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EXCLUSIVE – Omi: Life after Cheerleader’s success

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IFETOP10: How did you get your start in the music industry?

OMI: Being from Jamaica, I’ve always been a lover of music. You know, we’re very musical people. So the influence was always there. But mainly my dad, because he was a singer, songwriter also. So I grew up around, you know, music and songwriting and all of that. And then um!, going to Garvey Maceo, meeting a lot of my friends there who were also interested in music. We always wanted to, write, produce and sing. Yeah, then um! growing up with that same love I then met Clifton ‘Specialist’ Dillon, who, with the help of God made everything else possible?

IFETOP10: Were there other artistes who influenced you?

OMI: How could I not pay homage to Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and people like that? You know what I mean, I mean, they’ve done it. They’ve performed on a world stage, or stages, you know what I mean. So it’s like, I was predisposed to it. You know, being from a country that was so rich with a culture of music. You know, out of many one people, as our motto says. We have so many different influences, but we are still unique in our own right.

IFETOP10: How did you meet Clifton Dillon?

OMI: I’m actually met Clifton Dillon while I was on training. I was in training at the time and yeah, he actually heard about me, because I used to record with this underground studio. And um! you know, he actually interviewed a few people who were recording, you know, under the same producers and they told him about me and he asked to meet me in person. Um! That story, I will leave it for his book, because he tells it so much better than I do. So, um!, but it was an interesting story and you know, ever since we got together there was a chemistry, he basically adopted me as a son. You know, so it goes whey beyond just being an artiste, being his artiste, you know. I mean, the guidance that he has offered me surpasses that of a manager. He doesn’t owe me any obligation.

IFETOP10: How key was Felix Jaehn’s remix to the success of “Cheerleader”?

OMI: Felix’s um! inputs, you know, it was very necessary for me Um!, because it’s always good to have an exchange of culture. And I must say that when Felix came on board, and I’d heard several, like, alternatives to where we could have gone with it. We had different producers and Felix was one of the stronger ones, you know, and I’m happy that we went in that direction. He was in Europe, so it’s like another side of the world. So um! that was good to to expose his culture and mine, you know, in that region. And I think that’s what made whole transition go over so well in the US.

IFETOP10: What is your writing/ creative process?

OMI: Ahhhh, peace and quiet, my writing creative process. I would say to have peace and quiet sometimes because I meditate a lot. I have some moments where I have to turn everything off, no television. I have to shut off phones and just disconnect myself for a little bit. Just me and my piano and peace and quiet and serenity and that’s a peace of mind, you know, in general. So um! that’s my creative. The next thing is to have a lot of inspiration. There’s so many inspirational people in the world. I mean, I can’t live everything, so it’s good to be observant. You talk less and you observe more and then you have your topics.

IFETOP10: Were you professionally trained as a musician?

OMI: The piano was basically self taught. I don’t know how to read music. But I don’t want to keep on saying I don’t know how to read music. I actually want to um! learn music. Because this is my craft. My sole aim is to perfect my, or get better at my craft. So Yeah, definitely I want to learn professionally.

IFETOP10: Did you ever imagine having a song that would be certified platinum, multiple times?

OMI: Um! I’ve always believed in myself, that one I can do, but, I must say that cheerleader was… “Cheerleader” basically set the stage for me and “Cheerleader” is one of those songs that is it’s, it’s a make you, or break you kind of song, because it was so huge. So now to follow this, it can be difficult, but I wasn’t. When I do music, I do it from the heart. I don’t focus on following, you know, because for me, if I have one song that can withstand the test of time and that can influence the lives of so many people around the world. I would say I’ve done my due diligence yeah! in the music world.

IFETOP10: You have other great songs such as “Standing on all threes”. How is it that these have not had the same level of promotions?

