Oscar Jerome Transports Blues and Jazz Back to South London
It’s not often we receive music in our mailbox which carries such emotion. Oscar Jerome’s music includes instruments which meld beautifully. Be sure to check out Jerome’s exclusive mix at the end of the post.
Jake Zywiol: Tell us about your background and where you grew up.
Oscar Jerome: I’m a guitarist, singer and composer born in Norwich where I spent most of my childhood. I moved to South London when I was 18 to study jazz guitar at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. After that I became involved with a big scene of musicians and artists.
At what age did you get involved with music?
I started playing guitar at around eight years old. I learned classical guitar for a while but was always into rock and blues as a child. I formed my first band when I was about 11.
It seems like every rapper in the UK right now is from South London. What’s happening down there?
But yeah, there is a good thing going on down here. There are a lot of really skilled musicians from the area and many musicians gravitate here to study or just make music with the many talented artists around.
It’s a beautiful melting pot for art and culture. There’s a great history of underground music in places like Deptford and Brixton and it’s important for anyone who goes to those places to respect that. They should try and invest in the community that has created such an amazing scene rather than just wearing the name.
What were your initial inspirations?; What kind of music were your parents into when you were growing up?
My initial inspirations were a lot of 60’s rock artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin I probably first heard through my dad. He’s really into jazz too, so I would hear a lot of that as a kid. My big sister was pretty into hip hop when she was a teenager which opened my ears to that kind of music.
How would you describe your music?
That’s a difficult one. As you will hear from the EP I don’t really make music in any one genre. There is a lot of jazz influence in there, some hip hop. You could say there’s a folky element to some of the song writing too.
In a genre dominated by sampling, you’ve taken a completely different approach and formed a band with live bass players and drummers. You play guitar. What inspired you to take this path?
Playing live gives the music a much less predictable element. I like to mix things up and never really play a song exactly the same as the record. I like a lot of sampled music too, and there are possibilities for improvisation in that world, but my experience of music has always been through live instruments so it wouldn’t feel right without them.
There are number of African influences on many of your tracks. As far as I’m aware you’ve travelled to Gambia and Senegal to charge your inspirational senses. Tell us about your journey, the personalities you’ve met and what you’ve taken from this experience that’s visible on your upcoming release.
While the music of West Africa especially does influence me, it doesn’t come through a lot in this EP apart from “You Take Me.” I was listening to quite a lot of Malian music when I wrote that. You can probably hear subtle things in my guitar playing too in some other tracks, but a lot of this music was written before that stage in my musical development. You’ll hear a lot more of that influence on my next record.
I met lots of amazing people in Gambia and Senegal. There is so much amazing music to be seen in both countries. I was surprised by how easy it was to meet and play with incredible musicians. I went to Gambia with a great organization called The Vessel who are doing amazing work alongside Gambians to offer education opportunities for their youth.
Your EP is coming out next month. What was the main inspiration behind your first self-titled release?
The music on the EP represents the development of this project since I really got serious about it a few years back. As it’s my first proper release it’s not so much a concept EP, more like presentation of what I’m about. There is a political element to some of the music and some has more of a personal inspiration.
“Give Back What You Stole From Me,” the first track on your forthcoming EP, seems politically motivated. What’s the message behind the track?
It’s a comment on the greed of corporate giants, how bankers can happily con the public so they can make more money, and how places in London with a rich cultural history are getting turned into blank spaces for well-off people to live in.
Who would you like to collaborate with on your future releases?
I just want to keep collaborating with the many amazing musicians around London. There is such a broad range of talent I’m spoiled for choice.
Where’s your favorite place to perform?
Brainchild Festival has to be my favorite so far. There’s always an attentive and interesting audience there. You get people from all backgrounds open to experiencing new music.
What does your future hold?
I plan to keep working on music and progressing my art, travel more and learn from different teachers. There’s a lot more music in the pipeline.
If you could play one last record ever, what would it be?
That’s a really difficult one. What I like really depends on my mood. But if I had to say it would probably be John Martyn’s Bless The Weather.
Listen to Oscar Jerome’s exclusive Subrewind mix: