Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Osunlade: Osunlade & Upwards

Osunlade @bluesandsoul.com
Osunlade @bluesandsoul.com Osunlade @bluesandsoul.com Osunlade @bluesandsoul.com Osunlade @bluesandsoul.com

You thought those cool cats at Defected records released banging house tunes only didn't you... Well how wrong ya'll are - The artist in question is Osunlade, he of a previous house track-record (or should it be of a record-track...Anyway, can you see the link now?) ...and his new album is called 'Rebirth'.

With a HUGE amount of soul ad a tad of jazz and a sprinkle of R&B and Defected couldn't resist the words "Gift Horse and Mouth" when they picked up this lil' artist - good catch guys... So, if you fancy something just a little different? Here it is... O' and his voice isn't half bad either!?... Ladies and gents, let me introduce the artist Osunlade...

TT: Why is it that you̢۪re so inspired by soul & jazz and what is it about those genre̢۪s that are so alluring to you?

O: I think it̢۪s because of its melodic qualities and the emotion in the music. It̢۪s pure, and you can̢۪t fake that kind of music. It̢۪s not pre-fabricated, it̢۪s spontaneous and I think it̢۪s the pure essence of the human emotion.

TT: You work these influences into your house music productions too right?

O: Yes of course. For me, all the music I create comes from some form of soul music because that was the primary style of music that I was influenced by as a child.

TT: Who were the artists that influenced you?

O: Everybody really. I can̢۪t really focus on any one particular artist. My parents listened to everybody. My mum̢۪s favourite was Aretha Franklin and my father̢۪s was James Brown. But I heard everything, especially during the 70̢۪s. Growing up in St Louis was quite an interesting thing because the mid-west states of the U.S are all pretty much in the centre of the country and so we got all the music that was from the popular cities as well as music that was regional. So we pretty much got everything.

TT: When did you move to New York?

O: I moved to New York when I was about 18. I’d moved to L.A when I was 17 and I stayed there for around a year a half before moving to New York. I was basically Bi-coastal – I had a place in both New York and L.A. I spent my young-adulthood and adolescence in those two places but my educational years and musically influenced years were in St Louis.

TT: We̢۪d say that Prince was a big influence on you, is that correct?

O: Definitely. When Prince came out he was such a big influence for all of the musicians in the area because he was a mid-western artist, I mean he’s from Minneapolis which is considered to be in the north of the mid-west, but he was such a big influence for us because here was a guy that we could relate to. His music was also similar to what we were playing such as funk, and that’s pretty much what all the musicians we’re playing in St Louis – soul & funk.

TT: Let̢۪s talk about your band. It̢۪s not the first time you̢۪ve put a band together is it?

O: No, but most of the instrumentation on the album is myself alone. There’s only a few songs that the band actually play on, and even they were more ‘studio’ type sessions rather than us all playing live in a room together. I’d say 92% of the album is just me playing alone.

TT: How long did it take for the whole album to come together?

O: I actually started some of the songs from this album in 1994, so it’s from then to now. Not a lot of songs have made it from that period but the staple songs such as ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Paint me a Picture’ are from the mid-to-late 90’s and early 00’s. They’ve been re-recorded several hundreds of times! And the newer songs on the record have been written over the last 4 years, so it’s been a long process. To me, it feels like my first album because it’s the one that I’ve worked on the longest and it’s the closest to me musically as well as the most vulnerable I’ve been musically.
So to me it feels like my first album because it expresses the evolution of myself as a person.

TT: Are you completely happy with the finished album?

O: Yes, definitely. The songs on the album are where they need to be, but the album was more about the responsibility of being the artist I thought I was ready to be. It was different for me as I̢۪d come from the stand-point of a producer for most of my career and when I started the label I didn̢۪t have the idea of being an artist but once you put your name on a record you become an artist. For the last 10 years I̢۪ve been known for house music producing and I̢۪ve got use to just being behind the scenes, so the way I see the album is me taking responsibility of seeing what ever comes my way in this next step. Vocally and with singing, I think people now expect a lot more from you and from what I̢۪ve experienced over the last 10 years is that it̢۪s quite invasive. It̢۪s invasive how people attach themselves to you personally because from what they get from your music. There is a lot of responsibility and with this album and at this stage of my life I guess I̢۪m excepting and ready to take on whatever additional responsibilities I̢۪ll have to come across as an artist.

TT: You can̢۪t blame people for attaching themselves to you because of your music though can you?

O: No not at all, and I̢۪ve reached a point now when I̢۪m ready to take that on and also take the responsibility of that on. But it is kind of invasive when you go out on tour and you have people putting a lot of pressure on you most of the time, and it̢۪s not a negative thing but there are times when you don̢۪t have the energy to sit down and talk to people and be nice all the time. So it is a big responsibility in how you̢۪re perceived by a person who has just met you for 10 seconds because they will take that with them for the rest of their life.

TT: Personally, I wasn̢۪t ready to take that on until now.

O: Have you felt at times that you haven̢۪t represented yourself in the way you wanted to with some people?

