For this week’s Alumni Voices, we’ve had a chat with York Philosophy graduate Olaide Steele. Since graduating from the University of York in 2017, Olaide has gone on to pursue a career in music. Olaide is now a singer-songwriter, actor, and model and has just released her new single, LHYLM, which has been featured on BBC Introducing.
What was your journey at York like?
Being at York was great. The people I met at the Uni of York are now some of my closest friends. I studied Philosophy, which was really interesting. It really made me think about life differently and more deeply. One of my friends at school went to an open day at the University of York and really loved the campus, so that sparked my initial interest in York. I had a look at Philosophy courses at a number of universities and the University of York’s course really stood out to me. One of the things that really sold York to me was that there was an option to study Chinese Philosophy. I’m really interested in spirituality. I also liked that there was the option to study something outside western philosophy too to provide more of a diverse understanding of philosophy.
Did you always want to be a singer?
Yes, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a singer. I think it’s something I’ve just always wanted to do. I always used to put on little performances for my family as a child. Once my little sister and cousins came along, I was recruiting them as my backing singers!
What challenges did you face in launching your career?
Starting out I didn’t really know people that were pursuing a similar career path to me. All of that has changed for me quite significantly these past couple of years. I really started putting myself out there and reaching out to artists and producers online.
I also came across Girls I Rate, an organisation founded by Carla Marie Williams (she’s a grammy award-winning songwriter for artists like Beyoncé). Carla Marie Williams shared her open letter in Music Week on Twitter, which discussed the underrepresentation of black women in the UK music industry. I attend Girls I Rate’s Mentor Me sessions online, which has really given me such an invaluable understanding of the music industry. We’ve had a couple of Mentor Me sessions with entertainment lawyers, as well as big record labels and a number of the core societies in the UK music industry. Joining Girls I Rate has really helped me to overcome my initial challenge of navigating the industry. It’s also helped me meet other artists.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Usually each day can be quite different, depending on what project I’m working on or if I’m booked on a set or for a live performance. With the pandemic, my typical day is a lot more remote and online. I have a morning ritual, every morning I listen to a motivational video, meditate and workout. Every evening, I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for and things I’m looking forward to. For me, it’s been really important to find the time in my day to make sure I’m centred and enjoying the journey.
On a typical day in lockdown, I would have a virtual session with a producer or another artist or songwriter to work on some new music. I usually do some recording with my home studio setup or some songwriting too. Since I’m an independent artist, I would also do a range of admin tasks like registering songs, completing documents, booking people to work on projects I’m doing and things like that. Depending on the workload, some days are more packed than others.
How did it feel to be recently featured on BBC Introducing?
It felt so incredible to be featured on BBC Introducing. I’m really proud of my new single LHYLM, so it’s great to have it played to such a huge audience. It was great talking to Edward Adoo on the show too and taking part in his quiz game! It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year so far!
Are people consuming music in a different way now than they were traditionally?
I think so. Things seem to be evolving really quickly. So far, in my lifetime, I’ve seen the consumption of music going from CDs being the norm to streams and downloads on music platforms being the norm. We are now seeing the integration of music with social media becoming the norm. I think we’ll continue to see more and more people consuming music on social media platforms like TikTok. I definitely think how we consume music will keep evolving to keep up with advances in technology and lifestyle changes.