One Saturday afternoon, I walk through the door into four walls with neatly arranged chairs and someone standing at the snack bar over a variety of Apollo layer cakes extending his arm saying “Hi, I’m Omar”.
Thanks to UpfrontMY, I was able to sit with Omar Apollo and later that night watch his show that was a rejuvenating exchange of energy between the performer and their audience. Within minutes of warming up to each others’ presence, we managed to have a conversation and exchange questions to both learn the human experience better and accept, understand one’s purpose in creating work, and embracing vulnerability.
HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY?
I’m doing good. A little tired though because I just ate so I’m full and comfortable.
GOOD TO HEAR YOU ATE. ON YOUR CRAFT, HOW WAS IT THAT MUSIC BECAME YOUR CHOSEN MEDIUM COMPARED TO OTHER FORMS OF SELF EXPRESSION?
It’s funny you’d ask that because I did have a lot of other mediums first. I was painting, airbrushing and then I was dancing. I only liked doing those other things, except for dancing, I love dancing. But I have always just been playing with and playing the guitar, trying to sing. After a while, it just felt like something I really had to do and really had to try more of accepting those two as one, though.
PERHAPS MUSIC IS YOUR IKIGAI, WITH THE STATE OF WHERE YOU’RE AT AND THAT REALISATION. ARE YOU ALREADY AWARE OF THAT CONCEPT?
No, but what is it?
IT’S A JAPANESE CONCEPT THAT TRANSLATES TO “THE THING YOU LIVE FOR” OR WHAT YOU GET OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING FOR WITH PRINCIPLES LIKE IT BEING SOMETHING YOU’RE GOOD AT, SOMETHING YOU LOVE, WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS, AND WHAT YOU GET PAID FOR. MAYBE YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR MUSICAL OUTLET TO BE YOUR IKIGAI.
Yes, in that case with music… I really think it’s my ikigai.
WHEN YOUR CREATIVE EXPRESSION BECOMES A HUGE PART OF YOURSELF SO MUCH SO AS TO CALL IT YOUR IKIGAI, ARE YOU ABLE TO DIVORCE YOURSELF FROM THE WORK THAT YOU MAKE TO PRODUCE SOMETHING PURELY FOR SOMEONE ELSE?
I don’t think I’d be able to. There will always be a piece of truth about my life and my own experiences in the work that I make.
WITH THAT KIND OF VULNERABILITY, DOES IT EVER OCCUR TO YOU THAT YOU MAY GIVE AWAY TOO MUCH OF YOURSELF IN YOUR WORK AT TIMES?
Oh yes, it can be super draining. When ‘Friends’ came out, I was not ready for that song to be out. I remember crying when it came out. It had already been done for a while but it just felt like it was still relevant, so that was weird because I’d thought to myself, “Damn, now everyone’s going to know how I’m feeling”. It was a huge adjusting period for myself.
YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN CREATIVELY EXPANDING AS YOU HAD MENTIONED EARLIER, VENTURING INTO OTHER FORM OF MEDIUMS TO EXPLORE THAT VULNERABILITY. WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOUR DREAM WAS ALWAYS TO SOMEHOW END UP SPENDING MOST OF YOUR TIME MAKING MUSIC?
It was something I started doing at the moment and then the rest just happened.
WAS THERE A SPECIFIC SUBCULTURE OR SCENE THAT HAS GROWN TO BE PART OF YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY AND INFLUENCED YOUR SHIFT OF FOCUS TO MUSIC?
Yes, In Chicago. I live really close to Chicago and I would go there. I’d just find random shows and just go to them with my band member, Manny. I used to go to open mics and I started meeting other people who were doing it too. They either sing or act and other performances. It was definitely the Chicago scene that helped me meet other people locally.
OMAR, ARE YOU INVOLVED WITH ANYONE FROM THAT SCENE OR ANY OTHER INDEPENDENT COLLECTIVES THAT ARE MAKING THINGS NOT LIMITED TO MUSIC?
There is This collective called Se7en_Syllables that my friend started. He wants to eventually turn it into a production company producing mostly films, because he loves films but also clothes and other things.
WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE METHOD OF DOCUMENTATION TO REMEMBER THE DAYS BY?
I like photos. There is something about a photograph that takes me back right away. I also do a lot of writing that isn’t music-related but just writing. Especially in moments when everything seems to feel really intense, I would just write and keep going. I used to have a notebook that I don’t take on tour with me anymore. It’s locked away at my house now but before that, it got filled up and was just thick with photos and writings. Some pages were ripped out because I thought to myself, Oh this can’t be in here.
OMAR, YOU SEEM TO GENUINELY ENJOY THE PROCESS OF CREATING THINGS IN GENERAL. THEREFORE, WITH YOUR MULTI BACKGROUNDS AND HOBBIES. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF VENTURING INTO THESE OTHER FIELDS?
Yes, I’ve done a lot of auditions for other things and I write a lot. Recently, I’ve been writing these short stories. They’re not scripts, but more of just outlines or ideas for random scenes. Although I think I will do all of this when I am a lot older.
ON THE SUBJECT OF GROWING OLDER, ARE THERE OTHER THINGS YOU WANT FOR YOUR OWN SELF IN THE DURATION OF THIS TIME AND THE NEAR FUTURE?
Yes, there are a lot of things. When I get off of tour though, there is almost nothing to do so I’m learning what to do with that time. I see my friends already because I live with them but post-tour depression can really take a toll. It’s because on tour our days are so scheduled out over the course of months. When we get off tour and I have all this free time I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it. It freaked me out and I really had to start planning my days so I could be calmer because I had to make time. Music is something I love so much and so is performing but I have aspirations for other things that I’d like to do too. I just think that right now isn’t the time for them even though for now, I’m still working at it. Who knows, I might never even look into those other things and just make music forever. It’s nice to have the thought although I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow.