Photo Credit: Razz Lee

Oliver Rodley is an enigmatic L.A.-based keyboard player, beatmaker, producer and DJ, who has largely existed behind the scenes…until now. With his latest single, “The Top,” Rodley brought the powerful voice of Akil the MC (Jurassic 5) to the forefront, in an uplifting hip-hop anthem. This was one of the first tastes of Rodley’s upcoming album Sweet Green Tea, an eclectic collection of lo-fi hip-hop soundscapes slated for release on September 24th via Underload Recordings. Check out the other singles from the album: “Matcha” and “Sweet Green Tea.

What’s your story as an artist?
I’ve been in the music business for a while working as a hired gun on tours as a keyboard player.  However, my solo projects are my chance to do my own thing, and I gravitate towards electronic music and with this latest release Lo-fi hip hop.  As long as there’s a groove, I’m in it!

What do you want your music to communicate? 
Sweet Green Tea is about bringing people together around this shared love of Green Tea (and tea ingeneral), with Green Tea being a metaphor for how similar we all are. 

What are some sources of inspiration for your storytelling?
The idea of Sweet Green Tea comes from Japanese themes of green tea and matcha, mixed with the very American idea of drinking sweet tea

and the juxtaposition of the two.  Many of the titles have to do with tea, or great places to enjoy green tea and high-tea (Rosewood or in London, driving on the road to Positano, or having breakfast at the great Positano hotel, Le Sirenuse, with magnificent views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, or the Japanese ceremony of having tea (Chado).

The point is, sipping on green tea is a worldwide passion: most everyone loves it.
The concept of Sweet Green Tea is to put this universal idea of enjoying Green Tea through the musical lens of the lof-fi genre.  

Who is an artist that you look up to more than others today?
Lately I have been really impressed with Jordan Rakei.   His sense of harmony and production is really inspiring.

What’s the record or artist that made you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I can’t really narrow it down to just one.  I am really inspired by artists that create music that is uniquely their own and have a body of work that supports their vision.  So, I could reference artists from my favorite genres such as Kendrick Lamar and Dilla for Hip Hop, and Herbie Hancock for Jazz, and Aphex Twin for Electronic music, and Nujabes for the lo-fi genre.

Tell us about Sweet Green Tea and how it came about
A friend of mine owns a record label, and I have worked on quite a few projects with him over the years.  He reached about to me a few years ago about creating some music in the lo-fi hip hop space, and because I was already a fan of Dilla and Nujabes I was all for it!  He presented the concept of Sweet Green Tea and I ran with it. 

What inspires your sound?
Certainly Jazz is a major influence even though there is not a lot of improvisation of this album.  Most of the piano parts were created from simply recording me jamming over a hip hop beat and bass line that I had programmed.  Then I would sit back and listen and choose the bits that I felt really stood out. I would then chop it up and create samples that I could use to create the song.

What’s your favorite tune of yours?
My favorite song on this record is “Cruel” because I feel like the vocal and lyrics blended perfectly with the track.   And I feel like I found a really sparse yet jazzy approach to the piano solo in the middle that glued everything together.

Where are some things you really want to accomplish as an artist?
I simply want my music to be heard and get a chance to rise above the noise  — Lots of listeners — that would make me happy.

Favorite lyric you ever wrote?

The lyrics to “Cruel” are certainly my favorite.  I live for those moments when a lyric comes together that perfectly matches the vibe of the track.

Was there ever a moment when you felt like giving up?
The music business can be a great incinerator of dreams, but I have found my way by diversifying as a player, artist and producer.  That has been the key to longevity for me, and whenever I felt like I reached a dead end I could reach into my bag of tricks and re-invent myself.  I could turn myself around and go in a different direction.

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Slow and steady wins the race!  I have seen so many friends and artists in the music business who have burned brightly and then quickly burned out and disappeared. 

Where do you think the next game changer will be in the music industry and entertainment scene?
Well the sea change always seems to come out of nowhere.  Will it be in technology or the live music scene?  Whatever happens, it appears as if humans still have an insatiable appetite for music — it’s just that they now have so many choices for where to get it.