Erol Oz is a 35-year old singer-songwriter currently residing in St. Petersburg, Florida (USA). Erol is a classically trained guitarist whose music defies genre boundaries. He’s originally from Indiana which according to Erol was pretty boring, so he spent most of his time playing guitar. Erol has been playing guitar since he was about 10, thanks to his older brother playing Metallica and Smashing Pumpkins records.
“I quickly knew that I wanted to make music my life. In high school I sang and played in a few rock bands and I started writing my own songs. After high school, I went to music school to study classical guitar. When I was in music school I pretty much gave up writing songs so I could study classical music, but after I finished my Doctorate, I returned to writing songs in my 30s.”
What can you tell me about the first song you ever recorded?
“I was a teenager using a Boss BR-8 recorder in my parents’ basement. I recorded all the guitar parts, bass and vocals myself and used a drum machine. Those early songs had catchy guitar riffs and sounded very ‘post grunge’, but had terrible lyrics, and I hadn’t figured out how to really use my voice yet.”
What kind of music do you like to listen to? Who are your biggest musical influences?
“I listen to a bit of everything. I still love classical music, but now I mostly listen to indie rock, indie pop and modern folk and americana. When I started writing songs again, I still like to rock, but I wanted to incorporate things that I learned in music school—music theory, finger-style etc. My biggest influence on my writing now is probably Paul McCartney. You hear great melodies and intricate chord progressions with chromatic voice-leading, but the music is still timeless and accessible. Hardly anyone writes like that anymore. In the song ‘Michelle‘ Sir Paul is using chord progressions you might expect to hear in a jazz standard. And of course, I love the stripped-down songs like ‘Blackbird’. Paul also has a great voice that is clean without sounding too “trained”. And as a classical guitarist, I love the fingerpicking.”
“Lyrically, I would have to say americana/country artists Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. They both write very poignant lyrics without sounding insincere or overwritten. Plus they are also both great vocalists as well as lyricists.”
Your song ‘Happy‘ is in our chart. What inspired you to write it? What makes you happy?
“’Happy’ is a funny story. Someone reached out to me on Instagram asking me to write a children’s song on commission. Needless to say, things started to get a little sketchy when it came to how they were going to pay me, so I kept the song for myself and rewrote the lyrics to be a song for adults about the nostalgia for childhood. The things I sing about in the song make me happy–the beach, making loud music with friends and pissing off the neighbors. I do feel fortunate that I have been able to make it through the pandemic as a musician without a more stable day job.”
‘Happy’ is one of the songs that I have stuck in my head. What’s a song you have stuck in your head these days?
Your song ‘Free‘ mentions the struggles of being a musician. Are there things you don’t like about being a musician? What do you enjoy most?
“I think society over-consumes and undervalues musicians. Music is everywhere and it is one of the most prominent and universal facets of human culture, but yet many of us get paid so poorly. Imagine a world where every musician and music streaming service went on strike. Most people don’t understand that music can deplete your finances, it can break your heart every day, and they don’t understand what we have to go through to bring the entertainment to the world and bring ourselves creative self-actualization. But at the same time, when you connect with an audience—or a student if you teach music—magic happens.”
What’s your favourite gear?
“I play lots of instruments. Some of my songs like ‘Free’ use a baritone guitar, while others like ‘Happy’ use a guilele, a 6-string ukulele. Others like ‘Empty Avenue‘ use a standard acoustic guitar, and I love my Larrivée D-03. It sounds a lot like a Martin D-28, but I got it for a steal. I love being able to change my songwriting perspective in an instant by picking up a novel instrument.”
What’s your most treasured possession?
“That would be my handmade classical guitar. It was built by Finnish guitar maker Keijo Korelin. It is loud, responsive, and incredibly complex.”
Do you have any hobbies outside music?
“I love the outdoors and I love to travel. The song ‘City Lights‘ was written about wanderlust and I visited England, Netherlands, Belgium, and France last year before the pandemic. A song I’m working on incorporates scenes from nature, more specifically the Great Smoky Mountains.”
“I plan to re-release ‘Happy’ with a collection of a few other songs on a new EP. I also have some more classical guitar recordings in the works. I have some classical guitar recordings on Spotify under my full name, Erol Ozsever, but I’m debating re-releasing them under the pseudonym Erol Oz. I used to want to keep those two identities separate, but now I think my love for all music is what makes me who I am as an artist.”
“I am hoping to tour once the pandemic calms down. I love house concerts, and I hope to book some when I get the chance to get out and tour.”
What’s your favourite song in the Cool Top 20?
“It’s a great playlist with a ton of variety, so I don’t know if I can narrow it down to only one. But here are a few in no particular order: Nomden’s ‘Carolina‘, great voice and writing style is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Simon. ‘Live in the Fire‘ by Fossway has such an eclectic soundscape. The opening reminds be of Black Sabbath, but there are also really interesting chord changes during the verse, and the mix gives it a very underground club kind of energy. ‘Somebody‘ by Noon AM. HOL – ‘The Girl I Used to Be‘. Sophie Dorsten – ‘Sea Salt‘ – I love the vocal harmonies and mysterious guitar chord voicings and the fingerpicking work. ‘Closure‘ by Lyon Tide. It’s hard to narrow it down.
What song would you like to add as a bonus track to our chart and why?
“‘This Moment‘ by Youth Antics. They are all graduates from the school where I used to teach, and I love to hear how they have grown into a great new indie/new wave band.”
More about Erol Oz can be found on his website or his socials:
Erol also has a podcast called Music Theory for Songwriters.