Fans of the NBC show “The Sing-Off” may remember Michael O as the leading member of Season 3 runner-up group, Dartmouth Aires. It was here that Michael O made a name for himself, wowing judges with his versatility and vocals on songs such as “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Somebody to Love”. Judge Ben Fold said Michael has a “timeless style” while Judge Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men called Michael a “freaking superstar!” Since the show Michael has gone solo and recently released a critically acclaimed EP titled “In the Beginning”. The EP landed #147 on iTunes and #5 on Itunes R&B charts. So without further ado, let’s get to know the man with the incredible voice, Michael O!
Hello, Michael! Welcome to NY. Do you come out here often?
I live in Los Angeles now so I don’t get to spend too much time out here, but I love NY!
How would you describe your style of music?
I would say it’s soul-pop. Its soul mixed with pop, R&B, electro, minimalist music…soul-pop.
Who are your musical influences?
I have a ton. Growing up my mom would play Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Freddy Mercury, so you can get the sense of who I love. At my core I love soul music. So I love Mayer Hawthorne and my influences are Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross.
How would you describe your experience on "Sing-Off"?
See, that was cool. It was something I had no idea we would do. We did it just because we wanted to hang out together in Los Angeles, then we became finalists and it really changed my life because I wasn't expecting to do this as a career. Now two years later I'm a musician. It was a happy accident.
At the age of 14 you started your own foundation, that is a young age for such a thing, how did that come about?
Basically I went to Nigeria and took pictures of kids suffering from HIV and brought it back to my high school to show a photo exhibition. People were like, wow, we really need to help these kids. I was like, well, probably the best we could do to help them is start an organization that would give back to these kids. I've been doing that for 9 years. We've helped over 350 to 400 kids with books and materials. Actually part of the proceeds when you buy my EP goes to The Mugadi Foundation, so when you buy the EP you're also helping these kids out.
Talking about helping, you also wrote a song touching on the Boston Bombings on your EP called "Champion Love", what led you to write that song?
I’m from Portland, Maine and there’s really nothing to do there but hike and read books. For fun my friends and I would go down to Boston because it’s such an awesome place. Also a lot of my friends went to school right down the street from where the bombings occurred. First day I started working on the EP was the day of the Boston Bombings. So I was in a weird, weird place. I decided to dedicate a song to them.
Can we expect more socially conscience music like this from you?
That’s interesting; I can’t really say, but I would say that everything I create will be really personal, really honest, depending how I feel that day. I want to really be myself. I just want to be me.
Your EP came out and landed number 5 on iTunes R&B chart, that’s pretty cool for your 1st release. How satisfied are you with the results?
That’s awesome! I wasn’t really expecting people to go out and buy it but I do know there are people that really support me. They’re awesome, they’ve been loyal and they’re more than fans, more like family because they have followed me ever since I’ve decided to do this as a career. I’m really thankful for that.
We see you co-produced your EP. Are you looking to get more into the production side of the business?
I respect people like Pharrell and Kanye who not only write but produce their own music-- R. Kelly as well. You just put more of yourself into your art and I respect that so much. I have a long way before I’m on their level but I won’t stop until I’m as close as possible.
How long have you been working on the production side?
I kind of have been doing production for awhile, just not really professionally. With acapella music you have to write your own music, produce it. Working on the EP was the first time actually producing in the studio.
How much input did you have in the creative process of the EP?
Everything. I did have a couple co-producers. But all the beats, concepts, the words, it’s all me.
In the press they say you have a great voice for Broadway. Is that something you would look to do in the future?
Yeah, on the “Sing-Off” they kind of based us on our theatrics. I love Broadway and think it’s really dope. It’s something I’ll maybe look to get into much later in the future. I really want to create music first.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
A ton of people. I love what Bruno Mars is doing, Frank Ocean.James Blake is a cool artist, really minimalist, really soulful music that hasn’t really been heard.
Are you still close with the other members of Aires?
I just had dinner with them yesterday. They’re like my best friends. They’ve been very supportive of me.
In closing, what can we expect to see next from Michael O?
I’m always working on new things. Hopefully you will be hearing my album next year.
Oh nice! One more question. Name one artist you would like featured on your album.
I would have to say right now, Kanye. He’s the type of artist who you can tell has a lot of influences as well. He has a lot of different ways he does things, how he’s feeling. You can tell he’s a very emotional and honest person.