With their beautiful harmonies and Americana style, Israeli-American duo O&O – Orian Peled and Obadiah Jones – recently released their single A Spark Away From Fire.
Now busy preparing for summer festival season, a tour of their own and writing new music, Six Shooter Country’s Alison Dewar finds out more.
AD: First of all, congratulations on the success of the single, you must have been very pleased.
OJ: Yes, we had the support of Apple Music, they added it to one of their country music playlists, which they have done for our last few singles and that’s huge for us because it really bumps up our numbers.
OP: And we had some great radio play too, so we’re very happy about that.
AD: Tell me about the inspiration for the song.
OJ: The title came from a novel I was reading called The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It was a line early in the book that really jumped out at me and I brought the idea to Orian and said ‘this is such a cool line, what can we do with it’…we got our imaginations going and developed the story from there. We tend to write from our own experiences a lot of the time, and this was an example of us not doing that.
AD: So it literally did spark an idea…
OJ: There is a lot of potential in that phrase, is there something about to take off in a good way or go up in flames in a bad way. In the scenario that we present in the song – two people having extra marital affairs with each other – it’s kind of both of those things. Their relationship could take off but it’s ruining the other relationships they have in their lives.
AD: And where are you in terms of new music?
OJ: We’re in the writing process for what comes next. We were lucky to be able to release some singles during lockdown, but it’s not the same as when you’re able to get out and play shows and also it meant we have been recording from our home set up, which is not nearly as nice as going to the studio and collaborating there. We’re hoping to do that this year and have some new music and maybe an EP coming out.
AD: You said you get your writing inspiration from real life but given we’ve not been getting out and about, does that make it harder?
OJ: Definitely, I don’t know if it’s the lack of social stimulation or being in the same four walls, it’s less inspiring, but we are a couple and we write a lot from our relationship experience and that hasn’t changed.
OP: Another other main inspiration is having a studio deadline. With our previous EP we said ‘right, in three months’ time we’re going in the studio’, book the dates and we need to write two songs now, and that’s been a good motivator.
AD: When you’re writing for an EP, do you have sequential songs that move on from one to another or do you treat them all as individual songs?
OJ: On the Truth Comes Out EP (2018), we had written Tears in the Rain, which came out before as a single. When we were writing for the rest of the EP we thought what if we wrote the same story, but from the perspective of the other person in the situation and that was Saturday Morning. Those two songs are sequential but that’s kind of unique.
OP: I feel when we write a group of songs together, they are usually around similar things. All the last singles, they had the branding theme of all the different colours and they are all to do with kinds of relationships, even if it’s not a romantic relationship. Dancing on the Floor is more your own relationship to your bad habits in life, so there is a theme, but they are not necessarily sequential.
AD: You’ve been asking your fans on social media where they want to see you play, what are your plans?
OP: We’re being quite cautious at the moment, we did more London gigs at the end of last year but for now we’re trying to plan a tour of the UK. All I can say is we’re working on it, but we’re trying to push it to the Spring/Summer so we avoid any needing to postpone anything.
OJ: We are playing Country on the Coast Festival in Portsmouth in April, and that’ll sort of start our live shows for the summer.
AD: Are there any particular festivals you would love to play?
OJ: We would really like to do Millport and I think also The Long Road. One we did play and would like to play again is Black Deer.
AD: You famously met at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, I’m guessing Liverpool must be a very special place for you?
OJ: I really miss getting off at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, coming out and feeling like you’re back. We haven’t been up in a while because of covid and everything, but we used to go up there to record and we intend to again.
OP: Most of the singles we’ve released in the past few years have come from a studio in Liverpool called The Cabin, and we did a Sofar Sounds gig there, which was really special.
AD: I imagine then, when you’re planning your tour, Liverpool will be on there?
OP: We’re trying, definitely that area.
AD: You’ve travelled and played a lot overseas – how do you find the audiences change in different countries?
OP: We’ve played to a lot of American crowds, just over Christmas we did a few shows in Obadiah’s home town in Colorado. Americans are very expressive as to whether they are enjoying the music or not; with British audiences because they are so focused on listening, sometimes you’re wondering what’s going on.
OJ: Americans are very enthusiastic, but I kind of like if you get a good response from an English audience, you know you really earned it.
AD: What counts as a best response?
OJ: What I like most is when people come up to us after the show and we get to talk to them, if they really connect with us and our story or the songs, that’s really exciting to hear.
AD: Talking of connecting, you’ve been doing your Sunday socials and your TikTok with lots of covers. How have you managed to keep the impetus up?
OP: With the TikTok thing it’s just the reaction people have to the covers, they really seem to enjoy them. It seems with TikTok you can have a bit of a wider reach, it’s easier to be discovered by new people as opposed to other platforms at the moment.
AD: Has it been a steep learning curve?
OJ: (laughter) We’re really not that savvy to be honest, we’re still learning. Before the pandemic we made our living playing covers, doing events and things like that, we have quite a repertoire so it’s quite easy for us to translate that online. People love hearing songs they know and it’s fun for us – these are the songs we learn from as songwriters, so it’s always fun to do them.
AD: I loved your spin on Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain – is there anyone you aspire to do a cover of, but you’re almost ‘afraid’ to?
OP: For me, it’s when it’s a very well-known famous singer, like Shania Twain or Whitney Houston, there’s so much pressure. You have to think, ‘of course, I’m not Whitney Houston so let me just do it the way I can do it’. Yeah, musicians and artists tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, we’re never happy.
OJ: Orian does Whitney Houston live and she does it pretty well.
OP: It’s different when it’s live because it’s just in that moment and you’re on stage and in the vibe, but it’s a bit harder when you’re on video and you’re thinking every moment is captured. I loved doing the Fleetwood Mac covers and I really enjoy singing all the Christine McVie stuff.
AD: Do you include covers in your live act?
OJ: We always try to include some but I think we like to make the distinction between what we do for work, which is the covers, and then when we get to play our originals.
OP: When we do a cover it’s usually one of our favourite classic country ones, something like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, The Everly Brothers, or Fleetwood Mac.
AD: What would be your message to fans right now?
OP: Just come and support live music and let us know where you want us to play in the UK on our Instagram posts.
AD: That’s a great way to end – I’m sure there will be some brilliant requests. Thank you both.
A Spark Away From Fire is available on all streaming services