Ny Oh’s Garden of Eden is out now!
Image: Anna Louise Imagery.
NZ-raised, LA-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ny Oh recently treated the world to her debut EP, Ny Oh’s Garden of Eden. We caught up with the musician fresh off her appearance at Coachella to chat about the release, enlisted a team of talented female collaborators, her genre-bending soundscapes and so much more!
Could you tell us a bit about your background in music and what led you to pursuing a career in music?
When i was 4 i broke my femur and ended up in hospital for a long time. Being alone a lot as a young kid, you learn to entertain yourself… so i found that singing made me feel good, and others around me as well.
My mum, a flutist, saw this, and when I was out of hospital got me on the Violin to help develop my ear. Fast forward 10 years and I was looking for an instrument to accompany the voice more than violin could.. I found the piano and guitar.
There was never anything major that made me realize it was music, it’s just always been there, always been the thing that pulls me through weird times. I move through this world with music, the concept of a career in it still baffles me really. I’m just relating to this reality the only way I know how.
Congratulations on the release of your debut EP Ny Oh’s Garden of Eden! Across the collection of songs, you navigate love, loss and the world around us through an introspective view finder. What prompted this conceptual exploration within the body of work?
Thank you! What a big and beefy question!
I guess in terms of love and loss, these are things that our 20’s demand an exploration of… we’ve seen these ideas bleed into music time and time again, they truly are the deepest and most vast parts of ourselves, and of the greater external world. ‘Growing up’, I guess you could say, is the main concept here, with love and loss being looked at through that lens. No one can still really say what ‘growing up’ is. It’s this great mystery. To some people it’s emotional maturity, to others it's monetary stability (the list goes on and on). I would say for me, it’s the broadening of a perspective on something. I think through most of the songs on this record I was looking to expand my awareness of love and loss, rather than make a definitive decision on what either meant to me. Accepting myself as a mystical character has helped me feel connected to humans and this earth in a way that writing about the external, is just a continuation of internal dialogue. Self acceptance, confidence, tradition, spirituality, these are just a few things I can name that are at play within us most of the time, and also out there in the world.
When working on the EP, you enlisted a team of talented women alongside you in the studio. How do you think that influenced the outcome of the EP and what we hear today?
Well, I made this EP several times over with men, so I know what that sounds like. Hahaha. No, jokes aside, I needed to make this EP with women, not because they have some music magic that men cannot possess but because I needed to find some confidence as an artist/producer in a studio. Realizing that I'd never been in a studio setting without men sparked my curiosity. Would I feel different if it was just women? What would the conversation around production be like with just women? It came down to tiny nuanced things that made the environment feel really comfortable and collaborative. That’s what you can hear on the record as a result.
The EP brings together sonic threads of folk and jazz, creating these beautiful captivating soundscapes. How did you arrive at this sonic exploration?
Folk is at the heart of all the music I create. Probably due to the fact I write mostly on guitar. My early days of songwriting and traveling meant that a lot of the other musicians I was bumping into were also writing autobiographical story songs that go hand and hand with folk music. Jazz is always influencing my melodic writing… Jazz was sent to this world to shake things up and I feel a kin to it. I’m excited to see how music these two genres can blend together.
You also produced the EP, what are the advantages of having that complete control over the songs?
The fact that I can listen to them still! Hahah. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing something come out of your head and into the world, just the way you imagined it. I’ve not worked with a producer on my solo stuff yet who was able to nail that with me (Not saying there won't be people), but it was a moment of ‘if you can’t do this on your own, then how can you expect anyone to get it and help you down the line’. I needed to prove to myself that the vision I had was do-oable and that I had the confidence on my own to pull it off. The process is the most important thing for the artist, right, so this was the process I'd chosen and I was determined to stick to it.
Fiona Roberts was the engineer for this record and ended up co-producing some of the tracks. The importance of having a sounding board, another person who cares about the songs as much as I do and someone to tell you when you’re pushing too much in the wrong direction was invaluable to this process.
How do you find it differs writing and recording in a band environment with Neon Gru vs solo where you’re completely in charge of the process and outcome?
Neon Gru can be looser. When everyones less tied to a sonic outcome, anything can happen. It’s the magic of Neon Gru really, there are no genre ties, no preconceived conceptual ties.. So we get to dream that all up together in a room. Are there moments when I'd like to override someone's creative decision? Yes. But that’s not our process and there is respect for the process. I am so lucky to be in a room of music friends that I feel safe enough to disagree with and let those disagreements turn into new sounds.
