‘I’m not aggressively going there trying to be a solo star. I’m just kind of making music that I love’ – An interview with Oritse Williams

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Oritse Williams has rebranded as OWS since leaving JLS and launching his own solo career with single ‘Waterline.’ The star now owns his own record label, Overthrow, and has been named an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, Nordoff House and the MS Society. His single is set for release on the 8th June, so I caught up with him ahead of his debut.

You’re about to launch your debut single ‘Waterline’, can you tell us a bit about what fans can expect from the track?

Just a lot of emotion. It’s an honest account about one’s feelings about a troubled relationship. You’re trying to get the person back and you can’t let go, not even trying to get the person back but just about wanting them to give you that feeling of love or what you had and even intimacy. You know you want to be intimate one last time before they go just so you can hold on to that feeling forever. Yeah, just a lot of emotion.

Is it based off a personal relationship?

Yeah all my music that I’m doing at the moment is about personal relationships, personal stories, a lot of things that I’ve been through in my life that has resonated with me. It’s almost like a diary entry what I’m doing at the moment. My fans will be able to get to know me a lot more through my music.

The video for the track is all black white and incredibly artistic, how much of an input did you have with that?

I wrote the whole treatment myself. I put the whole thing together myself. Yeah it was very important for me to give very, like I wanted the video to be timeless and that’s why the video’s black and white. There’s a lot of deep things in short residual snippets. You know it goes through talking about things like childbirth to stereotypes and religion, race, sexuality to the start of one era and the end of another. My hat falling into the sea is the end of one era and that’s my time with the group and stepping forward into the sea is me pushing forward as OWS, my girlfriend was pregnant at the time was in the video with my first son. Actually the sea is also about seeing beauty in everyone so that’s really why you see images of people from all different walks of life. My friend Stanley is in there who’s disabled. It’s about seeing beauty in everyone no matter whether you’re able or disabled or wherever you come from because we’re all one. Everyone should be able to relate to that video and see themselves in that video. Yeah I kind of tried to make the video resonate something for the world.

Do you feel like your solo music will be vastly different from what you previously recorded with JLS?

Yes it will because the JLS music is an amalgamation of four influences and four peoples input. This time around obviously with me doing my solo stuff I’m just getting a lot off my chest. It’s music that I love. Not really manufacturing music for a specific demographic or audience. I’m just making music that I love and anyone who wants to come and jump on board. I’ve started all my social media from zero again. I had big numbers but I started them all from scratch to give people the chance, whoever wants to come on board this new ship as OWS. They have that chance and I’m not going to hold them to numbers before just for the sake of having big numbers. I want people to have that choice.

How does it feel to be going solo after previously being in a boy band?

It’s quite different. I don’t feel like it’s a conventional solo career. I’m being quite free about it so it’s a little bit like therapy for me actually because I get to write about what I want and get a lot of it off my chest in my music. I’m able to be creative with different things, for example like getting to write my first video treatment. I’ve never done that before during my time with JLS so I’m getting to be creative on all levels that I want to be creative on.

Did JLS know about you rebranding as OWS and launching a solo career?

When it came to the OWS brand that I was doing I really wanted the fans to be able to be the first people that hear it. It’s not fair. I don’t think you should start showing friends, family before them because they’re the ones who have got me to this position to where I am today and so I felt I owed it to them to let them be the first to experience this new concept which is OWS.

How did it feel when JLS disbanded? Did you feel like it was time or were you disappointed?

I was emotional that’s all I can really say. You know being the founding member, being the person who put the group together it’s always going to be more difficult for you than it is because it’s your baby ultimately. However it’s just like going from school to college, from college to university it becomes a time in your life when you have to move on to that next step and we felt like it was that time so now I’m in that next place. I really enjoy having my company which is Overthrow and we’ve got my artist A.M.E signed to that who’s Grammy nominated and had a number one single already. I’m an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, I’m an ambassador for Nordoff Robins and also the MS Society so all that. I’ve got a lot happening at this next stage and I’ve got to myself, as much as I can, make a difference from a philanthropic point of view and from a music, creative and artistic point of view.

Do you still keep in touch with your former band mates?

Oh yeah of course. I talked to Marvin yesterday on the phone and we were at Marvin’s the other day and all the boys were there with all of our kids. You know it’s great  and we have a great time and it’s really amazing seeing everyone evolve and what they’re doing. It’s brilliant.

How do you feel about Aston’s new single ‘Get Stupid’?

Yeah it’s dope. He sent me the video and I thought it was really, really dope. It’s fun and you know I think the fans will really love the sound and vibe that he’s got going.

Would you ever consider a collaboration with Aston?

