INTERVIEW: Oli Hannaford



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Oli Hannaford


LONDON has so many great singer-songwriters coming…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Emily Sunderland

through the ranks right now. There seems to be a unified desire and spirit in the capital: a push that is seeing some of the country’s best music emerge. Loathed to explain the reason and rhyme behind this; I embrace the incredible songwriter making strides. Oli Hannaford is a busy and ambitious young chap whose new track, Locker, I wanted to know more about. Free Things, released last year, is Hannaford’s latest E.P. – he looks ahead to new recordings and how he will better himself. In addition; he explains how musicians like James Blake are crucial – in terms of their vocal sound and how their music comes together. Hannaford chats about a recent Guest Mix playlist for PressPLAY OK and what tour dates are approaching.


Hi, Oli, how are you? How has your week been?

Hey man. All good, thank. How are you? I can’t rave about my week really: I’ve been in the library for about sixteen hours every day (serious).

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

HELLO. I’m, what I guess you’d call, a bedroom producer; though I have been described a “quadruple threat” before – which has kinda (sic.) stuck with me. That’s a singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist.

Tell me about the song, Locker. It is one I have been playing on repeat. Can you tell me about its origins and the themes the song explores?

Ah, you flatter me.

Locker is about encouraging someone that’s having a bad night, and maybe even bringing everyone else down, to step out of their comfort-zone.

It kind of says that everybody has the potential to go wild on a night out – they just may not know it yet. If you wanted to go deeper; it explores things like social anxiety and confidence. We’ve all had a night where we feel like we’ve lost our social skills… haven’t we?

In terms of vocal and composition; I notice hints of James Blake, Jeff Buckley and the xx. Are these artists important to you or is it an unconscious resemblance?

I’ll sound proper-young when I say this but definitely James Blake and the xx – not so much Jeff Buckley. James Blake is one of my biggest inspirations all round. I have to say that Jamie’s production style has had a big effect on the way I listen to music – this is definitely more evident with the projects I’ve started very recently. Interestingly, the music I listen to at the moment – check my Guest Mix for PressPLAY OK – is generally kinda dominated by new music and new artists.

Certainly, those artists – and that dreamy-cum-evocative blend – is always a hot currency and popular candidate. What is, do you think, about that Dream/Indie-Pop sound that resonates so hard?

I guess ‘Pop’ is always changing. The charts look completely different every five years, and the way I see it is, that every genre (within reason. I can’t imagine seeing many Russian Chanson number ones) will have its time to shine. That being said, the music that you seem to be talking about definitely never gets unpopular.

I guess that’s down to it being easy to listen to and that the subjects of the songs are never hard to follow – also, because the lyrics are clear and easy to hear.

It’s more effort to connect with an artist that writes Heavy Metal songs about breaking the law (I’m not stereotyping: it just happened to come out like that) than it is to connect with a light melody alongside a song that’s about growing up or something. Everyone grows up but not everyone breaks the law. I have loads of other reasons/ideas but I could ramble on about this all day – so I’ll stop there.

I know you are based in London but hail from Devon. What is the music scene like in Devon and what motivated the decision to relocate to the capital?

When you think of London, and then you think of Devon, the musical parallel is uncanny. London: Electronic, busy; Devon: Acoustic, calm; tinkle-y. I started becoming more interested in musical equipment; drawing me into the Electronic world. It was a very natural progression for me to move to London. With every London artist I probe; I am keen to know what it is about the city that intrigues and seduces them.

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How important are London and its people to your music? Is it quite an inspiring place to create music?

There’s never a dull moment. If you want to do anything you can just go and do it – because, whatever you have on your mind, it is happening somewhere in London.

It’s very convenient too. I’m pretty sure the whole world lives here so if ever you have a meeting or something; the person you need to see is probably already here! Of course, the music scene is unbelievable though: Resident Advisor London is off the chain, every night. That helps with inspiration because very often when you see a good show you feel the need to create. A short walk home and, boom, I’m on Logic writing a track!