OMI: Yeah, that’s why I also, you know, I’d like to expound on that a little bit, you know, having other songs that are as good. But at the end of the day, we know that the music industry, it’s very weird, you know sometimes, because you never know what will catch on and you’ll be surprised to know what actually catches on what actually gets promoted a lot. You know, so it doesn’t necessarily mean the artiste is not good, or the music is not good. But it’s just that it takes a lot of work to actually; A lot of work has to go into promoting a song and really making a song meet its full potential. When you come and you leave a footprint like that, you know what I mean, it’s massive. It’s a big shoe to fill, but at the end of the day, what was the primary objective behind you doing music? You get what I’m saying? For me, it’s not even about trending now. I just do it for the love, solely for the love. You know, I mean, people enjoy what you do, and that’s the biggest reward.

IFETOP10: Your music took off in Europe before gaining momentum in USA. Similar to Bob Marley and other great artistes. Why do you think promotions in Europe sometimes works best?

OMI: But we have to remember that Jamaica just gained their independence in 1962, so you know, so we were under the Queen. So there’s a lot of exchange in culture where that is concerned. That’s why you have so many Jamaicans living in, you know, and so many people coming here to live. So it’s like, um, it’s not a very hard transition, because there’s that relationship that exists already. And then once you reach England, it’s pretty easy to go to all of the other European countries, you know what I mean. So for me, um!, taking that route was somewhat natural and organic. You know, and I’m happy to know that.

But Bob Marley was doing a type of music that was indigenous to Jamaica. So bear that in mind now. Bob Marley was doing a music that was indigenous to Jamaica, which is reggae music. That was unique, you know. For me doing pop, from Jamaica mmm!. Going in a world where so many pop artistes already exists and competing for that stage. It’s, I’m not saying, but it was also difficult for me, you know. So that is something to bear in mind.

In the UK you have a smaller, what you call it, geography, so to speak. So it’s like your chances of getting lost in file thirteen is kinda, you know, it slims down a bit, you know. Especially if you are genuinely talented, you know. You will shine through and then you have a good team who knows what they’re doing, you know, good management. And if you’re the type of person who humbles yourself. Humble yourself and don’t get caught up in all the wrong things. Just remember what you’re here to do.

IFETOP10: How would you describe the genre of music that you do?

OMI: Well, we call it urban pop. Yeah!, urban pop, but there’s a lot of crossovers going on now. So I think the lines are blurred between what is urban pop and what is actually pop but yeah!

IFETOP10: Apart from having a great song, there is a lot more to being a successful artiste. Can you elaborate on that?

OMI: Not just to be an artiste, I mean, at the end of the day, you are now a public figure. You are now being looked upon by so many people. You are now an influence to so many people. And I know a lot of people would argue that, that’s not their responsibility. But eh! guess what buster the truth is that kinda is. You get what I’m saying? Because people want to run up to you, want to hug you, want to touch you, want an autograph. People don’t show you that much love if you were not influential in their life. They wouldn’t give you that respect, you know. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good to have a good personality.

Forget about the persona. Because at the end of the day, we all know and understand showmanship and we all know that if you are acting within the capacity of a certain character, then you have to hold that up. If you introduce that to the people, then that’s what you will have to hold on to your entire career. But you have to know that when you come home Omi stays outside the door and Omar walks through the door. You have to know how to separate the two people. Whether you want to call it an alter ego, whatever you wanna call it, it should be a situation where you know how to break down the difference between the two. Where you have trouble is when people start believing the fairy tale. To start to become consumed by the character, by the role. Then you get lost.

IFETOP10: Jamaica is a small island with aprox 3 million population, yet so rich in talent and creativity. What do you think makes this people so rich in talent?

