Interview/ Music: Oli Morris

Bristol Saxophonist Releasing Debut Jazz/Neo Soul Single
Photo by Sam Gould.

Acquaint yourself with the soothing jazz/neo-soul sound of Bristol’s Oli Morris‘ and his enticing debut track ‘Bimal’.

Out on Friday, the song is a beautiful ode and reflection on his journey backpacking around India.

The track takes its name from a Naad yoga teacher Morris stumbled upon under a banyan tree in Arambol. The song’s root was centred “around him and how his teachings have helped me come to terms with my anxiety to really appreciate my experience for what it was. In the beginning of the track you can hear a snippet of one of his lessons I recorded on my phone.”

Bimal is an immersive and introspective glance into the anxieties and frustrations we often withhold. A tale of two halves, Oli addresses “the bitterness I felt about the environment around me” in the first half. “All the frustrations that come with moving from city to city. Whether the transport is always late, someone trying to take advantage of you, or when you finally get to your hostel and find that it’s an absolute tip.”

“The second half is really about the reflection on the journey, letting these practices I’ve shared with Bimal and his group just run through me and to just have gratitude that I’ve managed to have this incredible experience and to be able to express it with some incredible musicians and friends.”

To mark the coming release, we talk to Oli, so what’re you waiting for? Jump into the track above and get to know Oli below.

Hi Oli. What are you up to at the moment?

What’s up Twistedsoul. Thanks for having me! I’m working on getting my chops back in shape ready for a busy summer ahead. Tricky part at the moment is just finding the time to practice!

What first got you into music, and when did you start writing music?

I knew a guy in high school who was a really good jazz guitarist. We really clicked and loved jamming with one another. He introduced me to Blue Train by John Coltrane, and that really started my love for old jazz records. I was big into Radiohead at that time as well. In Rainbows and Kid A had a huge effect on me. I would regularly watch the Scotch Mist videos of when they were recording IR and thinking this is definitely something I still want to be doing when I’m in my 40s.

I started writing music when I was about 18 and started using Pro Tools at university. I could never really finish songs, let alone release anything, and would basically just sit on compositions left on my laptop. I’ve always really enjoyed writing music, but it took me ages to actually be able to finish a project.

Do you remember your first live performance, and how was it?

I was 9 years old doing a cover of A Hard Day’s Night. My mom showed me a video of me playing that night (I think it was for a school talent show?), and it still makes me laugh. I think it went well, but I probably should’ve chosen a more enjoyable song! I was rocking an untucked white shirt, my dad’s work tie, jeans and big blue Adidas shoes. I wish I still had the sense of style I did back then…

Can you share some details about the recording process of ‘Bimal’? How do you develop the ideas for the track, and how did you connect with Eli Jitsuto and Chrissie Huntley?

It basically started as an impetus to start writing more music on Logic, so I set myself a task to just write a song every day. I started just looping some minor chords around with the stock drums pluggin on Logic but got bored pretty quickly, so I’ve just messaged my friend Andee and asked if he would be down to lay some drums over the top of it. The song pretty much took a form of its own after that and I started messaging some of my favourite musicians in Bristol to see if they wanted to get involved. Everything on the track was recorded remotely during lockdown, and I thought it would be really cool to see how everyone’s influences would synergise together.

I’m good friends with Chrissie and feature in her band as well. I love the fusion of clean and polished vocals over a gritty hip hop groove that was so big in the 90s, and I knew Chrissie was perfect for the job. I asked her to write the lyrics and top-line to Bimal as well, and she totally aced it.

I met Eli at one of the jams Snazzback put on at the Galiamaufry a few years ago, and we’ve been friends since. He played on a gig at my local falafel restaurant a few months ago as well. He’s got this really crispy and warm tone that came through in Bimal so well. Also, we both grew up in LA and really like basketball (both love the Lakers, hate the Clippers…). Shame he can’t dunk, though. Or shoot. In fact, he’s generally pretty useless on the court.

Tell us about your growth as an artist in the lead-up to your debut track?

As tough of a period as it was, I saw myself develop a lot during lockdown. I bought a new mic and used it for posting transcriptions and jams on my Instagram page every week. I even wrote a few beats on Logic just to start jamming along to and posted them up as well. I went through a phase of really enjoying that for a few months then got a bit bored, so I just sort of pushed myself to write a song and send it to my friends and be like, hey! I wrote this thing! Wanna get involved? I wish I could’ve started doing this sooner: it was such a fun process, and seeing your own composition change overtime is incredibly thrilling.

How would you describe your sound?

In general sound’s just something I’m always working on and prioritising when I’m practicing. I’d say for Bimal, it’s more of just trying to find something that accompanied the rest of the instrumentation. I try to shape my solos as a way of telling a story. To me, that’s way more important than playing fast or regurgitating the same jazz language that’s been recycled for the last 70 years.

Are there any instruments that you would like to learn how to play?

Everyone who’s seen my room knows it’s just full of different instruments. I wish I could play all of them better! I bought a bass last year and started writing music with that recently too… that’s really helped a lot with my songwriting.

How do you think Bristol has affected your sound?

The music scene in Bristol is incredible. It’s just a massive creative hub of all these different musicians. There’s not really a huge sense of competition here either, and there’s a really strong sense of community.

Which artists from the Bristol music scene should we keep an eye on?

Chrissie’s got a new single coming out on the 7th; that’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for. But yeah, in no particular order: T L K, Slowe and Rwkus.

What else have you got in store for the rest of 2021?

I play in a band called Cut Capers, and we’ve got a couple dozen dates this summer around the UK, so I’m really looking forward to that. I’m playing at Chrissie’s show at the Grain Barge this Thursday which should be really fun too. When at home, I’m either writing, transcribing or recording for other people’s projects. I’m really looking forward to jam sessions opening up again, catching up with people I haven’t seen in ages and seeing more live music. That’s what it’s all about, man!

CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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