The Chicago seven-piece plays Tobacco Avenue in Lancaster City this weekend in support of the February-released EP, Keeping the Faith.
Chicago is a city with a rich musical tradition. It’s the former home of the legendary Chess Records – the label that put out some of the finest blues and R&B in the ’50s and ’60s. It was the city that gave us Muddy Waters – considered the father of the Chicago blues, which many music historians call the link between the Mississippi Delta blues and rock and roll. Soul singer Sam Cooke came up in Chi-town. The Staples Singers, Curtis Mayfield, Howlin’ Wolf, and more recently, R. Kelly, Wilco, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper have all emerged from the Windy City.
You can add another group to the list of respected names to come out of Chicago: The O’My’s.
The O’My’s lead singer and guitarist Maceo Haymes and keyboardist/vocalist Nick Hennessey met while attending different high schools in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The partnership became the foundation for the seven-piece psychedelic soul group when Haymes was a freshman at DePaul University and Hennessey was a senior in high school.
“Maceo had a dorm like around the corner from where I went to high school,” recalls Hennessey. “So after school I would go to his dorm and we would have writing sessions. We wrote some of our first songs there.”
“It just sort of naturally progressed,” says Haymes. “We started writing, recording and playing out and I thought, ‘Oh shit, we have a little bit of momentum behind this and I don’t want to stop.’ It’s just been growing like that.”
The band has released four EPs. They made their debut with 2011’s Potty Mouth, followed by Chicago Style, A Humble Masterpiece and their latest recording Keeping the Faith, which was released in February.
“[For] Keeping the Faith we tried to go back to how we initially started writing and recording music, which was to fully conceive of a song, chords, lyrics, melodies and build the arrangement with the band before going into the studio,” says Haymes. “[The songs] can start with anything from a recording from our cell phones or some chords that just came to us in the moment. Shout out to the voice memo app on iPhone.”
Both Haymes and Hennessey dove into music at a young age.
“I started playing piano in first grade,” says Hennessey “I learned all styles of music, like classical and jazz and stuff like that and theory from my teacher from first grade to eight grade.”
Haymes began learning instruments before discovering his singing voice.
“I’m half Cuban so I started playing the congas and Latin percussion. It wasn’t until high school when I started to learn how to play guitar just to play and write whatever crappy teenage songs I did,” says Haymes. “The first time I sang, I was a freshman and [my friend] was performing at the school assembly and just drafted me into being his background vocalist. From there someone told me, ‘Your voice sounds great. You should keep on working at that.’ So I spent the next couple years in my basement just playing guitar and singing – learning from different artists that I respect.”
Haymes has a huge vocal range taking inspiration from R&B legends Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield to reggae superstar Bob Marley. “I spent a lot of time with those people’s catalogues just singing along and learning the songs.” His voice even occasionally seems to channel the ghost of the legendary female jazz vocalist Billie Holiday.
It’s Haymes’ unique voice, the group’s firm grasp of funk, soul and hip-hop and the gritty yet humorous lyrical content that makes The O’My’s a group worth checking out.
The O’My’s have been creating a buzz around Chicago for a few years now and have already played with some pretty big names in the world of hip-hop and soul including Twista, Wyclef Jean and Chance the Rapper – who has a cameo Chicago Style.
“We’ve known Chance for some time,” says Haymes.
“Before he dropped his first mixtape 10 Day,” adds Hennessey.
At the recommendation of the production team Blended Babies, Chance was brought in for the track “Wonder Years.”
“It’s rare that someone walks into a room and, you’re working on a song and it’s personal, at least for me, because it was around my grandfather’s passing, and to just immediately pick it up,” says Haymes.
The O’My’s hit the road this month in support of Keeping the Faith with stops in Lancaster, Brooklyn, New Orleans and SXSW. Hopefully they have a safer trip than last year’s tour when the band flipped their tour bus several times while driving through Idaho. The incident inspired the song “Pieces” from Keeping the Faith.
“It gave us a sense of urgency,” says Haymes. “It’s like ‘What the fuck are we waiting for? Let’s just record this new project.’ It reaffirmed our belief in what we’re doing.”
The O’My’s have plans to release a full-length album this summer, but for now you can download Keeping the Faith.
Catch The O’My’s at Tobacco Avenue (317 E. Fulton St., Lancaster) on Sunday, March 8. 6:30pm. All ages. $10 at the door.