Expanding the Sound of Philadelphia with Odd Kid Out
Philadelphia-based 21 year old, Odd Kid Out, oozes soulful dexterity. Having played drums since he was six years-old, he embodies all aspects of production to a point of honing his craft with an MPC. With some spectacular projects to back him, Odd Kid Out has hooked up with London artist, 1403, for a stirring new EP 'Full Circle' due to drop 7th of April.
We chat to Odd Kid out about playing music since he was 6 years old, the development and growth of his sound over the years, and what listeners can expect from the new EP Full Circle. Ayla Dhyani writes.
Your EP 'Full Circle' is set to drop 7th of April this year. What can listeners expect from the record?
Well, musically it’s a mix of Philadelphia neo-soul with an electronic, grittier, London vibe. It’s got that mix of acoustic and electronic. There are multiple facets to why it’s called Full Circle, but it’s kind of just a coming together of all of the elements and vibes to make it unique. It’s more of a laid-back, ‘vibey’ type of EP. When we sat down and made it, we went in with a mentality of “let’s just make music that we really enjoy and not worry about what’s mainstream or what’s ‘trending.’ Let’s make stuff that we love.” So that’s really the inspiration and what it kind of sounds like as well.
For sure. That’s how the best music is made. You can feel it when artists loves what they're creating. Tell us about the introduction to 1403 and the writing process behind that.
It was interesting because it was the quickest writing project that I’ve ever been a part of. So I was introduced to the singer, 1403 (his real name is Tom), through the other writer and executive producer on the project, Mitch Beer. Basically, we had a week to get everything together because that’s only how long Tom was visiting from London. The project was made within that short timeframe (of course we cleaned stuff up a bit afterwards), but the core of the project was pretty much made in that timeframe. It was a really organic writing process as far as it was essentially one person starting off a track idea and the rest of us all adding on to it. It was cool to have Tom there because he brought a vocal element that Mitch and I couldn’t. He also played a few instruments on some tracks, so it was a really cohesive unit that we built. That was pretty much it.
What’s the most personal track to you on the EP?
I think for me the most impactful track is ‘30 000 Feet.’ Mostly because I had actually been travelling a little bit before the EP was created and and I love to produce when I fly. I made a little snippet of a song that was about 15 seconds long and that ended up being the core melodic structure of ‘30 000 Feet.’ We took this musical idea from where I’m looking out the window of this airplane at these clouds in a completely different space up in the sky, and then to be grounded and have the song turn into something new. Again, that comes ‘full circle’ with everything coming together. For me, seeing the evolution of that track was really rewarding.
So you’ve worked with some pretty huge artists from a fairly young age. Is there a moment that stands out for you that really blew your mind? Was there ever this ‘rock star’ moment where what you were doing felt almost unbelievable?
There’s been a lot of moments where some pretty crazy things have happened. One of the cooler experiences was being on stage with Freddy Jackson. He’s such an R&B legend. Also, I can’t necessarily name names because nothing has happened yet, but sometimes I open up my Instagram DMs and it’s shocking to me that these calibre people are reaching out to me. I don’t consider myself successful. I feel like I’m still progressing, but to have these people that I look up to and who I’ve looked up to in my childhood who follow me, and talk to me and want to meet up with me, is really crazy. There’s been a lot of moments, but I never really felt like I could sit back and go “oh, I made it.” I’m young, so I don’t want to get too comfortable.
Having played drums for so many years, what was the significance of incorporating the MPC into your sound?
Well, I started drumming when I was 6 years old and I got my MPC when I was 16. I started producing when I was 15. But the whole reason why I could do the MPC stuff so quickly and precisely was because I spent 10-15 years learning how to play the drums. So I think having the rhythmic element as well as being a drummer and learning how to play the structure of all types of music, I was really able to have a jump start instead of just opening up the computer and having that as my first knowledge of music. I was already getting into it with an acoustic and organic knowledge of music already and had already been on stage for years. I actually didn’t realise that had any skills with the MPC until I got to college and I started doing it in front of people. People were like “Yo, what’s that? That’s super cool.” So it wasn’t until then that I was able to really market it and turn it into something on the artist side. But behind the scenes, you have to dedicate so much time and practice. It’s all a process, but having the experience to play drums beforehand was key in that development.
Your sound has developed so much between projects as well. What are your biggest musical influences?