OMI: You know, as I stated before, the motto – out of many one people and having world influence. Having so many people coming here to settle down. People, you know, visiting and you know, that influence coming in. I think um!, that’s the mould for greatness. Because you have so many different ideas. Now the thing is to know how to channel this idea to get something positive from it because without proper control of all of this information and all that, you know, it can be disastrous, you understand. But we are an island who, we have an identity. And that is something that I’m happy about. Anywhere you go in the world. You say you’re Jamaican, it’s like there’s a different level of respect. There’s a certain thing to our walk, there’s a certain swag to our talk. The way we talk, the way we behaved, when we act, so colourful and you know, so rich with culture. Everybody wants to be a part of it or be, you know, be associated with it in some way, or learn about it. So I say we have a gem, we have to know how to protect that, you know.

IFETOP10: How do you feel about new artistes coming out of Jamaica like Koffee, who are now embarking on that journey you started not too long ago?

OMI: I mean, you know, you gave a perfect example, you have Koffee who’s doing it right now. Big ups to her and her journey. You know, and, you know, sometimes I see this, I wish that we. When I see this happen to like new artistes, whether they be younger than myself or older. I wish that we would run into each other at some point, where we could have that platform, where we could actually sit down and have a conversation. Because a lot of people are not really exposed to have, you know, somebody who has walked that journey, actually sit with them in the same room and have a conversation about what to expect and, you know, how this whole thing works. So a lot of times you find that they have to be winging it. You need some people who will tell you the truth to your face. You don’t need Yes Men or Yes Women around you, that’s for sure. Because it’s a pretty serious business. You don’t want to be out there lost, you know. You need to know what you’re there for. You need to hold on to your priorities, hold on to your, what you call it now? You have a moral obligation to yourself.

Yeah!, so definitely, and if we were to ever run into each other whether that be in a dressing room or somewhere. Um!, I would love for us to actually have a heart to heart because, you know. Sometimes, you know too you know. I’m not saying that she might not know. Sometimes you know, but to have somebody kind of reinforce it. Kind of solidifies it like, you know, that this is the truth. This is facts. This is somebody who’s done it and is now imparting this knowledge so, yeah, of course.

Yeah!, Koffee. Definitely. I’m here, if you ever need any advice at all about the whole thing, you know, I can share some experiences and I’m sure you have some that you would like to share as well. And the journey continues. One thing is perseverance. You know you, you must always have that. And just, know  what you’re for.

IFETOP10:  I often read comments viewers write online and one reoccurring question is – Where is your Jamaican accent?

OMI: I get asked the question a lot about where is my Jamaican accent but what people have to understand in that way, when somebody is interviewing you, this is an opportunity for information. Yeah, it’s an opportunity to get information from the person. Not everybody in the world knows about Omi or knows me. I didn’t grow up with everybody in my community. I’m being introduced to people. So if I’m being asked questions and I respond or reply to these questions with too heavy of a Jamaican accent, or, you know, there’s going to be a breakdown in communication. So that information that could be vital information that could let people in a little bit more and get people more interested, just got lost. So I never denied that I’m from Jamaica, I think that’s one of the biggest things being sold right now, I am from Jamaica, little island boy. But at the same time, we have to know the forum that we are in and how to conduct ourselves according. You understand? So, yeah!, that’s my response to that.

IFETOP10: Many people probably don’t understand that in schooled Jamaican learn to speak English…

OMI: English Exactly. We actually Yeah! I’m sure everywhere has their own version of patois. You have the Spanish who, you know, the Italians. There is the version that you learn in school and then there’s the street version or the country version. So everywhere has their own patois. You know, but at the end of the day, I have to communicate in such a way that people can understand and people will relate and people will get it, you know. So sometimes I only have 15 minutes to introduce myself, sometimes five.

But I think it’s a situation where and Miss Lou promoted it best, you know what mean, saying listen, you should  embrace the culture and of course you should, you know what I mean. But at a certain age a child needs to know the distinction, you need to know the difference of when and where to really do this, you know. I mean, because you don’t want to come across, you walk in into an interview, you’re being interviewed for a very high, a very high position and you start speaking patois. Doesn’t go over well with your interviewer. You might not get the job. Because they don’t think that you know any better. So you have to know how to separate it. So I think that’s mainly what a lot of people try to reinforce in their children, not necessarily not to embrace the Jamaican culture, you know!

