Interview: Odeal on Music, Multicultural upbringing, Motivations & Artistry

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Multi-genre artist Odeal has been making his mark on the UK music scene over the past two years. Stepping on to the UK music scene in 2016, Odeal consistently continues to push the boundaries; constantly surprising his fans with his genre- bending sound. In the wake of the release of his latest single Mr Workerman, we sit down with the man himself and discuss his music, multicultural upbringing, motivations and artistry, while reflecting on the best and worst moments of his career so far and his definition of success.

You were featured in our 8 Artists to watch at the beginning of the year. So, for the people who don’t know you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

So, I’m a multi-genre artist from the UK. I make Alte/RnB music. Alte- for me- is a fusion between core Afrobeats and other genres. It’s like a sub-genre of Afrobeats basically. I fuse it with RnB because that’s a genre I do a lot of.

So, I know when you were younger you moved around a bit as you were born in Germany then moved to Spain and, at one point moved to the UK and then to Nigeria. What did this do for you as a person?

It gave me a more well-rounded knowledge of different cultures you know. Today, I’m more open to more things, I have more views on certain things, different takes, and approaches to certain things- especially music. Yeah, it just made me more open to different cultures and to different ways of doing things.

That’s really cool. So, touching on your experience of living in Nigeria, what did you gain from that? What did you learn?

You know, if you can survive in Nigeria, you can literally survive anywhere! That’s it! It definitely gave me thicker skin and to know how to maneuver. You meet different types of people and you come across different types of struggles that you need brains to be able to solve. It even allowed me to appreciate more because despite going to different places in Europe, Nigeria was a place where although I was blessed to have certain things that other people didn’t, I was able to see other people’s struggles and I could relate so, the experience gave me more understanding and more gratitude.

What was your first musical memory?

So basically, my mum in Germany- knew I loved music. I didn’t want to watch cartoons and stuff, I just wanted to listen to whatever she had on. She had CDs at the time so, I just loved to use the CD players and play whatever she had. She bought me a microphone and I literally used to sing around the house with it all the time. I kept that toy with me for a very long time! After that, I moved but, that was a key part of my childhood.

Amazing! I think for most people that’s the type of thing that happens. It’s usually their parents buying them something musical and then that’s what they attach themselves to. Moving on to your musical influences and inspiration, what artists would you say inspire your music?

So, there’s P Square, Wande Coal, Timaya, Faze, 9ice- there’s a range of them and back then, they were doing a lot. I took pieces from each and every one of them. From this side of the world, definitely, James Brown and Michael Jackson because they are on the wilder side of things, you know, really extreme with their talent and very loud with it- I love that about them. In terms of younger artists, there is Chris Brown and Kendrick Lamar- I like the thought behind his music, everything he does, and the way he executes it.

You’ve been releasing your own music since 2016 and you’ve collaborated with Abra Cadabra, Nines, and Headie One. How did those collaborations happen?

It was just their people hitting me up and them just messing with what I do. I was actually on my way back from Uni (University) when Abra’s (Cadabra) manager hit me up and said it would be great to get in a session and we got in a did just that. Literally, we just clicked straight away.

Odeal

Where did your interest in production come from?

I’ve always been quite hands-on with everything. I don’t like waiting on people to do stuff for me, I’ll rather just do it myself. I had producers till like 2018 and one of my main producers YKKUB was working with me for some time and then branched off to start working with other people- he had to because you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to make your money you feel me? At a time where I wasn’t getting as many beats as I was before, I just literally said to myself “You know what, I think it’s time I start producing. I need to put out what I can’t hear.” I was really determined to make beats, to move the needle, to push the boundaries with my sound. That’s just how I move. If there is something I need to do and I can’t do it, I’m going to have to learn it you know.

Nice! So recently Skepta was interviewed by Tiffany Calver and, one of the things he was talking about is the fact that he kind of wants to take a back seat from making music and wants to start producing for other artists. As you do produce, do you see yourself doing more production in the future and less of your own music?

To be honest, yes. I’m down to step back and do that 100%. I don’t think I’m not going to be singing forever. I think there’s a time that is going to come and I’m going to be like “Let me just chill now.” So yeah, 100%- I do see myself doing that.

You mentioned YKKUB earlier, how did you both meet?

One of my boys-MK- just loved music. He loved being around music, he loved finding different artists and producers and just making the connection between them all. We were at Uni together and he must have come across YKKUB’s music and got a beat pack from him. At that time, I was getting beats as well but not like that- they weren’t really that advanced. So, he (YKKUB) sent over this beat pack and I think it had 20 beats. When I heard them, I was like “No flipping way!” I laced all of them- like in one night. In the morning, he (MK) must have sent over a video of one of the songs I was working on to YKKUB and he (YKKUB) said “Who is this guy? Who did you send my beats to?” So, he hit up Mikes (MK) and from there we started working together.

I want to touch on some of your music now. Starting off with More Life which really picked up a lot of attention when it was released. A lot of people felt like it had a lot to do with the Black Lives Matter movement but, I’m sure you recorded it before that. The song to me touches on Black Excellence so, why did you think it was important to mention those types of topics in your music?

The major thing for me was to make a change in one way or another or, to at least speak to people. So, I told myself I need to speak. That’s one reason why I wrote that song with those topics. I really just wanted us to think more about ourselves especially in a situation where everyone was going through the pandemic. People just wanted to be outside and wanted life to go back to normal and, on top of that we were seeing the things that were going on in the news with the whole Black Lives Matter situation, we all needed to think. As a community, we needed to think about ourselves, how we need to sort ourselves out, and look at ourselves going forward. Even though we were going through a tough time, we needed to celebrate ourselves and not look down on each other when one person’s being celebrated. That was the main aim. I feel like it was needed especially at a time where there were no parties and no clubs. I made an upbeat tune that people could vibe to but also once they want to pay attention to the lyrics, they realize that the song is actually about something serious.

