In Conversation with Evan Oberla

Born in the Midwest of the US, but now based in New Orleans, Evan Oberla is a unique and diverse dream-pop artist. While a multi-instrumentalist, Oberla uses the trombone as his main vehicle for musical expression. In addition to playing with several bands, he has some personal projects – one that we will be discussing in this interview. Talking about his new single ‘Kick It’, here is our chat with Evan Oberla.

Why did you enter the music industry?

I don’t think I really had a choice.  Music always fascinated me and from a very young age, I gravitated towards trying to figure out how to play the sounds in my head. There was a piano and classical guitar in the living room just waiting to be explored; music was very much encouraged. My school had a great music programme throughout my time there and I had mentors that appealed to my sense of wonder about the music. I enjoy the process of how solving one musical puzzle can lead to the whole next step and beyond.

Do you have any experience in the music field?

It’s been my career for over a decade and every day is an immersive learning experience. One lesson is to keep your ears and eyes open – you never know where a door will lead. Beyond that is trusting in your process and your instincts to be the bedrock of your decision-making. Lean into your power and voice and make sure you can stand behind your actions.

Before this quarantine I would try to quantify my career with tours, records, bands that I am in (or was in), et cetera. This pause has given me an opportunity to reflect on what it means to live an artful existence. Stepping beyond the idea of a ‘standard’ vehicle of expression and knowing that the beauty is within you and your experience. So, I’ve been just leaning into that.

Can you tell us about your recent release ‘Kick It’?

It came to be within the first weeks of quarantine while I was figuring out the new normal since all the gigs went away. I was working out how to set up my live stream game. While I was testing the sound, I played what became the bass line for the song. I kinda followed that rabbit hole and got lost in the groove and the melody came out very naturally.



Which was more difficult when producing ‘Kick It’ – the writing or recording?

The song came easily and pretty much unfolded in front of me. The melodies and parts came very swiftly and I had the whole song written in an evening. I would say I spent way more time tinkering with the sound sculpting on the recording side. I spent about a week and a half finishing up the engineering. And then you gotta let it marinate a little bit and give some space to be able to hear with fresh ears.

Who or what inspires your music and how?

The ultimate freedom of expression inspires it. The way it speaks my feelings of the world that I can’t find the words for. For the lessons of the world that others have laid down before us. My friends, my partner, my family, everyone I meet inspires songs in my life. As Charlie Parker once said, “If you don’t live it, it can’t come out of your horn.” I have found that to be absolutely true.

I look up to an artist like Miles Davis, where it wasn’t the genre or the categorisation that he created from, it was the feeling in his soul and the voice that he had that tied his work together. I hope to accomplish that process. I love all styles of music and I have a hard time sticking to just one. I know that my voice will be the connecting force because that is the life I am living and that is my story to weave into the collective consciousness of the world.

If you could perform with other local artists, who would they be and why?

Being in New Orleans, I’m grateful to play with many different incredible musicians and artists. Galactic would be a fun one. I love that they approach music in a very thoughtful way, and the songs allow the band to really perform and go in. Complex in the thoughtfulness, but always serving the song – that’s something I strive for. Plus, Corey Henry plays trombone in that band and I love the way that he plays.

What can we expect from Evan Oberla for 2020?

You can expect some more songs to be released; songs that definitely are congruent with the times that we are living. Also, I’m gonna be releasing some new music with my band, Eyope, that we recorded earlier this year.

I have been live streaming from Facebook every Tuesday. I call it the Sonic Social Healing Hour and it has been very therapeutic to do. It’s a mixture of originals I have written over the years played on different instruments and some covers which have been really cool to explore. Stuff from Allen Toussaint to Lionel Richie to The Strokes to the Jazz Crusaders to Michael McDonald. Plan to have that on Youtube soon as well.

I have an active Patreon that one can subscribe to that I update pretty much daily filled with new demos, old live recordings in my archive, poems, videos, and all sorts of things that contribute to my daily process of living the music.

Do you have a message for our readers?

I think it is very important to follow your joy and unload the stress of trying to box in or set expectations of who you are or what you make. Follow the signs around you, tap into the universal consciousness of the world; allow your success to unfold around you. There have been times I haven’t followed that ethos and, ultimately, it wasn’t worth it. You can’t force the future, so live your own story. It’s the only one like it!

Also, stand up and speak up for justice. Don’t let the narrow-minded justify the perpetuations of persecution persisting throughout the world. It’s bigger than we are.

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