Vibe check! Everyone, meet ONUR. This London-based musician is taking the world (and Martin Garrix) by storm with his infectious beats and deeply profound lyrics.
The Gemini, both open and almost shy lad called and stated, ‘I’m supposed to have an interview around this time, correct? Or shall I call back at a later time?’ he asked, not wanting to interrupt my day. This thrives off vibes, feelings, and passion that seers through this music and melodies and leave you wanting more. With the release of his new single ‘What U Do’, we discussed writing, producing, upcoming performances and bangers he has in store for the new year.
Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself? What’s your story?
Talk about myself? Alright, well, I am ONUR. That’s my real name. Started music properly when I was about 18. When I was younger, my mum would play me a lot of classical music in the car, and my dad would play Michael Jackson and stuff for me. I started singing when I was 16. When I was 18, a friend of mine and I went busking. We played a lot of contemporary music. He was playing guitar and I really liked that and wanted to pick it up myself. So at 18, I got a really shifty guitar and was learning some covers with Guitar Tricks and realized my voice wasn’t really suited for covers and that’s when I started asking to earn money to buy a new guitar. I started writing songs in the process because I thought the covers I was singing weren’t really for my voice. I picked up production when I was 21. I live in London. I’m 23. I’m a Gemini, don’t know if that matters.
What or who inspired you to get into the music you make specifically?
I think in a sound there’s a mixture of the artist and the producer. I like Timbaland, Prince, Quincy Jones, J. Cole, Justin Timberlake, D’Angelo, the way he mixes his vocals. I drew a lot of inspiration from them. I love production and electronic music as well, so I draw inspiration from there as well. It’s trial and error. Instinctual on what will and won’t work. It’s very playful.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
I usually say if you took Justin Timberlake, and you chucked him into space and he got a lot of radioactive damage and he came back down to earth and he was just like glowing green, blue and red. That’s how I would describe it.
Let’s talk about your new single ‘What U Do’. What is it about? Was it written or inspired by anyone in particular?
I guess I’d say it was written about an ex of mine. The thing is, the song was written last year. It’s obviously hard to get over your first love, isn’t it? After all those feelings of anger, denial, sadness go away you’re left with that feeling of ‘you’re actually really cool and you made me feel good’. It’s obviously about professing your love. It’s a very simple statement: ‘What you do’. I think a lot of people would say in conversation with their partner confessing their feelings. I guess because of how I’m feeling after a breakup…maybe that’s where it came from.
Where do you find inspiration?
It finds me. It’s not one thing that inspires me. I can play the same chord for the next 90 days and not make music and then on the 91st day, I’ll show something. For some reason on that day, it’ll make so much sense to me. Plato said, ‘no one is a genius’. Genius runs through you, and then it stops running through you. You have genius moments and that’s how I see music. There will be times where I’ll just have these visions so clear in my head of what I want to say and do. Other times, I really have to work for it. I’ll really have to dig into conversations I have with people or past events in my life. Most of the time it is pretty conscious, I won’t know what I’m writing about but when I finish it will make total sense as to why I wrote that.
What was it like working with Max Marlow on ‘What U Do’?
He’s literally one of my best friends. It’s so casual. We bonded initially over our love of disco. We both love that kind of production. When I met him, I didn’t know he was a producer. Our personalities were both a little bit weird, I guess, and we kind of expressed that around each other quite comfortably. It’s nice! It’s really nice that me and my friend made a great song together. I think that’s why the song works so well because we’re such good mates.
Would you like to co-produce more music in the future?
I like co-production. When it’s just me doing it on my own, the process can be quite long. When you create music with someone, there’s an energy. You’re both vibing off each other. I know that’s a very cliché thing to say, but you feel that person’s spirit. It’s like being in a relationship almost. You’re both expressing something together and I think that’s a lot nicer and in business terms a lot quicker to get something out than if you did it on your own. At the same time, there’s that argument that it’s not completely you doing it, and it takes away from your artistic merit. To be honest, I don’t see it that way. I see it as musicians coming together and making music together and that’s pretty much how most people do it and it’s done that way for a reason.
