Kassa Overall

Kassa Overall photo courtesy of Outermost Agency


Kassa Overall is back in town. One of the most recognizable Seattle-reared players turned New York mainstay, Overall is set to play Barboza on February 13 with a new band, new material, and new focus: a third full-length album in the works.

Over the last two years, the producer, emcee, drummer, and singer has put out four critically acclaimed projects – Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2019); I THINK I’M GOOD (2020); followed by two pandemic mixtapesSHADES OF FLU (2020) and SHADES OF FLU 2 (2021), loosely inspired by Madlib’s Shades of Blue.

The former student of Garfield High and Oberlin Conservatory of Music has become known for an expansive sound, growing list of legendary connections, and strong Seattle ties. As we catch up in the New Year, Earshot Jazz learns about Overall’s process for a new record, about his newfound fondness of Seattle-native Kenny G, and the talented cast accompanying him for his show in Seattle this month.

On making music that is for everybody

Some of my music may have been alienating. I guess I didn’t realize that we could become as polarized as we have become. That’s not just on politics, even between homies. We become extremely into what we’re into and not into what we’re not.

I feel like everybody may be dealing with [issues of mental health], maybe more so than when I was dealing with it [on I THINK I’M GOOD (2020)]. I felt alone in it. Now I don’t feel alone. I feel like the guy who knows where the edible plants are by just having been in the jungle. What I think I need now is to be woken up.

I want to make something that we can all agree on, something communal.  Not to say that the music I’m currently making sounds like Kenny G… You know, I watched Music Box: Listening to Kenny G (2021). Actually, it was amazing. [laughs] I never thought I would have so much love for Kenny G, but I do.

On process of collaboration and production

I’m not the sole creator by any means. I’m the guy with the ear and the guy to make chaos make sense. The collaboration happens more in the studio than you would think. One of my skill sets is recognizing someone as having a unique sound, voice, or stylistic approach. I try to bring that into another medium. Usually, I’m first a fan of theirs and what they do. Part of my sound is me having the last cut with the scissors.

On his upcoming Seattle concert, on February 13 at Barboza

Part of the reason I play live is to make an album. We’ll try out brand new songs and off-the-cuff stuff and see what people feel, what activates people. We’ll also do joints from whatever records. 

The band is: Tomoki Sanders, an incredible sax player and electronic specialist. Ian Fink (keys), coming out of Detroit, who’s studied with Geri Allen for five years and plays with Kareem Riggins. Plus, Benji Alliance (percussion), a Haitian-American cat with an Afro-Cuban feel that I can really lock in with.

Opening is Seattle’s Stas THEE Boss, plus Vitamin D, one of the best producers alive. Not just here in Seattle, but period. I’ve actually known Vitamin D since I was a little kid. He was the big homie that we would one day hope to do something with. Vitamin D has been doing these mix-tapes called Flips and, in a sense, it’s similar to Shades of Flu, but he’s flipping popular songs from back in the day in a way where you kind of hear the original, but it’s an entirely new song. He’s incredible, and he’s going to make beats live at this show.

If the show gets canceled? Show up! I’ll perform in front of the building on top of a van, or on somebody’s porch, or something!

On unplugging and finding focus

I’m in the midst of making another full length record and trying to hyper focus on that. The thing that brings me back to that childlike focus has been just cutting stuff out. 

Making time for unplugging and getting deprogrammed from all of it… is a game changer and super difficult. I think it’s a personal responsibility. If I can get in the habit of getting away from my phone regularly, it becomes addictive being away from it. I don’t think we realize the effects, yet, that the social media epidemic is having, in my opinion. But I’m sensitive enough to feel how things affect my body. 

I’ve lost [focus] so many times. And that can be a hopeful thought. I don’t expect to live in a world where there are no thorns. There will be stuff and you have to learn how to navigate.

To keep up with the  incredibly thoughtful artist that is Kassa Overall and his journey visit kassaoverall.com.


Posted on

January 31, 2022