Striving to create music that portrays a message that is accessible to all, Oli Fox’s talent is shining through. Hailing from Essex, this singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist produces electronic beats overset with his soulful and distinctive vocals.
At only 22, Oli’s debut single, ‘Cruel’, has amassed almighty support, with over 3 million streams globally, landing him the position as support act for Sigrid on her forthcoming UK and European tour. Now he’s back with his follow-up track ‘The Worrying’, a deeply reflective and personal track that tells the story of his own behaviours in a past relationship from the perspective of the other person.
We’re excited to see what is next from Oli, but for now we chat about his debut performance at Somerset House, his forthcoming track and what is next!
Tell me a little bit about you and your route into music…
It was quite an organic route, I’ve been playing in bands since I was a teenager, starting as a drummer and slowly progressing my way towards the audience – in my last band I was a singer. I then met my manager through a gig that I did with my band. He was asking me what the plans were for the band, but I told him we were all going off to uni, and he asked if I fancied writing some music for a solo project. I gave it a go for 3 months, and it clicked straight away. I never thought of myself as someone who could write and compose songs. It all fell into place quite nicely – a year and a bit later, here we are!
So, did you decide to ditch the idea of uni?
Yes, I never went in the end! I gave myself a gap year to pursue music stuff, during which I thought I’d try it, and if it didn’t work out then I’d go to uni. Then I never got the chance to go, but I’m happy about that!
You touched on previously that you’ve always been in and out of bands, is music something that you’ve always gravitated towards?
I’ve never really found myself gravitating towards a style of music, but I’d say that I gravitate towards the lyrics of songs – it could be the heaviest rock song or the most delicate Cindi Lauper ballad – but as long as there was a message that I could relate to, that’s what’s always pulled me to music.
You produce pop music – how did you find the genre that was right for you?
At the beginning of my project I tried a few different styles, I listened to a lot of Elton John and also Motown, the tracks were these big and expensive sounding productions. After a mix of that, and my experience of playing in bands, we sort of landed in something that’s got elements of singer-songwriter in the lyrics, but when it gets to the chorus I try to make it as accessible as it could be for the listener.
And when you’re not working on your own music, do you prefer to listen to music that is similar to yours… or do you prefer to venture away and listen to stuff that completely different?
Yeah, I think I live my alter ego when I’m listening to music that I’m not making, I listen to either some deep trap, or I’ll listen to heavy dance music, and then I’ll listen to Mariah Carey to top it all off! Just like a large spectrum.
When I listen to people that are similar to me, it can make me feel that my music isn’t enough, so I prefer to listen to everything else and let that inspire me in the studio.
So, what would you say does inspire your music?
In terms of the musicality of it, I’m always leaning towards synth and electronic stuff, because I listen to a lot of composers and film music, and I’m attracted to how they can convey emotion through a single sound. When I’m producing from home, I’m always searching for stuff that hits me straight away.
Lyrically, I like to draw from myself and my own experiences. Sometimes my friends will use me as a therapist, talking about their own relationships and stuff, so I’ll ask them if I can write songs about their experiences too.
You released your debut single ‘Cruel’, which now has 3 million streams globally! That’s insane! How was it releasing your first track?
Oh my god! It was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done. It’s weird because all my pals were saying “it can’t be as scary as being on stage in front of real people”, but it is! For me the imagery was me walking out into this empty room that they call the internet, you can’t see any of the people who are listening, but you just know that loads of people are, and they all have an opinion on you.
But, I couldn’t be happier! I literally had no expectations that it would get anywhere near 1 million, let alone 3 million!
Tell me a bit about the song – where did you get inspiration from?
For ‘Cruel’ it was drawn on from a fling, I found myself falling for this girl. Within the relationship it soon became very apparent that I was the one really involved, and she had a few other things that were going on at the same time, I just wasn’t top of the list. I realised further down the line that she could have done anything to me, like been a d**k, but I would still have been there for her.
The whole song is about how you let one person walk all over you purely because of how attached you are to them, it’s a blindness in love, I guess.
You’ve also just released ‘The Worrying’ – how were you feeling before the release?
Excited! We were looking through my tracks and deciding which one to release next, and I think before we went any further I wanted to get me across as a person. With ‘The Worrying’, it’s one of the most honest lyrics I’ve ever written.
And what is the song about?
On first listen the song sounds like it’s from my point of view, but it’s actually a self-awareness song.
I was with a girl for a while, we’re still friends now, but things came to an end. It came apparent that it might have been my fault, not through being disloyal, but because I wasn’t there for the relationship. I was very self-involved and trying to work hard on music, but that meant that I just wasn’t focusing on her and the relationship.
I didn’t really realise any of this until after the relationship had ended, when she was really honest with me and she told me all the things she was feeling. I then came up with the concept that if I wrote the song from her perspective, I might be able to learn a bit more about relationships coming up.
I wrote the song from her point of view to try and help me see how much of a s***ty boyfriend I was.
What was her reaction?
It was a nice light-hearted response and said that my account from her perspective was pretty accurate! But yeah, it was a very therapeutic song to make.
You played your first show supporting Sigrid at Somerset House – how was it?
It was soooo good! I’d never been to Somerset House, but when we got there it was just incredible. It was the most amazing venue, and the most beautiful summer’s evening!
My first thought when I went out on stage was that I’d forgotten my guitar pick – my first track was very guitar heavy, but I didn’t have a guitar pick for the whole set.
Because I was the support set, I didn’t think people would show up for me, but when I looked up, I realised that people had got there early! There were just so many people! I was so surprised because my manager told me to expect the lowest turn-out, but people were so intent on watching whoever performed before Sigrid. I got the first song out the way, but before then I was just a bag of nerves.
What was the crowd like?
They were really good! I didn’t know what to expect because Sigrid’s fanbase are very varied – mums and dads, from where she gets played on Radio 2, but also, she’s got 16/17 year old girl fans who are die hard! So, playing to that type of audience was amazing.
Performing at Somerset House was like dipping my toes in the deep end, then I was straight back to reality the next day back in the studio.
And you’re set to support Sigrid on her UK and Europe tour – how are you feeling ahead of it? And where are you most looking forward to going?
That’s going to be amazing! Purely because I get to tell my mum “I’m going on tour”! I can’t wait to go on tour.
In terms of where I’m most looking forward to going, I’m a massive fan of Dublin, so that will be really fun! I’m also hoping we get a little bit of time to sample some of the Guinness. Other than that, I’m really looking forward to going to Amsterdam, I’ve been there before with mates, but going back to do work is mind blowing!
Some artists find it difficult talking to the crowd between songs when performing live, how do you find it?
Well, I’ve got to be careful because I’ve not really got the best filter between in terms of what I think and what I say. Whenever I go to speak into the mic, I always seem to lock eyes with my manager who looks so nervous as to what I’m going to say!
To be honest, I find it quite fun because you’re basically just saying words and the repercussions don’t matter because you’re saying it to a room, it could be really funny to one person and be really offensive to the next person, and I live for that drama!
You’ve also got your first headline event at the Hoxton in March – what can people expect from that?
I’m just going to go for it! I’ve never had my own show, I’ve always filled with people above me, so to finally have the headline slot in one of my favourite places in London is going to be amazing! You can expect a lot of energy, and I want to get the crowd involved a lot!
What can we expect from you over the next year or so?
Over the next year, I’ve got some songs to release, which I’m really excited about! Things are looking really exciting from my point of view – I’ve written a bunch of songs and we decided not to release any of them until after ‘Cruel’, which has really given us a game plan! Expect lots more songs, lots more live shows and maybe a few festivals!
Photos – Phoebe Fox