Israeli vocalist, Orian Peled and American guitarist and singer, Obadiah Jones first met while students at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Since graduating, their partnership has gone from strength to strength. With three singles under their belt and an EP due for release next month, they are in increasing demand for live performances. I caught up with them just before their performance at Cambridge Folk Festival, in which they showcased their immaculate close harmony vocals accompanied by Obadiah’s delicate guitar work. Their sound is primarily routed in country and Americana, with a definite sixties and seventies influence. Oozing with charisma and perfectly in tune with each other, they charmed the Cambridge audience with their own touchingly personal and melancholy lyrics and catchy melodies, as well as a well-received cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson.
SC: You met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) so it was to be expected that both of you would have careers in music, but what was it that initially led to the two of you performing together – was it the musical relationship or the personal relationship that developed first?
Obadiah: It’s always been the music first for us. We met within the first week of starting at LIPA and Orian heard me play at an open mic during Freshers’ Week and then she asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her for some songs that she had written. I was on guitar and she had written them on the piano. Then it just started from there.
Orian: The personal relationship developed as the music did.
SC: What brought you both to Liverpool in the first place, as you are from Israel and the USA respectively?
Orian: For me, I was going to a music college in Tel Aviv and that college had an affiliation with LIPA so every year they would send people to audition, so I decided to audition for LIPA. I didn’t necessarily have any plan to go but when I got it, I thought I have to go!
“He suggested lyric changes and they were good changes that I made”
Obadiah: My mum is from Scotland so we used to come to the UK in the summers and I’m a big Beatles fan also. One time when I was 11, we went to Liverpool and did the whole Beatles experience and on the Magical Mystery Tour bus they pointed it out and said, this is the school that Paul McCartney started, so I guess I lodged that in the back of my brain. When I finished high school, I was thinking of where to apply and I looked up a lot of schools in the US but nothing really looked the same – contemporary music with an emphasis on songwriting and performance. I also applied to Berkley College in Boston and I was accepted but you either had to go down the composition/ songwriting route or down the performance route and I didn’t want to be a big jazz guitar player or anything like that so it just seemed like a really good fit.
Orian: Plus the chance to meet Sir Paul McCartney!
SC: Tell me about your songwriting session with him.
Orian: We were part of a group of 8 songwriters that got chosen at the end of our third year to do 20 minutes of one-on-one session with Paul McCartney and Obadiah was first to go.
Obadiah: I was first of the day, just there waiting for him to arrive, wiping the sweat off my face!
Orian: It was really cool. They asked us, don’t go all ‘fan’ on him, don’t ask for pictures, so when you can’t do that, you have to just act like a normal person. As soon as he got in the room, you’re just two people working on a song and it’s very hard in the moment to comprehend the fame and achievement of this person.
Obadiah: I’ve been looking at his photos and videos for my entire life.
“We just finished recording the last track of a four-track EP and we hope that it’s going to come out in September”
Orian: Yes, so you just have to surrender to the situation and it’s just two people working on a song. He’s such an amazing person and so down to earth. He puts you at ease immediately. There’s nothing pretentious about him at all.
SC: Did you use any of the songs that came out of that?
Obadiah: We had prepared two songs each and we played them to him and he gave us feedback. One of the songs that I played for him, he suggested lyric changes and they were good changes that I made. We still play that song sometimes. It’s called Next in Line.
Orian: We play it now and then and we say that we wrote it with Paul McCartney!
SC: How does the songwriting work between the two of you? Is it very collaborative or does one of you come with a song you’ve written?
Orian: It’s different every time but it’s mostly collaborative. If one of us does bring something then it’s usually an idea. It might be more finished at other times or just the beginning. Sometimes we just sit together and decide to write a song and then we really start from zero.
SC: Obviously travelling is a theme in your music. Do you feel like you have a home now?
Orian: Walthamstow is our home now.
Obadiah: Yes, we’ve been in London for two years now and we’re rooted there.
Orian: But even within London we’ve moved like, five times because the renting scene in London is fierce.
Obadiah: But between leaving Liverpool and moving to London, we had two years of really nomadic travelling, living on cruise ships and then going home and going to Nashville and not really having a base. Now we do feel like we have a base in London.
Orian: We really like being in the UK.
SC: What are your plans for the next year?
Obadiah: We’ve had a great summer playing a few festivals.
Orian: We’ve played some great festivals in the UK and it’s been a real stepping-stone for us. We just finished recording the last track of a four-track EP and we hope that it’s going to come out in September. It’s going to but we don’t have the date yet. We want to follow that up with some more shows and the goal is to hit the festival season even harder next year.
Obadiah: Yes there are so many great festivals in the UK and we know about them now so we’ll try to play as many as we can next year.
Orian: We also have two more dates in London coming up, this weekend and the following Tuesday but we gig regularly in London.
SC: Do you feel part of a scene now?
Orian: Definitely, it’s a very friendly scene.
Obadiah: There are bands we’ve played with who are now our friends.
Orian: People are really friendly and help each other out.
SC: Who are you looking forward to watching at the Cambridge Folk Festival later today?
Obadiah: Definitely Yola Carter, Beth Nielsen Chapman and John Prine.
O&O are playing The Finsbury Pub, 336 Green Lanes, London N4 1BY on Sunday, 12th August
Interview by Sarah Corbett-Batson
Portrait photo copyright Carl Byron Batson and live photo Sarah Corbett-Batson. Not to be reproduced or used without express prior written consent