When Eric Ettinger isn’t plying his trade as a support worker for special needs adults, or volunteering for the Care-A-Van, he spends a lot of his time creating music, as Oktiv6.
The long-time Comox Valley resident - he and his family moved to the Valley from Port Alice 28 years ago - has been creating music for many years. The name is somewhat of a play on words.
“I chose the name because an octave is a musical measure and five octaves is the maximum that any human being is capable of, so I decided to be Oktiv6 to sort of infer that I am some sort of… outside of that regular spectrum,” he said. “I’d say (my genre) is sort of a mellow West Coast hip-hop soul sort of sound.”
Ettinger said his music has evolved through the years.
“I used to be more of a straight-up rapper when I was a younger guy. I was in a couple of duos over the years - one called Still Life, and one called Butterfinger Bombsquad - but I do a lot more singing now… a lot more of the R&B thing, mostly because I found that people like it.”
Much of Otiv6’s music reflects where he lives - Vancouver Island. His videos are shot around the Island, with many recognizable spots, such as the Buckley Bay ferry terminal, the Campbell River marina, Nanaimo, and even tubing on the Puntledge River.
He said singing about one’s local surroundings is typical of rap.
“I think most hip-hop is about representing where you are from… I don’t want to be too (tied down) to that, but I do like that to shine through in everything I do. It’s a big part of (the genre) though. I’m sure you’ve heard lots of rap songs, it’s always California this or New York that, singing about where you’re from.”
On his YouTube page, Oktiv6 describes the song Courtenay Love as a song “… for all the small town Island fam!”
He gives shout-outs to communities from throughout the Island in the song.
“If you’re from Sayward, or wherever, you don’t get to hear that often, so I thought I would try to give something for the small town folks, because I’m from a small town. I know all about being in an isolated community. You just don’t get things like that.”
Oktiv6’s music can be found on Spotify and Apple Music, and he is on the verge of releasing his first album - Sound Awake.
“There’s still one song just being tweaked and processed, but that should be any time in the next week or two.”
The first video from that album, Know By Now dropped on April 20.
“That was all shot at the (Courtenay and District) Fish & Game, at Boomtown,” he said. “We did sort of a time-travel thing with it and got a lot of cowboy extras. The Fish & Game cowboy action shooters were very accommodating and very helpful with that process.”
When he’s not producing his own music, he fronts for a local band.
“I also work with a band called The Jays (which is) primarily a funk band, so it’s a little bit different when I have the band with me, but I don’t always (play with them),” said Ettinger.
Comox Valley music fans may recognize The Jays as the band formerly fronted by Allanah Clark before she moved to the Mainland. Ettinger has been working with The Jays for just over a year.
“When (Clark) moved off to the city, they were in need of someone to front them. It’s a pretty different direction, but I am sure that’s kind of refreshing for them. We linked up and it has worked out really well.”
The Jays is a three-piece band, featuring Jesse McCloy on guitar, Jacob Gregory on bass and Jonathan Hinds on drums.
Oktiv6 and The Jays have a few gigs lined up for the summer already. They will be playing Church Street Pub, as well as the Comox Valley Exhibition in late summer.
“We are still waiting to hear back about a few things - we have a lot of applications out there - but we are hoping to have a lot of shows booked over the summer, both locally and around,” he said. “Definitely want to get more gigs, but you know, we’ve lost a lot of venues through COVID, so things got tough… it was really tough on the music business, that whole thing.”
While Oktiv6 and The Jays have not produced any original work to date, Ettinger is hopeful that will change soon.
“Jacob has a professional studio, so we are capable of recording the whole band over there and I think that’s kind of the direction we will be going,” he said.
Oktiv6 is fresh off a small Island tour with Vancouver hip hop star Junk, accompanied by Nanaimo’s rising star Sirreal, as well as longtime friend and collaborator RevRon also of Nanaimo. The tour made stops in Ucluelet, Alert Bay, Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Parksville. Many of these same artists travelled with Oktiv6 on the “Red Kingdom” tour, which saw the group visit 23 different cities in both B.C. and Alberta in September 2022.