2016 has inspired producers to level their game up, maybe even more so now than ever. With artists looking to feature a variety of people and styles behind the boards, eclectic soundscapes are finding their way into Hip Hop and R&B-inspired tracks in an interesting way.
As experimental music finds its way into R&B and Hip Hop, OBESØN is someone who can as easily work with someone who’s used to a certain style of production, as he can work with someone with a club or dance music focus. That adaptability comes natural to him, as he’s someone that takes components of his favorite genres and melds them together to find his own signature preferences and risk-taking that works in his favor.
His forthcoming album, Beyond A Billion Stars, is due out on August 15 and the 11-track album is a beautiful introduction to who he is as an artist. The instrumental framework allows his music to be heightened by a visual component, and inspired him to be very selective in the vocal features he included.
Working with limited access to equipment so many take for granted, such as studio monitors, the project holds a polish that makes you wonder what the Toronto-based artist will be capable of when he gets his hands on a high quality studio set-up. While expressing that he feels he was at a disadvantage at times creating this project, the conceptual project came together in a way that was just as adaptive as his music itself. He makes it work for him, and the result is intriguing.
In advance of his album, he dropped the track “Walked Away,” recruiting the vocal talents of Y.A.S. to create something really special. While OBESØN isn’t your quintessential Hip Hop producer, finding his own unique place within music is giving him a staying power that today’s emcees are destined to be really excited about. Once they catch up to him, of course.
How long have you been doing what you do? How did you get started?
I started making music when I was 14 years old. Almost 11 years now. It’s a funny story how I got started actually. I had a really good friend of the family I grew up with named Jermaine. I’m not even sure if he would remember this but I used to be at his place all the time. One day, I went over and he was super busy at the time and couldn’t really hang out so I asked him what there was for me to do while I waited for him and he told me to use his computer. So I went onto his computer and I found a program named FL Studio and I asked him what it was used for and he said you make beats on there. I opened it up and started messing around and it’s stuck ever since.
Is there an early memory you’d like to share about getting into your craft, such as when you realized this was more than just a hobby or a passion?
Honestly, I’ve always loved music the exact same amount throughout my life. Growing up in high school, I played sports and did drama etc. and I honestly thought my profession would be so many different things at so many different times. I had a careers class in grade 10 and the profession I said I wanted to do when I was older was be a music producer. I was only making music for about 2 years at the time and I remember presenting in front of the class and they asked me to play my music. I was so embarrassed that I only played like 10 seconds of the song then cut it off. I knew it was what I wanted to do though. I grew up in church and my dad played the drums every Sunday and owned a drum set, and a lot of his friends were also musicians. I was exposed to music at a young age and kind of just had the resources to give it a try myself.
How do you describe your sound/ what you do to people you haven’t heard before?
This is the hardest thing to explain to people. My music taste is so eclectic. I love so many different styles of music and I grew up listening to so many different styles of music so I basically wanted to make everything at the same time. That’s what I did. I fused everything that I liked into one genre. I tell people it’s chilled out electronic progressive vibe music, mainly with R&B influences.
Who are your influences? What is some advice that has stuck with you?
There was a time when I listened to nothing but Linkin Park, then I switched up and listened to a lot of R&B like Bobby Valentino and Jagged Edge, then Arcade Fire became my favorite band to listen to. Then, I switched up again and started listening to house music. Mainly progressive house artists like Deadmau5. MatZo and an artist named sorrow who makes garage music were HUGE influences in the progressive music I started making. I also had a time in my life where I would make nothing but film scores and just search the internet for the most amazing background music I can. I actually started a group way back in the early days of SoundCloud called “Movie/Game Background Music/Soundtrack Music” that now has over 52k songs submitted and almost 9k members. Sigur Ros was a big influence as well from that style of music.
As much as I ask for advice from people I don’t usually take it. I just want to know what people are thinking. You do have the advice that’s always floating around that says go with your gut and do whatever sounds good to you. It’s definitely true, you have to do whatever comes naturally to you because that’s what you were meant to do. Everyone is different and everyone has a different role and purpose in this world. If everyone was the same, the world wouldn’t function. Good advice that sticks with me is actually a Bible verse that says, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were hearing, where would be the smelling?” The context in the Bible is different, but I feel like it’s the same idea. People always want to be what they see works for other people but they don’t realize that the world is so big and everyone thinks a different way for a reason. We are all meant to do something different and once that reason is figured out you can now use your purpose to better this world in a completely different way than someone else could.
What do you hope people take away from listening to your music?
I want people to take whatever they can take from my music. I mainly started music for myself because of the way it makes me feel when I’m creating and listening to a finished product that came from nothing. Over time, I have gotten a lot of messages that my music has helped people. To this day, I can’t wrap my head around that. I’m a speck of dust in the universe and a creation I’ve put together in a few hours has stopped people from killing themselves, according to some messages I get. Some people like to relax and just enjoy the vibes, some people like to trip out on drugs and go on a sonic journey, some people like the lyrical content of some of the artists I work with. Whatever reason, I just hope people enjoy it and can benefit from it in whatever way.
Tell us a little bit about what concepts or themes that reoccur in your new project?
The title of the LP is Beyond A Billion Stars. It’s a super spacey vibe and it’s meant to be as if you’re drifting in outer space. It’s meant to be a journey from start to finish, and it’s meant for people to use their imagination and come up with whatever story they see in their minds when they’re listening. The whole project was super natural (wink), I didn’t force anything. A lot of the tracks are actually a direct representation of points in my life, I guess it could kind of be a story of my life. It’s not really a club banging album or even a vocal album to sing along to. It’s mainly instrumental, and I wanted to keep it that way because it’s perfect for visuals.
What was your creative process like for this project? How did these songs make the cut? Any details about how this project came together would be awesome.
At the time I started putting it together I had no idea I was going to put an album together. It just came together. A lot of the songs on the album are songs I’ve made even a year or more ago and don’t even have the project files for anymore. Those songs I haven’t put out for various reasons and actually didn’t plan on putting some of the songs out at all, but that just proves I’m not in control of any of it. I believe God had a plan for it all from the songs themselves to the titles of the songs to the vibes of the songs to the artwork. I’ve tried about 3 times to put a little 2-3 track EP together and couldn’t do it, but this entire album came together naturally in just over a month. Each song has its own unique vibe and feeling. Literally. Each song physically feels and sounds different and that’s because I used all different kinds of headphones and speakers to make each track, then finished them all off with iPhone headphones.
What are you hoping to accomplish next in your career?
I am currently building my live set and I plan to take these vibes and ideas I have onto the stage and put on a very visual, vibey show, really soon. My next step is to get a studio and start working on a studio album with some of my favorite vocalists. I’m a lot more than just a producer, I’d rather refer to myself as an artist, because that’s exactly what I do—art. I’ve got plenty of artistic ideas I need to let loose and those ideas will come out in full force extremely soon.
Photo courtesy Dave Rideout