Almost Owen is a singer/songwriter/producer from Boston, Massachusetts.
His latest single “Something in You” was revealed on April 23rd. The new single is about letting go.
“You get farther away from someone. You live your life and everything is good. But then something happens, and your mind goes back to that place. What do you do with that sense of loss? I wrote it on a broken acoustic guitar in a friend’s living room early one morning. I wanted it to feel really intimate, like the listener was walking down the hallway and happened upon me (and my band) in this living room, playing this song to nobody in particular,” explains AO.
The American artist started his career performing as a jazz drummer in dive bars and clubs at the age of 11. After studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, the artist caught the attention of Grammy Award winning musicians Jamey Haddad and Danilo Perez.
The Bostonian artist has performed over 500 shows across 12 countries and has created a great fanbase around his music.
“Something in You” is now available worldwide. T
Introduce yourself - where are you from?
Hey! I’m Almost Owen. I live in Boston, MA, pretty close to the suburb I grew up in, and extremely close to the clubs I learned to play in.
What's your story?
I’m a bedroom pop singer/songwriter and producer trying to make the big time. Or at least get out of my bedroom. You know anyone with a spare room?
Could you describe us your childhood a little bit? Any favorite memories?
I was a cul-de-sac kid. Though my parents didn’t have to worry about my brother and myself getting hit by oncoming traffic, we more than made up for it by doing stupid shit around the neighborhood. We used to take out this janky old radio flyer wagon and ride it down the steep concrete hill next to our house. I think I’ve finally repressed all the memories of emergency room visits.
I went to a tiny prep school, but left in the 6th grade to be homeschooled. I was a pretty weird kid. I was curious and loved to read, but didn’t have much patience for things I wasn’t interested in. Also at that age I couldn’t really figure out how to play well with others. I had no filter.
Growing up, what were you passionate about?
Music was always the big one. My parents had a pretty excellent vinyl collection of bands they grew up listening to. My dad took me to an Eric Clapton concert when I was like 5 years old, and from then on I was pretty much hooked. After I left middle school, I spent my time reading and making music. I think I was about 13 or 14 when I first went to Wallys, an historic jazz club/funky hole in the wall in the South End of Boston. Every Saturday and Sunday night they hosted jam sessions. I’d take two busses to get there, just for a chance to sit in and make a fool of mysef on the drums for a couple songs. The guys that played in the house band were some of the most talented students from Berklee College of Music at that time. Whether they knew it or not, they were my mentors. Sometimes I’d go hang out and drink with them afterwards (mind you, I was like 15 or 16 and this point). I’m sure they got a kick out of it, but to me it was everything.
More and more, my whole week started to become about getting ready for those nights. It was my church. I don’t think I missed a weekend for several years. At some point, I started getting called for the gig myself, and eventually took over one of the nights, putting my own band together each week.
When did you realize you could sing?
Well, there wasn’t really an “a-ha” moment or anything like that. I sang to records all the time as a kid. I was in a bunch of plays and musicals growing up, but I didn’t take it that seriously.
When I was 20, as a jazz drummer at Berklee College of Music, I got into a new program that had been started within the school called the “Global Jazz Institute”. They basically put together 2 groups of “the elite” jazz musicians from the school and sent us around the world to perform at festivals and do teach masterclasses.I was playing all the time, and living the kind of life you’d expect from a 20 year old college student and musician. It was right around then that I pinched a nerve in my shoulder and back. I lost a bunch of the sensation and dexterity in my left arm. I was pretty deeply frustrated, and didn’t know what to do about it. For about a year and a half I kind of tried to white knuckle it, but it just kept getting worse. I had to figure out a way forward, and it was becoming increasingly clear that drumming wasn’t it.
I came across this dude Jack Conte of the band Pomplamoose on youtube. He/they were one of the early viral DIY artists on the platform.I watched what he was doing, and got the same feeling I did when I was a teenager, going to Wallys for the first time. I started writing and singing my own songs. Most of what I made was pretty terrible. But every so often I’d make something that I felt was special - that would make me think “ok I’ve got something”. My batting average has improved a lot since those early days…
You began performing in bars and jazz clubs at an early age. What did these experiences teach you as an artist?
They were everything! I learned that there’s plenty that can be learned from practicing, but the most important lessons can only be learned by doing.
It also taught me a sense of fearlessness. At first I didn’t know what I was doing - nobody does when they first start performing. But the crucial thing is to not be afraid of making a fool of yourself. It is 100% going to happen, so you might as well lean into it and use it as fuel to do better the next time.
When did you decide to fully pursue music as a career?
I think I made the decision right around when I first started going to Wallys. That being said, I don’t think I had was thinking about it in terms of a career. I just wanted to play and get better.
Who was the first person to ever believe in you?
I’ve been really lucky to have a lot of help and guidance along the way. My parents have always been supportive and believed in me - which I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for.
As far as people “in the industry,” I had a teacher named Jamey Haddad who really took me under his wing. He’s an outstanding percussionist and a brilliant guy. He lived in India on 2 Fulbright scholarships to study music, and gone everywhere and played with everybody. He really stretched my understanding of how to be in the world as an artist. He would sometimes call me to sub in for gigs/tours that he couldn’t make. He introduced me to a lot of people, and really advocated for me both as a person and professionally. A few years ago he brought me along to a recording session with Paul Simon, who he plays with.
How would you define Almost Owen, the artist?
I think when it comes down to it I’m a pop artist. But I think of myself as a singer/songwriter. I’m trying to bring together the things I like best about much of the music I grew up on - Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Beatles - with the stuff that gets me going today — Drake, Blackbear, Jon Bellion. I love great lyricism, but I’m also obsessed with texture and sound. Blame it on my days as a jazz drummer.
