Today’s Feature, May 13-14, 2007: Ohad Rein – Old Man River

January 18, 2008 at 6:19 pm (Today's Feature)

Ohad Rein is a Sydney, Australia-based singer/songwriter whose solo project called Old Man River is rapidly grabbing the world’s attention. With a uniquely hypnotic, uplifting blend of rootsy/folk, 60’s pop and eastern psychedelic, Rein is being compared to everyone from Beck to the Bob Dylan. Throw in a little Beatles, Badly Drawn Boy and even Jim Morrison and you get a pretty good idea of what were dealing with here. Rein’s musical journey is reminiscent of the flow of the great Mississippi River after which he named this project. Running from East to West and everywhere in between, Rein’s amazing way of setting the mood and stage for his performances with a soothing voice, combined with the comfort of acoustic guitars, Indian instrumentation and addicting lyrics has him gaining a legion of fans in every city he travels. We are lucky to have come across this positive musical force of singer/songwriter. Read his XXQs to hear more.

XXQs: Ohad Rein – Old Man River

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Ohad Rein (OR): There were a few marking points in the trail of this story. One of them was back when I was seven years old and my older brother came home one day with a Pink Floyd double vinyl called “The Wall”. I was very interested in the album, mainly in all the colorful psychedelic artwork, and later I got completely captivated by the music and the images it was drawing in my mind… Then another marking point is when I started playing guitar at 13 and was practicing relentlessly in my room. That’s when the dream was born of wanting to become a musician. The next marking point was actually making that dream come true…we all have dreams but not always have enough courage to pursue them. When the time comes to confront your dreams a lot of people get scared and choose something they don’t really want to do instead. When that confrontation point came to my life I was living in New York City and that’s when I decided to take it on and dive into the water. It was completely an internal process of crossing the river and solidifying the idea that I am and could be a musician if I only choose to be one. I didn’t really know where to start though, or what to do so I started busking in the subway and the park and slowly moved up on the way formed bands and joined different projects and all the rest as they say is history…

PEV: What is the Old Man River project? And how did the name come about?

OR: The name came from my affection to rivers and what they symbolize. Old Man River is the nickname for the great Mississippi River and a famous song appearing on the “Showboat” musical. There, Paul Robson sings of how the black slaves are picking cotton all day long while the white folk play. How they suffer, rejoice, live and die but regardless to what happens on their side or the other side of the river, Old Man River, just keeps rolling along…Our life is very much like the course of the river. We are the same at our source and the same at our end, and in between, the water always keeps flowing and we always keep changing and the course of the river widens and narrows on its long journey. I thought the river could symbolize better than anything the story of this music.

PEV: How different has the solo career been since you left the group atmosphere?

OR: There are advantages and disadvantages to every road. Being solo definitely made things much more clear and the entire process became much more focused. But on the other hand, in the beginning of the road it was a pretty lonely road. I am happy now to be able to share it with more and more people. The band, management, the label and now our fans widen the circle around the project and in a blessed way, they take it away from me.

PEV: You currently live in Sydney, Australia. What is the music scene like in Sydney?

OR: It’s very happening. For its size and location at the end of the world (about 8 hours flight minimum from nearest destination which isn’t New Zealand) there’s a lot going on here!

PEV: What was it like the first time you played music to an American crowd?

OR: It was like a dream come true. Completing the circle from busking in the New York subway to returning to America and performing on the stages of my favorite venues. I guess crowds could be different in different countries but what I actually found out playing around places like Australia, the States, UK and Israel is how similar the crowds were. And how in all these different places the music actually brought out a similar reaction in the crowd. It’s been said before that music crosses all borders but to experience it made it a concrete realization.

PEV: Describe the feeling of hearing people sing the words to your songs as you do on stage.

