Photo Credit: Hedda Rysstad
Up & coming Norwegian indie pop musician, Jakob Ogawa is the man leading the soul-meets-synth lo-fi movement. He's quickly climbing the ranks as a young musician, playing stages around the world like Lollapalooza Argentina and opening for LANY across Europe.
On the heels of the release of his stunning new EP, April, we got a chance to hang out with the international breakout star and his guitarist, Georg Minos. We talked about everything from his first show ever, to working with Clairo, and even starting his own oatmeal brand.
Get to know this talented tastemaker favorite before he and his band embark on the Pacific Northwest leg of their Teen Angel tour and be sure to check out April!
OTW: You guys have been tour all across America on your Teen Angel tour. What's the best thing that's happened so far?
Georg Minos: Lots of highlights. The stop in San Francisco was pretty great. The venue was so cool. It was a theater with an older style.
Jakob Ogawa: Yeah, San Francisco was the most beautiful venue I've ever been to. So many great artists have played there. We just felt an amazing energy that went into our music when we were on stage. The crowd was beautiful. It was really a transcending, sort of trippy experience.
OTW: Theaters do have such a different historic energy. It feels like you're in something big. So you've got a whole set of Pacific northwest dates left. Have you guys played any of those cities yet?
Jakob: No! We haven't yet.
OTW: Oh how fun, new adventures. There's this donut shop you've got visit in Portland, I've heard about called Voodoo donuts.
Jakob: Haha nice. We'll have to check it out.
OTW: Now I know you guys are from Norway. What area are you from?
Jakob & Minos: Oslo.
OTW: Nice, I'm a huge fan of that city- well everything in Norway really.
Minos: That's good! Haha it's a very nice country. Very safe space.
Jakob: A bit too safe! (laughs)
OTW: So what's the music scene like there?
Jakob: It's very diverse. But at the same time it's not because a lot of the time people are just trying to copy each other. And then it seems like everyone is just doing the same thing-
Minos: I don't think there are many cities in Norway that have their own specific sound either. That's not a thing.
Jakob: We have some house music though!
Minos: And disco, that's a very Norwegian thing. That's one of the styles that's pretty distinctive to us.
Jakob: In Bergen, there's a super tight group of musicians who collaborate together. Versus in Oslo where people are more competitive. I think there, people are not as fond of telling each other, "Your work was beautiful. Great job." It's more like that, you know? And I don't vibe with that! I just wanna work with people.
Photo Credit: Hedda Rysstad
OTW: Now you guys have been in the game for a few years now. I'm curious what was your very first gig ever?
Jakob: My first gig was in late 2016, I think November. I was super nervous. It was so heart wrenching. So intense. There were a lot of friends there, and some family too. I was just so uncomfortable going up on stage. And the lights were hot- I got sweaty! Everything was just off for me. But I think I did a good show still.
Minos: My first show with Jakob was at a festival. He called me like a week before and asked me to play there with him. (laughs) And it was the biggest crowd I've ever played for.
OTW: That's insane. You gave him just a week in advance?! I could never.
Minos: That was interesting. It was a good concert though.
Jakob: We had a great time! It was a really nice time.
OTW: Many of your newest fans were first introduced to you after your song with Clairo on "You might be sleeping." How did this collaboration come about?
Jakob: That was funny. So I had two weeks before I needed to release a single and I wasn't sure about the single I had in mind. So I just started making a new song, like why not? It had a great vibe to it but I felt something was missing. Then I went on Soundcloud and I knew Clairo from her music, but had never formally met her. And I just sent her a message on Soundcloud! She was a big fan, and we just hit it off. Then I sent her some lyrics and melodies, she sent it back and we had it done in like two days. I sent it to my label and done.
OTW: And they were like, "Yes!" What a cool origin story.
Jakob: Yeah we were lucky it was quite easy.
OTW: I feel like people often have to pull a lot more teeth to get to work other really cool people.
Jakob: Right, it's nice when it's just personal. You know? It's not management, you just contact them yourself. Like Instagram is perfect for that.
OTW: So who else are your dream collaborators?
Jakob: There's so many good artists out there. Blood Orange is amazing. He's such a special individual. He's an artist. And as for bigger artists, I think it would be cool to do something with Noname. And of course Frank [Ocean]!
OTW: Speaking of working, your brand new EP, April, comes out tomorrow, what's it all about?
Jakob: I actually have a lot of songs, and only a few of them are on this EP. More of them are going to come out next year on a bigger release. So this is like a "mini EP" I pulled out a few songs from this period. I started making it after getting into a relationship, and all these moments and experiences with this person made me really inspired to put words and music out and put that emotion into my music. It's just based upon moments and these small things that you feel during a relationship: kind of sweet, kind of hard, kind of aching. But it has definitely been a really important experience for me to be in a relationship like that because we were together for over two years, and it was very intense. I've definitely had to face a lot of things within myself. And to be able to live with someone is – I mean she was different from me in a lot of ways, so that was a big new challenge.
