ARTIST NAME: Oliver West
SONG TITLE: I’ll Be Damned
ALBUM TITLE: Weather Me.
RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2019
Discuss your music career.
I’ve been a musician for most of my life, but I’ve only been a serious songwriter since about 2015.
I had played in bands all my life as a bass player in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, and we were never particularly successful but I really loved being a musician and still consider myself a bassist at heart.
Only after graduating from college in 2015, and under some unusual circumstances, moving to Germany did I start experimenting with writing my own songs.
I had always had this vague belief that I could write my own stuff but I had never really found the right space or moment to really pursue it until I wound up in Europe, alone, with a little bit too much time on my hands.
So I decided to start trying to write and record songs to keep myself busy, and set the rather overly ambitious goal of recording a whole album with no money and nothing but an iPad, one crappy condenser mic, and a could instruments.
As such the final product is a little rough around the edges – I mean I mixed it on an iPad – but it was enough to get me off the ground. Then I started performing on the streets in Germany which grabbed the attention of people, who started offering me gigs, and then I started making some honest money off it, and bit by bit it has turned into a pretty honest full-time gig.
I just put out my new record “Weather Me.” which I’m working on pushing while I look at relocating to a city with a better music scene.
Brief us on how to impress fans during a live performance.
What I do that tends to impress people when I play live is this sort of unusual percussive technique I’ve developed on the guitar – I lay it flat on my lap and play it a bit like a drum.
I’m by no means the only person who plays like this – Ben Howard, Leo Stannard are two people who come to mind who have a hit or two played in this style – yet everyone has a slightly different way of interpreting the instrument, like everyone finds their own sweet spot on the body and wails on it.
Fans love that because it’s flashy and violent and sounds like there’s more going on than one instrument should allow.
I also often go on improv tangents in storytelling, freestyle verses, and guitar licks that tend to lend some freshness to performances.
List the names of your biggest supporters.
I would say my biggest supporters are my friends Francesca, Sarah, and Ryan, as well as my nuclear family and a handful of really incredibly devoted fans from my hometown of Anchorage.
Explain what has motivated you so far in your music career.
I think artists often chase a certain sound that never actually wants to be realized – like I have an idea of where I think a song should go, and then it goes somewhere else.
It’s sort of like chasing a musical ghost a lot of the time, and you try to catch it, often in vain.
I think a lot of my motivation comes from trying to find a sound or a feeling and not quite hitting the mark, at least in my own estimation of the song.
Other people might totally dig it, but I’m often not quite satisfied and keep trying…
I’m also largely motivated by trying to:
1) Not write a song I’ve already written before.
2) Not write a song someone else has written before.
3) Not be boring. Whether I succeed in that is largely a matter of interpretation I think. But I really try to not bore myself with what I write.
I try to do something that I haven’t made and haven’t heard before, with unusual language use, perhaps quirky instrumentation, and atypical harmony. That’s what’s been informing my songwriting as of late – I’ve been trying to use the most colorful chords possible with as much nuance as I can get out of my instrument and do something I haven’t heard before, at least from my own little artistic world.
I also just try to avoid average lyrics. I want them to really be good.
Lazy writing gets under my skin.
Discuss your experience as an artist.
I’m a small artist in the shadow of larger artists.
I’m also a white dude with a guitar, and we’re a dime a dozen.
Sometimes I wish I had gone a different, more unique route – like what if I were a badass bouzouki player or something? I think I live with a certain sense that my medium is not inherently original, and sometimes that bothers me, but it’s the best I can do and I am still devoted to becoming better at it.
But being a smaller artist, I’ve had a lot of pretty tremendously large experiences that I think might ebb out with increasing exposure – the people I’ve met and really connected with a tiny gigs in the most obscure places, the travel alone, the sheer weirdness of touring, the lack of organization that comes with doing everything yourself, the continuous feeling of trial-by-error. I don’t know, I feel like despite the challenges that come with being an artist working at making it work, there’s a pretty great reward in the feedback you get and the experiences you have, the connections that form there with people you never thought you’d know.
Otherwise I think my experience is just trying to be better at what I do and continue to be interesting, both for myself and the people who support me and are invested in what I do.
Tell us the biggest mistake you have ever made in your music career.
Honestly I think the biggest mistake I’ve made this far is trying to do everything myself and being hesitant to ask for help.
That’s just sort of how I am by nature I think. I’ve come to the point where I need a certain amount of help to continue doing what I do at a higher level.
I also spent several years basically avoiding investing in myself financially. I think I really should have thrown more money at the cause, in marketing, in production, because it could have pushed me farther, faster.
But I wasn’t totally convinced it was a good enough thing to invest in. I’m still not totally convinced but I am investing anyway.
Discuss the story behind the song.
“I’ll Be Damned” is a hard song to explain, no lie. But it was an easy song to write. I wrote 90% of the words in one go while sitting at a café in front of a church in Germany.
I had been reading some article, like an opinion piece or something – I can’t for the life of me remember what exactly it was about anymore – but for whatever reason this article got me thinking about love on a very abstract and analytical level.
And for some reason I started thinking about love or devotion to physical representations of abstract things, or like loving a part of something but not necessarily the whole, and at some point recognizing that maybe you love the wrong parts of people or institutions or ideas.
In a way it’s a song about recognizing that you’re wrong about certain behaviors or predilections and saying “damn, this is the way I am, what I do with this knowledge?”
And as I often do, I sort of transformed all this into a quasi-dialogue between lovers, or people in any kind of intimate relationship.