Oly Sherman’s career is on the up-and-up. A fresh face on the Sydney indie-folk scene, Sherman has a tour with Australian music royalty The Whitlams under his belt and just released the impressively realised EP, Three Oh Three. FIB had a chat with the artist about his influences, his creative process and what we can expect from him next.
What first inspired you to pursue music?
The first thing that inspired me… I’d done music all throughout school, and I actually started playing guitar. And it wasn’t until a few assessments in that I randomly started singing and people said I should start singing. And I think that kind of comes back to the people that have been with me from the start. Good friends, teachers. It’s a little bit corny but I think they’re the ones that inspired me to do it, because they kind of believed in me before I kind of believed in myself. I think the people that inspired me where just the people around me.
So, a lot of people have encountered your music through Triple J, specifically Unearthed. How has Unearthed helped you to get your music out there?
Unearthed has been really, really cool. I remember the first song that I ever kind of recorded and wrote and produced, I chucked it up there not really thinking anything of it, I didn’t really know it correlated between Triple J listeners and presenters looking at tracks and stuff like that. I uploaded it and checked maybe a week later and it had all these hits. You know, triple j presenters commenting on it and giving it reviews. And eventually it just ended up on the radio… it was a really cool thing because I didn’t think that would ever happen. Its definitely a cool little portal for artists to put stuff up.
You grew up around Sydney’s North Shore. How important is the local Sydney music scene to young musicians like yourself?
I think the Sydney music scene as everyone might know, has been a bit lacking. I think there’s a strong enough bond between those who do get around and do play that it still remains quite important for upcoming musicians. So, for me, the scene has been important. All the gigs I’ve played and all the cities I went to other than Sydney, that’s where I met the closest people I play with now. I’d say especially in the Sydney scene, it’s so important who you meet and then depending on who you meet, how you go and where you go, yeah.
Now, it’s just been announced that the lockout laws will be relaxed in the CBD. Have you noticed the music scene being affected by the lockout laws?
I haven’t actually seen first-hand any changes, but I guess I haven’t been just in the city while it’s happening at that time. There’s no doubt this will have a difference because one, I think businesses will stay open longer. Two, the vibe will just be a lot better. For people staying out and people going out. At the end of the day it’s an amazing thing to happen.
You recently toured with Australian music royalty, The Whitlams, what was that like? Were you a fan of their music beforehand?
Touring with The Whitlams was really, really cool… when I got asked to do that, I only knew a couple of their songs because my parents played them when they were younger. So, I was apprehensive about how that was gonna go because my music was quite contemporary in comparison to theirs.
So, the first show I played with them was in Tasmania and they were all super nice and you could tell how many gigs they’d played, how rehearsed they were and how well-rounded their performance was. I went solo and I played before them and the crowd obviously was older as well, and just the kind of response really helped in a way, and their advice as well was really, really cool. Yeah, I tell people that I supported The Whitlams, especially older people and they go “What?! That’s super crazy!” So, I’m stoked that I got that opportunity.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
I have two solid influences. The first being I think vocally for myself would have to be Matt Corby… Someone I’ve just gone back to all the time. The way he can project his voice and the power he can show and he can kind of just make a room stop especially when he’s by himself which is cool. It sounds super corny but he’s just one that I come back to.
The second band who has definitely influenced me is a band by the name of War On Drugs. And in this case it’s quite the opposite. Vocally I would say isn’t as strong an influence, but the way the music is structured you can just see there’s so much freedom there. Some songs go for ten minutes… it’s the type of music that I can definitely listen to all the time. And if can create a song that’s remotely similar to that it’s already one of my favourite songs because of how it can make me feel and how I try to emulate the instrumentation that they do.
I’ve seen you being compared to Matt Corby a fair bit, how does that feel?
Yeah, I guess it’s always nice being compared to someone of that status. It’s always really nice to hear. It’s weird because sometimes people say, “That sounded like Matt Corby”, and I’m like, “No, I’m trying to get away and make my own thing”. But I guess, you know, I can’t really complain being compared to someone like that.
What is your process like when you’re writing a song?
My process of writing a song changes all the time. It probably changes every time I sit down in a studio. I think for some of the songs that I just released I had the ideas floating around on my computer and hard drives for months and months. And then there were songs that just came to me in a matter of hours which was cool. Yeah, I don’t think I could pick a process I have, it’s more what feels good in that moment, what feels good on the day. And whatever’s happened to me in the week prior. And it all gets mashed up in my head and whatever I play is what comes out.
