ATI Magazine Interviews Interviews

Otis Simpson // Tipped to the biggest thing to come out of the music industry for a long time we spoke with Otis Simpson ahead of his huge future within the music industry.

Q1: If you had the opportunity to get an inspiring message across to a lot of people, what would your message be? 

A1: Given the opportunity, I think the fundamental message I would like to get across to a large amount of people would be stay true to yourself and be nice to everybody you meet along the way. Too many people nowadays find themselves conforming to the current trends in society in order to feel accepted. I’ve learnt from experience and trust me this makes you miserable. My message would be to celebrate what makes you an individual and do what makes you happy; the people that support you when you’re being yourself are the people you want around you anyway.

Q2: How did you get started with your music? And if you weren’t an artist/musician what would you want to be doing?

A2: I honestly can’t remember when I first got started with music because it is something I have been around since I was very young. My dad used to play me a wide variety of records from Motown to Tom Waits to classical music so I had a lot of exposure to a variety of genres early on. I started creating music and performing when I got to secondary school. My music teacher identified my voice and I began classical singing lessons and learning music theory. During this time I was also in various bands and performing for high profile individuals as an ambassador for my school, I even got to meet and perform for Bill Clinton which is mad now I think back to it. During my time at university, I then began writing more of my own original material and began uploading tracks to BBC Introducing. They began championing my work in Nottingham and in BBC Three counties and from this, I created a small buzz about myself. Shortly after graduating I reached out to a number of producers to collaborate with one of those was Steve Booker (Duffy; Mercy, John Newman; Love Me Again) etc. He invited me to meet with him at his studio in London and from there put me in touch with a manager who I’ve since parted ways with but who opened a lot of doors for me. I couldn’t tell you what I would want to be doing if I wasn’t an artist, the truth is I don’t think about it as it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and can’t see myself doing anything else.

Q3: What or who keeps you motivated and inspires you?

A3: That’s an easy question, my family and friends are very supportive of my music and my career. My mentor and co-writer Jonathan Coffer (NewCrowd Music) is a massive inspiration and influence for me and my music. We’ve developed a relationship where we both push each other along and if one of us is having doubts the other picks them up. He’s also a great vocal coach and his work ethic, experience and achievements to date have inspired me to work harder and be the best I can be. I would say it’s his belief in my talent in combined with my belief in his talent as a songwriter that drives the both of us forward.

Q4: What is the most memorable experience of your life/career so far? And what have you learned from it?

A4: Ha-ha hard question, co-writing my first collaboration with Jon was a memorable experience for me as up until that point I had mostly been writing my material alone and then taking it into a producer to build around it. Therefore I didn’t really have a perspective of where my work lay in terms of quality.  I think I realized when working on our first collaboration (Revolution) just how much I still had to learn about the craft of song-writing and also the fact that he rated some of my ideas, gave me the confidence to believe I wasn’t totally shit. I’m still learning now how to become a better songwriter and identify good ideas and great ideas from the terrible ones. Luckily there aren’t too many of those…But I never want to stop learning and pushing myself to write more complex melodic music.

Q5: Would you go back and change anything in your journey so far? (If no, why)

A5: Not one thing! Everything I’ve achieved is because of where I have been, what I have done and who I have met on the way there. I have a plan in place for the future and plan to execute it to the best of my ability. It doesn’t matter what route is taken to get there as long as my end goal is reached.

Q6: In the next two years what do you ASPIRE to have done?

A6: In the next two years, I would like to say I have released some music which has had a modicum of success. I believe it’s within my capabilities as a songwriter and singer to get a number of tracks in the top 10 of the charts and also perform at a number of high profile venues and festivals. I aspire to replicate the success of recent British acts such as Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse and Adele and hopefully be in a position where I can sustain a living off of my music. I set the bar high but am not afraid to fail, only I can call it a day on my aspirations.

Q7: How much of your life and background have influenced you to become a songwriter/musician?

A7: Consciously I have always loved performing and singing to an audience from a very young age. I think my upbringing with a supportive family has certainly given me the opportunity to pursue a career in music so I am grateful for everything I have there. I have lived a fairly sheltered life but what I have experienced with issues such as mental health have definitely shaped my perspective on things and often provide the inspiration for lyrics in songs. It’s all pretty self-indulgent but perhaps that’s being an artist – exposing your vulnerability and self- indulgences for the joy and appreciation of others. That’s at least my interpretation of it all.

