We talk first date with a piano aged seven and never loosing sight of what he creates with one of the most prolific house music producers on the planet, Osunlade
Born and raised in St Louis, Missouri at the merge of the sixties and seventies, Osunlade has near on been perfecting the art of mixing and making music for most of his life “My first musical experiences were actually of my djing for my parents during their weekly card games. They would stand me in a chair and place all the 45’s near the component set and I’d select music while they played cards,” he says. “[My] Mom was a huge Aretha fan, while Dad was all about James Brown.” But it was at the age of seven, when he began playing the piano that Osunlade really started to engage with his craft.
Moving to LA at the age of seventeen, although he had had a few fairly successful years making music for television Osunlade decided it wasn’t for him. “It wasn’t a critical moment in my career at all. There was no scene in LA, it was all music biz,” he explains. “Nothing about Hollywood is about art or music or art. It’s about the parody of it all, how famous one can be.” Although he hated LA with a passion, he knew it was the place to be for that much needed lucky break. “If anything the dislike of the business side made me more passionate as I was clear that it wasn’t the road I wanted to take,” he says.
Heading to New York from LA, Osunlade set about working on his own music, on his own terms. Having been offered a joint deal with Tommy Musto’s distribution company Northcott, the place to go for house music distribution in NY, Osunlade remained there until he released his debut album on Soul Jazz.
“I then left Northcott and moved the label to Soul Jazz and now Defected among others for distribution. To date Yoruba [his own label] is a per-release distributed label, as we don’t stick to one particular genre,” he explains. “I champion every artist of the label. Yoruba is a family endeavor; I mentor artist’s years before they have a release.” Following the old school of A&R, Osunlade prides himself on developing an artist and their sound before building anything.
With regards to his own sounds, he has recently released his eighth studio album recorded back in his hometown St Louis, in an unbelievably short space of time. More a labour of love, intertwined with an ever present spirituality to his sound Osunlade cited ‘Peacock’ as a “gift from the universe”. “It was not planned or expected, it simply happened over a 3 week period,” he tells us. “Since it happened effortlessly, I simply created whatever came out, hence the varied styles on the album.”
Created as an offering to Orisha Ochun, the goddess of love, art, music and all things beautiful, she is an energy close to Osunlade’s heart. But when we ask him what the recipe for a career that’s both successful and rewarding is his answer is simple: “I manage my integrity and I always live on my own terms, never losing sight of why I create.” Having seen so many artists loose themselves to the idea of it all, Osunlade’s rules to live by inspire the younger generation of sonic creators. “Staying clear, balanced and honest with myself is my biggest achievement.” His other advice for the new-gen: “LEARN AN INSTRUMENT.”
Osunlade will be live at Sunsplash festival June 7th.
Words: Siobhan Frew