Elise Solberg is a musician and performer based in Los Angeles. She got her start at four years old playing piano, which took her to the Yamaha Advanced Piano Academy in Tokyo. Upon moving to America, she took classical lessons from individual teachers, eventually receiving admittance to theUniversity of Southern California in the Thornton School of Music. After graduating, Solberg received an offer to perform alongside Chloe x Halle on MTV! Now, her resume includes credits such as playing at Coachella with Doechii, the Oscars for Beyoncé, the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress, and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. You can also catch her flute solo in Dannylux’s new album, “DLUX” with a flute solo – and now that she’s signed with Warner Chappell and Sir Nolan, you can expect to hear more soon! When she’s not creating, Solberg is the founder and executive director of Turn Up Her Mic, a nonprofit to empower women in live music in a male-dominated field. Her advice to young artists? “Whatever career you choose in the arts, it’s important to always remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.” Read on to learn more aboutElise Solberg and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Elise Solberg
Heritage: Japanese and European descent
Hometown: Fusa, Tokyo, Japan and Denver, Colorado
Current City: Los Angeles
Current project: A mix of performing and recording keys with artists like Chlöe, Halle Bailey, Doechii, and Pawpaw Rod. I was recently just signed to Warner Chappell and Sir Nolan, so I have been producing, writing, and recording keys for various artists lately. I am switching gears a lot (so to speak), but I wouldn’t have it any other way! It keeps things exciting.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?
It’s always been so special working with Chloe x Halle as a duo, but also as solo artists. I’ve been working with them for five years and it has been one of my greatest joys seeing them grow and flourish as much as they have over the years. Recently I got to play at Coachella with Doechii, and that was really special. I also love performing with Pawpaw Rod. One of my favorites is playing piano with Beyoncé at the Oscars as well.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Whatever career you choose in the arts, it’s important to always remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes an enormous amount of grit and perseverance to have a long career. If things aren’t moving for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they never will. On the flip side, just because somebody is killing it now, doesn’t mean it will last forever. This doesn't mean you should be pessimistic, but to not be discouraged by the peaks and valleys of your career. It’s important to just be grateful to pursue your passion. Also, I don’t know if I can speak for the other arts mediums, but music is a people’s profession. You have to be a good communicator, you have to be professional, and be respectful towards others. If you can consistently work with people that you really like, that’s the best case scenario!
How did you get your start?
Technically speaking, I started playing piano when I was four! I come from a musical family, so practicing was highly encouraged, which I am grateful for. I was in the Yamaha Advanced Piano Academy in Tokyo, then when I moved to the US when I was 8, I started taking classical lessons from individual teachers.
As for a career start, I gained an interest in popular music performance while I was at USC. During my final year there, I joined the popular music program and that really ignited a fire in me. During spring break, I saw a post on Facebook about a new artist needing a band for upcoming performances. I recorded some videos and sent them off to the email listed. I heard back, but I was unavailable for the first performance. I still didn’t know who the artist was at this time.
One month after I graduated (June), I heard back from them saying the artist was performing an award show. After a few exchanges of emails, I realized I was talking to the music director and he said we would be performing with Chloe x Halle! The turnaround was quick, so the next thing I knew, I was in rehearsal with them for the MTV Movie and TV Awards. I could hardly believe what was happening. This was the start of a long run with the girls and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I’ve been very blessed to work with some of my favorite people on this planet, so it’s hard to choose for me.
I think most recently, my favorite has been signing to Warner Chappell and Sir Nolan/Deep Cuts – I started working with Nolan and Deep Cuts several months ago but it has been surreal this entire time. I never thought I would be working with the person who produced and wrote my favorite songs I heard everyday on the radio growing up. While I was still in Denver, my mom and I listened to his hits on the car radio – “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, “Good for You” by Selena Gomez, just to name a few. Working with him, and being put into sessions with other incredible writers, producers, and artists has been surreal and so fun! I just got my first production placement with Nolan on a track called “Ambición” on Dannylux’s new album, “DLUX”! That was such a fun session and so honored that he included that track on his album. He asked me to play a flute solo at the end of the song, and it was so much fun.
With Chloe x Halle, some of my favorite performances include NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, MTV Movie & TV Awards, the Late Late Show with James Corden, the Verizon Up concert, Global Citizen… it’s hard to choose a favorite. With Chlöe, I would say the MTV VMA’s, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and with Halle, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
When we performed at Global Citizen, we performed after Stevie Wonder in the lineup. We were backstage before and during Stevie’s performance… Getting to see him and hear his incredible performance backstage was surreal. A true master of his craft and an incredible human being.
Performing at the Oscars with Beyoncé of course was an incredible honor. And to do it with the number one entertainer in the world, no less! Some of my friends were in the performance, which was fun! I made some new ones as well. It was a fifty piece orchestra, but every single person was incredibly kind and a pleasure to work with. The arrangement was filled with so much meaning and so beautiful, and I was honored to be a part of it.
I would like to say that many of my favorite moments in music… and in life are working with Derek Dixie. He is the brilliant music director behind countless of Beyoncé’s most iconic performances (including the Oscars), and for Chloe x Halle. It has been the biggest honor to work with him because he is one of the most kind, professional, and warm people I’ve met. I want to thank him for all the opportunities to work with him. And also teaching me many things about music and life. It is impossible to imagine my career and life without him, because he’s left an enormous impact on me.
