Lifestyle, Arts & Culture

Omar Apollo on Heartbreak, Making Music and More

Omar Apollo on Heartbreak, Making Music and More

MF Couch: Omar Apollo on heartbreak, making music and more
Omar Apollo is living the dream. With back-to-back sold-out shows, three global tours in the books, a television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers – the singer was too modest when he said he hadn’t made it yet. It all started when he finally took the courage to upload his first track “Ugotme” onto Spofity in 2017 at the behest of a friend who paid the streaming service for him.

Thanks to the chance to be featured on the platform’s “Fresh Finds” playlist, the track that he recorded in the comfort of the attic in the house he was living at at that time clocked up 20,000 plays and counting. That was when he knew his life has changed forever. The momentum led to his relationship with Shanks, an NYU economics major who he met via Twitter; tour across the US, Europe and Asia; and two much-hyped EPs, Stereo and Friends.

Since then, his metrics are all the way up from a year ago — streams, video plays solidly in six figures, performs at bigger venues. But the ever-chilled Omar wasn’t too fazed, “it hasn’t felt real yet,” he said. In anticipation of his debut show in Kuala Lumpur, our Men’s Folio Malaysia team had a quick chat with the singer about his latest EP, first show and more.

What was it about the song “Friends” that made you want to name the EP after it?
I think it was just the theme. It kind of summed up how it started and how it ended, you know?

The song digs into the idea of not being able to share how you truly feel about someone — why do you think that sharing emotions, especially ones that make you appear vulnerable, is something that humans are so afraid to do sometimes?
Because we were friends first too,and then, being vulnerable is probably the most transparent, scariest thing you could ever do. When I put out “Friends”, I remember getting so depressed.

It’s like you’re sharing your whole life story with people.
And like, I haven’t even really shared it. That’s the thing; there’s still so much sadness I’m terrified of saying. “Hey, for the album!” [Laughs] You gotta keep some stuff to yourself. I have to keep little things to myself like little hobbies I have. It’s just nice to keep a lot of things to yourself. Like when people ask, “What’s your favourite thing to do?” Like, “I don’t want to tell you.”

What’s the most vulnerable thing about making music?
Everything. I hate it. No, I don’t hate it. I am too emotionally connected. Songs are like kids. Once you put them out, they’re not yours anymore. So it’s scary and terrifying. Especially when you write about yourself and your experience as a human and have other people hear it, and judge it. Even like, when they’re like, “Yo this is amazing”. I’m still hurt.

I have to make a very personal and non-objective confession — Trouble is my favourite track and I’m wondering why’s that all the time. I guess my answer is because it combines a melancholy melody and lyrics with confidence, vulnerability with strength. Is that merging of opposites the secret behind your music?
I think so. I always have kind of a longing spirit, there’s a longing for a sense of who I am. But on the other hand, I feel very confident when I’m making music, even though some songs are dealing with being stuck in solitude or loneliness. But to be honest, I don’t really know where I get the melodies from, I don’t know where I get the words from.

Making music and creating is like channelling your spirit. And since your spirit can’t really talk, music is like the language of humans. I mean, just ask yourself: why do humans love music so much? Why do thousands of people come to a show just to watch one other person playing some songs?

It’s because music gives you something and this one artist makes you feel something. And at the same time, the artist is also feeling something from all those who came to listen to his music. There’s always an exchange – and a crazy energy thing.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by omar apolonio (@omar.apollo) on

So, I know your parents came to America to escape gang violence in Mexico and of course, to find a better life. What do you think about your parents’ lives and the struggles they’ve to go through to help you become the person you are now?
My mum and my dad always tell me to work harder than everyone you know so they really set a good example. So, now like they support everything I do and they give me the extra push I need when I’m tired and I just want to be home, like doing whatever, like press or shows, touring… it’s nice to know that like, you know, they understand that too.

I love your fans and their sense of community. There are tons of videos of you talking to them after your shows and it feels like a family catch-up. How are you able to create that? And, what is it like having not just one, but multiple stan accounts on Instagram?
Oh, yeah, that’s funny. I follow some of them. They’re cool, but I don’t know where they’re getting some of these photos; they’re like Nardwuar. Someone got my uncle and I when I played baseball when I was, like, 8. How the f**k did they get that? It’s like whatever.

Do you remember your first show?
Yeah, it was terrifying. I didn’t want to do it. Then I got addicted to it. My first time standing in front of a crowd was at an open mic in Chicago.

For people who have not seen a live Omar Apollo show yet, how would you describe the show to them?
You’re not gonna be standing still. You’re gonna be moving, dancing, screaming, marching… You might get a nosebleed…

In Trouble you open with a verse written to a younger version of yourself. What piece of advice would you give to a younger Omar now?
Now, I wouldn’t say shit. I think so many people tell me things. They’re like, “you don’t want to do that, Omar.” But you’re different from me; I might have a different experience. I need to experience it! I don’t care if it’s going to be terrible.

Now I know, but I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do it! F**k it dude, I’m 22.