We caught up with rising singer-songwriter Oli Hannaford to chat about his two latest tracks Lust and Running Slow, as well as his musical origins, influences and more.
How did you get started making music?
I used to watch a relative play the guitar. I was like, woah he’s cool. He gave me a guitar, and I started to learn. After a while, I got better at playing but then a lady came to my house and said that playing the guitar on it’s own won’t get me far unless I was exceptional (I wasn’t). She said I needed to sing, and I trusted her. After a few months of painful prepubescent screeching, I managed to start hitting some notes!
It kind of snowballed from there, before I knew it I was gigging in pubs and was hungry to learn more about live performances and the world of electronic music. I started playing about with effects pedals before I realised that I was actually really passionate about recording and then trying to recreate that sound live.
That brings me to about 3 years ago -- I had no budget to set up a decent studio so applied for random funding that I was embarrassingly under qualified for, but also random competitions. I ended up winning one -- the Jack Wills Young Brits 2015! They gave me £5k so I went shopping. Then I downloaded Logic Pro 2 years ago and starting learning to produce. Now I’m releasing those bedroom creations, and fucking loving it.
Tell us about the ideas & aims behind your latest two tracks Lust & Running Slow.
Lust and Running Slow are actually very much factual accounts of 2 situations I’ve been in. They’re a slight abstraction of them, of course, but every word in both songs has weight because they’re all completely true (at least to how I was feeling at the time etc. I love this EP, it’s very dear to me. It gives a little more insight into my life and goes a bit deeper (sonic-ally and in meaning) than my previous stuff.
Lust follows on from Berry Gin. Where Berry Gin was about letting loose on a night out and in a way disassociating yourself from reality, Lust is about when you get home… It’s about when you start to realise that whatever’s going on probably shouldn’t be because it definitely is reality. But when you’re doing something you probably shouldn’t be, it’s way more exciting isn’t it
Running Slow is about a moment after an argument, when time slows down to the point of clock-watching. It’s about the tension in the room, the toxic atmosphere that makes one of you want to go somewhere else (and maybe to someone else). I’m writing this song from the other side. I’m the one that doesn’t want to clock-watch, I don’t want to go anywhere else. BUT THEN the song has it’s climax, which is another maaaajor argument, and the last lyric is ‘be there now’, aka I just changed my tune and you can pi$$ off because I’m better and deserve better than this whole situation. Mic drop.
How do these tracks compare to your previous work?
I think you can hear a more developed sound, it’s certainly more unique. These songs build more than other recent songs, they have more of a dramatic climax. Of course they’re not on the same scale as Free Things in that respect, but I didn’t produce that.
The thing I like about these songs is that I properly thought about them. Often when you start learning to produce it’s about capitalising on a good idea and improvising around it, or even capitalising on a mistake or something. But with these tracks, I thought about how I wanted them to be before I started them. I knew the structures (you’ll notice they have a similar setup -- intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown, big chorus), whereas with The Crown that was more improvised.
How do you usually approach writing new music?
Good grief what a question. I haven’t got a set approach. It’s still very early days for me and I don’t have a process. Like I mentioned above, it’s often about improvising around one idea. But then there are loads of songs I wrote back in the day on an acoustic guitar that I still need to bring to life in the studio etc. Long story short, my process is an absolute mess! If things were too ordered, I think I’d struggle with creativity, though.
Where can we catch you live? And what can we expect from your live shows?
I wish I could tell you. I’m really struggling with this at the moment (anyone with a good knowledge of getting a band together and setting up shows etc, please message me!).
I work 9-6 Monday to Friday so time is of the essence, and I also have no budget to pay band members. We did a very mellow session in a chapel, but that wouldn’t be how I want my show to be. When I do shows, I want it to be high energy and exciting. It’ll be a big production show, full band, and with lots of guest appearances (you should hear some of the collaborations I’m working on!). If I have to wait around for that, so be it. Until then, it’s gonna be some DJ sets to play a load of unreleased and bouncy stuff along with other music I love.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
I have a good 15 tracks I want to put out. That included a 5/6 track EP that I think will be one of my defining pieces of work. I’m almost scared to finish it. I’ve put so much passion and soul into it and I’m so proud of it already. That should be out in a few months. Hopefully I’ll be able to start properly getting a decent show together if time/money allows it. Until then, it’s going to be DJ sets.
Who are the main influences on your music?
BBC Introducing called me a James Blake with more of a smile. I think that’s crazy complimentary but quite accurate maybe, as he is definitely one of the main influences of mine. I also hold Anderson Paak. as one of the coolest guys in the world, not sure I could ever reach that level hahaha. People mention similarities to D’Angelo which although I love, I don’t really get it -- what do you think!? I definitely take inspiration from J Dilla, The Neptunes, Knxledge, Mr. Carmack. There are also glaringly obvious influences from newer musicians like Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei, Sam Gellaitry.
To be honest, I am influenced by what’s going on around me, so an awful lot. I follow new music with a magnifying glass, labels like Soulection and Majestic are a mainstay for me.
Who are you listening to right now?
Been listening to Daniel Caesar’s album again a lot recently. Also Mr. Carmack, and GoldLink. I’m sure it’ll be Tom Misch next week with his new album dropping…