Which song off the EP would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan and why?
Ohhhh. Good question. I would probably try to feel out that person's emotional state before picking the song, cos i’m weird like that. The song I'm most proud of production wise is Garden of Eden, I think it's a really nicely written song as well. I’m finding that people are really resonating with Be Free, which is more of a simple, ‘idea in the moment’ kinda tune.
Is there a particular line/lyric from the EP you’re most proud of, or one that you return to more often than the rest?
I love the imagery of the line ‘Be free your love is like water, it changes, but it never stops’. When I sing it I can almost see it swirling around me and almost osmosis its way into me.
If Ny Oh’s Garden of Eden was a piece of pre-existing visual art, which artwork would best capture the EP?
I think it would be Sand Storm by the artist Agnes Lawrence Pelton. The balance of soft and bold. I feel I am looking into a place within me when I see it.
She writes this about it:
Dense clouds that push and loom
Too early, darkening the day.
Above the streaming palms
Bent low to earth
Sharp points of blowing sand converge
Are posed beneath the sky's light blue
In balanced conformation.
Below this flowering, remote, serene
Behold the movement luminous -
A rainbow in the dust.
You’ve been touring as a backing vocalist and multi-instrumentalist with Harry Styles on his Love On Tour shows. How has this experience helped shape your approach to performing live and what will you be taking into your own solo performances?
I feel the way in which playing his shows feeds into the way I play mine. Watching the level of care and attention to detail he puts into every aspect of a show is very inspiring. I’m finding myself able to surrender a little more in my own shows. There is so much power in the individual saying their own words. I'm beginning to understand the magic that holds and holding it more reverent in my own world of music.
Will fans be able to catch you on tour, and what can audiences expect from one of your live shows?
I’ll be on tour with Harry for the next year, so solo shows will be few and far between. Keep your eyes peeled though, there's always on offs!
You can expect accidental comedy, silly banter, brutal honesty. At a lot of my live shows I enjoy breaking down the wall of performer and audience.. Music can really ‘get in’ when you feel comfortable.. So bringing the feeling of a living room or a campfire to a room is what I strive for. My band Neon Gru has a show on June 24th in London. We are really enjoying bringing these produced tracks to a live setting and creating worlds around tracks for ourselves to get lost in as a band. I think that's a pretty special thing to witness!
Biggest musical influences?
For this record: Jo Stafford, Linda Perhacs, This is the Kit
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Hard to say one!!
Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope, was an album that I've always come back to as such incredible writing and thoughtful production. Her vocal delivery made me feel that anything was possible in music, things didn’t have to be so serious!
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Soft, Comfortable, Reflective
Best song of 2022 so far?
Remembering Me, Cate Le Bon
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
I don’t watch many films, it would probably be a nature doco.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
What was the first song you loved to sing?
How Bizzare OMC age of 2
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Don’t Forget Your Precious, Alabaster De Plume
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
My Love and Music, Ebo Taylor
First concert you went to?
Best concert you have been to?
There's been a lot of good bloody concerts. Alabaster De Plume is the most recent one I can remember where I was deeply moved.
First album you ever bought?
Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. It was a wildcard tape voice at a charity shop.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
Spice UP YOUR LIFE
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
How’s Wild Spice?
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
I recently played a show at Spiritual Bar in London that felt special for so many reasons. It was a full circle moment, so many collaborators in the audience making the music sound luscious, special guests, people who have been with me the whole journey so far… gahhhhh i can’t stop gushing on it!
Guilty music pleasure?
No such thing. Love it and be proud!
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Any artist that’s speaking their truth, making the world a more beautiful and inclusive place is who i’d support!
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
I can’t think of one artist. The Beatles accidentally created the framework that's become the go to recipe for music industry success. It’s Black culture that has, and continues to, influence this industry the greatest though.
What advice would your current self give your future self, for a year from now?
Rest whenever you can, you make the best art when you’re looking after yourself. Good things take time. What did that seven of swords mean? Is it time to go bush now? You’re here for truth.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Womb times. Mum is playing the flute to me. Post birth - The comfort I felt when she would sing her made up bedtime songs made me know this is the feeling i would seek in the world.
Ny Oh’s Garden of Eden is out now!