Four years ago, Omar Apollo asked his mate if he could borrow $30. Now, that’s not a huge amount of money, but that influx of cash changed his life. It was exactly the amount he needed to pay to get his song Ugotme on Spotify. A hazy, lovelorn track that showcased his prowess with the guitar, it’s since been streamed more than 53 million times on the platform.
At 23-years-old, those 8‑figure streaming numbers are just the beginning for Apollo. His influences reach far and wide, firmly rooted in R&B, but branching out into the realms of funk, hip-hop and even Mexican corrido, a nod to his Mexican-American heritage. This is all evidenced on last year’s Apolonio, his “quarantine project” (AKA mixtape) that he recorded in the confines of his bedroom as Covid wreaked havoc on the world.
But now that the world’s opened up again, Apollo is beavering away on his debut album, which is set for release early next year. What can we expect? Well, listen to his latest single Bad Life, featuring Kali Uchis, and you’ll get a good idea. Delicately sombre, with lyrics that sound as though they’ve been ripped straight from his heart, it’s a track that continues to explore Apollo’s favourite theme: unrequited love.
“To me, Bad Life represents putting in energy into a relationship and not getting anything in return,” he says. “It’s a song about being resentful towards somebody – wanting them to have ‘bad life’ with whoever they’re with now.”
How did Uchis get involved? “I posted a snippet in January teasing it and Kali called me after telling me she loved it, so I asked her if she wanted to get on it. Her voice sounds amazing. I love her tone.”
Listen to the duo harmonise their heartbreak and get your 100% fill of Omar Apollo below.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in Indiana, raised in Indiana and I moved to LA in 2019. In LA, there’s more things to do. In Indiana, it’s like you go outside, hang out in a parking lot and that’s it. Out here, you can rock climb, you can go on a really pretty drive, or go to the beach. A lot of my Indiana friends have moved to LA, so I just keep hanging out with them.
20% At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?
When I was on my first tour, like, I wasn’t sure if music was what I was supposed to do yet. I was kind of just going with the flow. What did I realise? Honestly, I don’t know. It took a few years, because when I first started making music I didn’t even know if I was good or not. It was probably a year in or something. You kind of just get this confidence.
30% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Definitely unrequited love, like torch songs. That was my whole vibe for years. I feel like that’s just something that, even if you’ve never experienced it, you can still kind of relate to it.
40% Break down your typical day at work…
I realised that I don’t really have to rush to record [music] during the day. Because if I said, “OK, I want to record tomorrow”, back in the day, I’d wake up and it’d be the first thing I do. Now I’m like, let me just get myself together. I’ll go to the gym, do my skincare routine and just mentally prepare myself. Maybe I’ll listen to a bunch of music, look at old lyrics and notes, go through them and try to find some inspiration. Usually when I’m done recording, I’ll come home and get into a really good show. Then I’ll wake up the next day and do the same shit.
For me, I feel like right around sunset is a really pretty time to start working if you’re trying to be creative. If I want to be creative, I need to make sure that I feel clear headed. That’s what I mean by the self-care thing, you know, working out and all that shit. It’s important to feel good when you’re making music. I don’t know if that’s me procrastinating or something, but it always ends up working out.
50% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
“You know yourself best”, especially when there’s people trying to give input on what you do and how you do it. Just focus on what you do best and keep doing that. You should always be aware of trying to be better and stuff like that, but I feel like there’s so much kind of cloudiness that other people can bring onto you that makes you second guess yourself. Just don’t second guess it. You can’t focus on the doubts. I guess it’s [about having] the confidence to trust your ideas.
60% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be and in what era of their career?
I wish I’d gone to the Yeezus tour. I was just watching a video and it looked so crazy. And probably want to go see Bootsy [Collins]. I want to hear him sing Munchies For Your Love.
70% What’s the strangest DM you’ve received?
Oh my God, they’re so weird. The strangest ones – there’s actually multiple people who do this and I don’t think they think I read them – are when people treat the DMs as a diary for months, years, even. They tell me the craziest shit, like “I just cheated. I don’t know what to do”. I’ll go through it and it will say “it’s just nice talking to you,” and I’m like, “I’m not even talking to you!” But I guess I read it. Those types of DMs are always entertaining.
80% You rule the world for a day. What’s going down?
That’s too much responsibility. I wouldn’t want that. I’d just make everything free. Take everything.
90% You have your own hot sauce, Disha Hot. Could you finish a whole bottle in one go?
I finished a bottle in one day. It’s fucked up. I probably go through two to three bottles a week. I have it on a burrito, eggs, it goes on anything. Even if I order food and they give you a little hot sauce, I’m using [Disha Hot]. But I’m not gonna lie, I use other hot sauces because I’m a hot sauce fan. I was thinking, “is that going against my company because I like to try other hot sauces?” But then I was like, “no, because I listen to other music.” I got into the hot sauce game because I love hot sauce. That’s just an internal battle I had with myself last night. But yeah, I think it’s going to destroy my business.
100% Name something you love, something you like and something you hate.
I hate standing in lines. I like mermaids. A theme in my life at the moment is mermaids, I don’t know why I’m in this rabbit hole, me and my friends just talk about them. Who knows if they exist? But anyway, I love TV. I could watch TV all day, for like 14 hours and not move. I’m currently on the last episode of Breaking Bad. It’s really intense. After that, I’m going to check out Ted Lasso.