Drawing influences from female powerhouses like Julia Michaels, Lorde, and Ariana Grande, rising pop artist OSTON is well on her way to making a name for herself. Her electro-pop hybrid is sure to make you feel good and dance around your room. OSTON’s newest single “Shrug” has already been streamed over 86,000 times on Spotify alone since its release at the end of April. The song has also gotten the attention of Radio Disney, and has been played over 100 times since being put into the radio station’s rotation a few weeks ago. We had the opportunity to chat with OSTON about her influences, writing “Shrug,” and being a guest performer on NBC’s “Songland”.
BTS: Can you tell us how you got started with making music?
OSTON: Music has been an essential part of my life since a very young age. Although neither of my parents are musicians, I grew up in a household that was always spinning something from The Beatles to Santana to the B52s on the record player. My brother and I would always put on little plays and shows for friends and family, and I would make up gibberish songs and recite them to anyone who would listen. So, when I was a little five-year-old kid, my mom helped set me up with singing lessons, and I could just tell that’s what I was supposed to do forever. I went off to college in Chicago to study music and marketing, met my amazing studio family that took me under their wing, and now I’m in LA doing this thing full time!
BTS: How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
OSTON: POP, BABY! When writing for my debut EP Sitting At The Kids Table, I stuck to very traditional pop writing and production. Now that I’m venturing into the finishing stages of my debut album Am I Talking Too Much? (AHHHHHH!!!), I’m really pushing the boundaries of how I write. What was once systematically structured pop has expanded into more of a left-of center, indie, genre-bending realm. Without shoving myself into any boxes with this project, each song is still woven into the pop genre that I’ve learned to love so much.
BTS: Who are some of your influences, musically and non-musically?
OSTON: I always credit three powerful female projects for opening my eyes to the beauty of pop writing: Julia Michaels’ Nervous System, Lorde’s Melodrama, and Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman. When I’m working on production, I draw inspiration from artists like MØ, Phantogram, The Japanese House, and Sylvan Esso. Non-musically, my inspiration comes mostly from my friends and family. I really believe that, “You are who you surround yourself with.” I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive network of family and friends to keep me going, and an amazing team made up of some of the hardest working people I know.
BTS: What’s your creative process like in the studio?
OSTON: For me, this changes all the time because I love writing with all kinds of producers, and each person will bring a different experience to the process. While creating my debut album over the last year, I’ve found myself coming back to a few people that I write with a lot, because we have such great chemistry. When I’m in a session with a new writer or producer, we usually spend the first hour just talking and getting to know each other. Then we’ll start referencing songs we’ve been vibing with lately. It’s not long before we’re spitting out ideas left and right, making a musical song baby!
BTS: Tell us about your song “Shrug” – what inspired the song?
OSTON: “Shrug” came out of a session with my friends Kim Vi, a producer and writer, and Nydge, who has become one of my favorite collaborators in LA. Back in September at his space, Nydge pulled up an idea he’d made and titled ‘SHRUG.mp3.’ Instantly that gritty synth line hit my gut and I just thought, “YES. We’ve gotta write to this.” Coincidentally, we’d been talking about stereotypical LA parties and scenarios where we feel like we don’t fit in. Just a few nights prior, I had gone to a very nice rooftop bar in West Hollywood, dressed in a slouchy outfit and dirty sneakers, and was instantly greeted with dirty looks by the beautifully dressed people around me. We all agreed that in situations like this it’s always better to shrug it off instead of letting anyone’s negative opinions get to you. The lyrics came flowing out and just like that, “Shrug” was born!
BTS: How was writing and recording “Shrug” different from working on songs from your EP Sitting At the Kids Table?
OSTON: I’ve truly grown miles as an artist, writer, and human since I released Sitting At The Kids Table, which is so crucial. My music is always growing and changing with me, so as I mature, so does my writing. Compared with the rest of my discography, “Shrug” is a fresh sound that hints at the darker direction of my debut album Am I Talking Too Much?. Working with Nydge is always a very special process because we have such great artistic chemistry. Although I’m learning, I’m not always able to articulate what I want in producer terms, so instead I’ll use my voice to copy a synth sound or say, “Can we make this sound rounder?” and we’re always on the same page. Because of that, writing “Shrug,” or any other song we’ve done together, has been a very easy-going and collaborative process.
BTS: You were recently a guest performer on an episode of Songland on NBC – what was that like?
OSTON: It was such an awesome experience and I’m really grateful that I got the opportunity to be on the show. My experience was pretty atypical, since I wasn’t on as a songwriter pitching my song to the guest artist of the week. The whole thing happened really quickly – during filming they decided they wanted to bring in a female singer for one of the songs, so they called me in, and the next day, I got to the studio and quickly learned the song with Ryan Tedder. Everyone on the set was very welcoming and happy to have me there, and I got to meet and sing for one of my favorite writers, Julia Michaels. Performing in front of her was definitely nerve wracking, but I was lucky enough to sing Keegan Bost’s song, “Give It To You,” which ended up being the record Julia chose to put out! Despite not being involved in the writing process, it was an honor to perform the song that won the episode.
BTS: What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned as an artist so far?
OSTON: Work as hard as you can, and when you’ve done everything you think you can, do more. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that not everyone is going to like and understand your music, and that’s okay!!! It is SO important to make music that you like and are proud of – that’s the only thing that matters at the end of the day.
BTS: What’s one fun fact about yourself for our readers?
OSTON: I spent five years in Chicago, with my last year traveling back and forth to LA – while I was paying rent in Chicago. Now that I FINALLY got a place in LA, I’ve been cooped up in Chicago during quarantine – while still paying rent in LA (ugh). A part of me thinks that I’ll be back and forth between the two cities forever!
BTS: What can fans expect from you this year?
OSTON: I have some shows scheduled for August, but with the current state of the world, I don’t know if those will be happening. However, there will be a ton of music – I hope they’re ready! I’ll be releasing multiple singles leading up to my debut album, Am I Talking Too Much?. The project is some of my best and most vulnerable work yet, so I’m nervous and excited to share it with the world. I’ve also been using my time in quarantine experimenting with making DIY music videos and random TikTok’s (really showcasing my goofy side), so expect to see more of that.
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