Omar has been at the forefront of UK Soul for more than a decade. Since his first smash – There’s Nothing Like This through his six studio LPs Omar has garnered much critical acclaim. Check out what he had to say to Alex Humphrey about what he has been up to for the past five years and how it was to work with Stevie Wonder.
You have been out of the public eye for 5 years what have you been doing in that time?
Omar: Well I’ve built my studio Backayard, wrote the album, recorded the album, mastered the album, changed management 3 times & started a label, Blunt Music.
Your last single Sing (If You Want It) is all about the healing effects of music. How important to you is putting positive messages in your songs?
Omar: It’s not essential in this case it was very fitting.
Your newest album is your 6th studio album how do you think your sound has changed over the years?
Omar: I don’t think my sound has hardly changed at all. I have the same work ethic that I have had throughout the years which is to experiment with music as much as I can.
You have been quoted as saying your newest album is ‘truly independent’ what exactly does that mean and how important is creative control and freedom to you as an artist?
Omar: Well it means that I was free to build the album from the ground up so I didn’t have any constraints as to the sound I was trying to make and I think that’s is reflected in the music.
The album features several collaborations including JC Bentley, Angie Stone, Estelle, Common, Rodney P & Ashman. What was it like working with such a variety of people especially in regards to the difference between UK and US artist?
Omar: Well I don’t really see the difference cos everyone is quite professional when they work.
There is also a duet with Stevie Wonder who you have worked with before and has written songs for you. How did you meet him and what is it like have such a close working relationship with such a musical icon?
Omar: I was fortunate enough to meet Stevie for the first time in 1997 cos Stevie’s manager used to manage me & we kept in contact. He promised to write me my first number 1 single & he came through with his promise in 2000 which was fantastic cos he ended up writing 2 songs for me.
Going back to your childhood what got you interested in music in the first place and how did your multi-cultural background influence you?
Omar: My father was a session drummer in the 60’s & I think it’s been handed down from then. I was learning how to play percussion, piano, tuba from an early age.
You where classical trained on trumpet, piano and drums why did you move towards soul music and away from playing with an orchestra after music collage?
Omar: I just got bitten by a bug when I was about 15 / 16 when I started to stay in London a bit more & I went to parties & was exposed to music like reggae & rare groove.
You have always had your own sound which many have tried to pigeon hole as nu-classic soul or UK Soul. Do you think these are true tag’s for your music and if not how would you describe it?
Omar: I’m ok with any names that people want to give it simply because it’s a way for people to find the music when they go into a record store.
You are very well respected in the industry and cited by several other artists such as Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and D'Angelo as a major influence on them although you have never achieved the mainstream success you deserve why do you think that is?
Omar: Because I won’t lay down and do what everyone else wants me to and my music will always sound different and I’m very proud of that.
Having toured the world where is your favourite place to play?
Omar: Everywhere is really cool to play but Japan is different and so different too.
I think your version of Golden Brown is one of the best cover versions to be recorded due to the way you subtly and respectfully embed the song with your own unique sound. Are there any other songs you would like to reinvent?
Omar: I do a cover of Prince Lincoln’s Humanity live which I’ve been considering doing a studio version of.
What are your plans for the future? Are there any more collaborations in the pipeline and who would you love to record with?
Omar: Right now I’m looking for Bill Withers or Bobby Womack as I haven’t heard from them in a while.
And album seven is almost finished as we speak.
Finally you wrote and performed the theme tune to Lenny Henry’s show Chef. Did you ever think about asking to appear in the show and which film or TV series do you wish you had written the theme tune to?
Omar: Not at that time no but I have since worked on an idea for a sitcom with a producer so watch this space. Starsky & Hutch.
By: Alex Humphrey