Moving on from More Life, you dropped the OVMBR: Roses EP. For anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet, what would you say that project is about?

Roses is actually a story from start to finish but, a lot of people didn’t get it. I still like to embed that in my music- especially in bodies of work. I like to throw in a concept here and there. As a whole, I really wanted people to see the versatility in my music. I just wanted people to see what I’m capable of. Almost every single song on there was a different genre. I just wanted people to see me from different angles and see how I approach different vibes so they know that this isn’t a joke and I’m not playing here!

Moving on to the lead single 24/48. That caught a lot of people’s attention! Why do you think that song really connected with people? Why do you think it was so special?

I can’t lie, I don’t know. I feel like at the time it was because we were in a lockdown and everyone has lowkey been missing someone, or maybe they were in a situation or have just come out of a situation. Everyone was in that mood so I feel like when it (24/48) came out, it really just hit people- especially with the context it was written in. It’s (24/48) not like my other songs. It’s a lot slower and each line is hard-hitting and thought-provoking.

Earlier this year you dropped Passenger and then you dropped Na You with Marzi. Why did you choose to sample Duncan Mighty’s Obianuju for that particular track (Na You)?

Marzi and I were at the studio for like two days and on the second day, we said we’d go on (Instagram) live and ask our supporters to give us a Nigerian song to sample and we would pick the best one. People were naming some crazy songs for us to sample and then, someone called Zion must have said this (Obianuju) song. That’s Marzi’s and I’s favorite song and we were like “There’s no way they said that!” So, we went with it! This wasn’t us; we made the people choose. It was a challenge to us. Me and Marzi wanted to show people that you can bring anything to us and we can make it happen you feel me? That was the main goal.

Going through your early releases to where you are now, it’s clear that there has been a lot of growth and you’ve taken a lot of time to really find your sound. Would you say it’s important for artists to go through that process and try to understand themselves and their sound?

Yeah! I think it’s so important because until you deep (realize) that, you’re constantly just chasing waves, you’re never settled and it’s easy for you to get knocked down you know? People can tell when what you’re doing is not authentic and when this happens, you won’t last for very long. I’m always finding myself and bettering that unique sound that I have.

Karma is out now and it is self-produced. How important for you is it to have a hand in your creative process?

I won’t lie, it gives me peace of mind when I know I’ve added my touch to something. It’s just so I know that I did everything I could to make it work. For me, nothing is really ever finished but when I look back at things, sometimes I’m like “I should have added that.” I really like to do everything in my power to make sure that I’ve put my best foot forward. With production especially, that song only came about because my mind was there fully; I knew what I wanted to make. I had time to change bits and I was just free to do what I wanted.

If you look back on your journey, what would you say your best and worst moment has been so far?

I’m going to start with my worst moment. My worst moment was when I lost all of my music on the 1st of January 2020. I had loads of amazing songs on my hard drive but, clearly, God had other plans. In November (2019), I got a call to write some songs for Rihanna. I was working on them for two or three months. I had them all on there (hard drive) and I spent every day perfecting certain lines because like I said nothing is ever finished. Whether the songs I wrote were going to make it or not, I felt like it was even a blessing to be asked to do such at that point in my career. It was crazy!  I wanted to put everything into it. It was just me trusting some people with my belongings that I just shouldn’t have. So, somewhere in the world, my hard drive is floating around! I feel like that was the worst and the best moment because that day made me want to go super hard. When it left, I locked myself away, I stopped speaking to people. Everything I was doing- Uni included- I locked it off. I literally just said I was going to stay in my room, make more songs, and better myself. Produce two songs every morning before I eat. I wasn’t even eating properly! I was going crazy with it but I was just so motivated to be better.

I don’t know what a lot of artists would do if they were in that situation so I can’t blame you for what you did at that time! Touching on motivation, what else motivates you to make music?

Time is so important. You could make a melody right now that could change your life and somebody else’s life. In changing your life, it could bless you with the means to be able to change millions of people’s lives. Every time I’m not recording, I’m thinking about what I could be making and when I hear what other people have made, it just shows what they have done with their time. That motivates me to keep working. Also, the discovery of a new melody is beautiful. Ever heard a song and you’re like “How did this person even come up with that? That’s crazy!” I love that. It’s crazy because I even think that to myself when I’m making music. I love the feeling of finding something new.

How would define your success so far?

It’s God. It’s actually God. I’m blessed with supporters who love what I do and are ready to listen. It’s real what I’ve got right now and it’s only growing. Things that I prayed for years ago I’m seeing happen right now so, I’m very grateful. There’s still more to come you know! It’s still very early!

I know you’ve got some festivals lined up? What festivals are they?

I did Yam Carnival on the 28th of August and I’ve got Hidden Hills in Frankfurt, Germany on the 4th September. Those are the only two but again, I’m just grateful that we are finally out of a pandemic, or hopefully we are. Hopefully, we don’t get put back into lockdown. I’m just happy to be out here! I want to see the reaction of the crowd to the music and just be out there.

Do you have any plans to put on your own show anytime soon?

Yeah, I actually have plans for one this year! I’ve got one in December just after my project drops.

So, there’s a project coming as well?

Yeah, there is! It gives people time to take it in and get the lyrics ready for when I have my show in December.

Apart from the project, what else should we be looking forward to from you this year?

I’d say just great music and growth. This is the second half of the year, you never know what I can come out with. I wasn’t doing anything the first half of 2020 and I ended the year with a project so, let’s see what the rest of this year holds.

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