- Words Hiba Hassan
South London’s Odeal is one of the leading faces in the UK alté R&B music scene, as 2021 draws to a close, we sat down with the musician to reflect on his journey so far.
Sometimes in life, it is when you are at your most vulnerable you become your best self, create your best work or open a door you couldn’t have imagined opening. Those moments can make or break you, but ultimately you are given a whole new meaning to life and the trajectory you will now embark on. Anything can be brought to life including projects, and for one person, in particular, UK R&B’s frontman Odeal, he is the epitome of someone who has used their obstacles in life to help him embark on a new challenge. First releasing music in 2016, there have been many pivotal moments that have brought Odeal to this point right now. His collective, OVMBR, has seen Odeal own the month of November with a goal of releasing as much music in that month. It was curated after he battled a life-changing illness in November 2017, which taught Odeal a process to death that he explained to me, one that has been at the forefront of my mind since this interview, and changed the trajectory of how I want to be remembered, you die three times; the day you die, the day you’re buried and the last time your name is said in this world. The last step is one that all artists wish to eliminate, curating your true legacy.
He is an artist that is doing just that, using the impact of his cultural experiences; born in Germany with Nigerian heritage, moving to Spain at the age of three before planting his feet firmly in South London just before he went to secondary school. Growing up on shows like Channel U and uploading videos of freestyles to Facebook, he began uploading Frank Ocean covers onto Youtube, where he began honing his R&B sound. It wasn’t until a summer trip to Nigeria where Odeal saw the need to curate a sound that was popular everywhere, and so he focused on the Alté sounds.
Nowadays, it’s hard to mention the UK scene without bringing the name Odeal into the conversation, he has been slowly paving the way to his game-changing career. Following the release of his EP; Hits No Mrs last month, the project is another introduction into an untouched direction of exploring musical elements like fusing different melodies while keeping in touch with his staple sound. 2022 is looking even more promising for the musician who is focused on building his legacy, Notion sat down virtually with the artist as he draws 2021 to a close…
How’s your morning been? Everyone on this call is hungry right now…
You know what same, I’m hungry. I don’t even know what I’m going to eat. Maybe try and cook something up.
Can you cook?
Yeah, I can make a little sumin’… my go-to meal is probably like an alfredo or something.
I’m really excited to speak to you because when I first started freelancing seriously about a year and a half ago, you were the first person I was emailed a press release for! What has been your biggest moment since actually starting music?
I feel like it was probably when people started taking me in properly, around when 24/48 dropped. But I don’t think I’ve had a big moment yet or I haven’t seen them as big moments, you know? I am always looking forward and that is yet to come. I am thankful for how things a really moving forward, thank God for that.
Your mantra is looking at things as they have to come and go, nothing lasts forever. How does this relay the longevity of your music? Are you making music for future audiences too in a timeless sense?
I feel like with music these days a lot of people like to stick to a certain formula and me knowing that and operating how I operate; I can’t hold on to a certain thing for too long and hope it takes me where I want to go. So, I have to be prepared to let certain things go and prepare for change and better myself to get to where I’m going. Music is all about adapting to the climate at the end of the day.
How do you know as a musician when to let certain things go and when to pursue things that don’t work out the first time?
Do you know what it is, you never actually just know. But all I know for myself Is I have to be better and I’m doing the right thing. As long as that happens, I know I am on to something better.
Speaking of doing better than the last, how do you think Hits No Mrs has done compared to your last EP release?
I feel like this project is better than my last project OVMBR: Roses because last year I tried to show my supporters the different styles I can go into. So, my vocal ability and where I can take that. This year was more musical songs, me just being mature within my music, it went from being a straight vibe to this is my actual music now. I feel like the sound has gotten even more mature and it is digestible as well; it’s not too much for people to take in. but it is also something that all ages can appreciate.
Do you think about who is listening to your music?
Nah I don’t you know, I really just think about, for me what would I appreciate as music as I am growing up as well.
And what do you appreciate music-wise, as you are getting older?
Musicality at the end of the day. The music scene is so contaminated with music that is not really music. Music goes deeper than we even know, so my main thing is exposing people to all sides to music and those things of music that we all love, and magnifying it, going deeper into it, that’s it really for me.
Your love for making music came in 2013 while spending time in Nigeria, what was it about that trip that steered you to find that deeper meaning to music? Because before that trip did you want to be in music?
Yeah, I wanted to be in music I was doing Frank Ocean covers and stuff on Youtube. I had more supporters and friends on Facebook, so I would post them there. Then when I went to Nigeria, and this is how I found out how people respond to different types of music, RnB would go off in all parts of the world but then I went to Nigeria and no one was trying to hear that. They like music that makes you feel a certain way, that makes you move, even a lot of afrobeat’s in Nigeria doesn’t get through to the masses, so while I was there, I got to learn what people liked.
My dad also owned a nightclub, so I would sit there while DJ’s would play throughout the night, my dad would be like “do you hear the songs that they’re playing? They’re not playing that RnB stuff; these are the songs that are moving in the clubs”. So, I would sit there and watch different sets and how people would react to different songs and learn how you do things.
I was going to ask where you get your creative skills from, I know you have 100% hand in how things go down to shots, when did you realise this was something you were good at, and did that kind of stem from your dad owning a nightclub?
