An Interview with Oskar O

  • 5 min read

LA-Based multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and artist Oskar O has recently shared her new EP ‘Religious Psychosis’, a release that represents a new chapter, both personally and musically for the talented artist.

With the release of the new EP, OSKAR is ready to let go of all the toxic habits of her past, and reach a new dimension, or as OSKAR would say “find a new God”, and to help celebrate, we couldn't wait to sit down with the talented artist and learn more about it.

Lovely to chat with you today! Let's start with the new EP. Tell us about 'Religious Psychosis'.

"The title of my EP is the only way to describe what happened to me. I’d had a spiritual longing for a lot of my life but wasn't raised religious, and as a queer person I’ve always been wary of that space. And I’m from Mass, which is not really the most esoteric place in the world. But after more than a year in the pandemic I realised why people turn to God. Praying made me feel held in a way I never have, and it gave me relief from the turmoil I was feeling around a lot of my relationships."

"The title track explores that - I had a really rough breakup somewhere in that time frame, and I would ruminate about what that person thought of me or what they’d tell other people. Once I felt spiritually connected I stopped caring about those things, because I knew I was understood. Even if it made me crazy, faith set me free. The other tracks talk about different facets of early sobriety, mental health crises, dysfunctional relationships, and spiritual experiences. 'Jigsaw' and 'Religious Psychosis' were the first songs I wrote for the project, and being the bookends of the track list they really set the tone for what I was trying to do. This project was transformative for me because it's the first project I’ve made that is inward focused. I’ve written a lot of diss tracks and breakup songs in my life, being reactive to others. After dealing with a lot of my own hard truths I realised I have a lot to say just for my existence, and focusing on other people was a way of avoiding that for a long time."

How would you describe your sound on the EP?

"Baroque pop."

Did you have any major influences when putting the EP together?

"I was always moved by the honesty of folk and Americana writers like Bob Dylan and Lana Del Rey. I think even as my music has become more electronic, poetry has stayed the first priority. Mike Dean and Kanye West are my biggest production inspirations. I also like film scores a lot, especially Jon Brion’s work. I really like playing with hip-hop elements like fat sub basses and trap drums in balance with cinematic arrangements. I studied arranging in college and I hope to be able to record with full orchestras for some of my future work."

What is your songwriting process? How does it all come together?

"When inspiration starts sparking, usually I’ll have a couple ideas run through my mind and I’ll write them down over the course of a few days. Most of the time I find a link between them and find grounds for a song. I journal a lot, so I feel like I keep pretty close tabs on what I’m going through and the themes that are common in my life at different times. For the past few years I would write songs on the computer while making the track, but recently I’ve gone back to just singing over chords. I think it's important to change up the methods if ideas start stalling."

What’s the most important thing for you when you’re writing a song?

"I still think about my English teachers in school, and all the figurative and descriptive language techniques. My dad is a writer and would always encourage me to raise the bar for how I said things when he proofread my schoolwork. And honesty, because otherwise what’s the point? I also try not to be judgmental of whether things are good or bad or cool or lame, I just try to do something new."

Did you always have a passion for music, when did you begin songwriting?

"When I was in first grade, I saw a boy in my class putting a piano lesson book in his backpack at the end of the school day. I went home and asked my mom if she could sign me up for piano lessons. No one in my immediate family is a musician. I learned the basics from a church organist in my town, and from there I learned popular music by listening and transcribing whatever was around, and in my family’s case it was mostly Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan CD’s. When I was in high school I began working with my teacher Dorothy Travis, who taught me how to read music and use notation software."

Now that the EP is out, what’s next for you as an artist?

"I have another project in the process of being recorded, I’m still honing in on the themes though. A lot of my music up to this point has been about overcoming different struggles in my life, and right now I’m at a point where I’m appreciating what's around me without feeling like I’m in crisis all the time. I used to think that would be the point where I’d run out of inspiration, but it's been the opposite. I’ve been enjoying playing shows in LA with different musicians, and I’m excited for more opportunities to play live and travel. I’ve also been loving connecting with fans online recently, so I really just want to do things for them. Cause there’s not too many yet, and it means a lot to me to hear that my music means something to people."

A few final questions before you go, what would your dream collaboration be?

"070 Shake and Mike Dean!"

What has been your best moment as a musician so far?

"My best moments as a musician have always been my ideas coming to fruition. After experiencing such an intense spiritual transition, realising I was writing an entire work about it was the best feeling, because it meant those feelings won’t only live in my memory. "

Oskar O. grew up outside of Boston, MA, and has been fascinated with making music since the age of seven. After earning a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, she got the opportunity to veer from her piano studies and focus on songwriting. Rather than relying on others to realise her vision, as well as feeling a lack of female representation, she immersed herself in production and learned how to program beats and make records herself.

Overall, the EP encapsulates the notion of moving from darkness into light, connection with a higher power, overcoming addiction and depression. “I want to convey that behind the most painful experiences are opportunities for profound growth. I also hope that the shameful things I admit in my lyrics inspire people to be more honest with themselves.”

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