D.C.-born, Berlin-based singer/producer Olivier St. Louis (formerly Olivier Daysoul) has made a name for himself through his collaborations with renowned electronic music producers like Onra and Hudson Mohawke, as well as through his role as a member of Oddisee’s tight live band, Good Company. In that context his latest, Ever Since The Fall, represents something of a stylistic departure.. Packed with dark, electrifying tones, and St. Louis’s bold, sanctified vocals, Ever Since the Fall is a majestic collection of polished, elegant guitar rock that’s deeply informed by the blues. During rehearsals in preparation for his U.S. tour with Oddisee, we spoke with St. Louis about his newest project and the art of infusing new songs with the spirit of old traditions.
So, could you give a little insight into your background and how you got into music?
Sure. My mother’s Haitian and my father’s Cameroonian. I was born and raised in Washington D.C until the age of 10. Then, I spent the rest of my formative years—up to the age of 18—studying in England at a boarding school. Although I came from a family that prided itself on education first, there was a great appreciation for music. We have a few opera singers and some classically-trained pianists in the family. Although it was mostly classical, there [was sometimes] soul, jazz, and funk often playing in the background at home. My mother was a big fan of Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye, and The Brothers Johnson. So I was influenced by music very early on. I didn’t really consider music as a career, however until I was at university. A random meeting with someone on the bus, while en route to returning a mic to record some demos, introduced me to a whole music scene in D.C. that I wasn’t entirely aware of at the time. Everything branched off from there.
The whole D.C., Maryland and Virginia music scene is packed with great musicians.
Yes, there’s definitely a lot in the DMV.
Can you talk about how you made the jump from being a novice to releasing music?
Sure. I started off becoming somewhat known as a hook singer for local hip-hop artists in D.C. and the Maryland area during my off time from university in the U.K. When I graduated from university and started working as a scientist [St. Louis completed a Bio Science degree at Oxford —ed.], I bought Pro Tools, an Mbox and cheap studio gear, and would record music at night when I would come from the lab. Being introduced to the internet and MySpace allowed me to post stuff up and connect with other musicians and artists around the world. Chance collaborations with some artists led to some releases in the underground that became popular. Before long, I garnered enough reputation that I had producers requesting features to the point I could charge for my time.
And you were going by Olivier Daysoul at the time?
Yes, that’s right. It took forever for me to change that name.
What compelled you to change it?
I was spending so much time lending and adapting my voice to so many production styles, I never found my own signature. Furthermore, being a featured vocalist on a other producers’ music materialized financially to an extent—but not in reputation. I wasn’t really building a brand. So the moment I started going into producing for myself and found my sound, it just felt right to finally change to my original name. Plus my friends kept bugging me to change it [laughs].
I noticed that the music on the new EP has a really distinct rock-soul vibe that puts me in the mind of a lot of those great artists who had emerged in the early 2000’s: Cody Chesnutt, Martin Luther, Chocolate Genius, etc.
Thanks man, I love Cody and Martin. Both very dope. Being at boarding school in predominantly white British surroundings, amongst a lot of other genres of music, blues and rock were always prevalent—old and new. However, when I discovered my love for the guitar, and upon revisiting all of the music I was listening to, I realized all of that was influenced by artists like Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Albert, B.B. King etc.—It just affirmed my love for blues, rock and guitar. I just felt like it was a part of my heritage, and it increased my passion for the genre, and more importantly, the instrument.
And do you typically start songs on guitar? Is that the instrument you write with?
Mostly, it all happens in my head. I’ll record it on my phone and materialize it in my studio space when I get home. Along the way, producing it, I’ll discover something different, that might take the production in a different direction. That’s always a fun occurrence.
And you’re out touring right now?
Soon. Right now, rehearsing. On top of my own music and touring I am the guitarist for Oddisee, as 1/6th of his band Good Company. The cool thing is I am also his opening act. So I start the show with Good Company as Olivier St. Louis and then retract into the band to play for Oddisee after my set. One complete unit. Touring starts for me with my own band The Danger Robinson in February and I’ll be bouncing back and forth between myself and Oddisee and Good Company throughout 2017.
— John Morrison