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Interview: O&O open up about songwriting, their plans for new music and the dominance of streaming

O&O – multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Obadiah Jones from Colorado and vocalist vocalist Orian Peled from Israel – are a duo on the rise.

They’ve been steadily working their way round the UK Country circuit with singles Traveling, Some Days and Tears in the Rain striking a chord with fans of the genre. With an EP on the way and a busy summer of touring, O&O have got a lot more to come.

I caught up with Obadiah and Orian backstage at Black Deer Festival recently to find out about their new music, chat about their approach to songwriting, and to discuss the impact streaming has on artists.

How’s your first experience of Black Deer Festival been?

Obadiah – It’s fantastic. It’s obviously the first year of the festival but we showed up here on day number three…

Orian – Yeah. The vibe is amazing and the energy is so good, and I have to say that it is very well organised it seems from our perspective. It’s amazing!

Obadiah: The sound was great and we were really happy with the sound on stage.

Your single Tears in the Rain came out recently. Tell me the story behind that track…

Obadiah: Last fall Orian went home to Israel for a little bit and I went to the States for a cousin’s wedding, and we were apart for a few weeks. We live together and we are always doing stuff together so being apart…

Orian: It’s weird (laughs).

Obadiah: It’s really weird because we’re kind of attached at the hip. When we came back we were thinking of writing a song about a distance relationship then it sort of evolved into a bit more of a fictional breakup song. It all started around that main guitar riff…

Orian: He was noodling as usual on the guitar. As soon as I heard the little riff, which became the opening of the track, I stopped him and said, ‘that’s the song, we need to write it!’ (laughs) That’s how it came about.

Watching you perform earlier, there are a lot of different sounds and styles within your music. What would you say has influenced you?

Orian: We come from very different influences. He’s more of a classic rock guy and I grew up on pop music in the 90s basically. We kind of fell into country and Americana music together. We love Fleetwood Mac, obviously as you can probably tell. We love songwriters from the 70s like James Taylor and Carole King….

Obadiah: Paul Simon…

Orian: We love Eagles and classic rock bands like that. We try not to limit ourselves with genre and just write the song and see what happens with it.

Obadian: Maybe it’s a little too varied in the set but we don’t like to repeat ourselves and do the same thing again.

Orian: We try to tie it in to the harmonies. The harmonies should be the feature in every song so even if the sound is a bit different we try to tie it to the harmonies all the time.

Obadiah: At the end of the day we’re singing it so it’s going to sound like us (laughs).

Credit: O&O

When you harmonise, I think you’re at your strongest. Was it a natural process to work those harmonies out or have you have to really work at it?

Orian: It was actually a lot of hard work because I hadn’t sung at all in harmony till I met him so I was already 23 or something like that and I’d never sung harmonies before. He was really good with harmonies and he had a bucket load of patientce. The first song we learned to sing together was Close Your Eyes, James Taylor and Carly Simon, and it’s all in harmony from start to finish. That was the first song we learned to sing together and he taught me how to sing in harmony basically. We just love the sound. We love Simon & Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac, when Buckingham and Nicks sing in harmony together.

Obadiah: It’s kind of interesting actually because our voices aren’t really naturally that close in range. Orian is a soprano aso her voice is really quite high. I like to pretend I can sing high but my voice is actually probably more like kind of a low tenor.

Orian: It forced me to learn to sing lower and him to sing higher.

Obadiah: We have to meet in the middle somewhere. It’s definitely kind of a focal point. We worked on cruise ships for a while before we officially became O&O just doing covers of every genre, having to try and make it our own style with the harmonies. That’s really what developed our sound now I think.

Orian: When we were doing covers there were certain songs where the melody would suddenly go too low for my voice so he would take over the melody and I’d have to jump to the harmony. In a lot of the songwriting we do, we switch between who’s singing the melody and who’s singing the harmony. Within a verse or a choruse it can change.

How does your songwriting work? Do you both bring ideas to the table and have you found it easy to compromise?

Orian: We want to have a a good song at the end. We’re pretty good with putting our egos aside….

