day, I have my responsibilities.” He captured the spotlight with his falsetto operatic voice as the first Synergy Soca Star in 2006. This was quickly followed in 2007 by his first hit What I Want which morphed from soca to a reworked hit by French DJ and remixer Bob Sinclar that same year and topped the European Club Music Charts. Not to mention there was a saucy music video showing off his “boot camp” that converted demure nerds to silicone-implanted sexpots. In 2008, the song was released by Record Plant Records in the US and hit the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Charts at number 14.
That year, he was in contention with Madonna, Ne Yo and Rihanna. He admits though there were things that did not sit right with him after his successful start. “They told me my performance was not good enough,” Fireball said of his relationship with the company that helped him score on Billboard. “That is what mashed me up.” The hope of working on a CD also went up in smoke. Back in Trinidad, he was feeling stifled. “My music was not getting played. I worked with top producers and still the music did not get played,” he said. “Since 2008, I didn’t get hire for a major fete…now I realise talent isn’t everything.” His greatest lesson about this music business: talent is five per cent of the game; 95 per cent is business.
So, he sells CDs; holds the mic as an MC for shows and royalties from his earlier success continue to come in. “You never hear rumours of Fireball taking drugs or sleeping on the road,” he responds to the jokes about him. His previous business was a juice vendor and he did well at it. His trade is steel bending but he has no desires to return to the construction industry. The Laventillian- now-Oropune resident, says he’d rather the music business despite the stones already hurled at him. “Music is easy for me. I have more than 1,000 songs.
Music is now part of me,” he said. “Now I am so versatile…I could switch my flows.” On the road, or lately at the Piarco International Airport, he offers prospective buyers a choice of his talent—soca or reggae/ conscious. “I remember once, I stopped a French man at the airport, asking him to buy my CD. He told me ‘I don’t like Trinidad music’ and continued walking. Then I asked him, ‘Do you know Bob Sinclar? Then I’m Fireball.’ It rang a bell with the man, he said he remembered me and told me how much he loved the video. He bought a CD,” he said. When Fireball won the Synergy Soca Star contest, he walked away with $5,000, a music video and a cellphone. Six years later, he walks with faith that his time will return soon. He says he has songs ready for 2014, waiting to release an album of 12 tracks. He is also considering a musical return to Europe. “Everything has highs and lows. The best is yet to come,” he said.
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