Xavier Omär

#IMMusicMonday: Xavier Omär On The Importance Of Impactful Music

Texan artist Xavier Omär is a known R&B artist for his soulful voice and excellent storytelling, on hit singles like “Blind Man. It’s clear that Xavier Omär has cemented himself as one of the newer names in R&B, and he has so much more to come. We got to sit down with the singer-songwriter to talk about faith, family, new music, future tours, and his journey so far… all in the run-up to the release of his new EP “b l u r r.”

How, would you describe your sound to listeners that haven’t heard of you before or aren’t familiar with your music?

I think the best way to describe my sound is extremely diverse R&B. I wouldn’t quite say experimental. I don’t feel like I’m necessarily experimenting that much. But you get a wide sonic kind of landscape with me. So, you know, one song could be up tempo with horns and on the next one, it could be something really vibey and slow. Another song could be something (clubby) like “Tarantino“. So you get this really wide soundscape. Mostly because it’s just like my influences. So yeah, just really diverse R&B.

Just talking about you growing up, you’ve spoken before about how your family was in church singing and playing different instruments. Would you say that influenced you to start looking at music?

Oh, easily. Yeah. What my dad was doing. He was leading and directing the choir. My brother was on drums at the time. My sister was also singing and my mom was singing. So, I’m the youngest, just out there in the audience like, I guess I’m going to be doing this at some point as well. Then obviously, as I got older, the first thing I gravitated toward was drums. So I just wanted to be one of the boys basically, in the family, being able to be on the instruments. My brother had migrated to playing the keyboard. And so, we kind of had this whole Jackson Five thing going for a bit. 

You’ve described God, as being your “source of joy.” How do you maintain that bond from growing up to now and how do you integrate that with your career and where your career is going?

It’s completely changed from when I was growing up, I didn’t have a real understanding of it. And I don’t think I’ve started to have a better understanding of it until, the back end of my 20s. I’m 32 Now. But I think I was 19 and I was in church, actually on the drums, and had the thought, what are we doing? It just felt like a routine. Every week, we all come in, somebody says this keyword, somebody says that ‘phrase’, and we all react a certain way. And I was just; I kind of realized I’d only ever heard about God from whatever church I was in. I never heard an outside perspective. And so, I felt like I knew enough that I believed Jesus, but I didn’t. I wanted to hear what other people had to say.

Xavier Omär

So that was a time when I started listening to a bunch of different perspectives. Whether it was people on TV, or I can find some stuff on YouTube, just trying to compare and contrast, how do they teach Jesus versus how I’ve been taught it? And is there this massive difference? And over time, I wouldn’t say, it’s a massive difference. But over time, there definitely was this difference. But that difference, it made a really big change in my life as far as how I relate to God. And, I was doing everything really performance-based. But if I believe what my faith actually says, and Jesus said it is finished, it’s already a finished work. So it’s not so much for me to perform, as it is for me to believe and receive that the best performance has already been given. And I just get to live in that, and I just get to take on that righteousness, right? That’s the whole idea.

It took me forever to learn that, and so in learning that it even freed me up. More of my music (became) about being able to be more honest and saying some things I probably wouldn’t have said. In the past (I) cussed a couple of times on records, and I definitely would not have.  I think more so because I didn’t want people judging me and this and that. But I really don’t care now because I’m that much more confident and (with) where my faith really is. So yes, it’s shaped who I am. And you know, that doesn’t get lost in the music.

I know you describe your sound as experimental, which I think is really great. And I don’t think R&B is ever just a rigid genre. But in what ways would you want to experiment with your sound that you haven’t done already?

I’m willing to do just about all kinds of music. I would like to start being able to, even if I had to do it under another name, just make music of a different genre. And just let that out. With right now, anything with the Xavier Omär name has this specific expectation that fans have kind of grown to put on me. I guess some of that is based on the connection the music has made with them. And then some of it’s based on just the success of certain sounds I’ve done. But either way, there’s this expectation. And I would like to be able to make music pretty much (of) a completely different genre. However, I’m feeling without the expectation of (it’s) going to be this way or this certain way. I just wanted to be free.

