I’m-a stay true to myself
I can’t be anyone else
No matter what you think of me
“Breaking the Silence,” Imposter Syndrome, 2020
Situated deep in the middle of the country, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a thriving city, and has been for quite some time. Once famous for its oil and as the “Birthplace of Route 66,” the city now has over 400,000 residents – close to a million in the metropolitan area – and quite a reputation for performing arts. Tulsa is home to the oldest continuously operating theater west of the Mississippi, a prestigious ballet company, an opera house, and a symphony orchestra. Tulsa has a rich history with music, too: It was the birthplace of Western Swing in the 1930s and the Tulsa Sound – made famous by non-Tulsan rock legend, Eric Clapton – in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2012, Livability.com even named Tulsa in the top ten best music scenes outside of LA, NYC, and Nashville. However, much of its musical notoriety – including both the genres it spawned – is rooted in country music; Tulsa is not where you would think to find a thriving scene for heavy music. Given all the city has to offer – including numerous venues and great accessibility per the interstate and local highways – it just took the right people to carve out a niche for this neglected subculture of music.
Claiming influence from such varied acts as Senses Fail, The Used, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, Halifax, and CKY, Outline in Color seamlessly blends elements of hard rock, metal, nu-metal, pop, and R&B. The vocals are heavily laden with soulful singing and tastefully peppered with screaming and backing vocals, and the music features both rhythmic grooves and atmospheric ambience. The totality is a genre-blurring experience that gifts the listener with melodies that linger and beg to be heard again.
“When we formed as Outline in Color , heavy music was going through a period in Tulsa when there wasn’t anywhere to play, really. Promoters didn’t want to take chances on metal packages that would draw 50 or less kids a night,” according to vocalist Michael Skaggs. In a city where the music scene is so rich in other genres, why should a promoter do so? The answer is heart. Perseverance. Blood, sweat, and tears. Outline in Color and other heavy local bands put in the work, and gave it full heart. Between negotiating with promoters, promoting themselves, working together to build bills and ensure attendance, and organizing shows in less traditional venues, the local network of bands forged a scene where there wasn’t one. They built a collective local fanbase with other promising bands to give the doubting promoters a reason to take a chance on them.
Outline in Color went on to outgrow the local scene they helped build. They began touring more extensively, playing festivals such as SXSW and SO WHAT?!, and ultimately headlining their own tours overseas in the UK, Japan, and Australia. The band went through the growing pains that many do, including lineup changes that decentralized the band with members around the country. There were other problems, too, through which the band persevered – problems that would decimate most bands. There were struggles with addiction and recovery, record label woes, financial and vehicular hardships – even the departure of their former vocalist, through which most didn’t believe the band would survive. However, they did. Outline in Color faced their struggles head-on with all their heart, and they succeeded. From early notoriety gained from covering Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to partnering with financial investors who allowed the band to effectively form their own record label to maximize their creative control and DIY efforts, Outline in Color has come a long way. Nearly a decade after forming, the band is still here, “putting out arguably the best music of [their] career,” according to Skaggs. True to that sentiment, their latest release, “Imposter Syndrome,” just released in July 2020 under the sought-after production of Andrew Baylis, earned them the #190 Independent Album, #88 Top New Artist, and #45 Top Hard Rock positions in the Billboard charts.
All the while as Outline in Color branched out, the scene they helped forge in their hometown of Tulsa continued to grow, as well. Ten years in, with some massive changes including loss of vocalist and bringing their longtime bassist to the dedicated vocalist position, the band has come full-circle. In their strongest line-up yet, the current four members were all present in the band back in 2009, and the band is recentered back in Tulsa. They can finally really take delight in the scene they helped create, in their hometown, and in the band they grew to become. Sometimes it just takes the right people and a healthy dose of heart.
Those right people in Outline in Color consist of:
Michael Skaggs, vocals: a passionate medical marijuana enthusiast and cultivator
Jonathan Grimes, bass/vocals: the “nerd” of the group, best-dressed and well-spoken
CJ Cochran, guitar: loves video games, audio production, and tech; can’t live without WiFi
Austin McFerrin, drums: a culinary mastermind and fitness junkie, he runs a comedy podcast
After having released Imposter Syndrome in July 2020, Outline in Color has a sequel EP, Imposter Syndrome 2, already recorded by August and ready for release, two covers scheduled to be recorded in August and September, and a collaborative trap metal track to record with Dropout Kings. The band is ready to retour the world as soon as live shows are again allowed.