As for my name — my parents almost named me Owen. I found choosing a name to be pretty difficult. I went through a couple other possible pseudonyms before I came upon this one.
I think the reason I like it so much is because it somehow relates to paths not taken. I could have continued to be a jazz drummer. I probably could have done a lot of other things. To me it feels as much a statement about who I as who I am not.
It’s definitely a bit weird, but so am I…
How did your sound and artistry evolve since your first release?
Last year I released an album called “Late Night Dangerous” on my website almostowen.com exclusively to my fans. I was experimenting with trying to tell the story of a relationship with the album. I’d set it up so that each night, fans would get a link to a page with a song off the album, as well as a mini screenplay that would give context to that song’s place in the story.
I put a few of the songs up on Spotify, iTunes etc. as well. The whole thing is pretty dark, vibey and nocturnal. They spoke to the emotional place I was in at that time, which was pretty chaotic.
The stuff I’m making now is a little brighter, a little more self-aware, and a little more organic. I’ve been trying to strip back my productions as much as possible and focus on what I think is my strongest suit: my songs.
"Something in You" is your latest release. What's the story behind it?
Well, this is going to feel like it undercuts a bit of what I just said. But I promise it’s just a coincidence. “Something in You” is sort of a meditation on letting go. You get farther away from someone. You live your life and everything is good. But then something happens, and your mind goes back to that place. What do you do with that sense of loss? I wrote it on a broken acoustic guitar in a friend’s living room early one morning. That’s what I tried to on this record. I wanted it to feel really intimate, like the listener was walking down the hallway and happened upon me (and my band) in this living room, playing this song to nobody in particular.
When did you start working on this song? Could you describe us the songwriting/production process?
“Something in You” came really easy. I wrote it in about an hour, and started recording it that day. I think it was finished in about a week. My buddy Erik plays for my band and performed all the guitars on the record. We took a crumpled up piece of paper and put it through the guitar strings to give it a muted and buzzy sound, kind of like the broken guitar I wrote it on. I record 90-100% of my songs in my bedroom studio, and this one was no exception.
What made you want to release "Something in You" as a single?
I just think it’s a really good song. It’s acoustic and really stripped back, almost like a folk record. It showcases a side of my artistry that has always been there, but I haven’t really exposed.
I wanted to highlight this side to my fans. The majority of the records I’m releasing over this year don’t lean so heavily into this sound, but some will.
What do you like the most about this song?
There’s a line in the prechorus that I really love. I say, “I hate that I need you, but something in me still does, it’s something in you”. To me, it feels like a whole lot of meaning in just a few words. “I hate that I need you”. Who isn’t familiar with that weird contradictory feeling?
What can you tell us about the artwork?
The picture is from a candid photoshoot I did a few months ago at an airbnb in LA with talented photographer Lizzy Viggiano. The airbnb was a cabin in the hills that just felt isolated enough to be a perfect match for the vibe of this song.
Who's helping you build your artistry and your visuals?
Oh man, so many people. Erik Jalajas plays guitar for all my live shows, and has cowritten a few songs that have yet to be released. He’s also co-producing a few of the records that will be coming out later this year. Rene Blackburn out of Boston has been doing a lot of video and photo work that’s been rolling out on my social media pages. Ken Tutunjian is a real estate mogul who has been helping me game out long term strategy for my career. Jonathan Castelli is an amazing producer and engineer out of LA who is mixing a bunch of records coming out in 2019. Preston Reid is another incredible mixing engineer and producer out of Atlanta who I’ve been working with. Dave Pensado (the legend) has also mixed a few records that you’ll be hearing pretty soon.
Other notable shoutouts:
Vancil Cooper - friend, incredible drummer, and sounding board since day one
Julian Beechkho - guitarist, producer and social marketing guru
Clay Agnew - vocal editor and incredible studio musician in his own right
Dan Gleyzer - producer extraordinaire out of LA
Simone Torres - legendary vocal producer out of ATL
What appeals you the most being an artist?
I wake up each day and get to do what I love, and say what’s on my mind. Don’t get me wrong - making a living doing music is a grind and a half, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s also given me the chance to see the world and connect with people I might not have otherwise come in contact with. Music is the closest thing we have to a universal language.
Why do you make music? What keeps you motivated?
To be honest, I really don’t know what else I would do with myself if I didn’t make music. There are albums that have been the soundtrack to my life. Songs that have given meaning and context to emotional places I’ve been. Lyrics that have given a sense of belonging, and perhaps most importantly, not being alone in whatever it is I’m feeling. I think it’s my responsibility to pay it forward. To try to make music that brings joy to the lives of others, the way it does to me.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
Oh man, what a question. The issues that I’m most fascinated by tend to be social ones, like how easily we are siloed off into our own corners and pit against each other. I watched an interview with John Stewart a few years back where he talked about the political fight that’s projected by the media — left vs right, and the “real” fight — corruption vs non corruption. I think there’s something pretty profound in that thought, and it has stuck with me. I think it’s a lot easier to find common ground with people you disagree with when your focus is on trying to understand why they feel a certain way. From there, being sympathetic to their reasoning, even if you don’t like the place that it takes them. It seems to me that many of the obstacles to progress stem from an inability to find common purpose with people we disagree with.
This whole time I’ve been trying to avoid saying hippie-esque things like “peace and love” or “can’t we all just get along”. But yeah that’s pretty much what I’m saying…
What biggest lessons have you learnt as a human being and as an artist?
They are one in the same. Anything worth doing takes an annoyingly long amount of time, and a painstaking assertion of effort and will. Suit up for it and lean in.
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