Indie artist OTR recently signed to Astralwerks, for his new single, “Heart” ft. Shallou.
Shallou’s searing vocals paired with OTR’s evocative piano create a poignant yet ultimately transcendent track.
We speak to OTR, about working with Shallou, releasing on Astralwerks, and his musical journey so far. Read on!
T.H.E – Hey Ryan! Welcome to T.H.E – Music Essentials. How has 2019 been for you so far?
OTR – Hey! Thank you for having me. 2019 has been great but incredibly busy! I’ve flown to LA and NYC for several sessions with some great artists and ironing out a few things for the rest of the year!
T.H.E – You were an aerospace engineer, before you became a producer? How did that come about? What inspired you to take up music production?
OTR – It was a gradual transition. Initially, I landed an internship in Japan around 4 years ago. The internship was in the middle of nowhere at this massive steel manufacturing plant and I had nothing to do except my job which was corrosion research (basically as bad as watching paint dry). I went to the local electronics store and bought a midi keyboard then took up production from there – working on new ideas every day. I kept at it even when I moved back to Cincinnati almost a year later. Eventually, people started noticing my work and as time went on, I started taking it more seriously. I think the isolation in Japan combined with the intensity of those new experiences allowed me to have a fresh take on life which really jump-started my creative process.
T.H.E – Since your childhood, were you always musically inclined?
OTR – Yes and no. My parents didn’t make me take piano lessons or anything growing up because they knew if I was forced into something creative then I’d hate it! I was a stubborn kid and always liked to figure things out on my own. I was always curious about music though but never took it seriously. Eventually, I took up saxophone in middle school and guitar in high school then taught myself piano in college.
T.H.E – What is the message behind the name – OTR?
OTR – I came up with the OTR name when I was in Japan. I missed the neighborhood where I lived before the move. It was the most recent feeling of home I had since at that time I was feeling pretty isolated. Even though not too many people know that OTR originates from a small area in Cincinnati called Over The Rhine, I think the main take away is that it’s supposed to symbolize a bit of nostalgia or a desire to go back to someplace you cannot go back to.
T.H.E – Love your new single, which also marks your debut on Astralwerks. How big of an achievement is it, and is it something that you always dreamed of achieving?
OTR – I hadn’t really known the “Astralwerks” label until my manager said something about them looking into me last summer. It didn’t really click what it all meant until I googled their name and was immediately floored after seeing their previous releases. At that point, I knew it was up to me to really kick things into high gear since getting their attention like that doesn’t come around often. Actually achieving it has probably been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
T.H.E – How long was “Heart” in the works, and how was it working with Shallou?
OTR – First of all, I am so grateful to the Shallou team for allowing me to work with him. He’s such a great guy and was really present during our session.
One of my other demos caught his eye initially and is what we planned to record over. But something with that instrumental and the vocals we came up with didn’t seem quite right so I scrapped the instrumental and rewrote what we have today. That took a few months of back and forth after the initial session but once we nailed down the framework of the current instrumental coupled with his chilling melodies, it was something we both instinctively knew was something we needed to get out there.
T.H.E – If you had to share 5 songs that have shaped your journey, which ones would you list?
OTR – I was greatly shaped by the music I rediscovered in college while I was teaching myself music at the time. A few are:
Sufjan Stevens – Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
ODESZA – How Did I Get Here
Big Wild – Show Me
M83 – Outro
Passion Pit – It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy
The Sufjan Stevens song I initially found in a Red Bull ad, which featured the high-altitude skydiver who basically fell from space. Since it featured all of my interests (aerospace and music alike) I knew I wanted to write music that made me feel the way that ad did.
T.H.E – Lastly, what can you tell us about your plans for 2019?
OTR – In 2019 I’ll be dropping a few more singles featuring a few very talented artists. These tracks are pretty diverse and I’m really excited to start building up this world of new music that feels more like a complete story of OTR is now and can be in the future.