What is different in the music-making process when you’re producing as opposed to just writing and recording?
The biggest difference is that when I’m doing it by myself, I think about it too much. That’s why it takes longer when you’re doing it by yourself. When you’re working with other people, there’s a vibe there and you’re excited by it. When you’re on your own, you can go into a tangent and lose track and structure sometimes. Not all the time, but it can happen. When you’re with someone, you both kind of keep each other on track. You brainstorm a lot more and dig deeper into what everything means. It’s more line by line. Coming up with new musical ideas and just jam. Then we’ll think of lyrical concepts and the melody. You narrow in on what the other likes and keep each other in focus.
Martin Garrix added you to one of his playlists. How did that feel for you?
I thought it was a joke. It was the first song I ever released and I never expected anything out of it. I was just like ‘yeah, whatever’ thinking it was just some person that’s probably into Martin Garrix and added me to their playlist as well. His manager emailed me and I thought ‘Nah, this is probably a flippin’ joke as well’. It wasn’t until I was with some mates and they said, ‘dude, you’re in Martin Garrix’s playlist, this isn’t a joke’. But it wasn’t until I met with his managers that I thought ‘oh crap’ and that’s when it became a big deal. It just gives you validation and it gives you the reassurance that you’re not terrible. It encourages you to carry on going. I’d say though, the more I’ve been in the music industry the more I try not to take that stuff seriously. At the end of the day, it’s down to the artist to be inspired to know that the work they do is good to them. It should all start and end with the person making it. Because if you’re not proud of it, it doesn’t really matter.
Would you ever want to collab with him in the future? Or are there talks of a collaboration in the works?
No, not so much toward me and him collaborating. I probably would like to with singing. I would love to work with Justin Timberlake or Timbaland and see how they work. I work with Max, and Max works with bigger people; they are exactly the same as me. It’s so normal for everyone to have an off day. I can sit here and say I’d love to work with Garrix, but it depends on the vibe in the room or if we get along as people.
What instruments do you play? Are there any you would like to learn or incorporate into your music in the future?
I play the laptop…would you consider that an instrument? I play the piano. I play drums, but I want to get better at drums. And then, of course, I sing and play guitar.
You’re going to be touring in the US, will this be your first time?
No, I went to Berklee when I was 19. I went on a summer course at Berklee. It’s not my first time in America, but it will be my first time in LA.
You will also be playing The Amersham Arms in London on November 13th. Can you tell us more about that?
It’s my biggest headline show to date. I’m not a massive artist by any stretch of imagination. We sold out my first EP launch. We were even over capacity and then I got really cocky and ambitious because I love this new song and I really think it can do well and I basically booked a venue that is 350 capacity. There are 8 agents and quite a few industry people coming this time so I need to sell at least 200 tickets. Like…the room needs to look a little bit full. But I’m excited! 13th of November. 7 pm. Max is opening actually!
Tell us a bit about A Millennial Rhapsody? What has it meant for you and how has it set the bar for coming into the music scene?
It meant a big deal. At the time I just released three singles. I had no expectations at all. That was me just releasing music like ‘here I am’ sort of thing. But with this new EP, I wanted to say something a little bit more coherent. I had a lot of ideas about how millennials were. Around the time Brexit was a very big deal, it still is now; it’s more of a coveted job now, but it was a very big deal a few months ago. Someone once told me what was different about millennials than other generations was that we really don’t have anything original. We take a lot of things since pop culture from the 50s to now. We mix and match and make it into our own culture. Then I went to a museum and it was ‘millennial architecture’ and how architecture is becoming more minimal. The artwork was inspired by that. It’s a silhouette of me on a blank page or canvas on the outside and different things happening on the inside of the silhouette. That was the idea. That was the theme of the music. It’s a reference to Brexit, you do this you’re burning the bridge. Glory to us all, but good luck to be honest.
Do you have any other new projects coming out?
I have a lot, a lot, A LOT of stuff for the new year. I’ve got bangers, mate. I feel like ‘What U Do’ is a precursor. I want to leave it for the new year. I don’t want to release anymore right now or in December during Christmas. It’s something to look forward to!
interview by Amanda McFadden