This Valentine’s Day, I received a gift that I absolutely loved.

Fortunately, this gift did not include a huge teddy bear, flowers, chocolates, surprise bank account deposits, or any of those bland and cliche V-Day offerings.

Instead, I was presented with a Valentine’s Day drop of new single “If I Had Words” from Otieno Terry. And since he didn’t release it specifically for me, I figured I’d share the love.

Seattle native Otieno Terry, now based in Los Angeles, is known for soothing the soul with his sublime sounds. His debut album, The Woods, released on Halloween in 2017, took us on a distinct journey. Serving as our gracious guide, Otieno showcased multiple angles of his musical ability within the 13-stop trip.

Tracks such as “Jaguar Stupid” display a more upbeat and uppity swagger, while slower, more even tempo tracks such as my personal favorite, “Honesty,” present a throwback feel with our guide simultaneously requesting the truth from a lover while causing an inescapable two-step from any who is lucky enough to listen.

“Am I chasing you? Or am I running away from me?
Did I lose my way, tryna find my way?”

After his remarkable self-produced debut, Otieno released a fistful of singles, features, and visuals. These include a live performance of “Bad Idea,” an original track with a catchy and chill vibe which he performed via Meditation Sessions back in March 2019 (see below), and “Tell Me” a song by Greg Kramer released last November.

On “Tell Me,” Otieno delivers a heavenly hook and vocals over Kramer’s trombone-heavy production. The track, as described by Greg, is “A love letter to the city that raised me and the people in it.”

It hit home for me, as it was released shortly after my move from the PNW.

Otieno’s latest release, “If I Had Words,” is a cover track of a song originally written by Scott Fitzgerald. This reworked version is a beautiful, stripped down ballad that truly tugs at our heartstrings.

“’If I Had Words’ is one of the last songs that I recorded in Seattle,” Otieno writes about the track, “Originally it was written by Scott Fitzgerald. What inspired me to cover it was the progression he chose. It brought me to a place that I felt like I could heal in. I hope you can heal in this space, too.” 

And that it does. As the chords progress, we draw nearer to acceptance. Of what, we’re not quite sure, but it feels necesarry.

“If I had words to make this day for you…
I’d sing you a morning golden and new…”

As he sings, Otieno’s words melt into the piano keys and laced background vocals, causing our hearts and moods to lift. It’s a beautiful feeling, and a beautiful sound.

His words are sincere and the subdued strength of his voice as he closes out the song are enough to invoke tears of joy. The love enveloped in “If I Had Words” has us covered on Valentine’s Day – for the next few years.

It is a Valentine’s Day gift – one that I absolutely loved.
And I think you will love it too.


“If I Had Words” on Spotify | “If I Had Words” on Apple Music