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EXCLUSIVE Interview: ONR

When he's not hanging out with Nile Rodgers at Abbey Road Studios or touring with Bastille, producer/songwriter is keeping busy in his studio. His latest single, the alt-pop track 'Must Stop', features Sarah Barthel of Phantogram and is a very honest and real look at the raw feelings experienced after a heartbreak. It's pure brilliance. Watch below. I spoke with ONR over Zoom.


How are you?
I'm good, thank you. Not so bad.


What have you been upto?
Obviously, we had a lot of plans and things before lockdown happened and coronavirus. We had touring plans across the US and Europe and things that we had to postpone, which was a little frustrating. So, in the mean time, I've just been in the studio really. I've been writing a lot and I've been producing for myself and for other artists, which has been good in that I get to work with people that I maybe wouldn't have been able to work with had there not been a lockdown. You know, if people have been touring or releasing their own albums and things, I might not have had the opportunity to work with some of the people that I've worked with so a bit of a silver lining to a fairly grim time. 


How did the collaboration with Nile Rodgers come about?
Me and Nile met at Abbey Road Studios in February. There was a writer's camp in there that I somehow managed to get into. I have no idea how. We met and I've always been a massive Nile Rodgers fan. I'm a huge David Bowie devotee. I really admired Nile so to meet him was incredible. To meet him at Abbey Road was like a proper amazing experience for me and I never really thought that much more about it. We got on really well and then I sent him an idea that I'd been working on. Again, I didn't really expect to hear  much back from it and, a few days later, he sent over some guitar parts for it that he's already recorded which was just surreal to be honest with you. It was incredible. He's honestly - he's been such a star. He's been a real supporter of mine. He's been someone who has been really vocal about how much he thinks about my music and that's been really helpful in working with other people and yeah, he's been amazing. 


What is your new single 'Must Stop' about?
My new single 'Must Stop' was released a couple of weeks ago. It features Sarah Barthel of Phantogram. I'm a huge Phantogram fan. I started listening to their music when I travelled back and forth to the States a couple of years ago so, again, to start working with Sarah was incredible and a bit surreal because I'd been a fan before that. I'd had this song sitting for maybe a year or so and I really wanted a female vocal on it but I went back and forward on it for a long time because I wasn't really certain what kind of style it should be or the delivery or different sort of things but when I heard that Sarah had listened to it and wanted to try putting some vocals down, straight away I was like, 'Oh that's perfect. I just know that's going to be perfect'. And it was. Her vocal was just exactly what the song needed. She's been amazing to work with as well. So supportive and really loves the song, loves the tracks and yeah, she's brilliant. 


What inspired your new single?
A collection of not so nice experiences, I guess. It was one of the easiest songs I've ever written, I think. It didn't really feel like writing. It felt like filling in a form or filing a statement because it was just very - you know, I didn't even need to think about it that much. Again, it wasn't like I wrote the song and thought that it was going to do the things that it has done. I just thought it was a really simple song and I didn't know at that point that it would resonate so much with people, that a lot of people will have had the same experiences of getting close to somebody who lets them down or who uses them or who manipulates them and it's a horrible, embarrassing sort of situation. I feel that there's a lot of songs about breakups that are very empowering and, in my experience, that's not what a breakup feels like at all. It's a horrible, cringe-worthy, embarrassing, awful thing to go through. I think that's probably why people have taken the song to heart so much. 


I loved your acoustic version on YouTube.
Thank you. It's funny because I always try and do an acoustic version of each track that I do as well. I feel that if a song is a good song, it should be able to work with an orchestra or with an acoustic guitar. It's a little bit of a test that I do for each of the songs that I put out. 


What was it like supporting Bastille on tour?
Brilliant. Dan from Bastille, and all the guys from Bastille actually, have been so supportive of me and my music. Again, in the very early stages, and it really means a lot particularly with everything they've done and how successful they are and what a brilliant songwriter Dan is. Touring with them was quite incredible because it was my first real experience of supporting a huge act internationally. I'd never done that before to any major extent. It was an incredible experience. We played shows in Ireland and we played one show in Poland that was just absolutely incredible and to this day we have a lot of Polish fans and followers who keep in touch based on that one performance so it was amazing. Dan and Woody (drummer from Bastille) played on my track with Nile Rodgers which was fantastic. Dan has been really supportive in letting people know about my music. They're great guys.


What is your favourite song to perform?
It's funny because the last time I played live, I had half of the songs released that I have now so there's a lot of songs that  haven't really - we've never played 'Kill TV' live and I've only played 'Must Stop' a couple of times live so I don't really know how they work. I'm really looking forward to playing 'Kill TV' live. I think it'll work really, really well. And I think, now that people know 'Must Stop', I'm really looking forward to seeing the reaction that has live so I'm going to say 'Must Stop', I think. 


Who are your musical influences?
My biggest musical influence is David Bowie. He's the reason I do music. In my mind, he's the perfect songwriter, musician, composer, producer. Just an incredible person. He's without question my biggest influence. I think, outside of that, artists like Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen have had a huge influence on me. I think, more recently, Christine and the Queens - I think her style of music was incredible to be a part of when it first started coming out. Interpol, I was a huge fan of them for a while. I kind of chop and change and I try to keep myself open to the influence of a lot of different things. I'm listening to so much Arlo Parks just now as well. I'm in a very chill zone with my own writing because of that. She's just absolutely incredible. She's one of the most talented artists, I think I've seen for a long time come out of the UK. I think she's phenomenal. 


What's next for you?
It's kind of hard to say because obviously there's no live touring and no promotional tours, so it's a lot of studio stuff and a lot of writing. It's an exciting time in terms of - I'm putting together my record which I'm hoping to release next year. I'm speaking to a few different collaborators and other artists who might want to appear with me on that which is really exciting. I'm lucky that the production side if things is so important to me because, the time that I have at home just now because of everything that's happening, means that I can get into that quite heavily so that's what I imagine doing between now and the end of the year. 



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