I think I’ll always go into the studio with the objective to write something that I’m going to release rather than just jamming all the time. Which has its positives and negatives.
You’ve just released your EP ‘Three Oh Three’, can you talk a bit about what the title track and what the EP as a whole means to you?
My latest EP ‘Three Oh Three’, if I had to put it down to just a little chunk… its definitely the most honest work I’ve done. The title track is kind of metaphoric in a way, its about something that happened to me after an earlier operation, and its also kind of just what my mind was going through at the time of writing it. And that’s the same with my other track as well. Especially with ‘Bones’ it was kind of a track that people can have fun to and dance to while also thinking about their own life and what’s going on in their life… so… my idea for it was to feed off my own message but to make people think about their own lives, basically.
The EP as a whole, to just describe it lyrically and instrumentally, was what was happening to me at the time, good and bad things. And despite it being bad, when I look back at some tracks none of them make me feel sad or anything like that, I’m still super stoked with them, still happy with them. I think as a whole, ‘Three Oh Three’ is just the process of my life at that point.
Yeah, it definitely feels like quite a personal EP, do you always write from personal experience?
I think I write from personal experience when I feel like I need to get something out, obviously, and I think, you can go into writing a song having an idea of what you want it to sound like and what you want people to think of it. But I think in the end, as with most things, your best work is going to be something that comes naturally, something that comes from the heart.
My process again, is whatever came out, whatever’s happening at the time. The best things are the natural things, the natural processes.
I really enjoyed the more instrumental, atmospheric track, “Reykjavik”. Does it have a connection to Iceland, and the landscape?
It definitely does, I basically wrote it when I was travelling in Iceland a couple of years ago now. And at the time I just had my laptop and like a little midi pad, and just a few other things. Not really a guitar as well. And I just kept kind of recording a bunch of sounds that I heard. And playing around with stuff, and it wasn’t until the very end of wrapping up the EP where I had all these sounds in the bank and I thought, I’ve gotta put something together. Its been an idea in the back of my head the whole time. And that’s basically the track, that’s how I meant it to come across, about the landscape of Iceland which is ridiculous, amazing.
You’re touring around Sydney in the coming months. Do you have a favourite place to perform?
I just played a show supporting Slum Sociable at The Lansdowne… every time I’ve been to The Lansdowne its been such a good time. It just one of those venues that’s naturally accommodating and everyone there is just in good spirits and whatnot… I’ve played there maybe five or six times now and pretty much every time has been sick.
How much do you think about future live performances while you’re writing a song? Do you consider how it will work in that setting?
I think it’s definitely changed over time. When I first started writing music I was like, I’ll figure that out later, I’m just going to do everything I can now to write it, record it, release it. And it wasn’t until I started playing and gathering band members that I thought “Right, I need to holster down all these sounds that I can create and how I can best perform them live”.
Especially with this EP, it’s something I’ve thought about, because of the challenge to create some of those synth sounds, those ambient sounds, on my tracks live. Especially if it’s a last minute show.
What are you working on next? Can we expect an album in the near future?
An album from me will definitely come. After another little EP… I’m kinda into my smaller ideas that I can flesh into two or three songs. But I think the dream has always been to write and record an album and release it. I don’t think I would think of it as this success, having an album out as a solo piece of work. It would be really cool just to have and know that I’ve done it. So 100% it’s coming.
Looking forward to that! So, who are your favourite emerging artists that you can recommend?
I’ve played before Hein Cooper a couple of times. Although its not typically the music that I would listen to every day, it’s the fact of how comfortable he is with his writing and how genuinely nice he is, its really cool to see… its someone I’ve been following. People like that you hope that will go well, just because of their values. That’s definitely someone to look out for.
Do you have anything you would like to add about what you’re working on at the moment?
The gigs coming up at the end of the year, I’ve got about seven or eight big gigs that should shape the end of the year and kind of work towards the latest release I’ve been working on over the past year. With those gigs, I’m trying to write another EP as well, which should hopefully come out at the beginning of next year. But yeah, just working on those shows and kind of just showing off my EP, basically.
What I’m working on right now is less production and more song writing. I created a track maybe two weeks ago now that I think is one of my best works. So, I’m just going to keep writing on that, keep processing it. And hopefully I can release it very soon.
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