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Swim To Thrive

6 March 2013 | 9:31 am | Aleksia Barron

“[My dad] made me get up and I rapped a verse in front of them, and they lost their crap, basically. They loved it, which was an amazing feeling – I’d been listening to all those guys since I was about five years old.”

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The Push Over Festival, Victoria's longest running all ages music festival, turns 21 this weekend, but Soliloquy – a young MC on the bill – only just had his 16th birthday a couple of months ago. However, in his case, age really is just a number – Soliloquy, also known as Sacha Lorusso-Zyskind, has packed an awful lot into his fledgling career, including a slew of EP releases and some live shows that would make a more established artist jealous.

The story of Soliloquy's first gig is the sort of thing that will likely be one day enshrined in legend – in fact, it practically already is. While most young MCs cut their teeth on small stages at less-than-glamourous gigs, Lorusso-Zyskind had a rather different experience: his first ever show was opening for none other than Pharoahe Monch. How does one land such a slot? The answer is, let your dad embarrass the heck out of you. “Pharoahe came and had dinner at my dad's restaurant, Cafe Latte in Hawksburn,” says Lorusso-Zyskind. “It was him and Jean Grae and Boogie Blind; the whole crew, basically.” For the aspiring MC, just having such luminaries in the same room was incredible – but it wasn't quite enough for Mr Lorusso Snr. “[My dad] made me get up and I rapped a verse in front of them, and they lost their crap, basically. They loved it, which was an amazing feeling – I'd been listening to all those guys since I was about five years old.”

Lorusso-Zyskind still can't quite believe what happened next. “Pharoahe was like, 'We gotta get you to the show'. At first, I had a bit of doubt in my mind – I didn't think it would really happen,” he explains. “But then they organised it, and my brother called me and said, 'Tonight is really happening – you gotta get going', and I was just amazed, basically.” Lorusso-Zyskind played his first public set that night to a sold-out crowd, warming the stage for the widely celebrated New Yorker.

Naturally, Lorusso-Zyskind is glad it played out that way. “Anyone would say that, performing with Pharoahe,” he says. But does part of him wish he'd been able to cut his teeth without so bright a spotlight shining on him? “Actually, I think it's better the way that I've done it,” he says. “I got thrown straight into the deep end. I wasn't very experienced – I'd never been on stage before, never held a wireless mic, never rapped in front of a bunch of people. It was pretty crazy, but I think it's also given me the confidence to go up and rock shows.”

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And there have certainly been some rockin' shows. Just recently, Lorusso-Zyskind supported De La Soul and played a slot at the St Kilda Festival. He's had a big few months: he was signed to New World Artists, made the finals of the 2012 triple j Unearthed High competition, and he's released his new EP, Double Sided. (There's no rest for the wicked, though – he's recording his fourth EP at the moment.) “I guess it kind of sets you up for a strong future, starting out so young,” he reflects. By putting in the hard yards now, he thinks he'll be able to hit the ground running when he can finally focus on music full-time. “I'm kind of ahead of in terms of the things you have to do at the start of your career – starting out, building a name for yourself, getting established and all that.” There's not much chance of an album or major tour in the next few months – Lorusso-Zyskind will be finishing school before he steps his musical career up that extra notch. But that's okay – all good things take time.

Soliloquy will be playing the following dates:

Monday 11 March - Push Over Festival, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne VIC