Insight Interview: Owsey

We caught up with celebrated Irish producer and friend of Insight Owen Ferguson (aka Owsey) to talk about his music and the future of the underground scene. Catch his story here…

Hey Owsey, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?

Hey man, no problem at all. Thanks for having me. I’m currently based in Northern Ireland, and haven’t travelled much in a few years now other than around Ireland itself.

Can you recall your first real exposure to music?

Not exactly, but to the best of my recollection I became interested in music during my time in the West of Ireland. I was too young to make much sense of it, but it must have left some impression. It was mainly traditional folk and also sort of left-field sounds of the time.

How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?

Honeyruin, who you recently interviewed, was making sort of ambient demos around 10 years ago in FL Studio, and so I picked it up around the same time. At first I was just making stupid electronic tracks for my friends’ birthdays, and generally taking the piss with it all, but after a year or so I picked up my first microphone, interface and monitors, and it became a serious hobby soon enough.

Can you describe your music for us?

Nowadays it falls mainly on the cinematic/ambient spectrum, but I’ve made all sorts of things over the years, so it’s difficult to summarise. I’m in the process of creating a few separate aliases for other styles. I’ve made hundreds of tracks over the years that don’t ‘sound like Owsey’ that I’d eventually like to release. I even had a band for a couple of years that finished loads of tracks and about 40 unfinished ideas that we’ve never even rendered from the DAW. 

Have you played live recently? Would you like to do more shows or tours in future? Anything coming up soon you’d like to tell us about?

I haven’t played live since 2012 in London. I’d need some sort of chamber orchestra or large band to make it appealing for anyone to watch. Maybe in the future. I have the stage presence of a snail, not exactly enthusiastic to be on it.

What have been your biggest influences?

Musically, I’ve been into Jacob Collier quite a lot. His understanding of all things musical is truly impressive.  Tool & A Perfect Circle are also back on my listening radar after years, no idea why.  Aside from that, the usual mundane things everyone has heard before. Particularly love spending time in the ocean, preferably surfing.

Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?

No doubt both, they’re sort of interchangeable. For instance, a good mixing engineer gets creative with his mixdowns to make them sound good – it’s not just a matter of pushing faders and pan pots.

Do you tend to find the creative process a cathartic or therapeutic experience? Has creating music helped you cope with difficult times in your life?

I’d go with therapeutic out of those two options. At the moment making music just feels challenging more than anything else – not in a stressful sense, but it can be difficult pushing boundaries and coming up with unique material.

Any new collabs or joint projects on the horizon?

Quite a few, but I’m not sure if I’m really supposed to say anything at this stage. I’ll hopefully have some more info on that front soon enough.

Any new genres or musical styles you’d like to explore in future?

I’ve been writing some Jazz and kind of old ballroom-sounding pieces which I hope to release eventually. I’m also quite into some (i.e. not a lot of) current pop music, but that’s something for another time.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of underground musical styles? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

I guess it depends on what scene you’re talking about, but I’m sure that underground music isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it’s pretty clear that some of the underground is surfacing and presenting itself in the mainstream. I think certain scenes have left their heyday for sure, but things move on.

Any artists or other individuals / collectives you’ve not worked with yet that you’d like to work with in future?

I’d love to get working on something with my man Sorrow again. Who knows, maybe one day we can revive the ‘Sweetheart of Kairi‘ alias.

Do you have a favourite track / song of all time? Favourite artist?

Honestly, it’s most likely Utada Hikaru’s ‘Sanctuary.’ I really love the production on it. I’m not sure who my favourite artist(s) would be, maybe older Mew, and Sun Kil Moon.

It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?

I wouldn’t say it’s hard as such, but it definitely requires many years of work to get truly good at, unless you’re particularly gifted. Especially if you want to do everything yourself, i.e. not hiring session musicians, thereby playing every instrument yourself/producing/songwriting/theory/mixing/mastering. And then there’s the business side of thing like distribution and promotion, which I’m frankly terrible at. I didn’t even really know that Spotify was a thing until late last year, which is where independent artists source the majority of their income. So I’m playing a huge game of catchup.  

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring young producers?

Unfortunately I can’t think of any words of wisdom to impart. I mean, don’t throw all your eggs in one basket, learn bits and piece from all of the departments I mentioned above, and perhaps more importantly make a variety of styles. Also, get on Spotify sooner than I did.

And finally – are there any tracks / artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?

My friend, Kevin, releases music under the alias of Valdenan – he writes really lovely music.

Thanks so much Owsey!

Thank you!

Owsey’s music is available on Spotify, here, or SoundCloud, here.