Check out his latest “Hero”
A Bigger Perspective by Leanne Ortiz
His slight features, spikey blonde locks, and youthful English complexion reflect a beguiling British boy-band charm, but chat to Ollie Wade for just a few moments and you’ll find a depth to this young singer-songwriter that stems from something far more character-defining.
25-year-old Ollie was born in Winchester in the County of Hampshire, England, where he grew up in a loving home with his parents Nicki and Phil and his brother Ben. “I had an incredible connection with my brother, sadly he wasn’t very well. Ben had Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities that led to us losing him when he was only 19,” said Wade.
“My years with Ben definitely shaped me into who I am today, he gave me a bigger perspective on life and what’s important, he’s still an integral part of our family’s life.”
At 16, Ollie penned a song for his late brother he titled Free – “It basically covered everything I wanted to say to him as a goodbye, it was about Ben finally being free of any pain or discomfort,” he said. Throughout their formative years, Ollie would sing and play music for Ben, which his brother always enjoyed. Fittingly, the sibling with whom he shared such a special bond, became the inspiration that launched Ollie’s music career.
Free was released as a charity fundraising single in aid of ‘Naomi House and Jacksplace,’ a children’s hospice that Ben had attended.
“I was interviewed on live National TV on Daybreak (now Good Morning Britain)” said Ollie. “The success and support I received from such a personal song gave me the confidence to pursue a career as an artist, and it really felt like it was what I was meant to be doing.”
Soaring high on the wings of his brother, Wade was given the opportunity to perform Free to a live audience that included The Duchess, Kate Middleton.
“It was a crazy experience,” he says. “I have never been so nervous in my life, there were so many TV cameras and security, but she was genuinely so lovely, she spent time with every single child in the hospice and I had her full attention during my performance,” he says, adding that in their chat afterwards the Duchess was very complimentary and kind.
As a youngster, Ollie learned piano but only got to grade 2. Around the age of 15 he began learning guitar, an instrument he says he now can’t walk past without engaging. In Year 10, he snagged the lead role in his high school production of ‘Hairspray’ – “I surprised myself (and my parents) when it turned out I could hold a note or two,” he laughs. “I had the time of my life and it was around then that I started to get into singing and began posting covers on YouTube.”
Still finding his way with his music, Wade would busk in Winchester which he says was a great way to build up his confidence. He shares an experience when he was “somewhere in London for a live radio session.” A “standard, skint student,” Ollie says he used up the last of his money to buy a return ticket to and from his gig. He arrived, did the radio session but then realized he had somehow lost his return ticket, “standard Ollie,” he jokes.
“I couldn’t afford a ticket home, so I walked into the town centre and busked, after about 20 minutes I had made enough money to buy another ticket. Then, as I was walking back to the train station, I suddenly found my original one in a bush, so I ended up £20 richer!”
It was the social media platform YouTube though that afforded Wade his biggest success.
“I find it hard to talk about my problems out loud, so music is my way of releasing. My style comes natural to me now, I don’t edit anything for the audience as I feel they are already invested in my sound.”
Starting off his music career by uploading covers and vlogs to YouTube, Ollie soon saw his fanbase evolve and grow before his eyes. With the release of his debut singles in 2015 and his EP, ‘Falling’ in 2016 (which landed in the top 10 UK iTunes Singer-Songwriter Charts), at a young age Ollie was already making a name for himself.
At 19 Wade studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music in London. Asked what was most valuable about his experiences there, he says he learned not just about the processes of writing and recording music, but also about the industry. “You need to be sure you don’t find yourself in a bad deal and that you always maintain the rights to your own work,” he said. “I learned that sometimes it’s best to let other people in who can find things that you can’t. Mostly I learnt from my peers around me, who inspire me every day and are some of the most talented people I know.”
Much of Ollie Wade’s appeal is in his vulnerability as an artist. His material is written predominantly from personal experience. “I am OK being vulnerable in my music,” he offers, “I find it hard to talk about my problems out loud, so music is my way of releasing. My style comes natural to me now, I don’t edit anything for the audience as I feel they are already invested in my sound.” Ollie says versatility in his industry is vital, “when writing for others, I write about hypothetical scenarios or other people’s experiences,” he said.