I think we’ve got Marvin doing the LuvBug thing as well. His music’s dope as well, I really love Marvin’s music and JB’s music that came out with too has been really great. You know for us we’re kind of just having our individual time to get into what we would do individually and it’s exciting. You know whenever you see a group in history go off and do their own thing it’s always exciting to see what everybody would do as individuals. I like John Lennon where as some people love Paul McCartney. I love Lauren Hill where as some people love Wyclef Jean. It’s really exciting to see what the people would do.

Do you feel like you’d end up working in television at some point, like Marvin?

No I don’t think so, but I think that Marvin’s fantastic at that but if I was going to do television then I’d put together my own TV programme. You know I put together a documentary called Britain’s Youngest Carers which got commissioned by Channel 4 last year and that had a very powerful impact in the UK. We discovered that there were over 200,000 young carers in our country. Leading from that Prince’s Trust got in touch and wanted to give me an ambassadorship and to continue my work with young carers through them, so I’ve already put together my own TV documentary. If I was going to create my own show it’d definitely be taking a producer role once again.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 16.05.43You became a father to Omre last year, do you feel like parenthood changed your priorities?

Yes and no. I have a responsibility to Omre but I have a responsibility and duty to Omre to make sure I do the very best I can for him. So it means my priorities and in terms of my music my dedication has to be the same and to what I do it has to be the same. Thinking about him, you know he’s always at the front of my mind and in everything I do. Everything that I do I just try to make him proud in so that when he grows up he can and sees what I’ve done he can understand himself and understand me a little better by seeing ‘oh look what my dad did, he really tried to change the game or put together something that really added value to the industry that he was in or out of the industry that he was in. He cared about people, he was a very active philanthropist and not just about making music for himself and he was actually very selfless and he really tried to help people as much as he could. He’s an ambassador for the MS Society as well and that everything he did was to try and help.’ I want my son to grow up thinking that everything that I did really came back to helping people.

Has Omre had play dates with Ace and Alaia-Mai?

He has. They had a play-date two weeks ago, we also went to see Ace a couple weeks ago. There’s play-dates all the time. It’s crazy, it’s amazing.

Initial attention for your solo career came from Jay-Z’s blog, ‘life + times’, how did that affect you?

It was incredible. You know when you’re making something you don’t know what people are going to make of it, especially compared to what you did before and what they know you from and about you. You never know how people will take it. I put the record out on Soundcloud anonymously as OWS, nobody knew it was me. Nobody knew that I had a musical background so they were able to hear my music as if I was a brand new artist and to hold in such high esteem to the point where Jay-Z wanted to put on his own website it validates that actually you’re on the right road and gives you confidence that actually I should continue to create and to keep going.

You’re quite close with Zayn Malik who’s recently left One Direction, do you feel like it’s hard to be in a boy band?

I’m close with all the boys. You know it’s an experience and we all go through experiences and so I’m really really happy that I’ve been able to have the experience of not only being in a boy band and now I’ve got a new experience where obviously I’ve got my company Overthrow and a solo project as well so you know I’m in that creative space and I’m really enjoying being in that creative space.

Did you give Zayn or any of the One Direction boys any advice on how to handle the departure?

No, I don’t get involved in other people’s personal affairs.

Who is your biggest music idol and who would you love to collaborate with?

I’d love to collaborate with Chris Martin. I think he’s incredible and he’s a great writer and my biggest musical inspiration is, that’s difficult. It’s probably Berry Gordy who’s the founder of MoTown. I also love Jay, I always love more entrepreneurial artists and you know people who create musical movements or created their own music situations. Even the founder of So Solid, Megaman, I really just love people who are ideas people and I guess Berry Gordy’s the ultimate with the MoTown era.

What artist has influenced your solo music most?

It varies. It goes from Coldplay to Lauren Hill to James Blake to Drake. Yeah so it’s really varied and Prince, I get musical influences from all of them.

You’ve done a lot of charity work and you’re an entrepreneur now, you’ve got your own company do you have a hero who’s not musical?

Mhmm, Richard Branson. He’s a hero of mine. I was in his triathlon squad a few years ago which I was very humbled about. You know Richard Branson’s incredibly humble and I’m very inspired by his humility, he’s someone who’s had such great success and so greatly entrepreneurial. Richard Branson’s definitely up there for me as one of my heroes.

You’re clearly doing very well, it’s amazing hearing you be so passionate about everything you’re doing. Is there anything you want your fans to know or the public to know about yourself?

Yeah I’m performing at Wireless festival on July the 4th and everybody will be able to come down and see me perform and hear new music. I also want them to know that on this journey we’re taking our time and I really appreciate their loyalty up until this point. They’ve really got behind me, stuck with me and this new sound and vibe that I’m bringing forward they’ve been incredibly supportive. So I just want them to know that I’m incredibly grateful and you know I’m going to do my best to give them the best level artistry and best of myself at 100% of the time.

‘Waterline’ is set for release on the 8th of June. 

 

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BA English student at University of Southampton and Editor for The Edge (2015-16). A deep love of reading, theatre and all things entertainment.

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