A lot of people will probably say Drake opened the door, or you can just do whatever you want type thing. And that’s cool. But he also took a big risk, and he’s smart. He (has) always been doing whatever he wants to do. But that’s still a really, really big risk that he took. And, everybody’s not in the spot in their career where they can just up and do something like that. So I’d love the opportunity, possibly under a different name; under several different names, to just make whatever kind of music I want, and still give people what to expect when they see the name of Xavier Omär.

Xavier Omär

Do you ever feel like you have that pressure, like you’re saying from fans to kind of be a bit more rigid? Or do you feel like you’re still free to kind of do what you want in the genre?

I’m definitely free, because I’m going to do whatever I want in the end. But I wouldn’t say I’m completely free. There’s a part of me that does feel like I owe it to people to give them at least one or two songs of a specific sound that I know they want. And once I do that, I feel like I’m doing whatever I want. And that’s pretty traditionally how I worked from “The Everlasting Wave” to “if You Feel,” to even coming up on “b l u r r.” You know, I give people what they want with “Tarantino” and “Feelings 4 You.” But also, I still do exactly what I’m feeling. And I think that’s kind of the relationship though. You give me what you know I want, and I’ll be willing to listen to what you want to give us. So it’s worked out pretty well.

With “Tarantino” and “Feelings 4 You,” what made you want to release those singles first because obviously, “b l u r r”  is coming up this month? What was it about those songs that made you feel ready to release them?

Just knowing that it will be received well, number one. But also, it had been a minute since I dropped. So what I’ve learned in those, kind of dead periods, when I release again, just go ahead and give people the dreamiest version of you that you can think of. And so when I first came back from what was “Moments Spent Loving You,” I gave people so much more, right? Because that was like, oh, you think Xavier Omär’s just gonna have love song feelings. So I give them that first.

I kind of took the same approach here. And the first thing that I did since then, is now ‘Feelings 4 You.’ You know, just give them what they think about when they hear your name. And then from there, I just kind of take my risks, try things I like to try. So for “if You Feel”, I think I did “All Our Time” as the second single. And for “b l u r r ,” the second single was “Tarantino.” So both of those songs are summer based, just different angles of it. So like I said, first give them what they want. Second, go ahead and take the party up, have a good time with it. That’s usually the approach. You just want to make sure that people, their expectations are met, and that’s the hardest thing. Or the worst thing you could do is like build this reputation. People have an expectation, and you just fall below it. So you always want to supersede it and go far and beyond. So that’s what I hope to do.

Xavier Omär

Going into more detail, can we talk about your creative process behind the singles and how you put the EP together?

It was not typical at all. Usually, I have an opportunity to sit down and say, alright, I’ve got a few months, let me hit this producer and hit that person. Maybe I get to work face to face with people and we can put a sound together and make some happen. “b l u r r” is in part titled that because of just how difficult it was even for these few songs to come together, whether it was lack of inspiration or just the timing of stuff.

My daughter was born back in November. And so there’s like this pretty much, dead period of only focusing on making sure my wife is okay, and making sure my daughter is okay. So about three to four months of only worrying about that, and not even allowing a tune to come into my head, and trying to work after that, and just (being) all over the place. So there wasn’t this clearly laid out vision for the project. But I knew I still had to work, I still had to perform, still needed to put something out.

And I still had something to say, even though it wasn’t very clear. So it was different in that way that usually everything is much more well put together. And I don’t ever really have to worry about how a song is going to turn out or anything like that. I know I’m in that zone. Where(as) this time I didn’t know that. I will literally sit in here on this computer and just be like, oh, we got something today. We’ll see what happens. So “b l u r r” was quite literally a blur for me.

I know for “Tarantino,” you worked with the producer Sango and you’ve worked with them quite a lot. Are there any artists or producers you want to work with that you haven’t before?

I’m a major, major Pharrell fan. A super, big Pharrell fan. We would love to work with him at some point in life. I feel like (that’s on) everyone’s bucket list, but I just got to get him. I (have) got to work with Tyler, the Creator one day. He’s just become an incredible producer as well. I’m also a really big James Blake fan. I think that I’ve got a record on “b l u r r,” that kind of fits within his style frame. But working with him was just like, not only validation, but I don’t know, it just seems like a good fit for me to be able to do something with him. So those three are who immediately come to mind, that I’ve never worked with, that I would love the opportunity to get in with them immediately.

Are there any artists that you’re listening to at the moment that are up and coming that you feel should have some recognition?

So look, anytime people ask me about who I’m listening to I have to go through my phone because of my brain lol.  DOMi & JD BECK, I love them. I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while. I’m very happy that their project’s coming out. You know, they’re doing their things. Like obviously, they’ll be popping up at festivals a lot. Their latest single’s with Anderson .Paak. They’re doing their thing, but I just love their musicianship and their style.

Xavier Omär

Let me see. Who else I got here that’s coming up and doing their thing. Definitely Phoelix. Phoelix just put out his EP “BEAST”. People hear him a lot; a lot more than they realise. He has been all over some Noname projects. (He) is just one of those great Chicago artists who pops up in more places than you realise, probably on some cyber stuff, like he’s just great. Whether he’s rapping, singing, or producing, he takes over. So Phoelix is fire. Who else is there? Let me just shout out the homie Jalen because I got him right there. E. Mak. Okay. I don’t even know if I’m saying it right, but that’s how it’s spelt. E. Mak is fire. I want to shout out who I’m listening to right now.

When was that standout pivotal moment that made you realise that your career was going in the direction you wanted?

Oh, definitely my first headlining tour. So back in 2017, because I had gone out two years prior on my first tour ever, as an opener (The Uncomfortable Tour), and I was really lucky with the artist, Andy Mineo. I was really lucky to be on the bus with him and his crew and everyone they brought along. So I got to kind of see, what was a great template and blueprint of how the tour should go. How the lead artist should handle themselves, how often he wasn’t out. Like the rest of us, he was resting. All those little things, I was able to watch, and so I didn’t know I would need them two years later.

There I was two years later, doing my own headline tour and basically following everything he did, from the bus rules to the way I took care of myself. Because, it’s such a harder task than you realise,  getting up on stage every night for over an hour. You want to just go out to all these cities and just have fun, of course, but each city deserves as good a show as the last one. That was the big boy moment for me of not only “Oh, wow, really, I’m really doing this, people are coming out (to) buy tickets with my name on it.” But I’m really having to lead the way as well. And take care of myself and make sure that everyone gets what they pay for.

And It wasn’t like, I didn’t go 100%. Some climate stuff, (that) I just couldn’t avoid; my voice got messed up in like Portland and Seattle. But I was still able to at least do the shows, and I’ve never had to cancel (a) show. I’ll push through before I cancel the show. For me that was it, that moment, realising that people were willing to put the money out and come see me. And it’s been a ride ever since.

It’s different, I guess, for every artist. But, how would you describe your stage presence like some artists say they have an alter ego when they’re performing and what’s it like for you, when you get on stage and you’re about to perform?

Oh, it’s not no alter ego. For me, it’s just me. That be me up there, like full of confidence. Because that’s one of the few places in life where I really feel like, I’m really good at this particular thing. I feel like I’m a good songwriter. Even when it’s difficult. And when I get on stage, and specifically when it’s my show, oh, come on. Like, what! This is me.

Nobody, nobody else got this. I don’t care how good the opener was or how great the direct support was, this is me now and we’ve got to have a show. I’m gonna sing well, and imma sing confidently. And I’m going to have a good time with the people.

So, I think people can feel that I think that’s the presence like, yeah, I’m really physical on stage too. I am not a typical R&B singer. No disrespect to Giveon, but you (are) probably not gonna see me with a glass of wine. I can’t be that calm. It looked fire and was really cool. But now, I think just the confidence kind of becomes the presence. So yeah, I don’t even know. I don’t have to go look for or go find it. I just hit that stage and here we are.

Xavier Omär

Looking at where you’re at now in your career. Are there any goals on your bucket list, that you want to achieve over the next couple of years?

There are some like high-level things, I really would like to do. Like, I haven’t had a TV performance. I’ve never been to an award show and have never been nominated for anything. So those are really vanity things, I think more than anything. Because to me, the real sign of how I’m doing is when I put those tickets out. Are people coming in? And right now it’s people who come in, they’re still doing that. So I’m doing well.