One of the most meaningful performances I’ve done is for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress. I got to perform my friend Roxanne Seeman’s beautiful song “In Love and War” that she wrote with Charles Fox. We all got to honor the veterans in our families in a special aired by the Library of Congress online. I got to share photos and memories of my Dad during his time in the Air Force. There are many veterans in my family – my Dad, my uncle, my cousin, and my grandfather. My grandfather served in World War II, and he was awarded two purple heart medals for his sacrifices. This whole experience was very personal and beautiful, and I’m so proud of the veterans in my family.
Recently, I got to perform with Doechii at Coachella! The whole experience was beautiful and the whole team was amazing! A few days before the performance, Doechii announced to everybody at rehearsal that Coachella/Goldenvoice was switching us to the Mainstage! Everybody got so excited and honestly, Doechii and that show deserved that stage. The show/arrangement/choreo was so high energy! It’s also surreal because in December 2022, I tweeted that Doechii and Tems were the most exciting new artists to surface in 2022. Come April 2023, I got a call to play for Doechii at Coachella – the night before rehearsals started. I was pinching myself. Manifestation is real.
It has always been a beautiful experience performing with Pawpaw Rod. The whole crew is wonderful and it has been an honor seeing him grow these past couple of years. Some of my favorite shows with him include the Ulla Johnson NYFW show and Outside Lands. Rod and his crew have such big hearts and I love performing with him always.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
The biggest challenge for me has been getting out of my own way. I’ve felt many times that I wasn’t worthy enough for the opportunities I’ve gotten… and I think some parts of the industry/society in general makes it especially hard for women to be confident in themselves… especially in male-dominated spaces. My confidence in myself has gotten better over the years, but it is something that needs to be consistently worked at.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I was born and raised (for 8 years) in an Air Force base in Tokyo called Yokota Air Base. I think growing up (partially) there, and Japan in general has shaped me more than I would ever know. I just went back to Japan recently, and so many memories came flooding back. I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as a child. It was so nice to spend time with all of them again.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
I’m the founder and executive director of a non-profit called Turn Up Her Mic! It is an organization empowering women in live music. In 2021, we started our flagship – the mentorship program. Because live music is a male-dominated field, it’s hard to find mentors that are women, or just a community of supportive women/allies in general. We are excited about the program, as prospective women professionals get paired up with industry veterans to learn valuable career skills. The goal of the program is for the mentees to leave with valuable skills, a mentor they can call for future career advice, a community of supportive women and allies, and great memories. We just had our first ever in-person mentorship program in August 2023, and it was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Every single one of the mentees were so passionate and dedicated about music, and I am so glad that I was able to connect them with some of the best in the industry. The in-person program culminated in a showcase at the Moroccan Lounge, and all of the mentees crushed it! I am so proud of each and every one of them. I can’t wait to see their careers flourish!
Do you have any mentors?
Yes!! I’m blessed to have many throughout my life in music. Patrice Rushen, Stewart Gordon, Russell Ferrante, Roxanne Seeman, and Nolan Lambroza, to name a few. My piano teachers, Dr. Fifi Hut, Dr. Richard Holbrook, and Larry Graham. And my music director Derek Dixie has been gracious to let me see his work process, and give me advice, so I view him as a mentor too.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be in music, but was so unaware of the many avenues there were in the industry. I started out wanting to be a concert pianist, but by chance discovered so many more avenues that I was passionate about. I’ve always loved pop music, but it wasn’t until my final years in college that I realized you could have a career in it. Many different careers in it, might I add!
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?
Absolutely not. If I told myself where I’d be when I was 18, or even 5 years ago when I graduated college, I would tell myself that was impossible.
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
Last year, I signed a contract with the production library Soundstripe to create 15 songs. They also put the music out on streaming services. I never really created music under my own name before, so it was a discovery process for me. I also got better at production and writing! All of those songs are out now – under Elise Solberg, and my other aliases élise and Autumn Summers.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Just show up. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to where you see yourself. Just keep showing up.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Being adaptable and open to try new things.
Where did you study at?
University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music.
What do you love most about what you do?
Getting to work with the people that I love.
How do you deal with performance anxiety?
Practicing gratitude and doing breathing exercises.
If you’ve crossed the table from performing to music directing, conducting, or writing/composing, what made you take the leap, and how did it change your way of thinking?
I started out mostly as a performer, but taking the leap into songwriting, production, and composition has really been rewarding. Songwriting and production makes me a better performer/side musician. It makes you hear differently, and it makes you think of how to fit in the pocket of performing live songs better. Also, writing and producing something from scratch is such a sacred process that I don’t ever want to take for granted. It is so special to be in that creative space – especially with others!
What other instruments have you played or learned to play besides your main instrument?
I also play the flute! I love singing background vocals too. I’ve been recording my flute a lot in my production lately, so it has been really fun. I also just debuted my flute playing on my first gig! I played a little flute (mainly keys) on Chlöe’s recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert!
To find out more onElise Solberg, please visit her at:
She Is The Music: https://sheisthemusic.org/profile/pianoelise/
Turn Up Her Mic: https://www.turnuphermic.org
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