Going Focus – Jakob Ogawa

Who the fuck is Jakob Ogawa? With two tracks released in the first three months of 2017, the 19-year-old Norwegian has drawn a lot of attention on his music, but little has surfaced about him. Tonight, the Oslo songwriter is in Milan with his band, opening for LANY, and we can’t miss the opportunity to get to know him a little bit better.
I made music since I was 12. I started out producing hip-hop beats in the early days and went on listening to jazz, some r’n’b, and suddenly I was like, “maybe I should try the guitar.” Now I play guitar, I play drums and I play bass, and do everything on the record, also the production” he tells me after his set.

I was honestly surprised to see a full band tonight, as I was expecting him to be alone on stage. Live, the soft, laid-back psychedelia of his tunes gets a full makeover, “I don’t feel like the records should be the same as the live,” he explains, “I think it’s cool to give a different vibe live, but so many artists do exact the same way when they play live.

But if on stage with him are four other musicians, the same doesn’t apply when it comes to recording: “I play drums, I play bass, I sing, yes, everything. I like to do it on my own. I tried to have a producer or doing it in the studio, but it usually doesn’t work for me, to collaborate with other people. It’s a little bit sad, but interacting with creative ideas and do things together it’s a bit hard for me because I want things my way. I really love to make music and have control on it most. Also, I have a great label that supports me and wants me to just continue doing what I do and it’s awesome.

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Given the very limited number of his releases so far, the energized gig he just finished featured a series of previously unheard tunes, “and most of the tracks won’t probably be released except, maybe, two of those we played tonight,” Jakob reveals, “together with 4 or 5 new songs we are not playing now. I think those are much better but we haven’t been able to practice, so that’s why I’m releasing them,” he adds. So, what’s next for Jakob Ogawa? “I’m going to release a new single and we haven’t played it live yet. It’s basically electronic, with no real drums, no guitars. That’s my new direction, a bit r’n’b, like I had to sing in my falsetto. It’s called Angel, I’m really excited. Then there’s an EP coming, mostly new songs, all new directions. I don’t want to release the same stuff over and over again, to lock myself in just one channel or whatever, so it’s gonna be like a lot of new stuff, a lot of new things.

Very different things from what he made us listening to as yet, no doubt reminiscent of Mac DeMarco or Real Estate, though coming from a totally different place both geographically and in music: “I honestly don’t know why [we share that sound]… About two years ago I discovered Japanese music and the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, that sort of vibes… I don’t listen too much to Mac DeMarco actually. It’s probably because he also likes that sort of music, with the Japanese style and everything, and that comes together, I think. But I feel like that’s past, I feel like the new stuff that’s coming out it’s going to change things, it’s definitely not so guitar based.” I tell him that they all share the same taste for weird guitar tuning, “exactly,” he agrees, “that’s what people associates with Mac DeMarco. But the new music is going to change the view on what I do, it’s a lot better and more personal, more colourful, I think. I’m really excited.

And it’s not only about the jangling guitars and the Acapulco shirts he wears: his easygoing attitude and good vibes can make the Norwegian be easily mistaken for some Californian surf rock guy and I’m curious to know how this mood came to be. “I think I was just, honestly, raised in a household with parents who have always been very supportive,” he acknowledges. “they never forced me to do any stuff or never laid any idea on my head. When I was pretty young I wanted to be a football star, so I played football everyday. Then, when I was about 8 years old I suddenly realised that I needed to do music. I was raised with music, a lot of Beatles, a lot of classical music, jazz… I think those are the key sources in my sound, a bit of everything. I feel like the songs I released up to now are just the start, I want to go a long, long way and maybe add some strings, maybe a whole orchestra. That’s my goal.

It’s a little bit sad, but interacting with creative ideas and do things together it’s a bit hard for me because I want things my way. I really love to make music and have control on it most.Jakob Ogawa

So how does Jakob Ogawa write his songs? “I usually write down ideas that I have in my head,” he recounts, “I have a lot of ideas right now and I can’t wait to get home, this tour pumped me with ideas. I usually play some chords, strumming my guitar or maybe on the piano too. I do a verse, and produce that verse with drums, bass and everything, and then comes the chorus. And if the chorus doesn’t work out I just ditch the whole idea.” It’s the music that comes first: “the lyrics come afterwards. But sometimes lyrics come at the same time as the music… I don’t know, it’s a very strange progress. I’ve heard about bands that write their songs on guitar and then come in the studio and exchange ideas but I usually open a new session, start playing a few chords, play a few bass lines on them and then comes melody. But it’s never the same progress, never the same process, it’s always a bit different. It’s part of the fun, you never know what you’re gonna do. You can seat a whole day trying to write something but it doesn’t work out and, suddenly, you have a few minutes and finish a whole song, write the lyrics and whatever… Take Let it Pass: I just sat down, I was like “I need to do some writing now” and I had this chords in my head. I just played them and I made the whole tune, produced and everything, in 2 hours; It flowed just like a stream of consciousness. It sounded so good I just sent it over to my label and it got mastered. I like this sort of things when they happen.

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