NOT many artists can say they have the backing of stations like BBC Radio 2.
Frankie Oliver is a highly-regarded artist who has worked with legendary producers and was once signed to Island Records. His album, Here I Am, is out on 9th June and is a record that comes from the heart. It looks at family and the impact they have on his life. I ask Oliver about the album and whether there were difficult moments. Tracks such as Cos of You have quite emotion cores so I ask if it was challenging transforming those sad and negative feelings into something musical and productive. Oliver discusses the importance of Reggae and artists like Bob Marley. Songs (on his album) like How Many Times deals with cheating and useless politicians – those who stand by as innocent people are shot and do nothing about it.
I learn more about the coming months and what Frankie Oliver has in mind; that one new artist he recommends we follow and how he feels about performing at 100 Club on 7th June. He discusses working with producers Sam Bergliter and Delroy Pinnock and the advice he would offer new artists emerging.
Hi Frankie, how are you? How has your week been?
I’m very well, thank you. My week has been so far, so good.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I was predominantly known as a Reggae artist who has been away from the industry for some time – but come back with a new album filled with Blues and Soul.
Tell Me, your recent single, has been championed by BBC Radio 2. Has it been quite humbling receiving accolades and huge positive feedback?
Yes, it has been, to be honest. you know that your friends and family are going to tell you your songs are great, it’s only when BBC Radio 2 playlisted Tell Me that I realised my friends and family weren’t just trying to be nice!
Here I Am is the new album (out 9th June). What can you tell me about the sort of themes and subjects explored within the record?
The themes and subjects on Here I Am are basically from my life over the last twenty-or-so years. Some of the subjects are true and some of them are not but I will let the listener work out which ones are which.
I believe one of the songs, Cos of You, is about the death of your mother. How difficult was it recording the song and has your family heard the final product?
Cos Of You is not really about the death of my mother: it’s about me telling her that if I could live my life again I wouldn’t change a thing other than the timing of her death. I just wished she could’ve been here to see her grandchildren grow – she would’ve been so proud.
The second-half of the song is, basically, about the woman who helped me through the pain of losing my mother so early in my life – and has been my rock throughout my life.
I’m sure it’s because of those two people in my life that I chose the path I did.
How Many Times, another standout, looks at the repeated mistakes of politicians. What kind of emotions were going through you when writing that? Do you think musicians have the power to effect change, for good, in society?
I wrote How Many Times when there seemed to be a spate of shootings of innocent people with their hands in the air surrendering (but still being shot) – it was an incredible few months. I also considered the stories of soldiers who came back from war and struggle living their life after putting their own lives at risk – and having to sleep in cardboard boxes because of the lies of politicians.
I don’t know if musicians have the power to affect change but I do know it’s a way of me letting out my frustration.
Here I Am mixes groove with 1960s-Soul. Who were the musicians that inspired you to make this album? Who were the artists you grew up listening to?
As I mentioned earlier, I was already a Reggae artist and my early inspirations were mostly Reggae artists, but more than anyone else, Bob Marley. I also used to listen to Motown and all that great stuff by Sam Cooke, Otis Reading and Etta James. The list is endless.
It seems to be, there are two halves to the album: the more upbeat, sun-kissed songs and those more emotional and hard-hitting. Was there a conscious decision, when writing the album, to have that contrast or did that unfold naturally?
I think some of it was consciously written and some of it wasn’t – I think it was just depending on the mood I was in when writing the song.
What was it like working with producers Sam Bergliter and Delroy Pinnock? What did they bring to the mix?
It was fantastic working with those guys because it was almost like a telepathic relationship.
We all knew what we wanted from the record and came up with a happy-medium if there were disagreements.
You were signed to Island Records in the early-’90s and recorded with the production team, Sly and Robbie. What was that early experience like?
I can only put it like this: those guys are legends in the industry and it was like a youngster being told he can go and train with the first team.
These are guys that have played on so many classic songs so it was an amazing experience.
Of course, you stepped away from Island Records and had a bit of a break. Was it hard stepping away from that label and was it necessary at the time?
It wasn’t really a hard decision. It was a music career or my family: there was only ever going to be one winner.
I know you are headlining the 100 Club on 7th June. Is that a gig you are looking forward to?
Yes. I’m so looking forward to doing the gig at the 100 Club. It’s a prestigious little venue I’ve always wanted to play and it’s in my hometown. What more could I ask for?!
After the album release, what are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of recording and gigging?
I’m hoping to get out on the road and gig all over the country, and hopefully, when the time is right, start working on the next album.
Who are the new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?
I’m loving Rag ‘n’ Bone Man at the moment.
I heard him on the radio doing an interview just before his hit single broke and thought what a lovely, young, level-headed guy he sounds.
He has come from a good musical background. Yeah, he’s the one.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Yes. Just concentrating on being yourself is the most important thing. People give you advice about how to be what to do what to say but the most important thing is always be you and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.
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).
Satisfy My Soul by Bob Marley
I love that song.
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