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Frankie Oliver: ‘‘Jools Holland asked me why the hell I was driving a cab’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 08 June 2017

Frankie Oliver

Frankie Oliver

Archant

Hackney local Frankie Oliver, a singer turned taxi driver turned singer again, returns to music with a new album after a two decade long absence

Hackney soul singer Frankie Oliver returns to music after a long absence with his new album Here I Am.

Last night, he played his first gig for 20 years at the 100 Club to celebrate his come back.

“The last one I did was with Ziggy Marley at the Kentish Town Forum,” he says.

Growing up with a love for Bob Marley, this must have been a thrill for Oliver, whose dedication to reggae started at a very young age.

“Bob Marley is my god,” he says. “Friends of mine who I went to school with who I knew from the local estate I lived on, that was the kind of music we listened to. He was my biggest inspiration. Everything he sang about I related to for one reason or another.”

Being signed to Island Records and taken to Jamaica to record his first album was a dream come true for Oliver

“Working with Sly and Robbie was a dream because I’d bought countless records they’d played on. Then there was Dean Fraser who had blown saxophone on practically every hit that came from Jamaica that landed in the UK. I can’t put it into words.”

He spent his time recording and “having a chat with Ernest Ranglin about My Boy Lollipop”.

But it put a strain on his family life and, when it came to crunch time, it was a no brainer for him to choose his wife and children over the music. His love for his family is clear in the songs on his album.

“Consciously I didn’t set out to write the album for any particular reason I just started writing and wrote what I felt. I didn’t think about it too much, it just came straight from the heart.”

In the two decade break between albums, Oliver worked as a cab driver, leading him meet some experts in the music business and earn an expert seal of approval.

“I was driving along and a hand went up and I pulled over and it was Jools Holland. At the end of the journey I had a little chat with him and said ‘would you mind listening to this song?’ I played it and he was like ‘wow, this is great, who’s that singing’ and I said it was me, he was like ‘what!? Why the bloody hell are you driving a cab?’”

Now that his children have flown the nest, Oliver is happy to be back into the music.

“I think it’s the freedom. Not worrying about who I’ve got to please, just being allowed to express myself and sing what I want to sing and perform the songs how I want to perform them.”

‘Here I Am’ by Frankie Oliver is out on on June 9.

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