If you ever try to get I-Octane on the phone, be patient. If he’s in the studio, an hour can turn into the whole day. But then, when a guy is gaining attention as one of Jamaica’s most promising new songwriters, he can’t be sitting by the phone. He’s got to work.
“The amount of time it takes to write a song varies,” he says. “Sometimes it’s five minutes. Sometimes it’s three days or two weeks. I like to write on my own; I like to have my own space.”
His determination and solace is paying off. In March 2011, I-Octane took three trophies at Jamaica’s Excellence in Music Awards, including one for “Singjay” of the Year, usurping stars Mr. Vegas and Gyptian.
He’s rising fast. It was just 2010 that “Stab Vampire,” which champions ghetto youth over a churning, roots rhythm, hit no. 1 on Jamaican radio. “Lose a Friend” and “Mama You Alone,” both socially and spiritually resonant, followed, earning I-Octane traction at island festivals. This year, he performed on his own European tour.
“I want my songs to have commentary, meaning, to have longevity,” he says. “We need people to remind you of the purpose of life.” He’s inspired by events in his community, books or, of course, music. “I love music. Whenever I hear the rhythm it gets me in a frame of mind…a phrase or melody might inspire me to write.”
And to think, it almost never happened. After growing up in Sandy Bay, Clarendon—a parish that also produced Cocoa Tea, Supercat, Barrington Levy—Octane, known then as Byiome Muir, was known for his singing but planned on studying architecture in college. That didn’t pan out, and after a brief stint as a dancehall talent, he shifted to a more culture driven artist. Today, his work absorbs him completely.
“Sometimes I do get tired,” he says. “Sometimes I get writer’s block. Everybody gets 24 hours in a day, I utilize them the best I can. Even if I don’t record, I have ideas. I just hope for the best and give it my best.”