Friday, 7 October 2011

#FindOutFriday - Q&A with Omar

There are some moments in life that will stay with you until your last ragged breath. The latest addition to my 'Rocking Chair' list, will go a little something like this...It was while I was pounding the cobblestones of Camden Market, that I got the email from a lovely lady Manager, confirming my slot the following afternoon, when a certain 'Someone' would be expecting my call.

Slightly nervous and already feeling my silent tongue-tying, I decided not to think about my big interview until it came time to dial. Fifteen minutes ahead of my allotted time, although roots deep in my 'To-Do list', I caught myself inadvertently checking my reception bars and asking aloud if I was SURE I paid my phone bill last month; JUST IN CASE...

My Direct Debit was kind enough to clear on time, making it possible for me to dial-in 3 minutes early. After a brief chat with a VERY warm, welcoming and quite funny living Legend, I set about asking Omar some questions...

Q: You've had a PHENOMENAL year thus far; what's been your personal highlight?
A: I'd probably have to say, working on a new version of 'There's Nothing Like This'. It's been 20 years since the original and SO many people have been requesting it, for SO long. It's taken 2 years to work out. I replayed it, tried to re-sing it but I just wasn't happy with it; then I finally, finally cracked it. Fans will be able to hear it on my new album, 'The Man' due out in early 2012 - if I don't release a snippet before then!

Q: Not many people can say that one of the greatest musicians in HISTORY offered to write for them. Can you tell us about the moment you got 'That Call' from Stevie Wonder?
A: It wasn't really a moment...there was a bit of a build up to it going back as far as '87, when I first met him. We met again a year later, then again in '92, during my second album (Music). It was then that he really heard my music and loved it. 

It wasn't until 2000 though, that 'The Call' finally came. By then, I thought it might not happen, so I didn't believe it was him! Who'd really take that seriously? Hearing this 'voice' on the other end of the phone say, "Hey Omar, how you doing it's Stevie!"...I had NO idea who it was! My first reaction was: "Stevie who?"...Of COURSE I didn't believe him when he said "Stevie Wonder!" I said "Yeah, right - sing something for me then!" He did - well you could say I took him seriously after that!

We hung out for a few weeks, went to some restaurants, clubs, hung out in his hotel...then he called me up when he was ready, we went into the studio the next day and laid down some parts. It was ok, but then he called me afterwards and said he wanted to scrap it for another track. We started from scratch in the studio the following day, and the result was 'Feeling You', that you hear on my 'Sing (If You Want It)' album, re-released this year on Tru Thoughts.

Q: Having collaborated with such a Legend, is there anyone else you would like to work with, that you haven't yet?
A: Bill Withers and Bobby Womack! I've been Blessed enough in my career that most of my idols, I've managed to work with. Although I'm still aiming for both sadly, Bill Withers is understandably quite disillusioned with the music industry; and Bobby Womack is suffering with Prostate Cancer. I managed to see him at the Jazz Cafe awhile back, but didn't get to speak as he was clearly in some discomfort. From the heart, I wish him a speedy recovery.

Q: The MOBOs are right around the corner and the talent across the board is varied. Who's standing out to you at the moment?
A: I was in Copenhagen recently and heard Bobby Bovell's album, 'The Emergent EcleKtic'. He's up for a Gospel award. I played it in the car and thought it was a really nice variation; even the Mrs liked it and asked who it  was! I'm also liking what Wretch (32) is doing. I heard his album as well and really liked his work. It's brilliant to see UK talent being lauded across the board and I'm really glad to be a part of that.

Q: What did a 5-year-old Omar want to be when he grew up?
A: Pretty much what I am now! I knew I was a Performer. It was actually in my Step-Dad's Rock & Roll band that I gave my first autograph, at about 8 or 9! We performed at a University in Canterbury and I played the drums. She came up to me at the end and told me that I was going to be a Star!

Q: Your musical CV is a standalone storybook, but can you give us an insight into the man behind the music? What are the Top 3 tracks on your 'Guilty Pleasures' playlist?
A: I love all that cheesy stuff! Lulu, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black...there's this one mix of 'Surprise, Surprise'; I swear if you listen closely, there's a touch of rare groove in it!

Q: With your Zed Bias collaboration, you've come out with what some consider to be a new direction for you. Do you feel like this is a big change?
A: Not at all! If you know me, then you know that I'm a bit of a comedian with my music. We were actually put in touch through contacts. I was told to listen to him (Bias), because he makes good beats. I did and it was an instant thing when I heard the backing track. I was inspired straight away and started hearing melodies.

Q: Has fatherhood impacted the music that you're making in anyway? If so, how?
A: Not really; when I'm in my London studio, it's all about the work. In Brighton? Well that's Daddy Time.

Q: It's fair to say that people will most likely know you for 'There's Nothing Like This'; but of your entire musical catalogue, what's your personal favourite composition?
A: That's impossible for me to decide. I've written over 100 songs, so there's no way I could only name ONE! 'Little Boy', 'If So', 'Tell Me'...It really depends on how I feel on the day!

Q: The music industry is over-saturated with reality TV "Stars", hoping to fast-track to success. What advice would you give to those budding talents who just want to do this for the love of the music?
A: Be accessible. get your website together, your facebook, your twitter...Do things that are different, that make you stand out. But most of all, Be True to Yourself. It's YOUR music at the end of the day, so you've got to be comfortable with that you're doing.

Omar features with US NeoSoul Star Leela James, on the ONLY UK date for her 'My Soul' Tour, at the Clapham Grand on 21 October. Visit the iLive concert page via the ESP website for more information or, better still, head on over to Eventim and get your tickets NOW!