Greg’s just trying to get his Pharrell on.
Greg Owens first started rapping at around 10 years old. It was a couple of years before he started singing on his records, and a few years after that before he felt confident enough to sing on stage. Both of Greg’s parents sing, so naturally that side would come out.
For the most part, Greg produces all of his own songs. He says it’s easier that way, to make music how he wants to make it. He’s been producing for 10 years, since he was 12 or 13. At that point he didn’t know how to find beats, so a friend showed him a free beat making website. Of course he would graduate to the standard programs like Logic and FL Studio.
“I like making the feel good, up-tempo type records. A lot of people, especially people around my age, they like to shy away from that, or they do like the turn up and slowed down beats,” Greg says. “But since I’m a musician, pretty much every genre that you know, I’ve been exposed to. So I do hip hop, jazz, house, R&B, soul. I make a variety of stuff.”
It’s an interesting story how Greg got into house music. During his time at Columbia College Chicago he learned under House music pioneer Vince Lawrence. He watched documentaries and studied the origin of the genre, which was established by African-Americans in 1980s Chicago.
“I just can’t describe it,” he says. “It’s got that soul, even though it’s electronic.”
Going to college wasn’t something that Greg planned on doing. At the time, he says, he thought his career was going to take off. But his time at Columbia College Chicago taught him a few things about the music business and networking.
“I kind of want to do the artist development type thing on the side, to help those artists, producers kind of get they feet wet,” he says. “I’ve always been that type of person because like, even when I was in high school, I had my own little label group.”
Going to school in Chicago also lead to a random encounter with Chance The Rapper.
“He would stand outside my dorm with like a group of people smoking cigarettes. I think he would have like, CDs in his hand, and this is before 10 Day dropped,” he says.
“I’m fearless when it comes to making music.”
I’m interviewing Greg in his home studio, which has hosted fellow singer Kent, Greg tells me. His complete setup includes a keyboard, mic and filter, and turntables that he is learning to DJ on.
Greg is currently working on a new project, tentatively titled “The Great Awakening.” The project and its title are in response to recent changes in his life, Greg says, mentally and spiritually.
“I guess things started to happen, people started coming in my life and kind have been the catalyst for kind of my awakening. And so spiritually I’m much better,” he says. “And my music, it’s changed. Now it’s like, I’m fearless when it comes to making music.”
“The Great Awakening” will be more uplifting than his previous work, he says. “I think this time it’s just more focused. And I think the results will reflect that.”
Greg has already worked with a few folks around the city, like Correy Parks and Kent, but he’s interesting in other collaborations as well. Alexander Dreamer, Yogi Split, OG Vern, Big James and Jerreau come to mind. Greg is particularly interested in working with Jerreau because the two are both Northland Alum.
Producer wise he’s a fan of Amazing Prophet and London Elixir. Greg is interested in working with more female artists as well: “Preferably like, singers. I mean I don’t really know who’s out here as far as the singing tip is concerned,” he says.
Greg says when he really started getting into music years ago, the music scene wasn’t as collaborative as it is now. It’s a major contrast from when the city was a “macho” scene where everyone was cliqued up. “It only can get stronger from here,” he says.
“Slowly but surely people are starting to recognize the talent here. I think a lot of it has to do with people getting tired of people complaining about the city,” he says. “People are gradually starting to see that we got some people that can really make some noise, even outside the city.”
“Even I think FlyPaper has a lot to do with that, the resurgence of FlyPaper,” he says, “‘Cause if it probably wasn’t for FlyPaper I wouldn’t even know a lot of these artists that’s killing it right now.”
“People are gradually starting to see that we got some people that can really make some noise, even outside the city.”
Greg grew up in the church and credits it for starting his music career from a young age. Now, he’s coming full circle by teaching drums twice a week to kids at his church, who are around the age he was when he first tried music.
“I feel like if I didn’t go to church or didn’t have that spiritual side of me, I don’t think I would make the music that I make or even be the person I am today,” he says.
He’s also working on some music for Black History Month. He’s recognizing a new climate among us, especially in response to the Trump Administration.
“I wasn’t really shocked when Trump got elected. But now, at the same, what are we gon’ do?” he says. “Are we gon’ sit back, because we don’t like Trump and what he has to say, or are we gonna do something about it? Are we gonna be the change that we need to be?”
“I think right now, this may be a blessing in disguise. It may force us to come together even more, on a more positive end,” Greg says. “I think people are starting to be more in touch with themselves. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s just like, why not reflect that, even with a song or something like that?” he says. “We gotta uplift each other.”
“But then again, people can be stupid. So, we’ll see how that goes.”