That versatility to perform his own material, or that of others, led him to audition for X Factor and The Voice a number of years ago. “I got through to the judge’s stage, but it didn’t work out,” he explains. “I’m glad it didn’t actually, as I definitely wasn’t ready back then and my thoughts have since changed regarding those shows. I still get invited to audition for some each year, but I feel like they cater more for singers as opposed to artists.” Wade says the Reality TV shows tend to mold a contestant into a performer they require, instead of mentoring them to become the artist they aspire to be. “They offer great exposure, but I feel right now that’s not the right path for me and I want to build up something with more authenticity and longevity.”
Ollie’s latest song Love’s Mistake is a raw lament to a young love lost. It’s catchy lyrics and easy melody is as good as anything you’ll hear on the indie pop scene today. “It’s set to hit 100K streams in a few more months on Spotify,” says Wade. “BBC Solent has given it a few spins. I just appreciate the love and support for this song so much, it means the world to me.”
Ollie Wade | Love’s Mistake and much more
There’s a Sam Smith vibe to this young performer in this particular song, but as Ollie explains, “it’s nothing that hasn’t been written about before, but I tried to be unique in my approach to the lyrics and the chorus.”
“If I could rearrange the letters inside your brain
That spell out your words
I’d change every verse
To come back to me”
“It was about the breakup of a pretty long-term relationship, and it took me a while to write it. I think if things are too raw it can get in the way of a good song, you have to take a step back and look at it as a songwriter. Massive credit to my producer and good friend Patch Boshell, he worked his magic and helped me translate that emotion to produce a great result.”
Ollie’s versatility sees him master a soft ballad like Love’s Mistake as well as he can deliver a little livelier pop song like H.W.L or Carry On, he has that believable factor, a true vocal behind authentic lyrics, it’s something not every young singer/songwriter can achieve.
I compare Ollie’s approach to that of UK singer/songwriter Passenger (Mike Rosenberg). Through soulful lyrics (often written from personal experience) the indie artist has gathered a strong following online, remaining personable and connected with his fanbase.
“I love Passenger, what a great artist, and human,” says Ollie. “I don’t want to be viewed any differently to my listeners who I’ve enjoyed great friendship and support from over the years. I am genuinely 100% myself online, I try to be honest and real with my followers which, I think reflects in the kind of music I release.”
Ollie says he is careful what content he shares, however at one point he saw Ollie Wade the artist becoming something different to Ollie Wade the person. “I didn’t like that, so I made the active choice to slightly mature my content and my approach online, to better mirror the real me. I want my supporters to be friends – I definitely avoid the word fans.”
The singer/songwriter genre is a pretty crowded space today.
“I’m still a firm believer that hard work and a good song will prevail,” says Ollie. “I put my soul into everything I do, I try and meet and work with as many people as I can, community is everything and I always learn so much from other singer/songwriters and their craft.”
COVID-19, the current global pandemic that has hit the UK particularly hard, has been a huge stumbling block for the arts and entertainment industry. I ask Ollie what his focus has been during the down-time.
“I do have lots more free time,” he laments. “It can be a difficult time to create. I plan my writing sessions around my usually hectic schedule, but with all this free time it’s thrown me right off my routine and I end up feeling guilty (when I don’t) or pressured (when I do) use this time to write new music. The repetition of lockdown can be pretty uninspiring, I’m not meeting new people and gaining new life experiences to write about.”
Wade acknowledges he is very grateful for his health and understands the pain that many are suffering. Many of his fellow artists are struggling, as he is, to get creative during these times
“I’ve played loads of livestream gigs on Facebook, which has been so much fun, and I’ve posted lots of covers on Instagram, but nothing quite lives up to the live gigs!”
So, what’s next for Ollie Wade?
“I’m releasing more music this year, and hopefully an EP. All the tunes are written, I just can’t access my studio at the moment due to the pandemic.
I do have a song called Hero coming out soon though, I’m very proud of it. I’ve also got a few co-writes and features coming out on streaming sites, so keep an eye out for those too!”
Ollie’s plans include embarking on a national mini tour when the entertainment industry returns.
I ask Ollie, what’s something truly unusual about you?
“I like playing out (and winning) hypothetical arguments with myself in the shower,” shares the cheeky young artist.
His victory is hardly surprising – who could argue with the lovely Ollie Wade?
Article by Leanne Ortiz