Q & A With New York Alternative Rap Artist Dylan Owen On Latest Album “Holes In Our Stories”
1. This is your first full length album in 9 years! Can you describe the creative process leading up to the production and release of the album?
Absolutely. This was years in the making. It tells a story I’ve thought a lot about the last few years living on my own in NYC. It’s sort of my origin story: going to summer camp, learning to write songs from a teacher there, falling in love there and how all of those experiences went on to affect me and alter the course of my life up to the present day. ‘Holes In Our Stories’ talks a lot about dealing with loss in your twenties, which I’ve learned the last few years is an inescapable reality at some point for everyone. The experiences of my twenties tie in with those experiences from growing up.
I wanted to bring my conceptual world to life with the music. I let living on my own and being independent guide me. Wrote a lot of it in a raw way, starting on instruments alone in my room and then eventually building out the production and doing official recordings in humble bedroom studios throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and upstate New York. I enlisted my friends to help out with background vocals, singing on the choruses, and playing the instruments you hear in the songs. It is a team effort that started from a very solitary place.
2. What’s your favorite song off of the album?
‘A Quarter Century.’ I’m thankful I made it to 25 so that I could write that song.
3. How does this work compare to your previous releases?
I wanted the metaphors to connect all throughout the album. Holes In Our Stories might be similar to my past projects in terms of sound, but this is my first time trying something with writing to this extent. It also features me playing the acoustic guitar and piano a lot more than ever before. I wrote ‘Creases’ and ‘A Quarter Century’ alone on my keyboard for example, and I wrote Fingerprints and Wrinkles alone on my guitar. I’m embracing the storytelling side of my music on this album as wholeheartedly as I can.
4. Can you describe the process coming up with the title, “Holes In Our Stories”? How did you know that this was the winning title?
I wanted to land on a title that captures how things in life do not end up fully concluded—the point of the album is that everyone has to be okay with unfulfilled moments in their lives, with lost friendships that never recover and unexpected paths that our stories take. Especially in your twenties when everything seems to be uncertain. So the album covers all of these “holes” and unresolved pieces of my past. I wanted it to be “our” stories because I know it’s not only me who feels this way. Also, the title is a nod to the fact that maybe the other characters in my songs don’t feel this way, either. And if you can’t tell by now, I’m obsessed with four word titles: ‘Keep Your Friends Close,’ ‘There’s More To Life,’ ‘Holes In Our Stories.’
5. Why did you choose to release this album on vinyl?
This album is best heard as a full-length album with the story all in one place. Now people can experience it in one sitting. Shoutout to my friends at Fake Four Inc. who helped make the vinyl version possible. It was also pretty surreal to get my album on vinyl, felt a little like accomplishing a childhood dream. So with the album being so much about tying up loose ends from my past, that felt pretty serendipitous.
6. If you could compare this album to another artist/band’s work, who does it sound like?
That’s tough. Would love to hear who comes to mind for you when you hear it. I’d say some mix of a storytelling songwriter like John Prine, plus J. Cole, plus Bright Eyes. Something crazy like that.
7. Did you have any musical influences when producing the album?
Tons. Traditional songwriters who tell great stories and artists who embrace raw self-expression and don’t hold back: my songwriting teacher Andrew Rose who track 7 is dedicated to, Daniel Johnston, Townes Van Zandt, Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, underground rappers like Qwel, Blue Scholars, and the poet Guante, and so many more.
8. After reading your foreword, we can’t help but wonder how you found the strength to keep making music as things were happening. What was your motivation and inspiration during the process?
I don’t think I could ever permanently stop making music. It’s my way to deal with things that I experience. Once I document them and then look back on them a million times (by performing the songs and releasing them and thinking about them and hearing how others react), I finally feel like I understand the situations or myself a little better. Writing the music helps me cope in a way that is both indirect and also pretty direct at the same time.
9. Let’s talk about the book that you are publishing: “Revive the Great Adventure.” Why did you decide that now was the right time to release a book and what is it about?
‘Revive the Great Adventure’ tells the interconnected story of all of the songs on the album. A chapter is dedicated to the topic of almost every song. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to finish and a release book, and I’ve started many but this is the first one I’ve finished. It felt like the right time to release it because there’s simply too much that I want to say about this album and way more than I’m able to get across online. It’s really important to me that people understand the larger context of these songs in my life and how everything on the album connects—I think that will help explain the true message of Holes In Our Stories. I naturally started writing the book in a really long document on the computer, didn’t know what would come of it, and eventually decided that it could not be more fitting for any other album of mine than Holes In Our Stories. I’m also so happy with how they came out.
10. Is there a tour in the works?
Yes, there is. I’m setting it up for the end of April and early May. Hit me up if you want to work together and set up a show.
A few dates are already confirmed:
March 22nd at Arlene’s Grocery, NYC: Holes In Our Stories album release show
April 6 at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, NY: supporting Ceschi, Sammus
April 13 at Mortimer’s in Minneapolis, MN: supporting Ceschi
April 14 at Subterranean in Chicago, IL: supporting Ceschi
And a lot more to be announced as soon as they’re locked in.
11. How do you think fans will react to this new album release?
I really don’t know how people will perceive it, and I’m so eager to find out. I hope to hear from a lot of them. I hope people can relate. All I can say is that it’s the most honest album I could make.
12. Anything else you would like to add?
I hope to meet every single person who loves and relates to the music someday.
Follow Dylan Owen