I recently had the chance to catch up with Oakland’s own singer/songwriter/musician, 1-O.A.K. who’s forging a Soul Renaissance along with his Honor Roll Crew.
P.Downes) Your music brings me back to my childhood, rifling through my parent’s albums. When did you fall in love with music and knew that’s what you wanted to do?
1-O.A.K.) I don’t know really. Music has been such a part of everyday life ever since I can remember so I never thought of music as a decision I made. I didn’t start singing and performing though until maybe high school. I always sang in church but when it came to creating I always preferred the studio more than the stage, and production over singing. But I was pushed by the homies and family members to try it around my senior year.
P.Downes) Your sound straddles everything from old Isley Brothers to late-era New Edition to early Bilal. What albums moved you as a kid?
1-O.A.K.) I knew all of Stevie Wonder’s albums by heart by the time I was like 12 or so. Moms had most of the albums. At least “My Cherie Amour” up to “Conversation Peace.” That’s about a 8 album span there! Other albums I memorized were D’Angelo’s “Voodoo”, N.E.R.D. “In Search Of” Mint Condition “Definition of a Band”, “Purple Rain.” Honestly, I didn’t start buying albums ’til high school really. Before that it was LOTS of gospel music.
P.Downes) If you could work with any artist in the universe, who would it be?
1-O.A.K.) Quincy Jones. He’s arguably the best producer, dead or alive.
P. Downes) Your music has the warm feeling of live instrumentation. What instruments did you play in the church? What is your favorite instrument to play and why?
1-O.A.K.) I play a little bit of everything but the drum set was kind of my first love because I love rhythm and groove. I had a short run playing the guitar and had I kept it up I think that would’ve been my instrument. I never developed the callous, ya know?
P.Downes) Soul music, in my my opinion, is going through a rebirth. With all the cross-pollination of musical genres going on, what’s YOUR definition of good music? What makes a great song for you? What elements are crucial to a good song?
1-O.A.K.) Good music is an experience that pleases the mind, body and spirit all at once. Every good song has melody, harmony, rhythm and lyrics (sometimes). What makes it great? I don’t know, maybe the soul. Not talking about the genre of music, but actually the human soul. A great song is as hard to define as the human soul but you just feel it when you hear a great song.
P.Downes) Take me through the genesis of a song like “Me & You”. As mentioned earlier, your songs bring me back to my youth. What inspired you to write such a breezy, cool summer-time jam? Was it first-hand experience and you ran home and started writing? The song feels so immediate. (By the way, nice Nirvana T-shirt).
1-O.A.K.) I remember being a kid and seeing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on “The Box” network all the time! Now, that’s a great gotdamn song! “Me & You” was the easiest song to make and the first song I made for the album. With all my music, the beat comes first. I spend most of my time chopping samples and breaks and adding them to my library of sounds. As soon as I chopped this one up, I laid the pattern down, then the chords. Then later that night, Trackademicks and I sat down and I showed him the idea and we wrote some verses. Track wrote the chorus. Done.
P. Downes) I thoroughly enjoyed your Smith’s cover of “How Soon is Now.” Nowadays, folks tend to chop anything of that sort up, only to get pop-points. But to me, covering the Smiths is deeper than say, covering Nickelback, and in my opinion, your cover was done with style and respect. Why the Smiths?
1-O.A.K.) Thank you. Lovelorn is a cover project, but there is an underlying thread between the songs that happened naturally. All of the bands we covered (with the exception of LCD Soundsystem) were English bands from the 80s. Trackademicks is a big fan of the whole brit-pop and sophisti-pop genre. I knew “How Soon Is Now” from that show “Charmed” and from the movie “Scream”. But Track really provided the deeper knowledge for me with all of that material because, well, that’s HIS shit. Only after I did my homework was I able to bring my style to the Smith’s material with respect. Honor Roll.
P.Downes) What’s next for 1-O.A.K. and the Honor Roll collective?
1-O.A.K.) I’m just on the soil ya dig, checking my greens and fixing these “turnups” you feel me? Haha. We just released another 2-Player Co-Op single. Our take on James Blake’s “Retrograde” that’s made for dancing. I’m working on my second release, collaborating and performing. Each member of the crew has music coming out too. Stay tuned to HonorRollCrew.com
Soul music is more than genre, it’s something you just feel. Prepare yourself. 1-O.A.K. and the Honor Roll crew are here and a change is gonna come.