Growing up in her family’s pizzeria in Soho, Oz spent a lot of time mingling with its clientele of actors, gangsters, drag queens and sex workers. Just like them, Oz has a story to tell, and she’s not afraid of getting a little weird.
The alt-pop artist’s music – like Oz herself – is headstrong, provocative, fierce, and as I learn, is never anything less than honest.
“Growing up in an environment like that, you learn very quickly that no two people are the same,” she says, speaking to Headliner from her flat where she’s hanging out with her little rescue dog in an eerily quiet Brighton.
“There is literally no normal; normal doesn't exist. I think it was a great way to grow up, because straight away your eyes are open to all different people from all different walks of life, so there is nothing that frightens you.
"People are always afraid of the unknown; they are afraid of things they don't understand. But when you grow up somewhere like that, you are immediately accepting of everybody, and that makes for a much more fascinating world when you can be surrounded by different cultures and people from entirely different walks of life. If everyone was the same, that would be the most boring thing in the entire world.”
Oz has always been an inquisitive person, and her unique upbringing went on to influence her songwriting. A fascination for hearing other people’s stories gave her a broad palette to work with when it came to penning her own tunes.
Oz has been a songwriter since her early teens, after her father’s passion for music inspired her immersion in the worlds of bold musicians like The Clash, Dolly Parton, No Doubt and Kate Bush.
“When it comes to songwriting, I have far more to say because it's my perspective on other people's stories that they've told me, and it's me retelling them in my way.”
Her early demos resulted in her working with established writers and producers when she was just 15 years old, quickly establishing herself as an in-demand songwriter before she forged her signature style during sessions with Biff Stannard (Ellie Goulding, Kylie, Spice Girls). She even signed a major label deal as a teenager, but ultimately their aims clashed: the label wanted a pre-packaged pop star, while Oz felt closer in spirit to Alanis Morrissette.
“It just snowballed really,” she reflects. “I signed a record deal when I was 16 and a publishing deal when I was 17. The music industry is a bit like that saying that men are like buses: when you want one, there's none around, and then when you're not looking, three show up.
"The music industry has this weird alchemy where everything suddenly aligns and it all just comes together, so I think my career so far has been a happy accident,” she laughs – although she’s being serious. “I know that sounds weird to say, but in and out of music I’ve been working in retail. I think just through pure stubbornness, I've managed to stay in music since I was a tween.”