Ollie Chanin is a unique sounding Brooklyn based musician who has just released his new EP titled ‘Young Luck‘ today. I have been following Ollie’s music for about a year now since hearing his powerfully emotive single ‘At Home During The Day’. What I find so intriguing about Chanin is his style – he doesn’t follow the usual songwriting rules and makes really interesting stuff. In line with the release of the EP – I decided to do a little interview with Ollie via Skype to check in and get some further insight about the release and some other general topics. It was a really enjoyable chat and I hope you all enjoy reading it too.
I suppose we better start off by talking about the elephant in the room (hopefully not actually in the room) and that is Coronavirus. How is everything over there, how is New York coping in these strange and challenging times?
I work as a bartender in the city to pay my bills, my spot closed down and we don’t really know how long we are going to be in this situation and I don’t know what it’s going to be like getting back into it. Hopefully my bar can withstand not having business for a while but who knows. Naturally I am a little freaked out by this but hopefully I’m in a safe spot and I have what I need for the time being. I’m thinking a lot about the people that don’t have it so good so I’m trying to be grateful and use my time wisely.
The city was weird, I was there last week (I’m out of town at my girlfriend’s place for the last five days) but people were moving around – I don’t think they were taking it as seriously as they are now. As far as I know now, the whole city of New York is really dead. I just finished reading a post from Bill Gates recently and he is telling us to use this time inside to reflect on our role as a species on the planet. In the week since lockdown begun, we have seen a huge decrease in air pollution which is a real positive.
I have an outlet in making music and I have brought my gear with me to my girlfriends. I’m used to staying in and making music – I hope to make another EP in the coming weeks. I have been in contact with some of my friends in New York and already some of them are bored as fuck. I’ve been doing a lot of puzzles and playing a lot of board games, it’s been really fun so far. Get to know your family, this is the time.
Normally, when I’m not working at my bar, I’m at home working on my music and my studio. I kind of feel like everybody is in the same boat that I’ve been on for a long time. I will be very interesting to observe how people now react to being in this position. It’s kind of like a crazy social experiment.
It certainly is a very interesting time indeed. Moving off from the virus now and onto yourself as a person. Who is Ollie Chanin and what is your story?
Cool yeah, so I grew up in Brooklyn, actually I grew up a little bit in France as my mother is French. We would spend our summers there and she moved back there when I was in high school so I remember spending a whole year with her there after high school. I like to mix my roots up as they say and I embrace my multi-cultural background, as corny as that sounds. I grew up in New York and started playing music super young – I was in a Jazz band in fifth grade. I kind of got given the acoustic bass as an instrument; I didn’t really have a choice because that was what the band needed. I’m not the biggest guy so having a big ass bass was a little bit funny looking back in the day. From that base, I started to switch and play a lot of different instruments, piano, guitar etc. I went to conservatory for a few years and then actually finished majoring in philosophy.
A big part of music for me is lyricism – it’s super important to have a message when you are writing a song and try to find interesting ways to deliver ideas that aren’t necessarily original. For me, it’s important to explore ways to enable our songs to convey common messages whilst keeping it all interesting to the listener. Growing up in New York got me accustomed to so many different types of people, culturally, economically, socially – all jammed into this space. Being immersed in this city from a young age has certainly shaped how I create my music.
‘’Everyone is living in their own bubble and all we can do is try and bump up into other people’s bubbles every so often’’
You have a very unique sound and style Ollie, How would you describe your sound to new listeners? How would you describe your music in general?
My vocal production kind of came out of, I would say, three of my favourite artists and trying to find an Ollie Chanin balance within them. ‘Andre 3000’ and what he was doing with Outcast – ‘D’Angelo’ and his crazy harmonies he had along with the mixing, production quality and ‘James Blake’ showed me some crazy things along the way in terms of vocal production. I’ve tried to emulate them, expand on certain ideas that they created. I found that I could sing in super low baritone and also super high falsetto so I can kind of mimic lots of types of voices in a chorus. I make my own choir using just my own voice – I like the way it sounds too.
When did you start releasing your own music? How did you initially feel releasing your work? How do you motivate for a release?
I had an interesting go with my first release, I had quite an experience. I moved out to LA, I had some ‘fancy’ managers that were signing big names and I spent my time going to a whole bunch of meetings. It ended up actually becoming a nightmare of a situation you know, getting taking advantage of and screwed over a bit. It took me like three years to release something in the end. There were all sorts of nasty clauses and bullshit that would pop up and it took quite a while to shake the whole thing off and get releasing. I obviously shook off that manager and I’ve now linked up with a good friend of mine ‘Bones’ who is looking after me now along with his partner John. We have been doing it DIY. We try to enjoy what we are doing and it makes this whole thing so much more fulfilling.