Nah you know, I would just chill in the club more time, I was definitely not supposed to be there at that age but with all the different places I’ve been to, you see different things and those things make you feel a certain type of way. I’ve watched different films, my parents used to work a lot, so I used to watch films all the time. So, on top of that, I can incorporate that into different things and work with the director because I know what shots I want to make my listeners feel a certain type of way. I don’t know it fully, but I can work with the team to work around how I want it to look and I like to learn the different lenses and angles and stuff as time has gone by.
What’s your favourite film?
There are so many films out there man… you know what film I’ve watched recently I think it is an amazing film, The Great Gatsby. That film is mad! Snakes on a Plane is crazy, there’s a film called Kids as well, that’s cold. All these films that evoke an emotion in you that you can pause the movie and whatever moment you pause it’s a hard still shot, those are the films I like… the cinematic ones or the deeper meaning.
Tell me about the name Odeal…
It’s the name my dad gave to me, it basically means a promise to myself and God that I will give back when I get the opportunity or when things work out for me, I’ll give back to those who need it the most.
I think the names we are given set us up to what we are supposed to do in life and even your name has that meaning, what do you want your legacy to be?
Music opens so many doors, the things you can do with it. it’s just the start, that is something I want to do because I love it and I love the art. But I feel like going forward there are so many other things I want to do. The collective OVMBR, we are trying to build foundations and charities in different countries, workshops for those in less economically developed countries. There are so many things I want to do that music is helping me do that.
You started your OVMBR collective due to past trauma, a life or death situation, showing that your music goes past just making music in itself, so what are the goals with the collective?
I want it to be a hub of creatives that take on the world. When I got into music and the creative industry, I came into it when it was very cliquey, everyone was in it for themselves, no one was trying to work with anyone I found, so with OVMBR, it is just a hub of creatives and people trying to strive for good quality in all they do and take it to the world. I want to make a change that everyone remembers, I always talk about this. with that situation that happened back in 2017, there are three stages of death; the day you die, the day you’re buried and the day the last person says your name on earth. And I feel like the last stage of death, I don’t want anyone I’ve built with to go through.
How would you measure success then?
That’s a tough question, I feel like until I know I am actually making a change on a wider scale and it’s not just me, not just changing my life but the people around me, and it is even extending further, that’s when I will be successful. The music as well, the different people I’ll be able to connect with, not just on a musical level, but o=in all sides of it, that to me is successful.
You said in a past interview that you always want to educate people through your music, what did you study at uni?
I started off studying Bio-med…
Yeah, I know it’s so funny, but in the second year I would’ve had zero hours to do anything music, so I switched my course to digital marketing. Really and truly, I’ve deeped it now, It was always going to happen. So, I switched to that and it gave me enough time to do music then the pandemic happened, and I was like yeah, I have to dip.
So, coming from a Nigerian family, how did the conversation go for you about dropping out?
You know what, I didn’t even have the conversation until the last minute and it was a thing where I had to just trust myself to make it happen. I lost all my music in 2020 like I lost my hard drive and stuff, it was all wiped out I was so ready for the new year. but I didn’t have anything left. My manager at the time actually gave me his studio equipment, and I just made music to replace what id lost. I told my mum about the situation, and I kept telling her I need to make music and to give me 2 months to change it around. 2 months went by and I was getting shows, etc, and I told my mum that I wasn’t going to continue with uni. Now, she doesn’t really talk about it that much, but she can see what is happening.
She even hears the music I make, and she loves it, she tells me her favourite songs and asks me when music is dropping, so the conversation is more lighthearted. Obviously, there are times she’ll throw it in there, but that side of her will never leave.
I don’t think that side will ever leave mums…
You know what it is, it’s an ego thing because what? But I understand, they didn’t see these opportunities that we have now when they were growing up. In their eyes, the only thing that is certain is a certificate or a job.
Your mum and God are the most important things in your life, do seek ‘approval’ from your mum liking your music?
It is important to me, at the same time there are songs she hates, but it’s fine because she likes the majority.
You seem like a well-put-together kind-of-guy, I do styling as well and I can’t lie I’m into your style! Where does that come from?
Of recent for my music videos I have a stylist but on a normal day, I just do it myself. And even back in the day, in ends people would be like why are you wearing that, but I’ve gotten to a stage where I like to be myself and comfortable. My fits also depend on my mood.
How did your area influence the music you take in?
I was actually very out of the loop; I came to the UK kind of late. So, I stayed at home or I went to parties sometimes, I liked to just stay at home and get into my own things. But being where I’m from in the UK, everyone around here is actually pretty open. No one is in their own head; people were open to new things and I was allowed to be myself no matter what.
What does 2022 look like for you? Are we getting an album?
I want to give you guys an album! I pray I can! I’ve got albums worth of music. but you know what it is, I can’t give an album at the moment, more time I feel like I need to be at the right stage, everyone has to be locked in for an album. I would’ve dropped on last year, but in this movement, everyone needs to be locked in properly, I don’t want to be an artist that just drops an album for the sake of it.
Next year is more music though! More collabs and the music is going to get even deeper. Whenever you hear the new sounds you’ll be like ‘what the hell is this’, I need to bring proper musicality. I want to shock myself. Everyone’s eyes need to be opened to a different side of music.