Initially, what really got me into producing and making music was old-school hip hop. That real 1990’s era with producers like Pete Rock, J Dilla, and Madlib. All these iconic hip hop producers were really what inspired me. Even aside from hip hop, nowadays I get really inspired by all types of music. From people as big as Max Martin to people that make EDM music. I think hip hop was what gave me that breath of life in producing, but now it’s so across the map. Honestly at this point, everything I listen to really inspires me. I see it as I new thing to learn or a new thing to conquer or challenge me. I’m always looking for the next step in my sound and the next group of people that I can touch with my music.
I’m sure you get this all the time, but how do you consider yourself an ‘odd kid out?’
(Laughs), yeah I get this question a lot, but it’s still relevant. I’m pretty much a social butterfly. I love people and have literally never been in any type of fight ever, but I always felt (it sounds a little cheesy) that the way that my soul is and the way that I’ve set up my life, is not that of a normal 21 year old. Since high school, I knew that I wanted to be working on music while all my friends were doing the ‘normal’ route. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I was just on a different wavelength. I was always doing something more artistic. Ii was always looking at something in a different way. In college I was the only kid who wasn’t really giving in to ‘what you’re supposed to do.’ So, what I started realising was I love my life and I love the people around me and I’m happy and I’m not doing what people are telling me to do and I’m not doing what society says in normal. So I was thinking to myself, “I feel like there’s got to be millions of people who feel the same way that are overwhelmed by that feeling.” Odd Kid Out for me is kind of a representation of who I am; approaching things differently and just feeling a little different from everyone else. However, it’s also a safe-haven for people. I want people to look up to what I do. I would love for people to connect to my name if people are inspired by what I do. I would love for them to feel like “this is someone I look up to and they’re not normal”. I want it to be a house for people to be weird. I think it’s important to be yourself and to do what you love and not worry about what the world really thinks about you. As long as you’re not harming people. It’s very much a global name rather than just a narrative on it being about me. I want it to be about everyone. Music has saved my life so many times, so I want others to feel the same way.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
There are a few candidates that I’m always thinking about. I’m going to give you two. Nas, because he’s just one of my favourites. And then I’d honestly go in the opposite direction and say Justin Bieber.
I love Justin Bieber. Recently, I’ve really loved his music. I just think he has a great voice, and I think that I can give him a beat the would reflect a different side of him. That would be an awesome collaboration to see him step out of his comfort zone and try something different. I would love to do that.
You’re from Philadelphia. How do you find the community in Philadelphia in terms of the music scene? Do you feel supported as an artist?
Yeah, the Philly music scene is wonderful. If you look at a lot of big, touring acts, there’s always someone in the backing band that’s from Philly. The way that I see Philly is that it’s a great place to develop character and a thick skin. If you can make it in Philly, you can make it anywhere. It’s cut-throat, but it’s a great place to grow up and learn music. When you’re in the city, there’s always a studio, there’s always a session, there’s always live music somewhere, and always somebody who’s ready to play. It’s very much a stepping stone into the industry in as far as you need an out. There’s not really a big industry presence in the city. There are a lot of big hitters and a lof of big artists that come up from Philly, but they always leave because there’s not as much to offer there. I think to be stagnant in Philly as an artist is a real challenge. There’s something that’s called “The Sound of Philadelphia” that goes back to the ‘70s and ‘80s. A lot of those old soul records came from Philly and a lot of people did the style of Philly back in the day. But I think it’s important to set your view further out rather than being isolated to one area or sound. I think you’d be limiting yourself to just stay in Philadelphia. I love LA and I can’t wait to go to London, but Philly will always be my heart and soul.
On that note, what stimulates your soul?
For me, it’s being in a particular zone with music. It’s not something that I can even really define. There are times when I hear music where it absolutely hits me. It could be any kind of genre. I could be in the studio or the car and I close my eyes and listen and get to a place where I can experience the music visually. I see grids and patterns in my head when I close my eyes and am really feeling a song. That puts me into a completely different universe. It’s so inspirational for me. I can pull so much out of a track, that most people might not really get out of it. Another would be meeting people. I’m not saying intellectual people necessarily, but someone who has an interesting point of view about life or something else. I just love having those life conversations. To wonder what’s out there and why things are the way they are and to challenge some of the normalities of life. It gives me some sort of higher purpose I guess. So it comes down to good people and good music (laughs).
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Full Circle is due to drop April 7th. Stay in the loop to hear the meld of neo-soul and gritty, electro sounds of Odd Kid Out.