OR: It’s a funny thing. Our album only came out in Australia a month ago so people are just starting to know the words for the songs. I was doing a show the other night with White Buffalo in a small room in Sydney and while I was singing I could hear this hum over my vocals I was thinking: “Something sounds really funny in this monitor” but then I realized it was the crowd singing along! Such a great feeling…It’s like the songs leave home after you’ve nursed and fed them for a while for as long as they were fragile in their baby state. Now they’re out there on their own. And once they left home the parents can start having some fun!

PEV: You are a huge John Lennon fan. Tell us about what happened that one winter morning in Central Park, while you were singing Strawberry Fields.

OR: Yeah that was at the time I was living in New York and if it was a nice day I used to go up to the park and play. One of my favorite spots was Strawberry Fields on 72nd St. I used to play my tribute to Lennon and the Beatles there. One time I was singing “Lucy In The Sky of Diamonds” and closed my eyes getting into the song. When I opened them I saw Yoko Ono in front of me smiling and giving me the thumbs up! A good omen in that amazing city…she didn’t throw any coins in my case though so what I figured out from the incident was that if I don’t make money out of music at least I make people smile…

PEV: What is the best part about performing live?

OR: Performing is the most immediate way for me to become present. And when I become present everything makes sense. I don’t get trapped in the mind’s confusion. I’m just doing what I know how to do and suppose to be doing. Then in that state whoever’s watching might become present too. And then starts this amazing energy cycle between the performer and the crowd both feeding each other…it’s very sacred–that feeling.

PEV: What does your family and friends think about all your success?

OR: I guess the best thing about my friends and family is that they don’t really care. Of course they support but for them nothing changes and that always keeps you in perspective. Not that I’m even trying to compare but even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe him and gave him a pretty hard time proving himself. I’m sure that made him put in a bit of extra effort in ha, ha…

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio?

OR: I was 16 and recorded an EP with one of my first garage bands in Israel. We decided to go into the studio and record the thing ourselves and not wait for anyone to do it for us. I fell in love instantly with the whole experience–late nights, desk lights, snoozing on the sofa, last minute brilliant ideas and that special time dimension that exists in the studio. I swore to be back as soon as I could!

PEV: You have traveled everywhere. What has been your favorite city to perform in?

OR: In America it would be New York, although I had a great time in Austin as well. When I was in India I had a show on a floating boat sailing on the Ganges in Varanasi and that was my favorite place to play in India.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you prefer to be in when you sit down to write music?

OR: I don’t really get to choose when the song wants to come out. A lot of songs came out in group environments and that always makes it really special. Otherwise, they can also come when I’m in the shower.

PEV: If you could have your pick of any artist, living or passed, to work with, who would it be? Why?

OR: Probably Bob Dylan. I get stuck with lyrics sometimes and I reckon Bob could sort it out no problem!

PEV: What is your opinion with offering music online?

OR: I’m all for it. You always get what you give. The times are changing and online is not only the future but the present. There are still a lot of issues to solve though mainly how the artist is going to see any protection and profit for his works in an era where people can get what ever they desire without paying for it.

PEV: What is in your CD player or on your iPod right now?

OR: Just discovering John Denver a bit late but just got an essential composition of his and singing along to it…”country road take me home…”

PEV: When you are not writing or performing, what can we find you doing?

OR: If I’m lucky I’ll be swimming in the ocean here in Sydney where I live.

PEV: What’s one thing people would be surprised to hear about Ohad Rein? Ohad Rein does his own washing ladies and gentlemen! Dishes too….

PEV: In your opinion who is the best writer in music today?

OR: Wow that’s a hard one to call. I respect all writers so it’s hard to compare and say one’s better than the other. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is doing pretty well though…

PEV: What do you say to anyone who is trying to make it in the music business today?

OR: Ask, believe and you shall receive!

PEV: So, what is next for Old Man River?

OR: Well a lot of touring and press around the release of the album in Australia. After that, we’ll start working on the next album because the songs are piling up. Hopefully get over to the states pretty soon again! For more information on Old Man River, check out: http://www.oldmanrivermusic.com and myspace.com/oldmanriver

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