But those are just like personal little vanity things of like, my peers respect me or I’m making some strides to a larger audience or whatever else. But other than those things, I don’t really have a goal more specific than just making sure the music still connects with the people. Because then if it doesn’t anymore, I don’t need to be doing this. I need to be supporting somebody who was able to do that. So when I get to the point that I realised that, it’s just not connecting anymore, I’ll probably step away.

But the goal is to continue to be able to connect, and hopefully, because of that, all the other things that I want will get to happen. You know, a little-little Grammy, Oscar and whatever. I want to make all those things happen.

Obviously, you’re known for having a talent for songwriting. What’s the message that you want the listeners to take away from your music?

Obviously, the message of the song is always different, but I want people to be able to step into the emotion that I’ve given. So that’s all me. I need to be able to paint the picture vividly enough, or vocally express the emotion well enough, that when they hear the song, they can either hear themselves in it and what they’re going through, or they can imagine it enough that they sympathise with it. So that’s always the goal. And whatever record I’m doing, I don’t care if it’s like a sad song or a song like “Tarantino,” where it’s literally about taking your girl like, I need you to feel that way. When you listen to a song, I want the listener to be able to think they can become that character at the moment. So I think that’s the way that music best connects, is when people can put themselves in that spot. So yeah, that’s the goal whenever I’m writing.

So out of all your projects so far, do you have a favourite project, and which project do you feel was the hardest to put together or took the most work for you?

if You Feel” is my favourite, not just because it’s my last album. But literally, it’s a really easy way to show somebody who I am. On a musical level, I feel like it touches just about every spot it can sonically. And I can point to so many of my influences on different songs. So that’s my favourite full body of work. The project that was the hardest to put together. It was probably “The Everlasting Wave”, even though it’s only eight songs. But I just remember that I wasn’t trying to make that. I was trying to put different EPs together and that wasn’t “The Everlasting Wave”. The way that it turned out wasn’t the original vision of what I wanted to do. So the only way I was able to kind of explain putting them together is just saying that I’m so diverse, that I’m not just a one-wave artist. I’m not seen here and gone tomorrow type of thing. I needed to be able to show people that I had longevity.

That at least was an excuse, because all the music was just so different from each other. That’s why it was hard to kind of like package the EP together. I remember changing the order of the track listing so many times. I needed it to feel like it might make sense. Because to me even now it doesn’t make actual sense that all those songs are on the same project. So just kind of like having to build the story around why it works was pretty difficult.

As an artist, putting music aside briefly. How would you like to be remembered?

I just want people to be able to equate, like a good feeling with me over anything. You say Marvin Gaye and it just feels warm. And people have good memories of music. Even people who didn’t necessarily grow up with the music. I didn’t grow up with it. But as I heard it and listen to his voice, it was just like, oh, man, that’s Marvin. I want it to feel like that to people. So I don’t have to be this major icon or anything like that. I just want a connecting point with people that when they hear my name, or when they tried to tell somebody about the music or that they went to a show or that they met me. Whatever it was, I want it to feel warm, and like what I contributed really mattered to them.

Is there anything coming up for 2022? Any plans, any performances? What’s next for you?

I am planning a tour. I want to say planning, because that’s the stage that we’re in right now. I really want to get back out on the road. I would love to get back to Europe. Oh my god, I haven’t been there since 2018. I’m trying to go back, my hair is so much longer since the last time I was there.

(laughs) I love how you’re using your hair to measure how long it’s been.

Yeah, my hair. But I want to get back, I miss it. I have a lot of fond memories, just the crowds. The crowds are better, number one. But I just want to get back out there as well. So hopefully, we can also put together a short run. If nothing else, we’re gonna do a short US run. If we are able to tour, it’d be a short run. So hopefully we can do a short tour in Europe as well because it’s just overdue. And it’s been way too long. So I need that.

Just in case you missed it Xavier Omär’s latest project “b l u r r” is out now on all streaming platforms. If you want to keep up with him follow his socials; Instagram and Twitter.

Photo credit Brandon Lavender

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