It’s not taking long for Otto Aday to make a believer out of virtually everyone. The London singer-songwriter released his debut full-length album, Persona, last month via Bay Street Records. The young Aday has all of the necessary characteristics of a great singer-songwriter: a stellar voice, an impressive lyricist, and an emotional touch that enables his songs to really resonate with his listeners. The melodies are nostalgic, and there is just enough traditional rock n’ roll energy. There is also a backdrop of 1960s psychedelia within his sound, which helps make Aday a very likable artist to virtually any generation.
Aday first began to draw some local buzz, which captured the attention of English musician and songwriter Dave Stewart. Stewart is best known as one half of The Eurythmics but has also made his name as a record producer. He has won Grammy and Brit Awards and ended up being the ultimate mentor to Aday. Stewart saw in Aday a unique character and a storyteller who could conjure up all kinds of emotions. Last Year, Aday relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where he recorded most of Persona in just a week. Stewart helped co-write the album’s lead singer “Star Crossed Lovers.”
Joining us today for an edition of Stereo Six is Aday himself, who runs down for us some songs and albums that have influenced him in very unique, fundamental ways.
“The only defining factor of inspiration is the people in my life; the stories they give me & the moments we share inspire me more than any song I’ve heard. That being said, here are some songs and albums that have meant a lot to me on my journey so far.”
1. Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue (1977, Jet)
“My dad told me about how he used to sneak down and play Out of the Blue on his dad’s vinyl player when his dad was out at work. If he ever got caught, it would’ve been a disaster; apparently, no one was allowed to touch that vinyl player. I get it, though; it’s a great record. This was the first time one of my parents had ever told me about their music taste. Neither of my parents are very musical, and this was after I showed an interest in music, so this will always be a moment that I cherish.”
2. Passenger – Whispers II (2015, Nettwerk)
“This album is brilliant storytelling from start to finish. It’s warm, cozy, and to me perfectly matches up with the autumnal colours. I admire their songwriting and use of intricate rhyme schemes. My favourite lyric from this album is ‘I hit the wall in frustration; the conversation had been circling for days. She said don’t take it out on him, for the wall has always been supportive in the best of ways.’
“I’ve been listening to their music for a while, and it definitely has scored out moments where I might have felt anxious, and instead I’m lulled into a state of calm.”
3. Boney M – “Rasputin” (1978, Atlantic Records)
“Sometimes I put huge fluffy socks on and slide around the kitchen listening to (the single version of) ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M. It’s a great way to start the day. Whether the song is happy or sad, I tend to lean towards older sounds. This album definitely let me explore that; the amount of crazy outboard gear and vintage tones is something that I’ve always dreamed of.
“Before setting out on this album journey, I’d never been in a proper studio before. I had just made music from my home studio. I can’t complain; I’ve got a couple Neumanns and a vintage 1974 U1 piano, but going from that to Abbey Road and playing on the Mrs. Mills piano was quite the step up.”
4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011, Jagjaguwar)
“When I was 18, I lost my grandfather. This album was a therapeutic soundtrack to those long drives to see him before he passed away. I think Justin Vernon’s songs might’ve been the first time I used music as a form of escapism to block out what’s happening around me, a sort of emotional cushion for the harder times.
“Their sound will always hold a place in my heart. I hope my music can do the same for other people. One thing that I’ve taken from Bon Iver is the sort of DIY aspect of production. It’s more about capturing a feeling than making sure you have the most expensive gear, and sometimes you need to give songs space. ‘Hate My Mind’ is a great example of that; it’s just me and a piano. At that point, I didn’t have enough mics to mic the piano properly, so the phase is all off, but it’s the feeling of that take that brings the song to life.”
5. Medium Build – “Never Learned To Dance” (2023, Self-released)
“I’ve been digging Medium Build’s music a lot lately. Especially ‘Never Learned To Dance.’ Fortunately, thanks to Boney M and thick socks, I can just about bust a move. I’m always keeping an eye out for artists that are saying something interesting in a beautiful way. One thing that I feel I’m always learning as a songwriter is how to fit the biggest feelings and moments into the least amount of words. When you look at great songwriting, it’s always saying so much with so little.”
6. Eurythmics – “I Saved The World Today” (1999, Arista Records)
“Working with an industry great like Dave Stewart closely on this album meant both of our styles combined at pivotal points. This helped infuse this classic yet refreshing tone. He and I both dig the Beatles and brilliant songwriting from the greats like Bob Dylan and David Bowie.
“One of my personal favourite songs from Dave’s back catalogue is ‘I Saved The World Today’ by Eurythmics. It’s fantastically cinematic; I’m quite a sucker for some great strings. That’s one of the things on my album that I love most and that I loved writing, the big cinematic string lines.”