By Zosha Millman
Seattle local Otieno Terry is a man of many musical talents. And with those talents, the R&B pianist, singer, songwriter and guitarist won first place at the EMP’s 13th annual Sound Off! competition Saturday, Mar. 1.
Sound Off!, EMP’s battle of the bands for Northwest youth bands has had plenty of noteworthy alumni, including The Lonely Forest and Sol. In addition to a slot at this year’s Bumbershoot, Terry wins recording time, consultation with music industry professionals and more.
“I sent [my application] in, didn’t really know how big of a deal it was,” said Terry. “And then all of a sudden my stuff is being played on KEXP.”
Although he’s a member of the band Hightek Lowlives, Terry sent in his application as a solo artist, and opened the show alone. He kept the entire Sky Church crowd rapt with an a cappella version of his song “RedSkyDawn” before inviting his band mates out to help him play out his set.
By Terry’s own account, he was truly lucky to be able to assemble a team for Sound Off! that had as diverse a style as he did.
“It’s been crazy showing them my music, which is pretty advanced and complex for the amount of time we had to rehearse,” said Terry, who gathered his band only six weeks ago. “They’re really amazing, just really talented.”
Terry — whose influences range from Prince to Koji Kondo (the composer behind numerous famous Nintendo themes) — produced an eclectic and soulful set that brought the audience along on its emotional ride. It’s a skill that, although young, Terry has already honed.
“There’s a difference between just playing music and playing the show,” Terry explained. “We’re working on creating a space where everyone is working together — not just on the stage, but in the audience as well. [A place where] it’s being reciprocated, and we bring the soul, we bring the funk, and we bring the movement.”
Coming in second was the Everett-based indie three-piece Fauna Shade:
Seattle synth-poppers Laser Fox took third:
And the fourth place, audience choice award went to Bellevue punk outfit Thee Samedi:
For a full set of videos of finalists performances and interviews, click here.