At just 22-years-old, British multi-instrumentalist R&B singer, songwriter and producer ONUR is about to make some serious waves in the music industry. With his unusual production choices and silky smooth vocals, his music should make its way onto your playlists. I got the chance to talk with him about how he got started, what role London plays in his music, his debut single, “Beamin’”, and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
Well, when I was about 18, I got a guitar for my birthday! I had always wanted one but I finally had one and I just loved playing it and expressing myself through it. I first started trying to learn covers on it, but I genuinely couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice over all the songs I loved. So I had the bright idea that if I wrote the song, then I wouldn’t have anyone else to compare it to [laughs]. That’s basically when I started to write songs. I started performing in the form of high school concerts at first, but that swiftly moved on to busking, and then open mics, etc.
Was there a specific moment or person who made you realize music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
It’s kind of weird to say this but I’ve always been drawn to music, and somehow in the back of my head I always knew I’d end up being a musician [laughs]. But yeah, there kind of was [a moment] actually. The last high school concert I ever took part in, a prolific songwriter named Ed Drewett happened to be there. He gave me a standing ovation and, shortly after my performance, came to talk to me. He told me that he loved my song and my voice and that I had a bright future as a songwriter if I choose to pursue it. This was only a couple months into me learning how to play guitar and write my own songs. So it was really reassuring for me, while my craft was in its infancy, that I had potential and that this was something worth pursuing.
How much does London play a role in the music you create, whether it be referenced in the lyrics or just the overall sound of your music?
OH MY GOODNESS, so much! This city and its culture constantly inspires me and surprises me. The small nuances in slang and cultural references are also something I draw from as this is my home turf. And all of my current musical influences come from London. I just think this city is such a melting pot of culture that there’s a constant inspiration coming from somewhere. So yeah, I’d say London plays a huge role on my music.
There is something so unique about London, and I just feel blessed to be a part of it and for it to be a part of me.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So how would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you produce?
I think I produce honest music. I can’t put my name to anything I don’t vibe with or relate with. I believe that there’s a whole generation of Stevie Wonders and Princes out there that may not have an electric guitar or a grand piano, but they have a laptop and they are yearning to make honest and true music with the tools they have.
I definitely feel like my sound will evolve and change anyway, as an artist should do. So even this early on, I couldn’t pin myself to a ‘genre’ so to speak, because I know what lies ahead in the pipeline.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Prince, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo and Justin Timberlake are my all-time influences.
My current influences are Mura Masa, NAO, Jack Garratt and anything else in their vein of music.
Let’s talk about your debut single, “Beamin’.” What’s the story behind the song?
Well, I don’t really want to go into it too much, but it’s about a breakup I had that I didn’t deal with very well and couldn’t get over for a very long time. It’s basically me trying to get over [it] but failing to [laughs]. But I think the actual concept of the song can be applied to a broader theme of perseverance.
What was your writing process like for this song? Did you write it by yourself or did you collaborate with others?
For “Beamin’” in particular, the writing process was all me. I think the only other part that wasn’t me was the synthesizer in the very last chorus [laughs]. A fellow musician/good friend of mine, Lorenz Okello, played that last snippet in, as well as helped in some of the sound design. But apart from that, the actual creation of parts was all me.
You are still very new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you aim to reach in the next couple of years?
I’d like to be sitting at a table at the Brit Awards in two years time [laughs]. But I’d say my main goals are to play some festivals, sell out some venues and sign a deal of some sort if the right type of deal comes my way. Till then, I’ll graft off of my own back.
Musically, what can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Is there an EP or a full-length album release coming anytime soon?
Noooo. An album is waaaay too ambitious at this point [laughs]. But another EP is definitely on the table for next year. This year, it’s all about slowly releasing singles so people have a chance to become accustomed to me and my music.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something you nerd out about?
Custom shop Fenders, because they are genuinely the most beautiful guitars both aesthetically and sound wise. Also, music production and all the gear that comes with it, because there’s always more to discover in music, even if it is my job [laughs].