For Oliver Blue, music isn’t just a job - he lives in it

For Oliver Blue, music isn’t just a job - he lives in it
An exclusive interview with Oliver Blue
For Oliver Blue, music isn’t just a job - he lives in it
An exclusive interview with Oliver Blue
Some people are deemed a “jack of all trades,” but it seems that very few actually are. However, Oliver Blue — the alias of Atlanta native and Athens-based musician and producer Ivano Milo — definitely lives up to that title. Oliver’s worked with Wiley from Atlanta and Jarrod Milton, played in the band The Grandest Canyon, and he currently plays in The Weldons and Dream Culture on top of making his own solo music. It obvious that Oliver does a lot; in fact, he’s been making music for a long time, and one band in particular kick-started his musical aspirations.

“I’ve been playing in groups, I guess, since sixth grade, I’ve just been doing it a while. I started doing talent shows and playing covers of stuff like Green Day songs,” Oliver said. “I grew up on Green Day, and my dad loves Green Day, so that was a huge thing.”

It was at one of these talent shows that one of his friends and himself dove completely into the spirit of the band.

“[At the] sixth grade talent show, me and my friend Andrew we’re like, ‘We’re going to be a band like Green Day,’ and we dressed up up with our ties and black outfits and electric guitars,” Oliver said. “We sat and played “Know Your Enemy” by Green Day, which was at the time was the new single and it was so sick.”

A few years later during 10th grade, Oliver and one of his friends started a full-fledged band.

“My friend Will Peters and I started a band called The Grandest Canyon, and that was a punk band,” he said. “That’s when we started meeting people and playing shows in a scene.”

Oliver first discovered his love for producing because of this band.

“One of the dudes we added on bass — I went to his house and he was producing in GarageBand. He had an electronic drum kit, and was making songs, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, that’s really cool,’” Blue said. “I started working on The Grandest Canyon record in GarageBand, just with software drums and recording everything like that.”

Currently, Oliver helps produce for Will Bryant, who now musically goes by Wiley from Atlanta.

“I saw an artist called Jon Bellion — he’s super sick — he’s actually the reason Will [Bryant] and I are working together,” he said. “He was playing at a festival in Macon when Will went to Mercer — it was Bearstock, and Will was playing before earlier in the day, and so when I found about that, I was like, ‘Oh wow, you make music and you’re playing with Jon Bellion? Let’s hangout.’”

Jon Bellion helped inspire Oliver to keep explore production even further.

“He makes these production videos in the studio; he has a camera dude follow him around and you just watch him make the whole song,” he said. “I guess being able to see someone make a song from start to finish showed me that I could probably try to do that.”

With the help of some new software, Oliver started creating solo work under the name Brother Mary.

“I bought Logic and just messed around with that for a bit. I tried writing some songs and getting experimental with it,” he said. “I made eight or ten songs that ended up being within the Brother Mary catalog.”

Oliver began working with the artist Jarrod Milton in a more unconventional way compared to his previous musical connections.

“I met up with my buddy Jarrod from SoundCloud,” he said. “I saw his Pigeons & Planes article, and I liked the song “Chromatic” that they posted, and I hit him up and he was eager to work.”

The process of producing for other artists began with Jarrod, Oliver said.

“That kind of started my production for other people type thing. Jarrod and I kind of made a band out of it that was under his name,” he said. “I kind of took on the role of songwriting and production on the musical side of things.”

“This is how it’s starting to become when I work with other people — the artist is a lyricist and a melody writer. Jarrod would come to me with songs and be like, ‘The bridge sounds like this,’ and he would sing each part and I would record it in and basically soundtrack it.”

Oliver also developed a philosophy of work during his time with Jarrod.

“I really like working on my own stuff and I’m really passionate about it, and so when I started working with Jarrod, I told him if he wants to work with me, we’re gonna do an EP or an album — I don’t like doing one-offs with artists,” he said. “I like to create a world with whoever I’m working with, and if you don’t do two or three songs at least, you’re not really gonna develop a sound or some kind of chemistry there.”

For his solo work, Oliver’s been working on an EP titled “Impression, morning.” It’s not out yet, but the bits of it that I’ve heard showcase a musician with an extremely well-developed sound and a keen sense of timing. Oliver talked about his sometimes more abstract ideas that went into this upcoming release.

“I’m actually really proud of it — that’s probably one of the first pieces that I’ve been really excited to put out. I have huge ideas that are sometimes really hard to explain,” he said. “You know when you’re falling asleep and you have thoughts come in and out of your head and you can’t latch onto them and they don’t really make sense, but they exist? That EP is a distillation of that to an almost infuriating level because it changes up so much.”

