San Francisco, California — Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bay Area artist Sam “Ozer” Owen at Knock Knock Studios in San Francisco, California. The meeting took place in a self-made studio, and it was built from scratch in a garage by Ari Sandoval, which is Ozer’s engineer. Also, Ozer recorded his entire project The Nostalgia at Knock Knock Studios.
The studio feels natural, and visitors will notice the long hours and the dedication put towards the creation. Ozer and I settled in quickly because we knew each other for over a year. So we went directly into the interview.
Interviewer: What does this project mean to you? And what do you want it to say to your audience?
Ozer: It took two years to produce the concept for The Nostalgia because I wanted my first project to resonate with the listeners. During my sophomore year in college, my childhood friend and I slowly lost connection due to many responsibilities, and I soon missed the high school days. This project made me realize that it was time to grow up and focus on my responsibilities as a full-time working college student. I want my audience to have something to relate to because I know most young adults are scared of what the future holds once they get to my age. But I’m here to let them know it is all a part of life.
Interviewer: What were some of your influences for this project? And what sparked the creative process?
Ozer: Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Bas were my top influencers. Jay Rock’s transitions on his latest album 90059 inspired the flow of my project, meaning every song connected in some way. Kendrick Lamar influenced my creative mindset and taught me how to pay attention to details in my lyrics. J. Cole gave me the confidence to be vulnerable in my music and not be afraid of having intimate rap songs. For example, “Wet Dreamz” is probably every man’s story before having for the first time. Bas’ melodic instrumentals on his second album Too High To Riot was fantastic, and I promised myself that I would have more live instrumentation on my next project.
Interviewer: Even though lyricism is a “dying genre” in rap music. How are you going to go up against traditional genres such as “trap” music and “pop” music?
Ozer: I believe in staying true to myself and letting others judge me because the only person I do this for is my mother, Melissa Glass. She is there when nobody is around to see my struggles. During my adolescence years, my mom was diagnosed with lupus, so it was painful to watch her suffer from the disease. There was a possibility that my mom could have died at any moment. However, my mother never complained or made excuses. She just took it a day at a time until she rebuilt her strength and regained her health. The inspiration behind her struggles has given me the wisdom to know that I can only fight my battles. I can’t worry too much about what everybody else is doing. The only thing I can do is stay in my lane and release good music and hope the masses vibe to it.
Interviewer: How are you going to differentiate yourself from the rest of the music industry? Because there really isn’t any money in it?
Ozer: Understanding and discovering my core audience because they will be around for generations. Mainstream fans cling onto whatever is popular, so those type of people come and go. The listeners will recognize the authenticity in my music and that is rare to find in my city. I will always act the same towards my fans because that are important when building a brand. Also, I have a distinctive look. My eyes hang low which gives me a mysterious yet sleepy look. My brand will represent my music, my personality, and my style.
Interviewer: What were the positive and negative aspects of making this project?
Ozer: The long hours completely stressed me out on some days. There were days where my engineer and I would have studio sessions for 14-16 hours, mixing and mastering songs. Balancing classes at SF State and my full-time job became my testimony of the “grind is real.” I learned from that moment that if I want to succeed, I have to do whatever it takes to make it. At one point, I was traveling back and forth from San Francisco and Sacramento for work. Most of my songs from the project came from driving in the car. Paying for studio time was an issue too because I had other priorities and bills. Although, I did build positive relationships, and I learned new things about myself. Also, a few days ago, someone told me that the song “Forever” on my project made her cry. Such feedback like that keeps me going.
Interviewer: What are some of your favorite songs from this project. Do you have any doubts that listeners were receiving your project positively?
Ozer: In the beginning, I did have many doubts that’s the reason why I kept delaying the due date. But once I let a few of my peers listen to the project, they gave me the green light to release it. Several music blogs reached out and they gave my project great reviews. Thizzler (a well-known Bay Area music blog) even featured one of my songs on their site. Honestly, right now my favorite songs from this project are “Maintain”, “Forever”, and “The Plot”. “Maintain” speaks about the police brutality towards African-Americans and it brings social awareness to my community. “Forever” is about my mom losing her best friend and how that change her life. “The Plot” just came from a deep place, and I love the production behind it.
Interviewer: Now that you release the project, what are your plans for this project?
Ozer: As of now I want to focus on getting more shows and maybe even go on tour later this years. In a few weeks, my videographer Nat Talbot and I should be releasing visuals for a few individual songs. Also, I’m trying to get some of my songs played on the radio for stations like 106 KMEL, WILD 94.9, and HOT 105.7. Before I forget, I did have some radio stations in Los Angeles playing my music so I consider that an accomplishment. But in all realness, I’m trying to get as many people to listen to my music as possible.