Interview: Obenewa – Once Upon a time
8 Sep 2011
From the 9-5 office round to taking to the stage supporting acts like Marsha Ambrosius, chasing the dream of her passion for music and the stage for the 27-year old has never seemed so close. In the wake of her most recent EP “Once Upon A Time” with the track “Put Yourself in My Shoes” being shortlisted as BBC 1Xtra’s 100% Home-grown ‘Unsigned Track of the Week’, Obenewa talks with Tajha Myer-Ferreira about chasing the dream and who and what has made her who she is!
Tell us a bit about yourself Obenewa as an artist and a person?
Musically, I have always been around music and always listened to different genres. I was classically trained from the age of 4 and that definitely has a big impact on the way I write and the way I do think about music so I kinda combine the principles and certain things that I learnt from learning classical with also the stuff that I love in terms of Soul, Rock and Reggae, then you get me, what my music’s about. Most of the time I’m writing from experiences but also I write about my friends experiences or lately I’ve written about putting myself in a different position or situation or a different character like with “Obsessed” I wasn’t a stalker but I just put myself in the shoes of a stalker thinking how they might write the song. As a person, a lot of people find me relaxed, quite chilled and my voice is quite *umm umm*, my mum always takes the piss out of me [laughs]. I guess I come alive a lot on the stage, It sounds really cliché but the crowd is my home, I actually feel the most comfortable when I’m performing. I love art, drawing, animation, reading, I love reading about other peoples lives because it also puts things in perspectives about how people struggled to get where they get.
Who are your musical influences?
I love Raphael Saadiq; I like listening to Bjork, Bob Marley’s and loads of different things I’m open to.
Would you say that your musical influences have had a big impact on your music style?
Yes, I guess with anyone, any artist, what they come out with is gonna be basically a melting point of influences, life experiences and things they have gone through. Definitely all the genres of music influence me and give me ideas and inspire me and my musical journey in terms of me learning classical and being exposed to different types of music by my parents and my friends has definitely been like a little melting point and at the end of it, I feel like I’ve finally come out with my sound and what I like as representing me, so definitely it’s a combination of the genres that I love and my experiences that I’ve made my music.
So what would you say is your sound?
It’s kind of what I feel on that day but I guess mostly its definitely soulful; that’s the core of it. Soulful and raw. It has a little inflictions of Reggae, sometimes Rock, sometimes Soul and R&B but the sound is quite eclectic and I’m not just doing one genre. Its kinda like me showing you all the genres I love and all the genres that inspire me so my sound is like a mixture of all those things. And I guess the running theme is me and the theme of my song writing.
Describe what the background of you EP “Once Upon a Time” is…
Basically it’s the beginning of a concept that I am building on. I came up with “Once Upon a Time” because it was me telling a story through all the songs I’ve written at a point of my life so they kind of went together one after the other. Its like the beginning of a bed time story of my life and Its just a thought that I came up with and I’m running with it and the next EP will tell the next part of the stories.
And the stories to each song…
“Bed” is something that I think everyone can relate to. It’s about doing a job, a 9-5, any job, and you just don’t want to go and you just want to stay and do what you really love. There’s a million people like me doing a job to get by to make ends meet and grateful for it but their heart is in something else. Eff it, I don’t want to get out of bed, I want to do what I want to do. And that’s me wishing, thinking of one day of me doing that. Sometimes you have a bad day, you cant always be happy, you cant always be like I’m going to work and when I get home I’m going to do my music; like you cant always be positive, its only natural to have them days so that song was just about letting off steam. Then you got “Make it better” and that’s just about trying to explain to somebody that they can trust you, they might have been hurt before and you can make things better if they just let you and they give you a chance. “Drummer Boy” is not exactly what it means. Its about a time where I felt a little bit paranoid about the relationship I was in so sometimes when you get paranoid and your imagination runs over because I always seem to think about a lot of things and you have to be careful with it thinking maybe he might be going a little bit astray so I came up with the concept of putting myself in the shoes of the mistress like “does your girlfriend know about me?” And “Put yourself in my shoes” is about explaining to somebody how you feel and you just don’t feel that they are seeing it from you point of view; I think that could be in any situation between friends, stuff like that. People say that everyday, so I just used it in my song to raise some of my issues and a lot of people, every time I play that song, for some reason something clicks. And people always seem to remember this song.
So do you try and make most of your songs relate to everybody?
I don’t make it a purposeful thing but I think that I am a normal young lady growing up and we have all have stuff in common naturally whether that be love or with just struggling to make ends meet, you know just following your dreams, woman, man, whatever, they all have one of those things and that’s what I write about and I think that naturally connects with people.
Compared to your last EP, how does this one differentiate?
The last EP/mix tape, it was just me having fun and showing my song writing skills writing on different instrumentals and also with originals and working with producers I’ve worked with for a long time as well. But I guess this EP is a lil different because I’ve written the songs right from scratch. I play the guitar as well and I’ve written them all from scratch with my own melody but I guess it kind of differs because it’s all from me and not other hands in the pot.
Back to your craft in general, what made you decide to pursue music especially after studying Music technology at University?
Music has always been my forte, like art has always been my forte, I like drawing as well but music from a young age I’ve always been distracted by music. I remember when I was young I wanted to be fashion designer but then in my teens I started song writing with my uncle then I started song writing by myself and then in my late teens I started to realise that this is what I want to do and this where my hearts.
Is your family also quite musical themselves?
Well my older sister Nadine (Charles), she also sings as well and funny enough my mum though she’s learning the guitar now, she can’t sing [laughs] and my two other sisters can sing but the younger one Is interested in more of the dance side of things so having a musical background, having a family who is into music definitely makes it easier for me to get into it. I write a few songs for my sister, which she has performed and we plan one day to do an EP together.
What now is Obenewa planning to do?
Push the EP more, work on a video for one of the songs, which I shall not reveal yet [laughs]. Doing more gigs and writing and trying to get myself into song writing again and work on the next EP. Hopefully do some collaborations like with my sister and we will see where life takes me. I’m going to take one step at a time and try and do as much everyday that I can, every gig you have a different crowd, with people you may know and people you don’t but it’s a good test, I’ve been performing from young, I enjoy performing and I love the stage. You’ve got to perform; you’ve got to connect with people. Recording music connects with people but for me seeing someone live and its amazing, its makes me wanna buy their cd straight away. It’s very important to translate your music and the best way is through live music. Now, a lot of people want to go to gigs and enjoy music that’s live.
I would love to collab with Ed Sheeren, Espada, Coldplay, Stevie Wonder, Raphael Saadiq, gosh, there’s so many people [laughs]
The talented soulful singer who claims her “art is from her Heart” Obenewa has landed with this elevating UK mixtape here for download.
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