Oliver said “Impression, morning” doesn’t focus all too much on narrative.

“It doesn’t make any sense, but it does? The content lyrically doesn’t delve deep into storytelling or anything like that,” he said. “It’s more topical thoughts that I have about things, like how you would assess them if they popped up in your head.”

One song in particular on the EP is more personal to Oliver.

“[The song] ‘Bird’ is about fighting off anxiety, because I suffer from anxiety pretty bad, but before I was on medication for it, it was really hard to not get sucked into the rabbit hole that song kind of talks about,” he said. “It drops into that electronic bit and then there’s all those swirling sounds and stuff, so that’s kind of my interpretation of anxiety — coming in and then it just falters out and it’s calm again.”

A much different project that Oliver is involved with is the Weldons. He described the process of how that band came about.

“So with my best friend since pre-K, Joe, we created [The Weldons] on a spring break trip over to Breckenridge, Colorado. We went skiing, and we were like, ‘You know, we should create a reggae band, it would so funny,’” he said. “We were at a little kickback at our friend’s lodge apartment where they were renting out and we thought, ‘Ok, if we made a reggae band what would the songs be called?’ Like “Get Off My Mountain” and “Steezy Snow Babe.””

This unreleased (for now) project revolves around a fictional ski battle, Oliver said. It’s about a group of Atlanta kids in a ski gang called The Weldons that go the Breckenridge every spring break and meet up with their Colorado friends. This time around on their annual spring break trip, there’s a new girl — Steezy Snow Babe — in the Breck Babies, the girl ski gang. Ollie Weldon takes a liking to her and tries to impress her, and then this dude named Powderino comes along (who’s the “cool dude.”)

The story ends up in a battle between the lone wolf Powderino and Ollie to win the affection of Steezy Snow Babe. It’s obvious that Oliver has a flourishing musical mind, and he talked about how intensity fuels his creative spirit.

“I just took that and ran with it, at one point just because I was feeling like making more punk music. With whatever I do, I really like intense stuff, so that’s an intensely pop punk and [my solo stuff] is intensely emotional or whatever. I took it and ran — it’s a very high-energy thing, it’s my other side that maybe doesn’t come across in my personality all the time, so I really love high-energy stuff, so that’s kind of my outlet for that one.”

The Weldons obviously tell a story, but Oliver feels that storytelling is something he needs to work on.

“I would say that storytelling is my weakest point that I’ve been trying to improve on. I don’t have too much that I draw inspiration from yet,” he said. “It’s only recently that I’ve started writing with the intent of being better at writing.”

There is, however, one band that unlocked Oliver’s desire to write more lyrics.

“alt-J’s Joe Newman — his lyrics are absolutely ridiculous. Their stuff is so sick: it’s nonsensical, it’s beautiful, it sounds like water. There’s this one part in “3WW”, the intro to their new album, they’ve got this long, weird, droning intro then it cuts out,” he said. “The keyboardist starts singing, ‘There was a wayward lad / stepped out one morning, the ground to be his bed the sky his awning.’ That’s kind of a medieval type thing, and Joe comes in and is like, ‘Neon, neon, neon, blue neon lamp in a midnight country field.’

Oliver went deeper into why alt-J is such a special band for him.

“It’s very abstract kind of poetry, but it’s beautiful. The reason I really started looking at lyrics is because I saw the record slip for alt-J’s first album and it had all their lyrics on it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, what is this? You can actually do this, you can write things like this and sing them.’”

It fascinating how much Oliver produces musically. He explained how he’s able to find time for all his creative endeavors.

“I don’t have a social life; I hang out with my girlfriend, eat, do homework, and make music,” he said. “I just have a passion for it — I’ll fit music into the cracks of my day just working on whatever and I’ll think about it as much as I can.”

He described and instance when he understood just how much he loves his work.

“I guess I only realize how much I work on music when I socialize with people and go out and do stuff because then I realize I could be working on music,” he said. “Last time I went to an event I guess was last semester — I was there for like 20 minutes and then I was like, ‘I have an idea,’ then I went home and I worked on it.”

Does creating music ever feel tedious to Oliver? He gave his thoughts making things when he might not want to.

“If I sit down to work on music, it feels like work. If I do it because I have an idea, it doesn’t feel like work because I’m chasing the idea and it’s exciting. The mistake that I’ve made a lot is forcing myself to make music when I shouldn’t. That often leads to worse stuff.”

Hamilton is a student at UGA