Interview: Othello Woolf

Othello or real name Oliver Woolf is known for his mixture of suave style and charming music. Already featured on the Guardian’s New Band of the Day, Oliver is definitely making a mark. Bearded caught up with him.

Posted on Aug 11th, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Othello Woolf / By Alex Yau
Interview: Othello Woolf Bearded: You’ve made quite an impression since your relatively obscure beginnings. How does this feel?

Othello Woolf: “That’s very kind of you to say. I guess I feel like I haven’t made that much of an impression so far. It’s still early days. I’ve just got an album really. I’ve pushed the single out and it’s a case of getting all the tracks together and having a proper album feel than just a bunch of tracks. It’s good to get an album out.”

B: You’re LP deals with heartbreak and everything that comes after. Is this all your own experience or did you take influence from others when writing it?

O: “It’s strictly mine. When I did most of these tracks, I was in a dark place wallowing in self-pity and all the other things you do. It was like a therapeutic process and they all wrote themselves. That was all on my mind at the time.”

B: When performing live do you feel you’ve gotten over such heartbreak?

O: “I’d like to say I’ve gotten over them but those kinds of experiences always linger. After that you become less trustworthy. It’s always a double edged sword when you’re a musician or a poet. On one hand, no one likes that but on the other it’s always a sure thing for you to write about. You’re looking for new things to write about. I personally have this massive fear where my new song will be the last I ever write and I’ll go into a period where I think everything I write during the next 20 years will be the same. It’s good and bad really.”

B: Do you put all your effort into songs with this fear?

O: “I try to give as much as I can every time I do a song. I always remember a quote by the Notorious B.I.G where he was like treat every record you write like it’s your first. I’m not far from my first record but it’s a good mind-set for not getting carried away. There are traps you can fall into whether it’s replicating what you did before or you have label meetings and they have certain thoughts on your tracks. All those can influence you but the important thing is staying true to yourself.”

B: You’ve also described yourself as a control freak. Did you take over every duty when recording your album?

O: “I did with the instrumentation although I didn’t mix it which was a good thing. It did take over a lot of time and I’ve been meticulous about it. When I play live, I play with a band of five and that’s come out of the recordings which have come out really well. Potentially in the future there’ll be recordings with a live feel. I’ve tried this with the current LP but you still feel it was made by just one person.”

B: Did you feel like you got closer to this with your collaborations with Bullion?

O: “It’s a different type of thing. He’s like me, quite isolated and spends a lot of time procrastinating and working on tracks ‘til it takes forever to get it done. When we got together it still didn’t have a band type feel but it helps having a couple of you there. One of the pitfalls working on your own is that you don’t have someone else to bounce ideas or stop self-doubt.”

B: You used the moniker of Othello to beat self-consciousness. Do you still get that?

O: “I think so yeah. I have always been wary of what people think of me which isn’t a particular good trait. Guess you can call it vanity. It was trying to detach myself from that so I could write more honest lyrics. It’s just a name and something that was a little blasé so I could stand proudly behind the tracks.

B: From your grandfather’s dress sense to comparisons of Roxy Music and the Smiths, there’s quite a timeless feel to you. Do you feel you belong to a different time?

O: “Not really. I think I’m in a weird position. I definitely look towards the past for influence and I’m more overall into music from the 80’s or the last decade than what is around now. I think my music has elements of old school type things but I don’t think it sounds particularly retro. I’m hard to place because I don’t fall into modern genres like dubstep, lo fi or chillwave.“