IFETOP10: Have you ever heard something in the media about yourself that wasn’t true?

OMI: Yes, I have heard things in the media that was not true. Actually, it’s nothing really, nothing bad. I heard that I was raised in New York at one point in my life, and no. It’s nothing of the sort. Just got a visa when I actually started my music career in 2012, so not nothing of the sort. Grand Cayman is where I grew up a part of my life. Yeah!

IFETOP10: What new projects are you working on?

OMI: Well, so far we have been, you know, quite a number of writing sessions. Um!, you know, we have released a few singles, one of which is a collaboration with an Italian artiste called Giusy Ferreri, you know, and it has on it Takagi and Ketra. Those are the two producers who did the song. That song is now certified three times platinum. Yeah, so we are now currently celebrating another platinum record. I have like three other releases, solo, “As long as I’m with you”. What’s the other one? “Better for you” and “Masterpiece”. You know, and those have been getting a few good reviews. You know a lot of my fans have been like, we’ve been waiting to see something and you know, thank you, and that makes me feel good. Makes me feel appreciated.

IFETOP10: Where do you hope to see your career in the next 5 years?

OMI: I think every artiste aspires to have like, longevity in their career. So it’s not just having a moment and that’s it. It’s about having several moments. You know what I mean? it’s about leaving that legacy, where you can, you did something with your life and it has meaning, it has substance, you know! And a lot of people can look up to it and you can be proud of it. And it’s here long after you’ve gone, you know. So I think that’s what most artistes aspire to. To have a few collaborations definitely, um! you know, working with other producers, you know, actually, you know, writing for other people. Yeah, you know, you have your name… At the end of the day, it’s music. That’s what I do.

IFETOP10: Would you like to write for other artistes?

OMI: I can write for anybody. That’s not even an issue and I’m not being cocky. You know, I can write for anybody because I travel a lot. I meet so many people. There are so many different life stories and situation out there. And I’m aware of it. And then I have that kind of brain that immediately starts to write a story. Everytime I hear something, I start documenting it in my brain, I start putting it into context, and I start packaging it and it comes out in the form of a song. So that’s how I know I would do well to work with just about anybody you know. I don’t do well with self absorbed people and people who are arrogant. I don’t really do well working with people like that. For me I’m humbled being in the presence of fellow writers and producers and creative people and I respect other people’s creativity. So I expect the same from, you know, I don’t deal with all of that. If you’re on that, you stay left and I stay right. Yeah!

IFETOP10: Who would you like to collaborate with?

OMI: Um!, well Chris Brown is a yute that I rate. I think that would be a good one. Um! I hope to do something with Koffee. Let’s say that, let’s put that out there. Let’s start from here first. I hope to do something with um! Koffee. Um! Yeah!, I think we will do serious damage on that record. Davido, looking forward to working with Davido as well. You know and for me, I might go some of the weirdest places like in terms of choosing who to work with and who I’d like to collab with. Because I don’t like to be on what is trending, what is common or what is expected. You know, sometimes I like to do things that shouldn’t work. Because there’s another fulfillment from that accomplishment when it does work.

IFETOP10: Any final words?

OMI: Well, I just like to say, you know, thanks to everybody who was supporting me over the years. You know, all my really, really, really loyal fans and um, you know, thanks to Jamaican people who show me love when I’m on the street, when they do run into me and didn’t know that I’m actually from here Ahahahaha!. Um! you know, thanks to everybody. Um! members of my team, you know, the whole Oufa, the Ultra Sony, the whole team, you know, who’ve been a part of this journey. I’m looking forward to many more like this. You know, thanks to you and your team for this wonderful interview. Most definitely. And um! I wish for you God’s richest blessings. Yeah, continued success. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re great.

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