I-Octane has over the past years voiced several hard-hitting dancehall productions. But on his new album My Journey he showcases his sometimes velvety, sometimes aggressive, singing style over both pulsating and mellow reggae beats. Reggaemani caught up with this confident singer, a workaholic that aims for the sky.
I-Octane was born Byiome Muir in Clarendon, Jamaica, and started his musical career about five years ago. He is a singer that has managed to stay out of controversy despite being highly successful in dancehall circuits.
I reach him via Skype and initially we small talk about Tarrus Riley and I-Octane’s performance with him in Stockholm a few years back.
“It was a great opportunity touring with Tarrus Riley. He was like a big brother to us,” says I-Octane.
At the time I hadn’t heard much about I-Octane. One thing I remember from the concert though was his energetic voice and big smile.
He sits in a huge brown armchair in Tad’s Record’s office in Jamaica. And smiles. He also talks a lot and answers my questions thoroughly. That was not the case when I interviewed him two years ago as he was about to drop his debut album Crying to the Nation.
I-Octane is doing interviews for his second album My Journey. This effort is released via Tad’s Record and not reggae powerhouse VP.
“I never signed with VP. It was an independent album. My perspective and their perspective were different. I don’t believe in being signed to a label. I’m a free flowing artist and no one can stop me from creating songs, stop me from being a creative person. I like to record. I like to sing. I like to contribute to music,” explains I-Octane in a serious tone, and continues:
“If someone tries to stop me, I have a problem. I need to keep voicing. Be active. VP was doing the album because Robert Livingstone was the executive producer, and I was an independent artist for Robert. It was just the end product.”
More reggae, less dancehall
My Journey is more in the reggae vein compared to its predecessor. And that was the general idea.
“My career has mostly been about dancehall, so I decided that in 2014 I want to do straight reggae. Straight drum and bass songs. And I feel like I’m doing something substantial. I’m contributing to reggae and I have grown between the two albums,” he says, and continues:
“The album is more of me, more I-Octane. From my perspective it has a more worldwide appeal. When I was voicing it I was thinking about the world, not just Jamaica. I pronounce clearer now and it’s more English, more like an album that can cross a lot of borders. It’s a worldwide thing.”
But it’s not just I-Octane singing. It’s also the music and the riddims created by his long-time friend and hit-maker Andre “DJ Frass” Gordon. Together they have created a set jam-packed with memorable hooks and catchy choruses.
“It’s about how the songs are constructed, the riddims and the mood. The mood is different this time. It’s more current. I’m also a more mature vocalist,” he says.
Going global with confidence
The album title explains where I-Octane is coming from and all the obstacles and challenges that he has managed to overcome.
“Experiences have been harsh, but it’s great. I just put it in writing. I have learned a lot and I appreciate life more. I appreciate people more.”
I-Octane says that one of his goals is to go global and to reach a much wider audience. To be heard motivates him and makes him a better artist, he believes.
And there’s nothing wrong with his confidence. He gives thanks to the Lord for his musical gift and refers to himself as a super talent.
“Music is not hard for me. I just go to the studio and I never write. I hear a beat, I take up a paper and a pen and I record. I voice a lot of songs. I voice 20 and make 5. It’s not about the volume, it’s about substance”, he explains, and continues:
“It’s hard to market the brand properly. And that’s my aim now. Get in to major festivals and major concerts. The world needs to see what I’m capable of doing”.
The next generation
My Journey is a melodic and consistent set. It has an overall pop feeling to it and the upbeat dancehall cuts are few. The man responsible for this is DJ Frass.
“Frass is my brethren and he has produced a lot of hit songs. He’s comfortable to work with and he’s also a workaholic. We help each other,” he says, and continues:
“Frass produced the album, but we got all these great musicians in Jamaica to work on the album. All the great players played them.”
I-Octane’s youthful and energetic style is popular, especially in Jamaica. Over the years he has been nominated and won several music prizes in both Jamaica and abroad. The most recent ones are two top prizes and Jamaica’s Youth View Awards, where he was awarded Favourite Local Music Video and Favourite Music Collaboration.
“I was nominated in ten categories, but it’s not about being the winner. I was a winner in ten different categories,” he says and concludes:
“It’s great in terms of marketing. Kids are the next generation. It makes me a better person. I want to work harder and contribute more. You can be five, six or seven years old. Music is always music.”