Onelight is a Parisian artist, whose latest album is an ambitiously genre-fusing celebration of artistic collaboration. With an instinctual ear, Onelight plucks the smooth R&B vocals of Brook Baili and splices them amongst electro-futuristic sounds inspired by the bubbly hyperpop of Sophie, before leading the record into Son.Person’s youthful vocals on a brightly soundscaped hip-hop track. With an almost frenetic energy, the album oozes innovation from the intricacies of a single track, across the length of the entire album. Sound overwhelming? Only in the best way.
Modern Temper is Onelight’s third studio LP. An entirely independent artist, his eclectic ideas are not bounded by big-label blocks on creative freedom. That freedom is his guiding muse. His penchant for collaboration allows him to, like DJing, “connect the dots between different styles of music”, providing the elixir that allows him to avoid stagnation and continue pushing the boundaries of his own creative mind at a remarkable pace. This zeal guides his mind even beyond music, bridging the gap between sound and vision across music videos and cover artworks, crafted always in collaboration with his fellow artists.
The album will be released, independently by Onelight, on the 31st of May. It features eight tracks, each featuring a different musician. Collaborators include Yuneer Gainz, whose song Never Give Up garnered over 1 million Spotify streams, and some lesser-known names like pop and R&B artist Georgia Starnes. Uniting experienced musicians and producers with early career artists, Modern Temper is a haven for listeners who pride themselves on finding those shimmering talents of independent, underground music scenes, before they reach the mainstream.
Hello! Thanks for taking the time for this interview. To begin, could you introduce yourself and describe the kind of music you make?
Thank you very much for having me! Of course! I'm Onelight, a music producer, DJ and podcast host. The music I make is a blend of electro, R&B and hip-hop.
Your third LP, Modern Temper, is set to be released on 31st May – congratulations! What were the initial ideas that birthed this project? How long have you been working on it, and how did those initial ideas evolve over time?
Thank you very much! The original idea was to make an album that gathers all the styles of songs I like nowadays. Something I would love to hear as an album on repeat, with no skips. I've noticed for some time now that several styles of music are blending together in a very natural and innovative way, especially in the mainstream but also underground. From R&B, hip-hop to electro, all mixed together. And that's exactly what I wanted to do. I worked on this album for two years and a half. That's the time I need to make an album. I’m lucky enough to be very confident with my ideas when I start a project. Although I'm always questioning myself along the way to ensure I make the best project possible, I always know where I'm going. What I can say about Modern Temper is that in the end it's really what I had in mind in the first place, so I'm very happy about it!
The album is a collection of collaborative tracks, bringing together artists from a diverse range of countries, backgrounds and genres. Why did you pursue this collaborative project?
I actually started to collaborate with vocalists on my first album in 2018. It started as a wild dream to work with The Egyptian Lover and Benny Sings. I didn't think it was possible as a small French indie artist, but I went for it and it worked out so well. From there it gave me the energy and confidence to keep going.
I think a voice brings so many vibrations and emotions to a song. That's what I'm interested in when I make music, to spread as many emotions and vibrations as possible. I also think making music is like sharing, and having different people on the project is the best form of that. Then there is also this pop aspect when you have a singer on a beat, even if the beat is very experimental. It's something that makes a song listenable to a very wide range of audience. And I think I really like that idea.
Why did you reach out to these musicians specifically? Had you worked with any of them previously?
I actually made four songs on this album especially for June Fermie, Yuneer Gainz, Daz Rinko and Jay Cue with whom I collaborated in the past, but this is the first time I designed a beat especially for them. Regarding those four artists I think they are insanely talented and creative. It's a blessing to work with them. Then during the process I had to look for other artists and I found Tristan Price, Brook Baili, Georgia Starnes and Son.Person through Instagram actually. We connected and I'm so thrilled with what we made.
When I look for a singer or a rapper I try to find a voice and flow that could match the beat best. There is always a risk when you are not in the studio with someone. But if you trust each other and when [you] let the music speak, the result always comes out to be splendid. Though it is quite a lot of work, especially when you are a fully independent musician like I am.
In what ways has this collaborative work influenced your personal musical direction? Did anyone introduce you to new insights, musicians or production tools, for example, that will inform and inspire your work in the future?
With this album I was finally able to make songs like I always dreamed of. All these wonderful singers and rappers helped me to step up in my vision of music. That was also the concept behind this album - combining R&B, hip-hop and electro with a very pop perspective - so that gives me a lot of energy and ideas for the future as well. I am very lucky to work with two sound engineers also, Tayreeb and Eric Marine, who always introduce me to new tools and equipment for the production, the mix and the mastering. Teamwork is the key!
Do you feel like you had a signature sound before this project? If so, how has it changed after working with so many other musicians?
Having a signature sound is probably the ultimate goal when you make music, right? Since I like to blend different styles and work with different vocalists it is indeed very challenging and not an easy task!
The point is that I want the music to sound like me. And I think I'm getting there, slowly but surely! All these collaborations are definitely helping. I'm very grateful for that.
You really emphasise the importance of innovation in your music – is collaboration the most important tool to keep new music fresh and interesting? 
Collaboration is a very essential aspect in innovation indeed because it is always different and it's always taking me to unknown territory. The other part that is linked to it and is crucial to me is the mixing. We are pushing things forward with my team with each new projects and I think that's the key. A good mix makes the whole difference. Especially when you work with vocalists. I remember very well my teammates Eric and Tayreeb saying to me that a project with 8 songs and 8 very different voices would be quite a challenge.
Is there anything else that helps you personally get over creative blocks or stagnation when you are trying to produce something new?
As I often say, creativity works like a muscle. You always have to train in order to make it work properly. It can be simple things for me, like having a walk, going to an exhibition or watching movies. Movies always inspire me very much. The name of the album actually comes from a scene of a fantastic movie called Three O'Clock High by Phil Joanou.
I feel like electronic music always tends towards collaborative projects more than any other genre, and I also think electronic music is the most experimental, so maybe there’s a connection there? Being a DJ yourself, why are you drawn to electronic and technologically forward music?
That's true! As a DJ my point was always to connect the dots between different styles, and play the latest and most innovative music. From super underground to mainstream. I guess I am always very attracted to the future. That's what motivates me. I always want to know what's next and I want to be blown away by a new form of music.
Speaking of innovation in the music industry, AI seems to me like the biggest step forward in industry at the minute. We’ve spoken to quite a few musicians and artists about their views on the use of AI, and most seem to agree it is useful as an additional artistic tool. What are your views on it, and can you see yourself using AI in your own work?
Like every other form of new technology, we have to be in control of it and not the other way around. That's the key. I have not used AI yet but I am very excited to try it out! I think it can be very interesting if it's well used. I feel it can help you to go faster and deeper in the process of making a song.
There is also a strong visual factor to your work, accompanied by music videos and cover art created in collaboration with other artists. Could you tell us a bit about the visual aspects that situate your music as part of a wider multimedia project?
I have a very visual approach to music. I always do mood boards before producing a song. Most of the time I have all the ideas for the artwork and all press pics before a project is even done. It is absolutely complementary to me. It is important for me also to have a global vision of it, music and images.
I think that when a song comes out with a visual, it can completely change your perception of the track itself. Although being a totally independent artist makes it quite hard to make videos with all the ideas that you want. But it also pushes your creativity forward.
Finally, who would be your dream collaboration – musician or otherwise?
There would be so many! In terms of vocalists, Charli XCX would be my wildest dream. Ty Dolla $ign and Doja Cat would also be on top of the list. Artists like them who can sing and rap at a very high level. You can make such crazy songs with them. In terms of other producers, I would love to spend a day in the studio with Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum, they really fascinate me.