The subtle kickdrum mimicking a heartbeat is one of the many sounds singer-songwriter and producer Akeem Ouellet uses to create a connection with his listeners.
“All of those sounds they work to create—not an experience, but a feeling,” said Ouellet.
On Oct. 9, 2020, Ouellet—known musically as Akeem Oh—released his latest single “School Girl.”
The song was inspired by a moment he shared with his close friend two years ago. As his friend expressed the trials she was facing, Ouellet could hear the chorus playing in his head.
It was important to him to capture the essence of the night, so he started recording a demo on his phone at 2 a.m. and worked throughout the night, even with a looming 6 a.m. start to his next day.
“It was a really special night,” says Ouellet. “I feel like sometimes I get those nights where I’ll come up with this idea and just love it from the start and already know where I want that track to go.”
When Ouellet reflects on his relationship with music, he doesn’t remember a time it was not there. If anything, he says he sees the growth of his relationship with music over the years. He recalls his parents sharing memories of him performing for them throughout his childhood.
In his small hometown of Mattawa, ON, Ouellet remembers his first standing ovation at seven years old after he sang “Mambo No. 5.” The connection with the audience as they enjoyed the music with him solidified his passion for the industry.
Ouellet describes his music as “uplifting indie-pop” and has been strongly influenced as an artist by Paul McCartney. He is a huge Beatles fan.
The largest rush he has experienced came from an audience of 10,000 people in Montreal at Les Francofolies with the TFO JAM cast.
JAM was a show on the Canadian French language educational television channel (TFO) about young artists who go through a musical boot camp and mentorship which leads to their final performance in Montreal.
In 2012, Ouellet starred in the first season JAM aired on TFO. He was the opening act for the final performance in Montreal.
“Ever since then, I’ve been craving to have 10,000 or more people up in front, dancing, having a good time and connecting to what I’m doing,” said Ouellet. “I think that’s what I want the most. It’s just to connect with people. I think that’s really what life’s about. And yeah, I just want to create. That’s just what I want to do.”
Ouellet released his first single “Winter Crush” on Jan. 19, 2018.
“Winter Crush” was listed on CBC’s Top 3 New Ontario Songs You Need To Hear and featured in the Ottawa Marathon’s #OttawaRun 2018 Campaign.
In addition to “Winter Crush,“ Ouellet has also created custom tracks for Showtime TV Movie My Mother’s Killer Boyfriend and the theme to the Hallmark & ION TV Movie A Christmas Crush.
On January 8th, Ouellet released a new video for “Winter Crush,” directed by Andrew C. Erin and featuring dance troupe Culture Shock Ottawa.
As the final days came before the release of “School Girl,” Ouellet said he was a little nervous how people would perceive the song because of how different it is compared to his previous work.
“I was not really expecting it to do this well,” said Ouellet.
The song is personal for many reasons. Ouellet said the original demo was purely about his friend but as the song developed, he noticed the song reflecting more of himself as an artist.
“It was kind of scary to put that out there and to realize that, it was also about me,” said Ouellet.
The song is about a girl who is navigating obstacles in her life, and she cannot see how talented she is. The verse ends with “I know someday you’ll live your dreams.”
It was important to Ouellet to have a portion of the original demo in the final version of the song.
“I feel like a lot of artists will often forget what the song’s about by the time it’s out because the creative process can be so long,” said Ouellet.
“I didn’t want to forget that night when I wrote that song. So, all the backup vocals in “School Girl,” like the final product, is actually vocals from the very night I wrote it.”
“School Girl” and “Winter Crush” are available to listen to on all major streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube.