A few weeks back, we wrote about an up and coming producer named Oshi that had the EDM blogs losing it. Since then, he’s scored an official Jack Ü remix on the “Mind” remixes EP, a collaboration with DAWN for Adidas Originals, and released a hazy, ambient track called “untitled / 7:00am.” He’s been playing more live sets, including L.A.’s popular Brownies & Lemonade and his first festival slot at HARD Summer. No two Oshi tracks sound the same, which has peaked everyone’s interest. He also dabbles with grime, rapping and adding his vocals, using his alter ego NO$TRIL.
We sat down with Oshi, real name Joshua Brennan, in NYC’s Lower East Side just before he caught a flight back to L.A. Accompanied by his manager as well as his girlfriend, he braved the heat to meet us in a little coffee shop on Suffolk Street. He smiled knowingly when we confessed to knowing very little about who he really was. There’s not much online about his background, how he got started, and how he made the bold decision to move thousands of miles away from home as a minor.
He spoke candidly about leaving England and never wanting to return. At just 18 years old, Brennan has a strong understanding of what he wants and won’t compromise his happiness or mental health for anyone else. In moving from his native U.K. and being very vocal about his depression, he’s unlocked a personal freedom most people struggle to achieve their whole lives.
Learn more about Oshi below.
Sidewalk Hustle: We feel like there’s a bit of mystery about you. You’re 18. You moved to L.A. from the U.K. when you were 17. That’s a huge thing to decide to do.
Oshi: It is. It really is.
SH: What made you move to L.A.?
Oshi: Long story short. I kind of lost all my friends in England and I made so many that were in different countries. The plan was always to move to L.A. when I was older. It wasn’t even for music. I just needed to be there. It just so happened to come quicker because of music. But it was because all my friends were there. I was lonely as fuck in England.
SH: Were you living alone…in London? Were you with family?
Oshi: I am from London and I was with my mum, my two brothers, and my sister. That was hell because we’re all the same. We’re different but the same. My brothers are just like me except they’re way more reckless. Way more reckless. My sister is 6 years old and she might be more reckless. Like, she shaved her head with wood cutting scissors. Sorry, no, that wasn’t the question (laughs). Yeah, I lived with my mum, my brothers, and sister.
SH: And when you told them you wanted to move over 5,000 miles away, what was the response?
Oshi: My mum didn’t realize my music was as big as it was or the depth of what I had actually accomplished. So, I was like “Yeah, I’m moving to L.A.” First, I went for a month as a sort of vacation/business trip and then I decided that I wanted to move immediately. At first, my mum was like “No! Don’t go! My baby! I love you so much! Don’t leave me!” Then she was supportive because she saw it was making me happy. My brothers Snapchat me and text me everyday asking me to buy them stuff because they know I’m making some kind of money.
SH: When did you realize music was something you could do as a career? Beyond a hobby.
Oshi: I think it was just after I dropped out of school. School wasn’t doing anything for me. I dropped out when I was 15. Right before my big exams that you’re supposed to do for high school. At 15, I was like, alright this is something I wanna maybe figure out. But back then, I wasn’t even half as good as I am now. Quite early.
SH: Yeah, that’s early for almost any career. Were you doing this alone or was there a group of people who did it and you ran with them?
Oshi: No, I started out doing my own thing. That was the main point of it. That it was something I could do whenever I wanted. Even before I lost all my friends, I was a loner and wanted to do my own thing. School wasn’t satisfying. It wasn’t fulfilling what I wanted to do with music. I found an Inspector Gadget remix on the internet.
SH: How does someone learn this kind of skill without training or having someone mentor you?
Oshi: I wish I could tell you! I have no idea. As corny as it sounds, I feel like you’re born with it. I was born with the juice. You just have to have that inside you and then you’ll make it I guess. I dunno.
SH: You know Mura Masa? We were reading about how isolated he was on this small island (Guernsey) and how he wasn’t really into music until he heard Hudson Mohawke and James Blake. Are there artists that were like that for you?
Oshi: Yeah! Yeah! Mr. Carmack and James Blake. They were just, like, oh my god. I hyperventilated when I first heard Mr. Carmack’s music. It was crazy.
SH: How did you find them? Just online?
Oshi: Yeah, on YouTube. I spent all my time on YouTube just searching. I started out on this program called Nichecraft and I would look up tutorials and how to do shit on Nichecraft. One of his songs came up as recommended and I clicked it and it blew me the fuck away. Oh my god, I screamed.
SH: So that was when? 15 or 16?
Oshi: Nah, this was like when I was 11. So 7 years ago. Wow. That is quite a while ago.
SH: Was there ever a performance aspect of it for you? Did you go to shows to see the level you could take it to?
Oshi: No, it was very very solitary. I never even realized shows were a thing. I knew what DJs were and I knew what live performers were but I had no idea that I could be that because of my music. No idea. It was always just about making music, just creating shit basically.
SH: And what about now? Do you think about what your performances are going to look like to a crowd or your fans?
Oshi: Not really. It kind of sounds bad but right now the only reason I do shows is to get paid. That’s where the money comes in most of the time. Obviously, I’ll start taking the shows more seriously as I progress as a person and as an artist. But it’s just not what I set out to do. It’s not my main focus. I set out to make music. That’s what I’m gonna do and put my time and effort into.
