Soul singer Frankie Oliver is on the comeback trail with album Here I Am out on Friday, June 9th and a show at London’s The 100 Club on Wednesday, June 7th - his first London show since opening for Ziggy Marley at The Forum back in 1996. We spoke to Frankie about writing music and becoming a black cab driver.
I’m so excited and looking forward to see what the future brings.
First up, tell us a bit about before even your first musical life. What got you into music? Was there a particular song or artist who inspired you?
I got into music from a very early age. My brother was heavily into Joe Cocker and my sister was into Mark Bolan, but that never really appealed to me, it was only when I heard my cousin playing a Bob Marley album, I thought that’s for me.
How did you get involved in the music industry ahead of the release of your debut album Looking for the Twist in 1997?
I started in a band when I was about 20, the genre of music wasn’t really my stuff, but I just wanted to be in a band and tried to coax the them into being a reggae band but they weren’t having none of it, so I left.
What are your fondest memories of your music career in the late 1990s?
Two things stand out, really. One was being greeted by Ziggy Marley as I walked off stage at the forum in Kentish Town with a high-five congratulating me on my performance. Secondly, doing a festival in Victoria Park East London where most of my childhood was spent in front of thousands of people includeing my mum and dad and all my friends who I grew up with playing football and knocking conkers off the trees in that park.
Your career took a turn when you qualified to become a black cab driver. What led to that juncture?
It was basically a reality check and to get my life in order because I had a young family and I was never there. If I hadn’t done what I did I probably would’ve lost that, and that was something I wasn’t prepared to lose.
Is the knowledge as hard to learn as everyone says? What was your strategy to learn it?
The answer is yes, but it’s one of those situations you only get out what you put in. If you don’t study the knowledge you will never become a black cab driver there is no shortcut, it’s just hard work.
I understand it was two years ago that you were woken by the melody in your head that would go on to become the basis for ‘My Kinda Woman’. Do you have any idea why that tune came into your head?
Not really, to be honest, but I’m glad it did because it has led me to being at this stage once again, and I’m so excited and looking forward to see what the future brings.
It has led to you completing a new album, ‘Here I Am’ due out June 9th. How did the way you wrote the music change between your first and second albums?
I suppose it was the way I structured the songs as I was writing them, I was more flexible on the guitar with the strumming patterns and the chord progressions were quite different to what I had done before. I also have to mention Sam Bergliter and Delroy Pinnock on the production side because they were quite instrumental (pardon the pun) in helping me create the sound.
How did it feel working with Patrick Tenyue, Elroy Bailey, Ray Carlos, Nik Bjerre, Steve Haworth and Michael Bami Rose? Any funny stories?
Haha, yes, plenty - but not that I can mention in this interview.
What themes can we expect on ‘Here I Am’?
A little bit of everything really, I wouldn’t say one particular thing or theme, it’s mostly me expressing myself.
Which song was hardest to finish and what song are you most proud of?
‘Cos Of You’ without doubt was the hardest song to finish and probably the one that has made me most proud. It’s obviously a very sentimental song to me, I played it to a few friends in the early stages of the recording and it brought tears to their eyes.
What are your hopes for ‘Here I Am’?
I’m just hoping that anybody who buys and listens to it enjoys it as much as I enjoyed making it.
And which are you most looking forward to playing live?
Probably ‘Man at My Window’ because I’m the only one who knows what that song is really all about.
Watch ‘Tell Me’ on YouTube below. Here I Am is released on Friday, June 9th. Frankie will performing at 100 Club on Wednesdy, June 7th. For more information go to frankieolivermusic.com.