Omar Apollo started making music just for fun, but now the 22-year-old has amassed thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram and has become one of this generation's young Latinx artists to watch out for.
The soulful indie singer, whose songs like "Ugotme" range from infatuation to love to heartache, didn't often see himself in the music he consumed growing up. What does he think now that he's helping grow a new wave of Latinx music creators? "Amazing," he told the Recording Academy in the latest Up Close & Personal. "I think it's cool seeing all these Latinx kids coming up and doing their thing."
Apollo stopped by the Recording Academy to talk about his Friends EP, his Mexican culture, being an independent artist, owning his own music and more.
Your instrument of choice is the guitar. When did you pick it up?
I was like 12. I was 11 or 12. I don't know. My parents gave me one for Christmas. It was an electric one but it didn't have an amp so I just went to the pawn shop and traded it for an acoustic one and I just started playing and started pausing YouTube videos and stuff to look at the fingers and try to copy it.
Do you remember the first time you ever wrote a song?
Yeah, my mom was always working and so was my dad, so I kind of wrote a song about them never being home when I was 11. It was really sad. It's like three notes.
Do you remember some of the words?
Yeah, but I'm not going to say them. [Laughs.]
Your latest EP is called Friends. Tell me the story behind one of the songs off that album.
I guess it's kind of like all thematic, the whole thing, kind of based around like ultimately just being friends with someone rather than [being together] romantically. That's kind of the whole thing.
Is there a song off the album that means the most to you?
"Trouble" means the most to me because every time I listened to it or play it live, it kind of resurfaces the emotions I had when I wrote it, so that's really special to me. I think it's hard to do that.
How does it feel to bring up those emotions over and over and over again?
It sucks bringing it up all the time, especially when you're overseas and just sad and then you just have to sing the song. You're just like, "Oh man." But a lot of times it's very exhilarating, like really therapeutic in a way. I kind of get lost in the character of when I was writing it. The person that I was at that time. It feels like two years ago. All those kind of memories kind of come back up.
What keeps you creative?
Watching TV, films, stuff like that kind of always inspires me to do things. And just other music.
What are you listening to?
I don't know. I have to look. It's so many things. A lot of the things, I don't even know the names. It's just cool songs.
You're a part of this wave of rising young Latinx artists. How does it feel to be a part of that?
Well, that's amazing. I always kind of thought growing up, I never saw anyone that was kind of embracing Mexican culture. I don't know, it just kind of made me think that no one would take me seriously so I think it's cool seeing all these Latinx kids coming up and doing their thing. Super cool.
How has your culture influenced you?
I think that it makes me feel very family-oriented and a wholesome kind of person. It definitely makes me want to let all the kids like me, first-generation Mexican kids, just do whatever they want and don't care.
You're an independent artist who owns their own music. How has that been?
Oh, that's cool. I see a lot of people that sign early or sign a bad deal. It kept coming up and you hear about things and I'm just like, "Man I'm so glad I haven't had to deal with any of that kind of stuff " and just kind of be able to say that I own the publishing, the mastering still, and [feel like] I'm not too worried about it. I'm good right now.
What is your greatest tool as an independent artist?
Being able to do whatever I want at any time of the day, whenever. I'm not tied down to [anything]. I can drop anything. I don't have to ask a label to do anything, "Can I do this, can I do this?" If I want to do something I just do it. I think that's the coolest thing. Not having them hold onto your album or work for a year before you can release it. I can drop something today if I wanted.
What's next for you? You're touring soon, right?
Yeah, November. I have some months off. Started picking up a few more hobbies. I'm making music all the time in between. I'm excited though because I have a lot of cool things planned with me and my band and just like the show in general.