Obadiah: Yeah, whatever serves the song best. Usually one of us will have a nucleus idea of the song….

Orian: …it can start a lot of times from his guitar like…

Obadiah: Tears in the Rain, I have a little riff or also Sundays, anothe rone of our singles, started with a riff as well.

Orian: Then usually a melody comes on top of that and then maybe you start singing and some lyrics come out. Then you sit down and think OK what do I wanna actually say in this song?

Obadiah: A few times I’ll have a whole song and I’ll bring it to Orian and she’ll say, ‘I like the verse but let’s rewrite the chorus’. It’s different every time.

It sounds like it’s quite an organic process…

Both: Yeah!

Orian: But you do have to force yourself to do it, when you start getting busier and especially these days with all the things you have to do as an artist like social media, admin and we’re our own managers so we do all the communications and stuff. It can get really easy to procrastinate songwriting by doing those things and feel like, ‘oh I’m still doing stuff, I’m doing work’. You have to block out time.

Obadiah: We book the studio and say, ‘OK we have to have songs by the time we go in to record them right?’.

Orian: We’re actually going to record in less than a month and we still don’t have the songs so let’s see what happens. (laughs).

Credit: O&O

What’s the plan for new music?

Obadiah: The first thing we did actually was write and record an EP but it didn’t come out as an EP. Traveling, our first single, and Coming Over, the B-side, came from that. Then we’ve been been doing singles since then and we are actually working towards our first official released EP at the end of the summer. Tears in the Rain will be on that.

With music so focused on streaming now, what opportunities has that opened up for you? Does it allow you to reach a wider audience?

Orian: I think Spotify is growing a lot and most people we know probably use Spotify. We do have a bit of a more mature audience that we met on the cruise ships and they’ve kept telling us but they don’t use Spotify at all. They’re still into physical. We send them CDs across from here to the US. They still like CDs. I feel like the thing that streaming changes the most is it’s kind of like a soundtrack to the listener’s life. As an artist you’re thinking more in terms of like, ‘what does this song go with? What kind of activity is the person who’s listening to it doing? Is he or she driving in the car or putting this on during a romantic dinner?’ It doesn’t necessarily change the way you make music but it’s something to think about when you’re making it.

Obadiah: The way that music is consumed has changed and people’s attention spans have change. That’s why the album is not as strong as it used. You used to pay for an album and you’ve got the physical thing. You invested in it so you wanted to listen to the whole thing. Now you pay £10 a month for Spotify and you have the entire library of music at your fingertips. You can just listen to half a song and go to the next one. There’s not really that much investment into the music. In that sense it’s harder to keep people’s attention with a lot of new music at once. When we release our debut album we want it to be really strong. we won’t just release it because we want to put out an album. We’ll release it once we know that we have a good solid album.

Orian: I still love listening to albums from start to finish.

You mentioned social media earlier and I have to say you guys are really on top of it! How time consuming do you find managing that?

Orian: It’s very time consuming if you let it. You can let it take over your life pretty easily because it’s very addictive. We try to just limit the time and focus on the task that you need to do because usually what happens you go on social media to do one thing, half an hour later you’re watching cat videos (laughs). We have to be laser focused and know exactly what we’re doing. We try to be good at it but at the same I find it’s hard to always be like, ‘me me me, look at this picture of me or look we’re doing this, we’re releasing this music!’ We try to find the balance of giving something different and not just posting all the time about ourselves. It’s hard because you have to plug it but you don’t want to come off as totally in love with yourself (laughs)…

Obadiah: …which we are! (laughs).

What else do you guys have coming up this year?

Orian: This weekend kicks off a summer tour for us. We’re going to be in Liverpool, Colchester…. we have some dates in London and we’re going to be at Cambridge Folk Festival as well, which we’re looking forward to. Then we’re going in the studio to complete this collection of songs that’s going to come out hopefully by the end of the summer.

Obadiah: We’re not really thinking too much further than that!

O&O’s latest single Tears in the Rain is available to stream and download now. Watch the video for Traveling below:

[brid video=”269850″ player=”531″ title=”Traveling O&O (Official Video)”]

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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