Hold on tight as we pull back the curtain on the upcoming musical masterpiece, “25,” by the enigmatic artist Only Okay. In this exclusive interview, we take a thrilling ride through the inspiration, challenges, and untold stories that have shaped Only Okay and his eagerly anticipated album.
“25” is not just an album; it’s a carefully crafted chapter in a larger-than-life series, offering an intimate glimpse into the year that was 2023. Only Okay spills the beans on the creative process, revealing how this musical saga serves as a captivating time capsule, preserving the artist’s journey through the highs, lows, and unexpected twists of the past year.
Leading the charge is the magnetic single “I Am Building,” a track that not only showcases the artist’s musical prowess but also sets the stage for the grand symphony that is “25.” The interview takes us on a backstage tour of Only Okay’s creative process, offering insights into the commitment to monthly EP releases—a journey that’s not just a stylistic evolution but a testament to the transformative power of unwavering dedication.
Beyond the studio walls, Only Okay’s music extends into the social realm, tackling issues of mental health and positivity. With performances at prestigious events like The International Arts and Peace Festival, the artist transcends the stage, using their music as a catalyst for change.
Congratulations on your upcoming album, “25”! Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this project and the significance of the title?
25 is the second album in a series of 4 albums that I will be dropping over the next few years, the first was 24, and the next two being 26 and 27. This was a plan that I made for myself back in 2021, and I have utilized the 25 album to tell the story of how my year went. I am hoping to be able to look back on this project as sort of a time capsule for 2023- the good, the bad, and everything else that happened during the course of my year.
You’ve mentioned that the album covers themes like addiction, mental health, and eliminating self-doubt. How did personal experiences or societal observations shape the narrative of “25”?
I write from personal experience in my songs because I feel my story is one that needs to be told. Mental health has always been my biggest struggle in life, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was 16, and in 2021 I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Music has allowed me to live above these labels by giving me something to focus on every day. Self-doubt is something I’ve been able to eliminate with the help of songs like “Unstoppable” and “Upside Down”- high energy songs make me feel like I can do anything and there is nothing holding me back, which is why there are a bunch of them on this album.
The title “25” suggests a reflection on a specific age and period in your life. Looking back, are there pivotal moments or experiences that had a profound impact on your artistic identity and style?
When I was 25 I went to the studio at least once a week for the entire year- I was pretty much either at work or at the studio. Being in that environment often is what allowed me to stay so focused and creative throughout the releases of my monthly EPs, going to the studio so much was definitely a high point of my year. Some low points include my grandmother passing away in the summer and my grandpa the day after Christmas. I was able to talk about both of these losses on my song “Cardinals” which has helped me process most of those tough emotions.
“I Am Building” is the single from your upcoming album. Can you share the story or message behind this particular track and why you chose it as the lead single?
“I Am Building” is towards the end of the album but I wanted to lead with it as the first single because I feel like the song speaks to my values and gives an insight into what the album is going to be like. The song starts off really high energy and is written like an “I Am” poem – with every line starting with “I Am”, and in the middle the beat changes and slows down so I can explain that I am nothing without my team and the people around me. With so many people involved in the creation of this album and all the big plans that we have for it, I felt like it was the right song to lead with.
With a consistent release of monthly EPs since January 2023, how has this creative process influenced the development of your style and sound in hip-hop?
The monthly EPs allowed me to experiment with different sounds in hip hop as well as some other genres. I ended up putting out 45 new songs last year, and I think about how much my sound changed from the beginning of the year to the end, and it makes me think if it would have taken me 10 years to put out 45 songs, I dont think I would have seen as much progress as I did this past year in terms of creativity. I went in with a plan to drop a new 4 song EP every month for the whole year and made myself stick with it even when I felt stuck, and I am thankful for everyone that I was able to work with throughout the whole process.
Your performances at The International Arts and Peace Festival reflect a connection to broader themes. How do you see your music contributing to or engaging with social and cultural conversations, especially in the context of events like this?
I see my music as a way to directly inform people about the things I learn, so I can hopefully make their lives easier or help them deal with whatever they might be going through. I am using my music as a way to educate above all else, a way that others can learn from my experience. I am all about spreading positivity and music gives me a platform to do so. In the future, I want to change how easily mental health services are available, making things like therapy more affordable and accessible to people that need help, and I believe that in time we will end certain stigmas surrounding mental health- I will be doing my part.
Beyond music, do you engage in other forms of artistic expression or creative outlets that contribute to your overall inspiration and growth as an artist?
I have a journal that I write in almost every day, just when I feel I need it. This gives me a way to think through things I am currently worrying about in a different way than writing songs. I have found that writing about some of my past traumas as short stories instead of lyrics has helped me deal with them and get to a place of acceptance. I have been working on an autobiography for the past 4 years as another way of creative expression. I was an English major in school, so anything to do with words or writing is perfect for me, words are my art.
Looking ahead, you mentioned plans for more shows and continued music creation i 2024 Are there specific venues or festivals you hope to perform at, and what can fans expect from your live performance
My biggest goal for 2024 is to do as many shows as possible, last year was about making the songs, this year will be about performing them. We are going to focus on booking local venues like The Shelter or The Blind Pig as a way to get word of mouth spreading in my immediate area, but I am always open to traveling somewhere new that my music takes me. At my shows this year, I’m gonna be exclusively performing the songs off the 25 album, so I could have up to an hour and a half set if I am able to play the whole album. I like to start off really high energy, slow it down in the middle and make you think a little bit, and then end it on a high note again. I give it my all when I’m on a stage, I prepare from the mindset of an athlete and think of shows as the big game where it’s time to leave it all on the field. There’s gonna be a lot of shows this year, I hope to see you at one of them !