INTERVIEW: Otis Jr. on his musical roots, sleeping on Frank Ocean, and top eats!

Pictured above: Otis Jr. maxin’ and relaxin’.
Otis Jr. is a young, emerging artist yet his music reflects the energy of an old soul. He is simultaneously new while carrying an air of having “been here before.” He hasn’t released any music before, yet his debut EP is being released by world renowned label Jakarta Records. Recently we interviewed Otis Jr. to find out more about his roots, his work with Dr. Dundiff and what is on his horizons. You can catch him this Thursday at Kaiju and Friday at Nelligan Hall. We caught up with Otis Jr. to ask about his musical roots, working with the good doctor, and his top place to eat in town. Listen below and hear what’s up. 

Never Nervous: What are your musical roots? What were your influences when you first became interested in creating your own music? How did they influence you as an artist?(writing, style, tone, etc)

Otis Jr.: My musical roots were initially planted by my family. My mother is a singer, and during her pregnancy with me, she was still performing at 8.5 months; I’m sure that had a profound effect. I grew up around a lot of gospel, funk, soul, and hip-hop, and discovered an even wider scope of music as I got older. By the time I became interested in creating music of my own, I had learned to love a lot of different music styles, but I realized that the music that touched me the most was always made of simple and soulful elements. I’ll try to keep this list short, but I’m probably most inspired by Donny Hathaway, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, Ike and Tina Turner, and really so many more… James Brown, Michael Jackson, PrinceD’Angelo. I could go on and on (can’t forget Erykah Badu), but really any artist that has made me truly think or feel in a new or substantial way has influenced how I create my own music.

“My musical roots were initially planted by my family. My mother is a singer, and during her pregnancy with me, she was still performing at 8.5 months; I’m sure that had a profound effect. I grew up around a lot of gospel, funk, soul, and hip-hop, and discovered an even wider scope of music as I got older.”

NN: What can you tell us about your upcoming project? What do you hope listeners take away from the music?

OJ: 1Moment2Another is an 8-track EP, coming on April 15th, produced completely by Dr. Dundiff. The title and concept of the project was Dundiff’s idea, and it basically represents the collection of moments, memories, and feelings that make up a person’s life. The songs I wrote discuss some of the moments and feelings that I relate to. I guess that, more than anything, I want this project to remind people to be aware and present in every moment and just to enjoy life.

NN: Can you talk some about your process as a writer, and specifically how did you and Dr. Dundiff go about working on this album? Like would you write alone to beats he sent or would you all work on everything together?

OJ: Writing with Dr. Dundiff is it’s own kind of process. On my own, I’m usually a little more scattered. My ideas can start as a melody, a chord progression, or just a thought. But, with Dr. Dundiff, the process is much more streamlined. For this project, he would send me instrumentals that he created for us, and I would just write to them. I never knew what they were going to sound like beforehand, but I always trusted that they would be dope, so writing to them was a privilege and a pleasure.

“Writing with Dr. Dundiff is it’s own kind of process. On my own, I’m usually a little more scattered. My ideas can start as a melody, a chord progression, or just a thought. But, with Dr. Dundiff, the process is much more streamlined.”

NN: What was your reaction upon learning Jakarta Records decided to release the new album?

OJ: I don’t think I really have words for that, to be honest. This is the first year that I’ve ever recorded any original music to be released, so to know that one of my projects is being released by Jakarta is shocking, to say the very least.

NN: Can fans expect anything else in 2016? Not to jump ahead too far, but any other musical endeavors on the horizon? Any shows lined up?

OJ: Yes, 2016 is shaping up to be a good year! My solo EP ‘Ships’ is being released independently on April 1st, and later in the year, my brother and one of my favorite emcees Dave. and I have a project coming called ‘Too Ugly to be Elected Mayor’ with myself on the production end. Dr. Dundiff and I also have a lot more in the works. I can’t wait for it all to drop!
I have a show at Kaiju on March 31st at 9pm with the very talented Trishes, all the way on Los Angeles. 
The next night, Friday, April 1st, is the release show for my EP ‘Ships’ at Nelligan Hall at 8pm. That one’s gonna be a lot of fun. We got ChelleLynae, Sasha Renee, and Trishes on the bill, and I’m being backed by a six-piece band and back up singers. 
On April 16th, Dr. Dundiff and I are performing at Gonzo Fest on the Big Four Lawn, which I’m hyped about.
I also have a set at the LouiEvolve Music Festival, which will feature the best in the Louisville hip-hop scene. It’s being held at Tim Faulkner Gallery on April 16th and 17th.

NN: What have you been listening to, reading and watching lately? And the best spot in Louisville to eat is where??

“I hardly want to admit it, but I’m just now discovering what is so great about Frank Ocean. To quote the man himself, “The best song wasn’t the single.” I’ve been bumping Channel Orange like it just came out.”

OJ: The “listening to” part of this question is going to get me in some trouble, I know. I hardly want to admit it, but I’m just now discovering what is so great about Frank Ocean. To quote the man himself, “The best song wasn’t the single.” I’ve been bumping Channel Orange like it just came out.
I’ve been (slowly) reading Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. Right now I’m reading Hope Springs Eternal: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and let’s just say that the book is always more graphic than the movie.
I’ve been watching that OJ Simpson show, and other than that, I’ve been known to go on movie binges based on actors that I develop short obsessions with.
Louisville is such a good food city, it’s hard to narrow it down. But right now, I’m addicted to Yummy Pollo, this Peruvian charcoal rotisserie chicken. You know a place is good if they only serve one thing.