In terms of the venues around the city; can we expect to see you play any venues here in the approaching months?

I have a couple of dates T.B.C. over summer… expect East London venues.

Locker is full of promise, confidence and invention – suggesting the start of a creative hot-streak. It is the lead-off single from your new E.P. Can you tell us about the E.P.’s themes and the sort of songs that will be included?

Oh, YOU. Sure! There are three tracks.

The next is called Talk and will come out after its live session (does) – which comes out after the live session for Locker – which comes out very soon (not sure I was supposed to say that). Then, we have a track called Running Slow. Talk and Running Slow deal with frustration in relationships: typically, frustration that you can’t really resolve on the spot. Sounds dreary but the songs are far from sad.

It follows last year’s Free Things. In terms of sounds; Locker suggests consistency but the need to incorporate new topics and sounds. Do you feel your latest work is a natural evolution from the E.P. or a second-half of Free Things?

Interestingly, I am kind of glad you said that. After Free Things, I sort of went off on one and started making some really weird stuff – which was essentially quite shit. I ended up needing to work on getting my sound BACK to the likes of Free Things – so, here we are. I’d say that it wasn’t entirely wrong if it was thought of as a second-leg to Free Things.

The stuff I’m working on right now (third E.P.: hint hint) is FAR more involved; far more developed, and, dare I say it…far better.

Don’t get me wrong of course: I’m very very proud of Locker. It’s a song and an E.P. that means a great deal to me and gives a great indication of where I was musically when writing it – but it only gets better from here.

You have just curated a Guest Mix playlist for PressPLAY OK. Was it hard coming up with the song-list and is Spotify a site that has been beneficial in your career?

The hard part was only putting twelve songs in! Feck. My first track list had about fifty in it but I wasn’t allowed that many, har har. Spotify has definitely been beneficial to me personally – I can see why it’s of debate but I don’t think I’d be where I am now without it. I got featured in their Fresh Finds playlist with Free Things. That was probably quite a big moment in my career.

How important are music-streaming sites like Spotify? Are they are a valuable accessory for new artists or do you think they strip away some of music’s physical origins and purity?

I think, right now, they are unquestionably important. I think where the argument would lie is whether the actual introduction of Spotify could have been thought through a little better. For new artists, Spotify is a godsend. When I first started making music, I was like: “Ah feck, how am I going to afford the design, print; burn and distribution of this new C.D. I’ve done without it looking pants?!” – whereas, now, it’s as easy as making a track and uploading it. There’s so much more to this argument but we really would be here forever weighing up the pros and cons…

If you had to select the three albums that have meant most to you which would they be and why?

(I’m doing four: I’m a rule-breaker)

D’Angelo and the VanguardBlack Messiah

Michael Jackson – *insert any title here*

Slum VillageFantastic, Vol. 2

James BlakeThe Colour in Anything.

If you shipped me to an island on my own and all I had was those four albums I’d probably die happy.

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Are there any new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?

Oooooh, it’s tough. Are you ready?

If you’ve not checked out Reva DeVito yet; I’d suggest you do.  I had her last E.P., The Move, on-repeat since it came out.

Folded Like Fabric are killin’ it at the moment (*shouts to Jay*).

Keep an eye on Lebeaux. He’s not released any music yet but I feel it’ll be huge when he does.

If you like Lo-Fi Hip-Hop; check Oakmcm. He’s making some fire.

XY&O have been nailing it recently, too. I’m expecting a big summer from them (also, they’re all safe-as-hell).

Lastly: Marna. I feel Marna is about to drop something that’s gonna be a big deal.

What advice would you give to any new artists coming through right now?


Stop worrying about how many plays you have: it only takes one from the right person.

Also, never stop creating and never stop learning…ever.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that)

Play this: DYWM (Sam Gellaitry Remix)NAO.

Cor. What a blinder of a track that is. LOTS OF LOVE. SEE YOU SOON.


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