Wondaland’s Roman GianArthur On His Surprising Musical Roots

Roman GianArthur is part of Janelle Monáe's collective and label Wondaland.
Roman GianArthur is part of Janelle Monáe's collective and label Wondaland.
Credit Wondaland

On stage, Roman GianArthur is a master of his craft, singing soulfully and shredding on his guitar. His recent EP “OK LADY” features lush reinterpretations of songs by Radiohead and D’Angelo, and on the EP, his talent with his guitar and his production chops shine.

So, it is surprising that he’s only been playing guitar for four years. And he learned from a video game called Rocksmith.

“It’s like Guitar Hero but you just plug your real guitar into it,” said GianArthur. “One of the first songs I played was the three chords from Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry.’”

GianArthur comes from a musical household and grew up listening to artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder and Ennio Morricone. In college at Wake Forest, he studied Spanish and linguistics, but he always had a deep interest in music.

In the meantime, his brother, Nate “Rocket” Wonder, began collaborating with an up-and-coming artist in Atlanta on her new EP. Wonder would send GianArthur demos, and GianArthur would send him back musical ideas.

That artist was Janelle Monáe, and after college, GianArthur headed south to join her new label and artist society called Wondaland.

Other artists in the collective include Wonder’s duo Deep Cotton, St. Beauty and Jidenna. Jidenna and GianArthur collaborated on the song “Classic Man,” which garnered them a Grammy nomination last year.

Whether as a composer, producer or performer, GianArthur said his music is rooted in language.

“I think language and music are intertwined and I don’t see much of a different between them,” he said. “I think that when you talk about tone, when you’re talking about intent, this is the same way you compose phrases when you’re trying to solo on an instrument or when you are arranging a song.”

Roman GianArthur performs with JK Howells and Kayla Steenat at the Music Room on Edgewood Friday. He also performs at the Earl on Jan. 25.

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