“Sit in the track”: songwriter Ossey James on immersing yourself in music production.

Ossey is an up and comer whose talents include singing, songwriting, audio engineering, music and film production. Originally from Chicago, he moved to LA to expand his career opportunities. Born with a passion for music, he plays several instruments, including guitar and piano.

As a singer songwriter, Ossey’s music influences come from his parents, who played the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder during his childhood, as well as from his brother and friends who listened to rap, R&B and rock. He began songwriting around the age of thirteen and has not stopped since. His talents in this field have allowed him to work with several Grammy nominated producers and artists, as well as talent from Atlantic and Universal Records.

Tell us about your musical journey. How did you get into singing?

I was surrounded by many different musical and vocal influences my whole life. Through all that, the main thing was that I could feel music, and it felt good to let those emotions tied to music out in my own creative vocal way.

I always wanted to sing, but I had a number of vocal and sinus issues that greatly affected not only my singing voice, but my speaking voice as well. For years I had symptoms which prevented me from singing before getting myself checked out. I ended up having to have three corrective procedures and since then, have spend many years learning my voice all over again. After much uncertainty and doubt of my ability, I developed it into what it is today and use it to deliver a meaningful emotional element to my music.

What is it you hope to accomplish as a singer and songwriter?

It would probably be for my music to be heard in the way that it’s created, meaning for people to really have some sort of emotional reaction to what they are listening to. Sound and music are connected in our minds and bodies. The stories I tell in my music are meant to give perspective and provoke thought. To be able to make a great living on that and keep having the ability to share and get through to people on a deeper level would be my musical dream as a whole. And if my voice is attached to it, even better.

Is there a particular warm up process you have before recording?

It depends on my environment and mood. I like to do the music when I am at my creative high points. I don’t want the work that I do to feel forced or like another routine gig. It’s got to resonate with some degree of authenticity. I also tend to record in the evening after my voice has been warmed up from the day and I am actually awake!

Tell us about your songwriting process – is there a particular way you tackle the topline?

It completely depends on the session environment: am I alone? Is it two, three, four writers or producers? When writing in a group I like to hear everyone’s conceptual ideas and typically I am the one that molds them all together into one solid concept. When I am writing solo, I take my time to just “sit in the track”. I feel what kind of mood is happening, where I would be if I was inside this track and it had a physical environment. Your environment can change or influence your mood, so being in that world can open up a whole new place for inspiration or creativity.

What’s your favourite record that you have performed on?

A lot of original things are some of my favorites, but I work with other Vocalizr artists who are actually friends of mine in real life. The things we work on together are always great. There was a song I did called Legends that I really enjoy. Also a very personal mood song like I did with producer Cam Colston.

Who would you most like to work with, and why?

I would love to work with, Ryan Tedder from One Republic. I feel as a writer and a vocalist he is incredible and all of the band’s music has such great depth and variety. It keeps them sounding large and fresh consistently. I’d also enjoy working with Fallout Boy and perhaps John Legend. I guess the list could go on and on!

Who is your favourite singer? Why?

I think Brandon Boyd from Incubus might be one of my favorite singers because, he always has an extremely clever way to get you to feel something. The dynamic range of his performance capabilities is amazing and he adapts his music into his entire lifestyle. I think certain elements of that are key to being a legend forever.

Do you have a home studio? If so, tell us about your setup?

I do have a home studio. It’s been fairly basic over the years until just recently. I work with the following:

Protools 12.5

Native Instruments Komplete 10 Ultimate

Waves Plug-ins

Mics from Blue, Sterling Audio, MXL and now the Slate Digital VMR VMS

I used to use an Mbox2 up until a few months ago, switch to a Scarlett 2i2, and then just decided to go big or go home and got the UAD Apollo Twin Duo.

Do you have a favourite microphone? If so, why?

There are so many great mics that have produced great sounds for me, both as a vocalist and a producer. I’d go with the Slate Digital VMR VMS, but also can never go wrong with a U87.

How did you find singing jobs before Vocalizr?

To be upfront, I didn’t really, they sort of found me. I wasn’t really a signer, or at least didn’t put myself out there as one, until I finally got some encouragement from a collaborator. Over the years I would sing in songwriting sessions and would be told I should sing or would be asked to do the vocals, so I decided to take a journey down that path and it fortunately happens to be working out for me!

Has Vocalizr opened doors for you?

Yes, in a few ways. Financially it has provided a boost. It has also connected me with producers and different styles of music from around the world which have both challenged me and helped me grow as a songwriter, artist, and musician. It has also grown my fan base and recognition in the business. I had the pleasure of working with DJ and Producer Jaytech, who has been around the industry forever! He was gracious enough to invite me into the DJ booth at one of his shows at Avalon in Hollywood, that was a personal highlight.