Words by Tamay Nehir
Photography by Karan Teli
Musically recognised as KeepVibesNear, Kevin Obatolu is a 22-year-old living in his family home, Romford, East London. His latest single, Estranged, dropped March 29th after being premiered by BBC1Xtra and is described by himself as “cinematic”, so-much-so that complimenting the audio with a video was more than necessary. With a background in English and poetry, the alternative RnB singer-songwriter has only been recording music for the last two years and already has countless notable achievements as a rising star, making him dangerously unstoppable.
After the premier of Estranged, KeepVibesNear explains how surprised he is with this particular song getting radio play. “It doesn’t have a hook or even a chorus. Getting radio play for a song that’s in my head, so cinematic, was good”. With a radiant smile, he says he’s “relieved and excited,” to be able to finally drop a song he has worked hard on. “It’s the first song I’ve properly had premier and I can tell everyone’s like ‘oh sh*t!’”
As a writer for House of Solo magazine, KeepVibesNear has met many A&R’s along with other musician’s. He describes this opportunity as “getting an early foot into how things work” within the music industry. As a well-rounded graduate, KeepVibesNear used his educational background to benefit his musical career when meeting Nigerian born singer, Jacob Banks, backstage at the O2 Academy. “He could tell by the questions I was asking that I make music myself, so I was like oh yeah, I make tunes myself and from that he hit me up with Adam French, the guy he was opening for that night and we had a couple studio sessions.”
He’s never really made his music at home, describing himself as “lucky enough” to have been able to skip that part. His old label, Cachet Records, founded by Ed LaBuick gave him countless in-studio opportunities where he’s made many of his songs. After solely focussing on his musical career for about a year and being in studios from 9-5 daily, KeepVibesNear found himself deep within a creative portal when deciding on adding more responsibility onto his schedule by getting a night job working for a pharmaceutical company. He can get home from work at 7am to only wake up a couple of hours later and start recording. Overwhelming, he finds it gives him structure and that is something he is appreciative for.
Being routinely used to recording in a studio environment, KeepVibesNear explains how he does actually have a home studio that he saved up for, but he never finds himself using it. “I feel like the experience of going somewhere and actually meeting someone and making tunes makes me more creative, ‘cause like they aren’t necessarily my friends… so I’ve started getting used to doing it wherever”. Being adaptable when being musically creative is paying off for musical talent, KeepVibesNear.
When he started, his music was getting “no love” and only a few likes, so now that it has progressed, he keeps himself humbled by being actively responsive to the people he describes as a “lit fan-base,” by replying to as many comments on Instagram as possible. He interacts with his fans when playing live by engaging with them while he’s on-stage. “That’s what I see all the best artists do.” Controlling the crowd is something KeepVibesNear has progressively gotten better at as he constantly improves in every aspect of being a live-performing musical artist. At a recent performance in Boxpark Shoreditch, he says “the way I controlled the room was much better than I usually do.”
His influences are broad and vary from a number of different well-known musicians like Chet Baker, Frank Ocean and Stevie Wonder. Inspirations like John Mayer and Andre 3000 are artists KeepVibesNear would aspire to working with someday. “Ideally, I’d like a guitar solo from John Mayer and rap verse from Andre 3000.” KeepVibesNear also reckons he would want to make a banger with R&B/Soul music group, Children of Zeus. After his first music video release, possible collaboration opportunities are being thrown into the DM’s of KeepVibesNear so anything seems possible for the future.
Although he has no particular goals for the end of the year, as he seems to always be smashing things, KeepVibesNear wants to feature as a headliner of a show before his next project drops. He also wants to dedicate more time to writing/co-writing.
You can check out KeepVibesNear new music video for Estranged, via YouTube where you will experience his captivating raw sound and talent.