I started to hear the buzz about Oliver Esposito quite a while ago but it wasn’t until this past November that I had the opportunity to experience their music live. To say that Oliver was jaw-droppingly good would be an understatement. Oliver totally engrossed the audience with powerful songs with sensitive yet powerful lyrics and virtuosic playing. Keep an eye on this Berklee College of Music freshman.
To learn more about Oliver, visit their website. Check out some of the quotes from music luminaries like Mary Gauthier and Langhorne Slim.
Here’s a video of Oliver playing “Pass On.”
You have been active in the music world for many years and you’re only 18. Can you honestly imagine life without music?
Music IS life for me. It is a way to process, to grow, to express, to survive.
What instrument did you pick up first? Did you have encouraging family members who directed you toward music or was it just something that you deliberately pursued?
I was first inspired to start guitar from Maria in The Sound of Music, and my mum encouraged me to pick up the piano. I came to mandolin later at a music camp, and my mum has always been incredibly supportive of my music!
You have played with some amazing musical icons like David Grisman, Chris Thile, and Tim O’Brien—all of whom are pretty amazing pickers. Were you intimidated by them at all?
As far as being intimidated by icons…when I was little, I was way too enthusiastic to let it hold me back. There was a time when it really scared me, but now I have respect and the knowledge that they want to see me shine, and regardless, I know how to do that and that’s what I’m going to do.
You recorded your first CD. Ghosts Underneath My Skin, in Nashville. What was that experience like? Did you enjoy recording for the first time?
Ghosts actually wasn’t my first time recording, but it was my first experience in the professional industry. Overall it was an amazing, crazy, experience! Everything happens so fast, so you have to be prepared and clear in your vision but also open to things changing and really beautiful spontaneous moments happening.
Your songs contain thought-provoking lyrics about some controversial topics such as gun violence, LGBTQ rights, and the refugee situation in the U.S. Do you find that you are mostly preaching to the choir with these political songs or have you occasionally had to defend your right to sing about these pressing matters that are heavy in your heart?
I come up against people who don’t agree with me all the time. That is the point of writing these songs, to make change, to make people uncomfortable, not to just tell people what they already know or what they want to hear. The white middle-class liberals are as much a part of the problem as super extreme conservatives. We are all part of the problem, the idea is that we have to be willing to do the work to fix our own internalized racism/transphobia/homophobia/etc. and actively be part of the solution, which often means stepping out of the way.
Your song “Breathe” is very powerful. Your words are so very intimate and the way the song builds is intense. Your personal story as you tell it in that story-song is a courageous testament. Bravo. I can only hope that your courage and transparency gets heard by those who need to hear it. Have you had the chance to communicate with others who may identify and understand this piece?
“Breathe” is the song I hear about the most probably. People seem to really relate to the struggle to be true, and the raw honesty of it. When I hear that I’ve affected someone, that is one of the highest compliments
Do you have any immediate or long-term goals you’d like to share?
I don’t really know where I’m going with this! I do know that the music business right now wants you to be a certain thing to be successful, and I absolutely will not compromise my honesty and morals and standing up for what’s right. I will be who I am and try to change the industry. I don’t care about money or fame or anything like that, I just care about making a positive difference, using music for change and healing and empowerment, because that’s what music is.