Name: Oscar Jerome
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer
Recent release: Oscar Jerome's The Spoon is out September 23rd via Jeromeo.
Recommendations: Book - 40 Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak; Track - "Faith" by Amp Fiddler
If you enjoyed this interview with Oscar Jerome and would like to find out more, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started having guitar lessons when I was 8 and formed my first band when I was 10. I used to rock out, I loved Jimi Hendrix and Rage against the machine.
I can’t explain what drew me to music it just always felt like the logical and natural path for me. I was always singing as soon as I learned to talk.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I definitely make and association between chords and colours. Different chord voicings and keys conjure up different shades of light in my head. It’s pretty hard to put into words and it’s only something I register when I consciously think about it.
I’ve always been interested in moods and feelings created through music rather than the technical content and I think this has a lot to do with it.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
When I was younger I saw the pinnacle of success as playing in-front of thousands of people and millions of people listening to my music. Now that I’ve done a lot of these things I realise, for me at least, this is not the key to happiness and contentment. There are many incredibly “successful” artists who are miserable people.
I have always been drawn to music that is rooted in something deeper and I want to make sure that I keep searching and growing both as a person and an artist. I want to be comfortable but I’m not interested in being rich.
Wealth comes in many forms.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I’ve lived my life in quite different environments.
I feel lucky to have spent quite a bit of my childhood around nature and that has definitely influenced my art and the kind of music I listen to. John Martyn is one of my favourite songwriters and he definitely conjures up a lot of scenes from my childhood.
I’ve also spent a lot of my life in London and this place is definitely home. I’m surrounded by such a broad spectrum of amazing people here, it has definitely shaped me as a person. I grew up listening to punk bands, reggae and jazz.
Since I’ve lived in London I’ve ended up playing with a lot of the people that influenced me. There is a grit and honesty to the music culture in London that I’ve struggled to find anywhere else in the world.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I just make music that moves me and hope that these sounds move other people too.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I don’t think it is about being one thing or the other. It is important to study the greats that have come before you and to perfect your craft but it’s also important to be honest with your output and find your voice.
If you go into making something with the intention to be original that’s kind of missing the point. It’s all about doing what feels natural and what makes you happy.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The most important thing for my development has been having the right people around me. People who genuinely want what is best but also are not afraid to be honest and hold me to account.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Every day is different in my life.
On a good day I’ll wake up, do some exercise, maybe some meditation. I’ll eat some food then practice guitar for a bit. I then will get on with some admin, social media takes up too much of my time these days. I do some writing or working on production of tracks. I might link some friends in the evening. I love cooking so I try and make time for that on a day when I’m home.
My creativity comes in waves. Some periods I’m writing a lot everyday, sometimes I wont write at all.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
My recent single “Berlin 1” started as poetry I was writing while in Berlin at the end of summer 2020.
I roughly produced the beat starting with guitar chords and drum machine. I built it up to be a full demo then took it to my band when I was back in London. We were meeting up every Thursday and playing my new compositions for hours, building the new sound.
Once I felt the song was right we went into the studio and recorded live at Iguana Studios in Brixton. Myself and producer Beni Giles added production elements from the demo and layered up new bits. Beni worked some mixing magic and Bob’s your uncle we had a tune.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Sometimes when I’m writing about personal things it’s nice to keep the process to myself so I can get deep in my feels. At least until I bring it to the band as a finished piece.
Creating music on your own does get a bit lonely after a while though and I like having other people’s ideas and skills to bounce off. As much as I’m a nerd I also like people and value the connecting to people through being creative.
I try and regularly play improvised music with people and do writing sessions with different musicians.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Once you make a piece of music and release it it takes on a life if it’s own whether you like it or not and you can’t really control what it will become.
Music has different roles, one is being people together, it is a release, sometimes it’s ceremonial. Music has been part of culture forever because everything is music.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Creating art can be a sort of therapy, it’s a good way to make yourself really feel something rather than bottling it up inside. Listening to music definitely gets me into and out of a funk sometimes.
One album that helped me through some difficult times is Oscar #Worldpeace - Sporadic.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music is physics. My sound engineer loves geeking out about how frequencies are behaving in a room, it’s really fascinating how a bass wave can literally arch over your head if you are standing in the wrong place.
I think there are a lot of issues with science communication and the science world could take some advice from artists on how to promote and connect to a wider audience in an accessible way. On the other side a lot of people in music are a bit too caught up in themselves these days, addicted to the instant gratification of social media, becoming completely disconnected from their role in this planet.
Musicians are incredibly influential and are needed as messengers if we are going to try and stop this self destructive path we are on.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music is intellectual and spiritual. It can define a whole era or movement.
Sure some people get really deep into their coffee and it means a lot to them but the two things are not remotely comparable.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I suppose it conjures up some kind of primal instincts in us. Maybe it stems back to us hearing our mother’s heartbeat as a foetus. Maybe it’s aliens trying to communicate with us.
I’ll back the alien conspiracy!