Like so many success stories, Genesis Owusu’s irrepressible rise from triple j Unearthed to President Obama’s playlist was a blend of timing, luck, collaboration and super-powered talent.
Owusu, however, isn’t like every other success story.
The 23-year-old artist crushed 2021. In the space of just one week in November, Owusu (born Kofi Owusu Ansah) bagged the J Award for Album of the Year, and backed it up with four ARIA Awards, for his debut LP Smiling with No Teeth.
The album and its creator have dominated year-end critic’s lists.
Just days out from Christmas, the kid from Canberra got an early present in the form of kudos from Barack Obama, the former POTUS naming ‘Gold Chains’ to his list of favorite tunes for 2021.
Were it not for the pandemic and the limitation on touring and travel, who knows how far and wide Owusu’s name would have travelled.
Next year will see Owusu on the move. “We’ve got lots of festivals and headline shows in U.S., Europe and U.K. next year,” explains Andrew Klippel, co-founder of Ourness, the Sydney-based music company.
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“We’re aggressively going into those markets, and doing the same show we’ve done here in Australia. We’re feeling confident about that. It’s a safe position to take that people will respond similarly to how they have in Australia. He doesn’t do a bad show,” Klippel says with a laugh.
Ourness is built on the three pillars of recording, publishing and management, all of which are involved in Owusu’s career.
“I look at it as a partner-collaborator situation. In order to do that type of deal, you always need to do it through the lens as a manager. You need to always ask yourself, is it right from that perspective?”
A woman, it is often said, is the power behind the throne. Andrew Klippel’s wife Beck Quade is the eyes and ears of the machine.
Quade discovered Owusu on Unearthed. “I was really wanting to find a new artist to work with. I asked my wife to find someone. She literally said ‘what about this guy?’. She then went onto Instagram and found him wearing a wedding dress with crazy glasses for his high school formal. He looked so cool. I listened to his music, the song drive slow, off his cardrive EP. I loved it”.
The funkster was playing that day at Groove in the Moo in Canberra, at midday. A road trip was hastily arranged.
For Klippel, an artist and record producer who cut the early-90s club hit ‘Love You Right,’ with Euphoria, Owusu was a bolt of lightning. Eye-catching, devastating, and fully-formed.
“He was unbelievable, exactly as you’d see him now. He was like, this guy is a superstar.”
Stream Genesis Owusu’s ‘drive slow’:
Klippel connected with the young artist, and hooked him up with studio pros, including keyboardist Simon Mavin and drummer Perrin Moss of Grammy-nominated neo-soul act Hiatus Kaiyote; Kirin J. Callinan; and The Free Nationals’ Callum Connor.
Timing, luck, collaboration and super-powered talent.
“I was trying to create an environment where everyone felt empowered to do what they do best,” Klippel tells TIO, “and not having committees and different people coming in over the top and stopping people from shining.”
Working with “an artist like that who has a very great vision, I want to support that to every level. And collaborate with him and with artists in general to build that bridge and make it bullet proof.”
Stream Genesis Owusu’s ‘Gold Chains’:
Owusu, says Klippel, is symbolic of Ourness’ DIY ethos. As the project gathered pace, Ourness added the necessary parts, including The Annex’ Mardi Caught, Ben Godding and AWAL, Liv Burke and the PR experts at Thinking Loud. Teams are in place in the U.K. and U.S.
Ourness is “definitely growing,” says Klippel, which is setting up a new EP from its signing Royel Otis, the Sydney duo of Otis Pavlovic and Royel Maddell. Expect to hear the first single from it in late February, followed by the full recording in March or April 2022.
“We’re looking to sign another couple of things,” he says. “We’re absolutely growing the business. I still intend to work with specialists. With functions that are so important I would want to keep outsourcing to people that really get music that they’re working on it, and want to work singularly on it.”
Owusu’s recent goldrush is just the start of a busy period.
“Obviously we’re making new music, we’re making new records,” says Klippel, who produced Smiling with No Teeth, along with Dave Hammer. “We were already working on our American tour long before the awards came in. America and the rest of the world is a big part of the plan.”