Portraits in Sound

Talented musician and former Alton College student Ollie West returns to Alton to perform at the Assembly Rooms on Wednesday 8th February as part of his ‘Portraits’ album project. West is currently studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and we caught up with him ahead of his return south to find out a bit more about his current live music projects.

How did the band form?

The band formed about 3 years ago at Alton College, when music became a serious option for me. Since then it's been through several line-up changes due to me moving to the RNCM in Manchester, but was realised (and toured) first with Alton College musicians, all of which are now at top Music and Drama conservatoires around the country doing really well for themselves. 

You are talented in both disciplines, but do you prefer performing or composing? Do you write songs for other performers, or just yourself? 

I love doing both, and performing the stuff I've written for the band to an audience that's enjoying themselves is always a thrill. I do collaborative writing with other people for their projects now as well, and it’s a different challenge to writing the stuff for The Ollie West Band, so that's awesome. If I had to pick one I'd probably say composing, as it was my first love and no matter how strenuous the song writing process can be the end product is always worth it. 

What genre would you say your music fits into? 

Probably the best way to describe our sound is Pop-Fusion. There's definitely elements of jazz, world, funk, soul and even classical in the music now, but it's all based around Pop. 

Do you like music from other genres? If so, what in particular? 

I'm a huge fan of classical music, especially impressionist composers such as Debussy and Ravel. I also really enjoy jazz, and I think elements of both those genres come through in the music we play. Obviously the other members of the band have totally different musical backgrounds as well, so watching them interpret the songs I write is always interesting.  

Who are your main musical influences? 

I really loved Billy Joel and it was his music that got me writing in the first place, but I'm a huge fan of artists like Bruce Hornsby, Jamie Cullum, Prince, Sting and loads more. More recently I've been listening to Radiohead, who just write the most awesome string arrangements for their music, and it was them that gave me the idea to introduce strings into the band. 

What advice would you give to our current students about what to do after College if they want to succeed in the music business? 

I wouldn't say I've succeeded on a largescale platform yet, but I'd always say that no idea is too big and nothing is impossible. If you're passionate, hard-working and you believe those things, you can do anything you want in the industry. 

Being a musician can be quite intense at times. What do you do to relax? 

I'm terrible at relaxing and there's always something I'm working on, but if I want to take some time out I like to find an album I haven't heard before and just listen to it in full. It helps to take my mind off things while discovering something completely new. 

What projects are you working on this year? 

We're really excited to be coming to the Wessex Arts Centre as it's the third date of our "Portraits" project, which sees us doing a series of live shows across the country and recording each one that will eventually accumulate into a live album to be released in the summer. We've been to Coventry and Winchester so far, and the tour will end with our final date playing with a 25-piece string orchestra in Manchester; that looks to be a good show.  

What do you hope to be doing in 5 years? 

Hopefully still touring, building our audience, writing and releasing great quality music with the band. 


The band consists of Ollie West (Keyboards, Vocals), Ashley Garrod (Bass), George Nicola (Guitar) and Pete Leaver (Drums), and we will be joined by Tom Balch, Will McGahon, John Hutchinson and Jody Smith on Violins.

The show takes place in the Assembly Rooms, Alton on Wednesday 8th February at 7:30pm and tickets are available online here.

A selection of Ollie’s music can be listened to on SoundCloud here