An Interview with Ollie Mealing
Now a grown guy, he’s well known for his talent with playing cards, performing in public and private spaces. Recently, he finished a UK tour with magician Derren Brown. To check out his style, don’t miss his YouTube page.
Club 808: So you went pro at age 14. What was the turning point for you? How long had you been interested in magic?
Ollie: I was with some family and friends in a restaurant, and casually started doing a few tricks for everyone. A waitress noticed what was happening and asked to see a trick, too. I showed her a trick and she called the manager over. I showed him a trick and was offered a residency on the spot.
After six months working there, I’d built up a strong client base, which meant the residency work ended up being replaced with private events. Until this point I didn’t realize that the residency had in fact been a very demanding performance environment which allowed the transition to private events to feel incredibly smooth, enjoyable, and dare I say. . . easy. But having that feeling allowed me to feel super confident and introduce a wider range of material.
Club 808: Who were some of your influences?
Ollie: I find every magician influential. Discovering your own preferences relies on what you’ve been predisposed to, so everything serves to influence one thought or another. One notable influence for me is Derren Brown. His work never ceases to inspire and amaze me; he’s a true master. I’d also include the audience as an influence. As I’ve grown, I’ve noticed the audience/performer relationship mature. For example, when you’re considered a child rather than a peer or an adult, it’s easier for the audience to hijack (in a fun way) a close-up performance, which meant much of my old material encompassed multiple outs and had to be FASDIU. Nowadays many of those dynamics I previously prepared for are very different.
Club 808: Was there a specific moment of no turning back? When you knew for certain you’d always be doing this?
Ollie: The restaurant residency was my first-ever job, and I loved it from the get-go. Making a living from doing what you love is a very happy place to be in, and I feel incredibly fortunate that it continues to support me and open new doors. So yeah, since day one, I’ve never had a flicker of doubt about it.
Club 808: How has your style changed since you first got started?
Ollie: Before the restaurant I had no distinguishable style other than being a “card guy.” The residency nudged me towards impromptu, visual, multi-phased routines, and for a long time I stuck with that. They’re crowd-pleasing and flexible, but eventually I reached a point where that style no longer excited me. I felt like I wanted to be making more of an impact, but frustratingly I was clueless as to what “more” consisted of. I spent a long time working out that for me. It was about refining what I already had and turning each of my strongest phases into individual pieces. I wanted my material to have clarity and authenticity, for the audience to be wittingly immersed within a single rare moment. I’d essentially made the transition from placing priority on the method to the effect.
I’d essentially made the transition from placing priority on the method to the effect.
In order to achieve those things and to add weight to each piece, I started framing them with scripts, something I regretfully paid no attention to previously but this style necessitated it. I’m so thankful for that. I now consider scripting to be one of the most vital and enjoyable components. As well as scripting, this new style warranted a change in persona and also setting, so that my material could really land. I was beginning to consider the bigger picture and the small details within. Every component of the audience’s experience can be tweaked to augment the effect. Since then (around five years ago) I’ve continued to delve into a wide range of aspects such as showmanship, structure, creativity, and staging, so there’s no doubt that my style continues to change and hopefully always will. That’s what keeps it exciting.
Club 808: Do you have a favorite trick you enjoy performing?
Ollie: My favorite trick is usually the one I’m currently working on because you’re able to bring the most knowledge into the process, so it feels like it’s been through the most vigorous amount of consideration. It’s best equipped, as it were. Some of my favorite effects I’ve posted on YouTube. I particularly enjoy performing Structure & Subconscious—but they’re all my favorites, really, for their own various reasons.
Club 808: What about the craziest audience reaction—whether a group or an individual?
Ollie: It’s hard to say. Festival crowds are typically very responsive, and I’ve encountered all sorts of weird and wonderful responses, but for me a crazy reaction is when you really make a difference to someone. I remember performing for a table, and afterwards an elderly lady within the group signaled me over. She told me that the last time she’d witnessed magic was as a child when her grandfather showed her a card trick. She told me that for those few minutes, I’d taken her back to feeling like a child again.
She told me that for those few minutes, I’d taken her back to feeling like a child again.
I found that incredibly powerful, and far crazier/worthwhile response than a Blaine-esque crowd running off into the distance (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Club 808: What are you doing now? Where can people see you perform?
Ollie: I’ve not long come off tour with Derren Brown, so I’m currently having some downtime before taking on gigs again.
Club 808: Do you play card games when you aren’t doing magic with them? What games?
Ollie: Occasionally Texas Hold’Em with improvised chips—Cheerios, coins, rice.
Club 808: What’s some advice for someone interested in pursuing a career as a magician?
Ollie: I recently made a video on advice, which you can see here.
To follow Ollie in real-time, catch up with him on his Twitter page here, or his Facebook page here.