The fleeting engagement I’ve gotten so far has been rich – people seem to dig the stuff and it’s better to have fifty real fans than a thousand followers – this is the way I’m looking at things. I have always found it difficult on social media so that hasn’t helped my cause at times but I’m definitely getting better and taking more time to create content for potential fans. I credit this recent improvement to a good friend of mine, Dave Krugman – who put it to me that social media is my musical portfolio – I always had a block about using social media as I consider it an unnecessary minutia of life. It’s been challenging but I’m starting to establish my voice within it.
I’d much rather sit in my studio on my own and send out the finished product – but people need to be involved in the creation now too so I’m busy integrating this.
Young Luck EP
Your new EP titled ‘Young Luck’ is out today – I had to privilege of hearing this collection a little bit ahead of time and am really excited to see its released now. Can you give me a breakdown of the EP and a little song by song commentary?
Take Me Away
Look At Me Now
Originally, this was way back when I was in LA – it was actually a sixteen piece collection that I’d been working on for mad long – it all fell apart. Myself and my new managers thought long and hard about how we were going to release the songs and initially agreed on one big album but eventually settled on a two EP series. We felt it made more sense to space it out in two releases. ‘Young Luck’ is a letter I sent to myself when I was young. It was written to make the strain of growing up easier and to make sure I understood the concept of change. The EP is all about making the most of our existence on the planet and realising just how lucky we are.
The project starts with Take Me Away:
What was that recent movie about aliens, where they all learnt how to communicate with their new visitors? The name escapes me now. Anyway, I was watching this movie and it just made me think about love. We only look at it as a way where we think only humans feel love. I wanted to kind of test what it might mean for another civilization or alien species to experience the feeling of love. ‘Take me away’ – is about being sucked up into a spaceship and falling in love with their ways. That’s kind of where I wanted the EP to start. I want people to get swept up into the album. These are some deep cut ideas here.
Look At Me Now was written as a message born out of a little bit of frustration and a sense of getting back at certain people that I think I needed to get off my chest. It’s got some pop appeal as much as my songs can – they are all kind of strange. The song is trying to gain people’s attention and focus them on me. After ‘Take me away’ it was necessary to have the listener focusing on what I’m trying to do again. The lyrics in this song are as literal as I can get – the message is clear in this one.
22nd Century was a song I was writing when Trump got elected. In New York City, I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of the country, but I think there was a high feeling of acceptance in the city and messages were getting more and more positive. At the time, I felt for the first time in a long while that we seemed to be going in the right direction. There are a lot of circumstances in life that we have no control over like sexuality, race, economics – it is not your fault we are born with struggles and this song is written to help people overcome them. This is my plea, in a certain way.
Festivals is a song based on a weekend in Coachella. It was an interesting festival and at the time I had this ex-girlfriend that I was still kind of hung up on. The weird thing about Coachella is that it is such a scene with everyone dressed up and doing their thing, everyone kind of just looks the same. That weekend I felt like I was seeing my ex everywhere. It was bizarre and I felt it merited a little bit of reflection and subsequently, a song.
Beautiful Woman – Women are incredibly strong and have to put up with a lot of shit. We can find a lot of answers about humanity in the way women see the world. I love women.
The EP ends with Young Luck which was written as a reminder to myself that I need to be present and be aware of what is happening in the here and now.
So what is next for Ollie Chanin ? When is the Next EP due?
This is the first EP – we are planning to release the second part of it in April and we were hoping to have an EP launch for this one soon but that won’t happen now in these times. I have been sitting on these songs for so long and I have so much music that it feels like too much at times. In my mind I’ve kind of moved on from these songs a bit and want to get moving on my newer stuff as mad as that sounds.
“I’ve been advised by so many people to find my best genre and to stick to it. I’ve been struggling with that concept since the beginning, I don’t listen to music that way, I don’t make music that way and I don’t want to be put into a box – fuck that. People are becoming more accustomed to bending around genres these days and if the music is good, it’s good.”
I am aware that you did a bit of instrumentation and vocals for Eminem on his latest album ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ – how did that come about and it must been an amazing feeling to have worked with a legend like that?
Yeah, that came out of nowhere, it turned out to be a session that I did in LA like two years ago with this guy called Tim Suby who is fantastic, he works a lot with Jessie Reyez. We were just in the studio one day working on different ideas and he had the recordings we had done stored away. A year later he calls me and is like ‘Yo, that track you were on with me, Eminem picked it for his album, just wanted to let you know.’ That was that – after having listened to Eminem like everyone else in the early 00’s – it’s kind of wild. The album was received well and the song I’m in is ‘In Too Deep’ – You can also hear my voice on it too which is really cool. Eminem is one of the greats for sure.
One of the other crazy thing to happen me was that I got the chance to go to Shangri-La and meet Rick Rubin and play him some of my songs – that was a wild experience also, he is an incredible guy. I have been lucky.
Check out my other long read interviews from this year. #Savethelongreads