In 2011, Kenny Oliver was on top of the music world. At just 20 years old, he found himself producing and co-writing the massive hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’ by LMFAO, a track that would sell upwards of 8 million copies and become a number one hit around the world.
Almost a decade later Oliver finds himself about to shift trajectory and embark on a career far removed from the world of pop music, as he prepares to become a U.S Army Soldier.
For Oliver, it means a chance to serve his country and realize a long-standing ambition, following a music career that saw many highs along the way.
Oliver, 29, was born in Moreno Valley, Calif., in 1991 and spent much of his childhood consumed with soccer, before music came calling.
“My first passion was soccer. My dad played it and we’d watch it together all the time. It was what I grew up on. Once I got to high school, I grew out of that and started going to music festivals when I was 17 and 18,” Oliver said.
“I really got into electronic and house music and I wanted to make my own music. As soon as I got out of high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Alun Thomas. Future Soldier Kenny Oliver (right), poses with his recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe.
Despite receiving no formal training, Oliver was able to teach himself the basics of creating electronic music and soon started to reap the benefits.
“I was entirely self-taught. I’d watch tutorials on You Tube on how to do certain things,” he said. “I had been a DJ spinning music, but when I started playing my own music, that’s when things started to take off.”
Oliver remixed the track ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO and sent it to one of his friends, who had a connection to the band.
“My friend liked it and eventually it found its way to the manager for LMFAO. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I was working with my dad at his business, painting houses,” Oliver recalls. “I was working with him one morning, when I got an email from LMFAO saying they’d got my remix and wanted to meet me.”
Oliver soon found himself communicating with the band and seeing their relationship escalate from there.
“The band ended up calling me that day, we talked about their music and plans for the future. They’d already had success with some of their songs and 2011 was going to be a big year for them,” Oliver explained. “I went around to their house in Hollywood, where they played me the music they were working on. They kept inviting me over, to the point we were like friends and family.”
When presented with the rough version of ‘Sexy and I Know It,’ Oliver made several changes, which pleased the band and proved successful for all involved.
“They already had an idea for the song, so I made a new beat and gave it to them. They put the vocals over it and that was the final version,” he added. “My name went on the credits as a producer and I got a plaque for it as well. It was financially rewarding and to this day I still get royalty checks.”
Oliver continued to explore his music career, including a collaboration with will.i.am., founder of the Black Eyed Peas.
“At that time, Electronic Dance Music was getting into the mainstream pop scene and everyone was looking for that sound. So I met Will and started working with him doing some production,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t on the same scale of success I had with LMFAO, but I made two beats on one of Will’s songs that was released.”
Oliver decided to concentrate on his own musical career following this, playing the club scene and performing at festivals throughout the South West, but the emergence of COVID-19 affected his live music career.
“I’d been playing festivals and making my own music,” Oliver explained. “But since COVID-19 hit, all those opportunities have disappeared and my passion for the music has gone down a little.”
At a lull and looking for a new challenge, Oliver decided to enlist, something that he had always considered, but never explored.
“I wanted a new challenge for myself and get out of my comfort zone,” he observed. “I moved to Phoenix in 2017 to leave California and have some new scenery and excitement, so joining the Army is an extension of that. But to serve my country is my number one reason for enlisting.”
Assisting Oliver in the recruiting process was Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe, recruiter, Arrowhead Recruiting Station, Phoenix West Recruiting Company, who said Oliver has taken a huge step by enlisting.
“Kenny lives around the corner from me, so once I learned he was interested, I set up a meeting,” Moe said. “I didn’t really know his background at all until after he enlisted. I knew he did music, playing shows and traveling, but not the extent of his past and the success he had.”
“I think it’s an amazing thing, to be in that lifestyle for years and then join the Army and serve your country. He’s taking a step up that a majority of Americans aren’t willing to do,” Moe continued.
Oliver decided on becoming a religious affairs specialist and said the nature of the job appeals to him.
“I decided on that job because I want to help people. The duties and responsibilities appeal to me, setting up religious services and just being able to help people and make a difference in their lives,” he said.
As his ship date of Dec. 28 draws closer, Oliver said he’s trying to prepare as best as possible for Basic Combat Training, excited at the journey ahead.
“I’m excited for basic training … I’ve been preparing by watching You Tube videos and getting help from the recruiters,” Oliver said. “I’m trying to learn what to expect. I’m sure on the day I arrive at Fort Jackson, the nerves will hit me.”
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