Omar Apollo is meowing down the phone. No, he’s not having an existential crisis (we hope), instead, the 22-year-old singer is demonstrating what he picked up from his most recent vocal lesson. “It opens you up! It’s crazy!” he enthuses about the interesting technique. “My real goal [in life] is singing, and I literally want to be the best version of myself, so I train a lot.”
Omar would be the first one to admit that he wasn’t blessed with a natural voice, but he’s always had an ear for music. Growing up listening to Metallica, alternative artists and the traditional Latin tracks his Mexican parents would play around the house, he knew that becoming a musician himself was what he needed to do. “After I figured out how to sing, I was like, ‘Now I can start making music!’,” he laughs.
Having mastered the art of carrying a tune, the then-17-year-old saved up for a laptop, crafting his own material in his makeshift bedroom studio before a friend urged him to upload his music to Spotify. Sharing ‘Ugotme’, a jazz-tinged indie number, it quickly got playlisted and shot the Indiana-born artist into the music world’s consciousness, although the ever-chill Omar wasn’t too fazed. “I’m just gonna move how I move,” he asserts when asked about the hype. “I’m just having a good time.”
His rapid rise continued with last year’s debut EP ‘Stereo’, an ambitious and imaginative record that saw the musician blend elements of funk, jazz and rap into slow-burning sizzlers while singing in both Spanish and English. Where ‘Stereo’ flickered between influences, however, his latest EP, April’s ‘Friends’, finds Omar with a much more succinct and suave musical approach. “There’s been a lot of growth in different ways,” he explains. “Now, it’s more thought out and more structured. But that’s what’s cool about ‘Stereo’. I don’t want to knock it because it’s just like it’s own thing, you know? Whereas ‘Friends’ is more like a musically educated part of me.”
Weaving between dancefloor-ready tracks like ‘So Good’ and the folk-influenced melodies of its title track, his second EP glistens with a Prince-like swagger and the promise of what’s to come. With his debut album around the corner - “no more EPs, I’m an album boy now!” - Omar is adamant about continuing to push himself. “I’m never trying to put out the same shit. If I did it, I already did it, you know? I’m trying to keep getting better as an artist and make better music and make better songs, that’s the goal.” Keep on meowing, bbz.
As featured in the September 2019 issue of DIY, out now.