TT: No, I think I’ve always gone far and beyond to be a little bit extra nice! I’m an approachable person and I’m pretty humble and straight-forward. But yeah, there are times when you can come off like an arsehole and I’ve been in situations with other artists when I’ve seen them with people who really admire them and they come off thinking the artist is a total arsehole. But then you think ‘Woah! You’ve only known them for 10 seconds and you don’t know who they are’. The thing is, that impression will last with that person for the rest of their life.

TT: What has this album enabled you to express and are their any specific meaning̢۪s behind the tracks?

O: The album itself has let me express where I am personally. Musically it’s the music I’ve been making from day one, although it’s been mainly house music for a lot of my career I’d say that 30% of the house productions contained this type of music, it was just never represented properly because the house music was always at the forefront. It’s the right time for me, personally, to express: ‘This is who I am’ this is the closest (musically) you’ll get to what I do and what I am. The songs are about my evolution, such as the relationships I’ve had in my life, relationships that have made me change and which have taken me through ups and downs.

TT: Is that depicted in the opening track - ‘All my tears’?

O: Well all the songs are pretty much about relationships ha! ‘All my tears’ is about the downside of a relationship – how someone can be in a situation and know that its right for them and know that it’s the best for them but they kind of give up and settle for something else.

‘Complacent’ is a song which is about alot of people that I know are in relationships and stay in them even though the situation of it is really unhealthy. Its human nature I guess to stay in situations and get complacent just because they have the fear of not being with someone.

So the record also expresses my experiences of that but also the fact that I don̢۪t need another person to complete me or to define me. Of course I̢۪d love to spend my life with somebody and share with somebody but at the end of the day you are one person and your growth and your life is based upon yourself. What I̢۪ve learned about relationships is that people join forces and they end up losing themselves and they start to think as one as opposed to two people in one situation. I think being individual is the most important theme about the album.

TT: Which singles are you going to release from the album?

O: I haven’t really picked any singles out as yet but I think one of the strongest would be ‘Butterfly’ which is one of the oldest songs (written in 1994) and it’s more about hope. It’s seeing the world as it is and wanting to correct the wrongs if possible. ‘Compatible’ is about a screwed relationship where there’s nothing right about it but you stay in it. For me the strongest single would be ‘Paint me a picture’ which is about a relationship I was in with a painter (an artist) and it includes a lot of references to painting and drawing. It’s kind of like that movie ‘What dreams are made of’- it’s basically saying ‘Paint me a picture that’s beautiful and has nothing negative in it’ so that song is more about the fairy-tale idea of a relationship.

O: The album does certainly seem very personal.

TT: Yeah, it̢۪s certainly the sound of my heart on a string and it̢۪s about the most vulnerable I̢۪ve been in open air, so yes it̢۪s definitely personal.

O: The album is an amalgamation of soul, jazz and world music. So why did you feel you had to depart from your traditional house background?

It̢۪s not that I had to depart from it it̢۪s just that over the years house music has become less important to me in the sense that whilst I was doing the house music I was still working on the sound of this album but just not releasing it. It̢۪s not really a departure but more of a reversal to what is closest to me in actuality. I think in general house music has become a bit boring and I needed a break from it. I̢۪ve been listening to what̢۪s been happening in the genre and with the new technology there are a lot of people making house music who perhaps shouldn̢۪t be making it. It̢۪s just become one sound for me.

Releasing this album is like a release for myself. I mean it̢۪s done and it̢۪s out there and whatever happens with it is fine. It̢۪s a personal endeavour for myself and if people get it then that̢۪s fine and if they don̢۪t its fine. It̢۪s the same feeling I had when I set the label up and put my first house record out in that it was strictly for me. I had no ideas or expectations about it, it was strictly for me and by the grace of God I had some listeners.

TT: Why have you called the album ‘Rebirth’?

O: Well that̢۪s the original title of the album from 1994 when I started the project. It̢۪s called that because that̢۪s exactly what it is, it̢۪s another breath of life and its part of my evolution. After this album it̢۪s going to open the door to whatever, I̢۪m not going to be stuck just doing house music or just doing this music and that̢۪s important to me.

TT: Has the title something to do with your spirituality as well?

O: I̢۪d say yes because if you look at the album cover there̢۪s 3 flares and each flare represents a specific rebirth that has gone on in my life, spiritually. There̢۪s one above the head which represents the time I became a priest, there̢۪s one at the back and there̢۪s one beneath the balls! And each one represents a specific spiritual and personal rebirth that happened in my life. The picture on the cover sees a guy in the foetal position in a coiled grapevine on the ground, and it̢۪s a picture I took about two years ago and it was from a shoot I was doing for a friend. I didn̢۪t have a specific idea for the cover at the time, but that shot just looked like a guy being reborn so it was perfect and it works.

Album covers have always intrigued me and I think that̢۪s what̢۪s missing in album artwork today, there̢۪s not much that draws you into it. I certainly think this cover is going to grab people̢۪s attention.

TT: Is there anything else you̢۪d like to tell us about?

I should mention that my band are all Italians and they̢۪re all from Lecce and they̢۪ve been my band for 4 years now. We̢۪ve toured twice together with this material without their being any product out at the time, so I̢۪m looking forward to seeing what we can do now that it̢۪s coming out.

'Rebirth' by Onsunlade is out now through Defected Records.
Words TONI TAMBOURINE

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