Oritsé Williams, also professionally known as Oritsé, is the founder and former member of British boyband JLS. Oritsé created the band in 2006 under the then name UFO (Unique Famous Outrageous) very much with his heroes in mind: The Jacksons, Boyz ll Men, N'Sync, N.E.R.D, but in the years that followed, found it an uphill battle to gain recognition in a predominantly pop-driven UK music industry.
In 2008, two years after the band’s creation, the opportunity came to take the project onto the national stage as contestants on the hit UK TV talent show The X Factor. This would mark the beginning of the band’s seemingly meteoric rise to fame, from where they would go on to become one of the most popular boy bands in UK music history under the name JLS (Jack-theLad Swing; a tribute to the harmonydriven 90’s swing that originally influenced Oritsé to create the band and its homegrown UK roots), selling over 10 million records worldwide, achieving four UK top three albums and five UK numberone singles, in addition to winning five MOBO Awards and two BRIT Awards. The band’s unbeaten reign at the top of the UK music charts and as trendsetters at the forefront of UK pop culture came to an end in 2013 when the band split.
Oritsé was born on 27th November 1986 to parents of West Indian origin. Since the age of 12, he has cared for his mother Sonia, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and has also looked after his sister and two brothers. Oritsé attended Larmenier & Sacred Heart Primary School in West London, and completed his secondary school education at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Kensington, London. He also attended British International School in Lagos, Nigeria where lived for 2 years.
Oritsé’s story is well known to the majority of the British public who have also supported him in his role of carer for his mother. In a recent ITV interview at Good Morning Britain with presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, Oritsé, accompanied by his mother, recalled his early years as a young carer and outlined some of the main issues facing young carers in Britain today. This is a subject that has continued to be very close to his heart and he can frequently be seen championing young carer’s causes on national television and in the UK press as part of his remit as ambassador of the Carer’s Trust (an organisation providing support and respite for young carers).
In many ways Oritsé’s journey has been defined and shaped by the sometimes brief but insightful encounters with inspirational people he has had the good fortune to meet along the way, one such encounter in 2011 would start him again picking up the threads of an original dream, which existed before his band, or any of the subsequent public notoriety. In 2011, after a fateful meeting with legendary pop icon Beyoncé, he again found himself contemplating the possibility of a solo career. It was after an introduction by a friend of Beyoncé’s creative director Frank Gatson that this buried dream started to resurface. When asked about the coversation, Oritsé recalls:
“Beyoncé simply cut through all the bullshit and told me how it was. She said, ‘There comes a time in every group when people are going to want to express themselves as individuals, what are you going to do when that happens.?’ In that moment I guess she planted a seed. Ideas of what I wanted to do began rolling around in my head and by the time the band ended a couple of years later. I’d pretty much set my vision of how I wanted things to be. In the band I had always been the one that wanted to bring alternative influences into the JLS sound, but being who we were as a band, there simply wasn’t a place for anything other than the narrow blend of pop, R&B and dance flavours that we had become known for. Once the split actually happened, I really saw it as my opportunity to put some of those earlier ideas into play”.
In March of 2014, Oritsé collaborated with Island Records to produce his first solo release titled Waterline, which premiered in Jay Z’s Life & Times magazine. The record was quietly put out with a killer feature from Good Music rapper Pusha T and accompanied by an extraordinarily creative and beautiful video devised by Oritsé himself. Behind it all, Oritsé remained quietly disguised under the assumed artist’s name of OWS. When asked about the reasons behind the pen name, Oritsé says,
“It was a way for me to test the strength of my ideas without the glare of too much publicity. I’m actually very proud of that record and of the fact that Jay Z and Good Music chose to champion it. That really gave me the confidence to go even further.”