the AU interview: Okenyo (Sydney)

Just announced to have signed with Niche Agency and currently touring with Jinja Safari, we catch up with Sydney rising star Okenyo.

You're currently supporting Jinja Safari on their Bay Of Fires Tour. How have the shows gone so far?

The shows have been great and people have been positive and responsive. I think I'm a bit of an unexpected support for Jinja fans because the Okenyo sound is quite different but there have been some lovely fans and supportive comments which is lovely for the beginning of this adventure.

Give us the goss on the guys - what are they really like on the road? Lots of spooning we hear...

I haven't witnessed the spooning per se but they are pretty free spirits so .. I have known Marcus Azon since I was sixteen and he and his friends always enjoyed a bit of a nudie run.

Are you changing the set up every night or using it as an opportunity to hone in on the "perfect half hour set" so to speak?

Honing the perfect set for sure. Me and my band/collaborators (four musicians under the name of Ictus) rehearsed a lot leading up to this tour so the show is pretty tight and I chose the set order carefully. Because my background is as an actor I'm used to tucking away in a rehearsal room and then after a month or so showing the complete product so in approaching this it was my instinct to go that path rather than seeing what feels better on the night.

Is this your first national tour? either way, what's the experience been like travelling around the country and is there anywhere you're looking to travel in particular?

I've toured nationally and internationally with theatre productions but this is my first time performing strictly as a musician/singer. It's been such a blast so far, really freeing and fun. I'm really looking forward to playing The Forum in Melbourne, beautiful old building and I have lots of family and friends coming.

Do you find you're picking up many new fans along the way?

It's really intriguing seeing who gets into the music and because the songs are all new originals I've been eager to hear what people think. I've been getting lots of thumbs ups on Facebook and genuine support which is cool. Best part is actually talking to people after the show though, all the internet stuff is really important but it's nice to be able to actually connect with fans.

You have worked for Cate Blanchett's theatre company. in what ways does that background inform your live performances?

I originally started writing music a couple of years ago because of personal things happening in my life at the time but also professionally I felt like I needed to expand myself as an artist. I have been a professional actress for seven years now so I think in terms of performance I am used to playing to big audiences and don't have that aspect to learn but I also am trying to use my skills and instinct for theatremaking and add that to the traditional 'gig' to create more of a show. There's not a lot of scope to do that on a support tour but I have big plans for the future!

Not many people just download an app and start a career in music (or at least that's how it seems to be...). Did you have any prior experience with music, or was it really an epiphany type of moment?

I've never trained in singing or music but I've done a lot of plays where I've sung in different styles and often in different languages so I guess my range changed the more I practiced and I also became more confident in calling myself a musician. I'd always written little bits and pieces of songs but then after going through a pretty bad breakup I felt as if there was no real option for me except to immerse myself into musical expression and turn it into something positive that I could share with other people. It's been quite an empowering experience actually and now doing this tour, it's just turned into pure fun.

How have you found your music has progressed from there?

As usual practice makes you better and I've been continually writing and trying to get better at it all. Also working with my band has been a great experience. They are all exceptional musicians with different backgrounds and approaches and so in the new songs I've been writing I now have them in mind, their personalities and nuances.

What do you have coming out musically in the near future and what can we expect from it?

There's a cool blog exclusive coming out soon, a new song I wrote and apart from that just concentrating on the tour, hopefully getting in the studio real quick!

Any other travel plans on the horizon?

Not at the moment but hopefully all my big plans come to fruition .. There are a lot of venues I would love to play locally too.

And finally... your top 3 albums of the year so far?

1. Channel Orange :: Frank Ocean
2. Feel Good :: The Internet
3. Acid Rap :: Chance the Rapper


Okenyo continues on the road with Jinja Safari through October 6th. You can check out the dates on her Facebook page here: