Last but not least, at Caribana Festival I also had the pleasure to interview Jan Oliver (aka Jan Bühlmann), a young Swiss musician who was Mister Switzerland in 2010. We talked about his love for music, his projects for the future and a lot more. You will find the review of his great gig here. Thanks a lot to Jan Oliver for being so friendly and for smiling all the time and nd of course a huge thanks to the Caribana crew! 🙂
The Liberation: Your first album The Great Escape came out last year. How did you conceive it and how did you come up with the songs in it?
- Jan: (laughs) Well, I can tell you it wasn’t really an inspiration by other artists. But what I got from my parents was probably a subconscious inspiration, a lot of Queen music, rock music and classical music. I started playing classical piano when I was 7, and I continued it in conservatoire and then I grew up with hip hop music. I guess my album is a mix of all these styles. When it’s live it’s rock, on the album is rather pop, and some kind of hidden hip hop influence, and of course classic stuff (laughs). But you don’t really hear it I guess, if you listen to it and you have no idea, you would just say it’s pop, pop’l pop, pop’l pop (laughs).
The Liberation: Cool! You were Mister Switzerland in 2010, and now you’re on a different kind of stage but always at the centre of attention for a different reason. Which one do you prefer?
- Jan: Well, it’s really obvious.
The Liberation: Music I guess.
- Jan: Yeah (laughs). How cliché, but music has been a huge part of my life, it’s really what I always will go back to and what I always want to do. I keep telling myself when I’m fucking 90 years old I can still play piano, you know, that’s great. Music is always music. That Mister stuff I don’t know, I live by instincts, my guts tell me, I really listen to that and I just do that, it’s not always easy but it’s always right so that’s why I did that Mister stuff, it was absolutely not my thing. Like “What the fuck am I doing here?”. (laughs)
The Liberation: Interesting! So you already told me a bit how you started playing music…
- Jan: Yeah, I also started very early with musicals, at the same time I started singing classical stuff, as a bass. When I was 17 or something I wanted to change my style of playing piano, cuz I got too much pushed in it, it was just reading note by note and I didn’t want to do that, and I wanted to play my music with other people and in front of people who actually feel what I do. Then I started writing songs and actually play music with other people.
The Liberation: Which bands do you look up to, and which bands inspire you in your music?
- Jan: I don’t really take inspiration, maybe it’s stupid that I don’t. There are so many songs and artists at the moment, which is cool, but it’s such an overflow all the time. I pick some songs, Bruno Mars, maybe a Rihanna song, maybe Patrick Watson, many people don’t know him but he is brilliant. I still listen to The Beatles a lot.
The Liberation: Who doesn’t?
- Jan: I still listen to classic music and play classic music. I don’t know, it’s just a mix, I don’t wanna be pushed in one direction.
The Liberation: So you’re a very open minded and eclectic artist.
- Jan: I’m really open minded yeah, I’m writing new songs now, It’s gonna be pretty different than what I did here. It’s very calm, it just turned out calm, I didn’t want to do it that way but I had a break-up and I was so sad (laughs), fuck I was. I felt I had to write very authentic stuff, that was calm and rather sad.
The Liberation: This is a question I ask all artists; does the music comes first or do the lyrics come first?
- Jan: That’s a good question; it’s always a good question. It really depends, there are so many different kinds. If you have to write a song fast, for example by the end of the month, you have to get your ass down and write it. And then, talking for myself, it doesn’t start with the lyrics. But I use music to let something out and the input comes from the music but it happens just exactly at the same time, I play it, I find a melody and then I just write the lyrics right after, I just do it, it has to happen right away. If I don’t do so afterwards I don’t like something and then I start changing it and then it falls apart.
The Liberation: Are you thinking about your next album already?
- Jan: Yeah, I’m writing some songs for a project at the end of August. The next album is gonna be next year, beginning or end but definitely next year.
The Liberation: Is there going to be something new in it?
- Jan: Something new? You’re gonna hear a huge difference I guess. It’s not gonna be calm anymore that’s for sure, it’s not gonna be slow. I had to move forward and my music has to do that step as well.
The Liberation: So, your music reflects your own life and your own changing in a sense.
- Jan: Yes, because with my first album, like I told you, it was not planned to be calm at all, but then there was that break-up and I actually had all the songs, I was recording exactly at the time but I was like “Fuck I can’t sing happy songs anymore, it doesn’t work”. So I wrote new songs and I recorded those but then it was fucked up, it was calm stuff. But now I’m free and I feel like that and I’m very open to writing and work it out, just see where it takes me.
The Liberation: Do you have any particular plans for your future career? Like touring or so?
- Jan: Oh yeah. Now I think I have to write, this year is a lot of writing. For next year, yes of course, I wanna play as much as I can cuz then I’ll have more songs. With one album is fucking hard to play a full set cuz it’s just 40 minutes or 45 and after 30 min I am like “What the hell am I gonna play?”. With a second album or an EP you have a lot of stuff and you can combine it with other set ups and covers, I’m really looking forward to play live next year.
The Liberation: What do you think of the Swiss music scene? Does it allow you to get where you want?
- Jan: That’s the best question I’ve had in a long time. (laughs) It’s also really critical to answer probably, I don’t know what I should say now. I’m really not inspired by… No I can’t say it, I don’t wanna piss anybody (laughs). Let’s say it like that: I listen to music that is not from Switzerland and I don’t wanna do music that sounds Swiss.
The Liberation: Do you think it’s easy to make yourself known for your music in a country like Switzerland?
- Jan: No, it’s really not easy. Swiss people, we are very democratic, always on the safe side of life. People are all on the same level, if someone does something special others are like “Why? What are you doing there? Come down again!”. In music business, Swiss people are like that. If you’ve done something, they expect always more of you and you’re in a cage, I don’t wanna think about it.
The Liberation: Do you have any songs in Swiss German?
- Jan: No, cuz I don’t like the sound of Swiss German in singing. I love the language, it’s very creative because you can say whatever you want and just invent a funny word in a context and all Swiss people will understand what you mean, but that makes it so hard for me to put down words which have already a rhythm in them, there’s not much rhythm in the words. Plus English is the emotional language I have, because I had distant relationships and just learned to talk about feelings in English. What I do are autobiographic songs, it’s gotta be in English. Every song I ever heard was in English, that is singing to me. Or on the other hand Italian, because of classic music, ‘cause I also grew up with that. But just English, someone singing in Swiss German sounds like talking to me.
The Liberation: You should sing a song in Italian then!
- Jan: Yeah, if I could, I should learn it first! Do you know Bassi Maestro? “Foto di gruppo” is like the best song ever!
The Liberation: Thanks, I’ll check that out!