Troy "Sol" Edler has no problem singing backup. In fact, he likes performing with a group so much that, two years after resolving to pursue a solo career, he's still ambivalent about the decision.
But because the Clinton native is loyal to his music -- which he describes as an eclectic mix of rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, gospel and rock -- he branched out on his own to develop his sound.
In March, Edler, a graduate of Central Senior High School in Capitol Heights, released his debut CD, "Song of Solomon, Book 1." He performs today at Borders bookstore in Largo with local neo-soul duo Zwei, who produced the disc and released it on their Bowie-based label, BolaMarge.
"When I realized [music] was the only thing that I could see myself doing indefinitely, I still wanted to do it in the group setting," said Edler, 29. "But the group thing itself couldn't last, so I finally decided if I'm going to do it and I have to do it by myself, then I will."
Edler's love for ensemble work keeps him singing with area groups when he's not performing locally on his own. "I love working with other people. It's more fun and less pressure," he said. "Other people give you a different kind of energy, and you never know what you're going to get."
Even as his body of work grows, Edler said, he will continue working with other musicians. "I love recording and performing. I love singing background for other singers, and I love collaborating," he said. "I look forward to doing a lot of that. I look forward to doing every facet of the music that I can do. I want to write for other people and want them to write for me."
A graduate of North Carolina Central University with a bachelor's in visual communications, Edler was teaching art in Washington area schools when he began to hone his musical ambitions. Three years ago, with little formal vocal training beyond school and church choirs, he started playing the U Street open-microphone circuit -- primarily those at Bar Nun's weekly "The Movement" -- to gauge audience reaction. A year into the open-mike experiment, Edler decided to take his love for music more seriously.
Having observed his parents' long, happy careers in the government, Edler vowed to try to find the same kind of fulfillment through music. He left his all-consuming teaching position and took a law firm job that allows him to confine work to office hours and support himself while focusing on his art.
Elder, who cites such musicians as Luther Vandross, Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and Eric Roberson as influences, says his own sound is simple.
"It's very straightforward. It's emotional," he said of his songs, most of which are soulful love ballads. "I like to think of my music as classic. I definitely don't endeavor to make music that is dated. I don't want people to listen to my music and say, 'That was during the 2005 soul era,' " he said.
"I want them to be able to listen to it 20 years from now and not be able to tell when it was made."
Sol Edler performs selections from "Song of Solomon, Book 1" at 7 tonight at Borders in the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, 931-A Capital Centre Blvd., Largo. Free. 301-499-2173.