His name resonates in the hearts of fans around the world and he is known as a multi-faceted creator of his time. Not only does he write and record music, but he also produces tracks for some of Jamaica’s top dancehall artists like Tessanne Chin, Bounty Killer, Spice and Shaggy. Usually working behind the scenes, The Sunday Gleaner brings his uplifting story of his days in Jamaica to rising to fame in the spotlight. Let’s get on the beat with the melodies and memories of award-winning artist, Olaf Blackwood.
The triple talent, who returned to the island this year after being away in the United States for two decades, was excited and delighted to be back on home soil. “It was sensory overload. Everything from plants to the smell of food triggers a certain memory. It takes me back to a time and a place and I almost remember who I was back then,” he told Us in a recent interview.
Its history dates back to 1980. A young Olaf graced the earth with the brightest of futures ahead of him. Born in Lacovia, St Elizabeth, Blackwood had humble beginnings. Raised in a farming family, he remembers helping his family earn a living for as long as he can remember, going back and forth with his grandfather to work the land. But as soon as the sun rose, his love for music also increased.
“My earliest memory of music is ‘djing’ on sound systems everywhere. I was a disc jockey before being an artist. Wherever a sound played, I tried to find out where it was, ”confessed the music lover.
This provided a gateway for growth, following his discovery that he also had a good voice. At the time, he was involved in athletics and also played football, so he had gained popularity in St Elizabeth and Westmoreland. They embraced his talent and he is truly grateful for the support. But the experience also made him realize that there was more to it.
So he took a chance, dropped out of high school altogether, and moved to the musical mecca of the island to pursue a full-time career in entertainment. He hoped it would be his ticket out of poverty. Recording with reggae legend Garnet Silk in 1995 was all the motivation he needed to push his limits.
After moving to Kingston, he emigrated to the United States and has since lived and toured in different parts of the world. However, he put down roots in California, where he has since been able to set up his own state-of-the-art recording studio from home. That way, whenever the music moves him, he can capture the moment instantly in the most authentic way.
He released records whenever he could, but he didn’t get his big break as an artist until 2017. The song, I need you, is a collaboration between him, Armin van Buuren and Fernando Garibayz who produced the track. On the track, he brings a smooth, easy, and rich melody to pop and electronic dance music that makes others gravitate towards him as an artist.
You know how they say, you never know when inspiration will strike? It was no different with I need you. The song came to him in the wee hours of the night after a whole day of brainstorming.
“We started writing this track around 3 p.m., throwing out a bunch of different ideas. We also had two other producers and two screenwriters. But as the day got older, most people left. Fernando, who was at the piano, started playing chords and I sat there scrolling through my phone. And then the idea came to my mind and I started to sing. So he said, ‘That was really cool, record it. And we did. It’s one of the simplest songs I’ve ever written,” he said. They spent a day just creating the melody and took a few hours from another day to work on the lyrics.
Since its release, the song has gone platinum in the Netherlands, winning Best International Song of the Year at the BUMA Awards in the Netherlands.
His creative process in writing and recording is aligned with the mood of the moment. Each rep is considered a session because you never know when you’ll produce a hit, so always be prepared. Speaking of production, he explained that he doesn’t make beats. He is more involved in vocal production: “It’s one thing to have a good melody and beautiful lyrics. It’s another to deliver it and hit those key points in order to trigger an emotion.
He was honored to appear on Spice’s Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album, 10, with the collaborative track, In your mindand continues to marvel at his undeniable talent.
This year, the hitmaker was able to return to where it all began. Upon returning to our verdant shores, Blackwood took the opportunity to visit places such as the Blue Mountain and he was blown away by the breathtaking scenery. “I’m a pretty decent photographer so I got some good shots. And it was raining too so it was so amazing. I also hiked. Something I do a lot in California,” he said. -he shares.
While he was there for leisure, the artist also worked the mix into the mix, doing a few shoots for one of his music videos. He features two sides, singing under pop and EDM genres, as well as reggae, confessing that he could never choose just one as they both talk about who he is as an artist.
Outside of the melody, Blackwood is a proud father who enjoys creating priceless memories with his beloved daughter. He also shines as an animal rights activist and has been a dog and cat rescuer.
Respected on the pitch, he hopes to stay consistent, never give up on everything he started, keep doing what he loves, stay grounded and true to his roots and make his family, community and country proud.