OTW: Of course, you've got to adjust a lot when you live with someone.
Jakob: Right, and I'm a Gemini! So my sh*t is all messed up. I've got two sides! It's not always that easy to see eye to eye. And sometimes it was hard, while sometimes it was so beautiful. But the EP is based upon that core theme. And there are a lot of new songs I've been making lately that are more direct and organic, almost more me because I'm young. I'm developing myself and trying to figure out where I want to go in life – and I'm slowly getting there. It's a beautiful process. Music is art and art is supposed to flux. If music is flat then it's generic and I don't vibe with that.
OTW: That's great. We as listeners get to uncover more about who you are, and who we are, through your music. So tell me what's your favorite track from the project?
Jakob: I would say it's "April." Or "Atari," but "Atari" is much more of a hard song for me to listen to because I made it when I was in a very weird space. I almost felt alienated when I made it. I was sort of out of myself, angry, and frustrated. But I was still really in love with this person, so I guess I was just trying to find a way to express that. I was willing to sacrifice a lot for this person, but they wouldn't necessarily do that for me. But this was pretty early on in the relationship and we didn't really have a solid foundation yet.
OTW: Now I know at one point you had a pet lizard called Jonathan…. And he once escaped. Is Jonathan still with us and does he disappear often?
Jakob: Jonathan is around. He's definitely with us, spiritually. But he is no longer with us, in the physical sense.
Jakob: He is gone. I ended up finding him behind a dumpster. So he was lost, and then found. I had to pick him up. I gave him some warmth and then buried him in my yard. It was so hard.
OTW: Jeez! I did not expect that ending! Truly was hoping for a happier story but- I guess he's still around.
Jakob: Yes he's still "around." He used to have such beautiful outfits.
OTW: You dressed him up?
Jakob: Oh yeah! You can dress up whatever! You can dress up a rat, you know? We were in New York, you know there are a ton of rats there.
Minos: Tons of rats.
Jakob: And I met a girl there, and she told me she was a big fan of rats. (room erupts in laughter). But she was talking about pet rats, and I kind of understood where she was coming from. Have you seen them? They're kinda cute! They're not that big. And they'll follow you around. They look like little mice.
OTW: No no no. I think I'd much rather have a pet lizard than a pet mouse!
Jakob: Yeah, they are weird. I would never have one myself but I kind of get why she liked them. And apparently they're really smart like humans- they just eat garbage! (laughs)
OTW: This'll be a fun set of questions then. I saw on Twitter you said you wanted to have your own brand of Oatmeal. What flavors would the oatmeal line include?
Jakob: Oh wow you really dug in! If I was to have a series brand of oatmeal, it's gotta be good. There's a couple of things you need to be aware of. Maple syrup, you need a bit of salt too. That combination right there. And not too much water- wow, then you've got a great oatmeal. You get the perfect amount of sweetness. You shouldn't taste the salt, it's there to balance the sweetness.
Minos: There'd be one with blueberries too.
Jakob: And another with cashews. That's fire right there. We'd call it Jakob's Oatmeal.
OTW: This is a merch idea. I swear people would buy it. If your music was a color, what color would it be?
Jakob: Turquoise, that's my color. And burgundy, yeah, pretty feminine colors. Oh and a really strong blue. Those three. But I do love light pink, yellow, and green. A lot of different colors.
OTW: You should come out with a line of crayons too, with only those colors. That and the oatmeal.
Jakob: It's not a bad idea!
Photo Credit: Hedda Rysstad
OTW: Right now on Twitter people are doing a #concertchallenge. Can I do a quick fire round of those questions with you?
OTW: First concert?
Jakob: I think I saw Clipse, Neyo, or Prince. I can't remember which was first, but it was one of them. And I remember all the shows, my mom took me.
OTW: Most recent concert?
Jakob: We saw Patrice Rushen at a Jazz club in NYC. That was amazing. The saxophone player was beautiful, and the bassist was so groovy.
OTW: Next concert?
Jakob: Well, that would be ours on Oct 17th in Denver!
OTW: Best concert?
Jakob: Probably Prince. He was standing on a piano, pulling people up on stage, and shaking his hips. Incredible
OTW: Who've you seen the most?
Minos: Dungen, there a Swedish band. Their show is also one of the best I've ever been to. They're the main inspiration for Kevin Parker.
OTW: Who do you still want to see?
Jakob: An intimate Frank Ocean show.
OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?
Jakob: Kelly Finnigan, I think he's amazing. He just dropped his debut album and it's crazy good. It's soul music made with exclusively analog gear, and you can really hear it.
Minos: And Ric Wilson, that's our dude.
Jakob: We want to do something with him soon.
Grab tickets to see Jakob this fall here!