Terry voice has drawn comparisons to Bruno Mars, Prince, and Pharrell Williams.
Terry's voice has drawn comparisons to Bruno Mars, Prince, and Pharrell Williams. Courtesy of Otieno Terry

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When the video for “Jaguar Stupid” begins, we see a figure wearing a geometric, shining metal mask. It’s an elaborate, wolf-like visage—and it’s also the means through which the video’s star, Seattle vocalist Otieno Terry, recently found comfort in his own identity. Releasing his first solo record, The Woods, on October 31 (with a show planned November 4 at the 2312 Gallery), Terry offers a statement piece that boldly says: I’m here, front and center. Watch out.

For the musician featured on tracks with local and high-grossing rappers Macklemore and Sol, along with indie stars like Gabriel Teodros, Terry, winner of the 2014 Seattle Sound Off competition, is now taking the mic unaccompanied. It’s a way of showing the world that he can be the main attraction, not just the support. “This is the first project I’ve done all by myself,” he says. “The video represents self-discovery and the mask is this alter ego. This way I can see myself and see the world differently. It gives me the opportunity to reflect and accept who I really am.”

And who he really is, as displayed in the shifty but powerful video, is a dynamo vocalist. With a voice like Bruno Mars mixed with Prince and a rap flow like Pharrell, Terry lands another stellar project onto the Seattle terrain, as if a UFO touching down at the base of the Space Needle, opening up its doors, and its driver saying, “Check this out!” before a mesmerizing light display.

“I’ve been working on this record between features and the other work I’ve been doing,” Terry says. “After Sound Off, I realized I had all these ideas and I wanted to bring them forth. This record is the culmination of all those experiences. I finally found the confidence to follow what my heart was telling me to do, which was finish this project.”

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For a while, Terry says, he had been stunted or held back by a lack of self-appreciation mixed with self-doubt. “There are parts of myself that most of my life I’ve had issues accepting,” he says, “not seeing who I am and the power I hold. I want to acknowledge everything for what it is, not for whatever anyone else has made it to be.” And so he worked, struggling with ideas of identity, until he landed on the mask metaphor, which opened his eyes to seeing himself as he really is, aided by the assumed eyes of another.

And in the months to come, Terry will continue to perform his music. He will share the stage at KeyArena with Macklemore and other local artists for the platinum-selling rapper’s Dec. 22 and 23 Seattle shows. Afterward, Terry says, he will continue writing songs, teaching voice and audio engineering while working on appreciating who he is in full.

“This album is a collection of music I’ve been working on for four to five years,” he says. “It’s all about self-realization and self-acceptance. I want it to communicate that the brightest light can be found while traveling through the darkest places within ourselves.”

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