Q8: What lyrics mean the most to you and why (ones you have written and or ones you didn’t write) 

A8: For me my favourite two components of any song are the melody and the lyrics. A great artist is vital to bring the song alive as is a brilliant producer, but without a brilliant story for the artist to tell you might as well be singing a nursery rhyme.  My favourite types of lyric tend to be the ones that can create a vivid image in your mind. In Sam Cooke’s masterpiece ‘Change Gonna Come’ his opening line ‘I was born by the river in a little tent’ is so simple and sung with such an intensity I’m transported their instantly. I think any lyric that can do that is magic. Amy Winehouse was brilliant at this also I think that’s why so many people loved her work, even if they didn’t realise this was the reason for it. In regards to songs I’ve written, my favourite lyric comes from a song I also co-wrote with Jon called ‘Better Off Without Me’. The lyric is ‘All that I paint is blue, watch the colours run’. It’s a metaphor and can be interpreted on a number of layers. I like deep lyrics that can tell a story in a sentence.

Q9: If you could collaborate with anyone who would to it be and why?

A9: There are so many people I hope to collaborate with all of them due to their amazing talent as musician’s artists and producers. Where to begin…Quincy Jones would be a dream to work with and have my music produced by. The man’s an icon and has worked with 9/10ths of my idols so for me that would be amazing. Mark Ronson has got to be on the list, his work with Amy in addition to his recent stuff with Bruno Mars is brilliant, I think any and every soul act would love to work with him. Finally if I’m allowed to dream doing a duet with Aretha Franklin would be amazing, I’d love to go back in time to the 60’s when Motown and Staxx were massive and all of these artists were being thrown together to create amazing groups and perform these brilliant duets we still love today.

Q10: What is most inspiring message you have internalised in life so far?

A10: Wow that’s a very deep question. I think I have to give this one to my parents they’ve raised me to be compassionate and respectful to everyone. My dad has a saying: “Never judge a man by the size of his wallet but by the size of his heart”. I try to internalise that message on a daily basis and apply it to everyone I meet, it’s harder to be an asshole than it is to be nice.

Q11: What is your motto in life/what do you live by?

A11: I don’t really have a motto…Do what makes you happy and don’t be a dick I suppose.

Q12: What is currently on your playlist?

A12: I’ve recently been going to the gym (had to drop that in somewhere) and the spotify rap workout has all the bangers on it. Skepta, JME and Kanye usually get me through that, but for real, I think the recent shift of Grime music from being an underground genre to now becoming more commercial has had a massive effect on British youth culture especially for those artists who have been grinding a lot longer than myself and are only now seeing the fruits of their hard work materialise on the commercial platform. I’ve also been listening to an American artist called Ro James, I guess you could say he’s quite Princey, fusioned with hip-hop and RnB elements. Take a listen to his track ‘Permission’ and make your own mind up I like it. Also remember the name Giovanni James, another US based soul singer, trust me he’s gonna blow.

Q13: If you could have a song to be the soundtrack to your life what would it be and why?

A13: ‘Aint No Mountain High Enough’ it’s just a perfect track, two brilliant voices singing great melodies produced to perfection. It’s got a nice message to it too, what more do you want? Yeah it’s a bit sweet, but the artists who sang it were going through some really hard times, I think the songs more of a wish for the perfect relationship and life more than the story of one. There’s always a deeper message if you listen.

Q14: What are your biggest dreams? and what are your biggest fears?

A14:My biggest fear is being alone and also not fulfilling my potential. My biggest dream is to make music for a living and be respected for it.

Q15: What is next for you/your plans for the next year?

A15: Haha in an ideal world where everything goes to plan, my plans for the next year involve me signing with a Major label on an album deal and releasing a couple of singles. I’ve also got a few collaborations and features with some established acts in the works but I can’t say too much just yet until everything is signed off.

Q16: What would your advice to be to those out there who want to live out there dreams?

A16: Don’t focus on any of the negatives to why you can’t embark on your dream and just go for it, when it begins to materialise all those negatives will fade to white noise. There will be obstacles but don’t use them as excuses. Similarly be patient and control your expectations, work until you’re content not until you’re tired. Finally collaborate with everyone and everyone find yourself a team and support network the people around you are everything.

Q17: Lastly, for those who don’t know where can people follow your career?

A17: Twitter | Soundcloud | Facebook | Instagram 

I have a website coming soon, and of course here at ATI Magazine.

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