Photo by Jeremiah Warren
It’s the week of Thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to a quiet week in Los Angeles. As I walk into the lively lobby of The Line Hotel around Noon to meet up with Soulful singer Xavier Omar (f.k.a SPZRKT), I flash back to one of the first songs on Soundcloud I loved. French producer Stwo made a future R&B remix of “Middle of Things” by Xavier & Seattle-based producer Sango. The production mixed with Xavier’s effortless vocals heightened my musical palette for years to come. I was hype to finally meet Xavier and congratulate him on carving out success in his own lane of R&B.
Xavier’s brand of R&B combines all facets of R&B with catchy pop sensibilities. It’s a balance that not many artists can seem to master but Xavier seems to have a knack for it. I spotted Xavier in the lobby sitting at a table wearing a vintage wrestling tee shirt and knew we were going to get along just fine. I sat with Xavier to chop it up about performing at Afropunk for the first time, staying confident as a creative, the pressure of dropping Everlasting Wave, Working with Sango on a new project, and more! Read the full interview below.
The “Middle of Things” remix with Stwo was how I first discovered you and your music. Do you see that as a launching point for you career?
I can pinpoint that remix as the beginning of a lot of people’s awareness of me. I still don’t think we saw a crazy influx of people listening to my music until about a year later though. But I can say it was one of the most important moments of my career. I think the real takeoff was when Sango and I started working on our project, Hours Spent Loving You.
That’s crazy. That seems so late into your career.
By the time Sango and I dropped our project, I had officially been an artist for three years but it wasn’t until it actually dropped that things really began to happen. It’s more about awareness for most people than recognizing talent.
As an artist, how do you balance staying confident while not getting the recognition you think you deserve?
It’s definitely a struggle. Especially when you hear what music is successful at the moment and you know your music sounds nothing like that. It can really get you down sometimes but I try to remember how far I’ve come and also remember that God gave me a very specific gift. However far I’m going to go is in his hands. I know how far I want to go and I can work that hard to make it go but I have to trust God’s sovereignty and sometimes that’s hard to do. I still have to put the work in and I strive to reach the goals I’ve set but I have to believe in his sovereign plan and hope it will go through with all the stuff I’ve already worked on.
How was your experience performing at Afropunk this past summer?
Performing there was a really big moment for me. It was the first time that I had my own set at a festival. Because I’m a Red Bull Sound Select artist, Red Bull put my face on a banner at one of the entrances and on a kiosk in front of the stage I was performing at. That was a big surprise to me but it was great to see all that support from Red Bull. And then being on the Soulection stage with so many friends performing that day was another blessing. It was an overall great experience. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more festivals.
Playing big festivals must be crazy because you have so many people in one place trying to see so many different things. With this being your first festival performance, how did you approach it?
It’s a challenge when you first get up there on stage. First, you try to find out who doesn’t know you. And then you wonder who does know you and how are they going to react. It was great though because a good percentage of the crowd not only knew my music but was able to scream it back at me. That was special. The people in the crowd who didn’t know the words felt excluded and wanted to know what they were missing out on. It’s a unique feeling to perform outdoors in front of so many people because I feel like my music has a message and for so many people to pay attention to that message is special.
You changed your name from SPZRKT to Xavier Omar and dropped your first project, Everlasting Wave, under your new name. What did it feel like to drop your first album as yourself?
It was a great feeling in large because this is the first time I’ve loved every song I’ve put on a project. I intentionally went to 8 different corners of R&B. It felt great to see the response it got and I think its only going to get better as we start performing it on tour in 2017. It was liberating to not have to be a character for once. I realized I needed to be my authentic self. Being on stage in a wrestling shirt is my style. But again I was very happy about the response the project got and it let me know I made the right decision.
Did you feel a different type of pressure releasing the album as yourself?
I put the pressure on myself for this one. I said I wasn’t going to work with Sango at all. We’re still working on our second project together but I told him I wanted to keep our sound exclusive to our projects. This is the first time he didn’t have some type of imprint on something I’ve done since 2013. After so many collaborations with each other, people were just conditioned to me working with him. So if people were going to find out who I am, they needed to find out who I was away from Sango. I was hoping people would receive it well knowing that it wouldn’t be that particular sound.
What was your favorite album of 2016 that you weren’t involved with?
Malibu by Anderson .Paak and Blonde by Frank Ocean. I know that Anderson’s album is amazing and I still don’t listen through every time. I keep going back to certain songs for specific moments. Same thing for Frank, when “Nikes” first came out, I wasn’t super into it but more recently it’s the only song from the project I’ve been playing on repeat. Different songs from those projects keep reaching out to me at different times throughout the year. I hope that when my album comes out, my music has the same effect.
Who are some artists you’re listening to right now?
Daniel Caesar, Charlotte Day Wilson, and Ravyn Lenae. Daniel is beauty in sonic form. Charlotte is so soulful and she produces as well. Ravyn Lenae is so unique. I like to listen to people I consider to be peers. I think it’s really important to help support and motivate each other.
What’s on your agenda for 2017?
My number one thing for 2017 is working a lot more with other artists. Not just on their music but on mine too. I want to do features on my stuff to have diversity but I’m always looking to help newer artists even though I know I’m not where I want to be yet.
Catch Xavier Omar on tour in a city near you in 2017!!