Music comes first for Omar

Omar, the legendary, multi-talented UK vocalist, has an excellent brand new single out now called “The Man” which has been getting a whole lotta airplay support from Gilles Peterson and Trevor Nelson. It precedes his highly anticipated new album out in July on Freestyle Records. 25ThC caught up with him for a quick chat:

Last year you were awarded an MBE for services to music. How did it make you feel receiving that award?
I felt very honoured to be awarded the MBE for my services to music because I have been making music for almost 30 years now and to be recognised for what is my passion and my art is fantastic.

What kind of music were you listening to as you were growing up and which artists influenced you most at that time?
The music I was listening to was Jeff Lorber, Stevie Wonder, Level 42 and, you know, Bob Marley, John Holt, Dennis Brown… that kind of thing.

I first heard of you around the time you released “There’s Nothing Like This” and on your new single “The Man” there is a stunning version of this song featuring Pino Palladino. It surprised me to find out that you originally released the song almost 20 years ago! You have continued releasing interesting and varied albums since then. What is it that keeps you motivated and inspired to continue making music?
23 years ago, I’ll have you know! What keeps me inspired and motivated is basically the love of the fans, you know? Being able to step out of my door and them telling me they appreciate what I do. It is a very simple equation like that. I still get a fire in my belly when it comes to making my music, I get excited about making music so as long as I keep getting that, I’ll keep doing it.

Your new album is out on Freestyle Records in July. How do you feel about being on a new record label?
Freestyle is very much on the same level of – and it reminds me of – Gilles and Norman Jay back in the day with Talking Loud. It’s a very music-based label obviously, but, you know… Greg being a musician… he understands about music and it’s less about the accounts and stuff like that and it’s all about the passion for music.

Can you tell us a little about your work-flow in terms of your productions. Do you work on the music first and then the lyrics, vice versa or does it all come at once?
Music always comes first for me and then the lyrics afterwards. I’ve never tried it the other way round. Well I’ve tried it once writing to music for Ché Walker who’s the guy that wrote me my one-man play. Its quite an interesting process to do it the other way round so maybe you will hear it differently in the future.

You have worked with some legendary artists over the years including, amongst others, Stevie Wonder, Carleen Anderson, and Erykah Badu. Who have you most enjoyed working with and why?
Well it would definately have to be Stevie. He’s been my idol since I was about 8 years old so to be able to get to sing with him, work with him, for him to write stuff for me, is just a dream come true.

Can you explain your process when collaborating with other artists? Is there usually some pre-planned ideas of what you are hoping to achieve/produce or do you simply get together in the studio, have a jam and see what flows out?
Working with other artists is normally pre-planned but those are kind of the ones that don’t work the best. It’s normally the ones where they turn up out of the blue and you are in the studio working on something together. Those are the ones that work out the best.

Is there anyone that you would particularly like to collaborate with in the future?
I’d love to be able to work with Bill Withers or Bobby Womack. Those are icons that I haven’t had the pleasure of working with just yet.

The last few years have seen a huge resurgence in the global funk and soul scene. Which artists do you feel we should be checking out?
The artists I think you should be checking out are people like my sister Samia Lye-Fook , Ego Ella May, Shans Smile, Kevin Mark Trail and Sharlene Hector.

Omar’s new album is out July 1st and he has two UK launch shows, on 27/28 June at Jazz Cafe, London. Keep up to date with him on Facebook.



Interview by 25ThC