Abi Ocia is West London’s new soul-filled R&B princess.
Educated at an all-singing drama school, West London native Abi Ocia is a remarkable breath of fresh air. With a lifetime of singing behind her, she first began at her local church aged 8 (where the worship leader also taught her the guitar) and then began to write using her brother’s old keyboard, making her song-writing debut with a Christmas song. Fast-forward, and she’s crafting lyrics that are intimate and raw, pairing slow-paced production with smooth and soul-filled, alternative R&B sounds. Exploring different scenarios and working through feelings to free herself of emotional baggage, Ocia reveals the depths of her personality and through that, has the power to connect and change the mood of her listener. Understanding how artists explore their work visually (and how that can her help connect with the listener and find a common emotional ground) and believing that music can make it seem like anything is possible, multi-talented songstress Abi Ocia is only just beginning.
Her new single “Running” is Abi Ocia’s debut, but her masterful production and lyrical narrative makes it seem like she’s had years in the studio. Exploring the emotional dialogue of the limitations that we define for ourselves and how this can limit our growth, Ocia wills you to let go of your fears. Her silky yet breathy and hushed vocals are layered over electronic elements and sensual beats making for a future R&B sound that’s filled with classic R&B and hip hop references. Using culture, history and an expression of her emotions to create powerful lyrics and masterful melodies, Abi Ocia is the soulful R&B star that knows exactly what she’s doing.
Sum up your sound in five words?
I’ll leave that to listeners…
When did you first begin to sing and was music a big part of your childhood?
I recall breaking out into song when I was fairly young, but I became more conscious of my voice around the age of 7-8. Music was as much a part of my childhood as my many other interests early on. It became more captivating as I gained an understanding of lyrics and how artists explored their work visually. But the main thing that stuck with me as a child was music always seemed to bring those I loved together – from blaring out Genesis tapes in the car with my family, to singing worship at church – where there was music there was a sense that anything was possible.
You went to a drama school – what was that experience like and how did it prepare you for your career?
Indeed. The first show I did there was High School Musical – 4 nights back to back, and as a kid who was obsessed with all things HSM, it was pretty epic. Aside from the practical skills I learnt, the gifted individuals and like-minded friends I met were the highlight of my experience. We were a family, and to see people doing well in their own fields now is a beautiful thing. The biggest lesson in terms of preparing me for my career – you are only as good as your last performance, so make it count.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
It was a Christmas song, 8 lines long– I must have been 10 or 11. I remember ‘debuting’ it at my church’s Christmas service and thinking it was the best thing to have ever entered the cosmos.
Tell us about your debut single “Running” – what’s the story behind it?
It’s easy to be distracted by the mundane, to stumble and stay in the routine of life. Often the limitations we place on ourselves are the things that hold us back from what we are intended to do. Running explores this inner dialogue. It asks the question ‘what are you afraid of?’ and how far are you willing to go to rid yourself of those fears, to reach something greater than you could ever imagine – than I could ever imagine.
Has West London influenced your sound, and if so, how?
I grew up in West London, it is home to me, but I don’t think it’s influenced my sound. There are more significant things that have inspired me sonically.
What’s your song writing process like?
Eat a salmon omelette, watch a Brian De Palma movie, sit down with my guitar and producer and create.
Who do you collaborate with in the studio and how have they helped you develop and hone your sound?
For the past year and half I’ve been collaborating with a producer called Mkulu. It is a magical thing to find someone who understands where you are aiming to take your sound, so developing has felt very natural. There is a similar appreciation for using culture, visuals and history as reference points in creating, which keeps us both sharp. The beauty of it is such that we still have so much more to explore together, and so developing has just begun.
Who are your main influences and what effects do they have on your sound?
It is always tough to hand pick artists that influence my sound. Its not so much a question of who I am influenced by but what has influenced me. I studied History at university and there was never a shortage of written and visual sources that would inspire a sound or an emotion. Church was a big influence too. The worship music I grew up singing – and still do to this day, always had a lot of space and atmosphere to it. The songs are never void of a deep sense of truth, and when you can connect to lyrics and melodies in such a way, it is hard not to want to recreate that feeling of intimacy in my own sound.
Who’s your dream collaboration and why?
To be in a room with SOHN, Mkulu and African drummers – I think those combination of sounds would be a powerful texture to move in.
What’s your favourite things about making music and are there any downfalls to the art?
Making music is a liberating experience. I enjoy it the most when I can explore different scenarios and emotions free from constraint, when I can look inward and be unashamed of what I may find. It has the ability to change someone’s mood instantly and that is powerful. When you can alter the way someone is feeling through sound, a potential downfall would be to create things that don’t help people to grow. Too often we fill our minds with negative and empty words, and so I try to make sure I am not adding to this. You just have to be honest.
Do you think the industry is supportive of young, aspiring artists?
I am just starting my entry into ‘the industry’ and I think I could give a fair answer to this when I have seen more of its ways. So far I have found that simply having a team of people around you who believe in what you do and are willing to help is support enough.
What’s next for you?
Share and create more music. I have been working on things for some time and I am ready to make some noise.