SH: But you enjoy it?
Oshi: Of course, of course.
SH: What’s been your favorite show thus far?
SH: He had a show here recently which we’re super bummed we missed.
Oshi: Damn! Damn! He’s amazing. He’s a master of producing and DJing. I envy him. Damn!
SH: We feel like Soulection does a great job of growing with their artists.
Oshi: Definitely. Joe Kay! Shout out to Joe Kay! He was the one who first started fucking with my music heavy. That’s what started pushing me in the right direction. I remember he bought my song on Bandcamp and to me that was crazy. Because I only had 400 followers. He was like Kanye to me then. Now he’s my friend. Soulection definitely helped me a lot.
SH: Is there anyone you admire that’s come up to you to say they’re a fan of your music? Were you starstruck?
Oshi: Kaytranada and Mr. Carmack. Both of them! That was crazy to me. Carmack came to see my show. He came up to me and said he came to see me. I was like whaaaaat! Boy! That was fucking mindblowing. I was like, “I literally shaped myself after you.” If you say you like it, then I must’ve done a good job. At HARD Summer about a week ago, I went up to Kaytra. He had no idea I was coming up to him and I tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, he bowed to me and said he respected my music. It was crazy. That was crazy.
SH: Do you think you’d move back to the U.K.?
Oshi: Never. Ever. I can answer that really quickly. Never.
SH: Okay. Alright. Is there a reason why?
Oshi: It’s just not where I’m supposed to be. It’s not my home anymore. I mean, it’s always gonna be home home but it’s not where my heart is, really. It’s where my family is but I’m trying to move my family out here so that we have no ties to England anymore. Never.
SH: You talk a lot about mental health online. It’s become more common but it’s still a hard conversation for teens to have with their own family and friends. Have you always been able to talk that way with the people close to you?
Oshi: I never really speak with them about it. Here’s the thing. I’ve had issues with my mental health for as long as I can remember but I’ve never been one to talk about how I feel just because, most of the time, people don’t understand. It’s not exactly that they’re hesitant. It’s that only people who’ve been through it can understand how you’re feeling. So it’s hard to find people to talk to, who can understand you. But lately I have been talking to a lot of people. I want people to talk about it more and to understand it more because it’s a very real thing. It’s there. It exists. It’s not going away and you have to make sure you fucking take care of yourself. If somebody ever comes to you with it, make sure you understand it and can find a way to help them.
SH: There are a lot of dangerous attitudes about it. We were reading the GQ interview with Zayn Malik and the writer said something like “He said he suffers from anxiety but he doesn’t look anxious.” That’s not how anxiety works. You’re not a wreck 24/7.
Oshi: That’s not how anxiety works at all. You don’t look a certain way if you have a mental health issue. It’s invisible. That’s the whole thing. You can’t see it. So, to say that you don’t look like you have anxiety or look depressed, that shit pisses me off. I want to beat up every single person who’s like “Aw, you don’t look depressed. You don’t look sad. You shouldn’t be depressed.” It could happen to anybody at anytime. You could have everything you want in the world and still be sad. I’m very passionate about this. I could go on for days and days. You can definitely be depressed or have any type of mental health issue at any time in your life. To say that somebody doesn’t look like they have one is just ridiculous.
SH: We think a lot of people are grateful for what you’re saying. Even if they’re not fans, on the off chance they see what you say on their timeline, it’s helpful. It’s cool. So, what do the next couple of months look like for you? An album? More touring?
Oshi: I wish I could tell you that as well. I don’t know. I’m literally just living in the moment, as they say. I take everyday as it comes. I have no plans for anything. I mean, I’ve announced an album or an EP like 5 times and that shit just never comes ‘round. Just because, I feel like if I set a release date or a timeframe, it’s gonna be forced.
SH: Like putting a finish line on yourself.
Oshi: Exactly, exactly. There’s no deadline for creativity. Or deadline for art.
SH: Do you work well under pressure?
Oshi: No, no. You could ask anyone. Ask my managers. Whenever they give me a remix contract and say I have to do it by this time, I’m like “Yeah, it’s not gonna get done, man.” If you want me to do something, don’t give me a deadline. Then I work easier, I work quicker. It’s just all around a better experience.
SH: Is there anybody you’d like to work with?
Oshi: Only James Blake and Mr. Carmack. I’m just gonna keep mentioning them (laughs).
SH: Have you met James Blake?
Oshi: I haven’t. I know he’s from the same place as me. (North London)
SH: He has a tour this fall. You should try to meet him. Do you have any advice for a young person trying to do anything creative right now?
Oshi: As long as you stick to yourself and don’t compromise your art for other people or like sell yourself short just to make other people happy, then you’ll succeed. That’s the main thing for me and what I like. I didn’t sell out. Not that there’s anything wrong with selling out. If you want to sell out, sell out. I’m not gonna judge you.
SH: If you have to pay for stuff, sell out. If you have a family to feed, sell out.
Oshi: Yeah! Go for it! Just do what you want to do. If you want to sell out, then sell out. If you don’t want to sell out, don’t. Stick to what you want to do. That’s literally it.