Rising Music Star Dylan Owen: “The more we’re willing to put our real selves and real stories out there in the world, the sooner we’ll become the best versions of ourselves; My mission is to inspire openness in people”

No one should be afraid of sharing their emotions. The message of the new song We Were Only Kids Then, like all of my songs, pretty much boils down to that. The more we’re willing to talk about how we feel, even if it’s different than other people expect or something that’s not commonly talked […]

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No one should be afraid of sharing their emotions. The message of the new song We Were Only Kids Then, like all of my songs, pretty much boils down to that. The more we’re willing to talk about how we feel, even if it’s different than other people expect or something that’s not commonly talked about, and the more we’re willing to put our real selves and real stories out there in the world, the sooner we’ll become the best versions of ourselves. The mission I’m embarking on with my music is to inspire that same openness in other people. I feel that the goal getting closer every day.

Dylan Owen is a rap artist from New York. With his own brand of confessional, heart-on-sleeve storytelling, he has built an undeniable fan following who relate to the meaning and life experiences captured in his songs. As shown in his fan-favorite EPs, ‘There’s More To Life’ and ‘Keep Your Friends Close,’ his wordplay and multisyllabic patterns prove his proficiency as a rapper, while his writing feels more like that of a young storyteller who can also rhyme.

Dylan’s forward, honest lyrics have drawn comparisons to Conor Oberst and Elliott Smith; he has shared stages with Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Logic, Watsky, Yelawolf, and Skizzy Mars; his fans have streamed his songs more than 11MM times on Spotify, and his music has been praised and featured by Revolt TV, DJ Booth, Earmilk, PepsiCo, WWE Smackdown, MTV, For Folk’s Sake, and many others.

Dylan kicked off the release of his 2019 album ‘Holes In Our Stories’ with a sold-out release show at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC’s lower east side. ‘Holes In Our Stories’ marks many firsts for Dylan, including getting an album pressed on vinyl for the first time, releasing a non-fiction short story book alongside an album for the first time, and launching a series of coffeeshop meetups with fans across the country while on tour supporting the album. Dylan is now gearing up for a new phase of steady single releases in 2020, performing select shows in New York with his live backing band on trumpet and violin, and continuing to share pieces of ‘Holes In Our Stories’ with his loyal fans.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Istarted writing music as a way to express myself during my childhood. It began with writing lyrics in my drawing pads because I wanted to be a sketchbook artist, but those lyrics quickly developed into poems, performing at school and at open mics, and writing about my life every step of the way as it was happening. I never consciously chose music as a career path and I still don’t really think of it that way. I want it to always be a true outlet for me to better understand my life phases and help other people understand theirs.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?

There’s a beautiful small town in Colorado called Durango, and right around the time I was releasing my There’s More To Life EP, the graduating high school class asked me to be their ceremony’s keynote speaker. My life story is so tied to Colorado that it felt like a really full-circle moment. Also, the theme of my music during that time was that there’s so much more to our lives than what we already know, and it moved something in me personally to be able to travel out there, meet strangers who seemingly understood me without knowing me, and see things from a perspective so far beyond the town I grew up in. It helped pull me out of a little bit of a rut that I was in during the There’s More To Life era. I wish that graduation speech was caught on camera, but maybe I’ll get to do another one someday.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m excited to be back for good this time. We Were Only Kids Then kicks off a new era that’s going to start with a series of singles. My whole career I’ve held back from sharing the songs I make in between big conceptual album releases, and for the first time this year, I’m going to be revealing those songs as I record them, at the moment. In other words, the next phase of my music will be an exercise in living in the present, as we all should be. So I hope everybody is ready for a long list of new songs this year, starting with We Were Only Kids Then and eventually becoming the next big chapter in the story of my music.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

At every show I’ve played recently, I’ve held coffeeshop meetups beforehand that is open to anyone in that city who listens to my music. So I’ve gotten to meet the people who relate to my songs in person which is a crazy feeling. My listeners are extremely interesting and perhaps not surprisingly, they are a lot like me.

Let me tell you some stories. I met an aspiring standup comedian from Chicago who was so witty and sarcastic that I could barely tell when we were joking and when we were talking about something deep, and it was just the two of us. Made for good conversation. I met a young guy who drove from another state to visit the street sign that was named in memory of my grandpa in a small town in upstate New York, which I reference in my song Mourn. That young guy is a talented writer himself and it was pretty moving that he went all that way to see a musical and emotional landmark of mine in person. Glad he relates. I met a girl who ghostwrites best-selling novels and couldn’t tell me which ones (I’ll keep her identity top-secret). A young pregnant woman left the hospital to come to one of the coffee shop meetups in Minnesota because she loves the music and couldn’t make the show that night — I was pretty blown away. I like to think the people who listen to my songs relate because they’ve gone through similar things in life, and that sense of camaraderie among a small group of strangers is comforting and wildly reassuring.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Every great writer from history inspires me. They show that words have genuine power. I want to give a shout out to one of them in particular, Mac Miller, who deeply inspires me and so many others. Rest in peace. I got to perform with Mac right when Blue Slide Park was taking off in the mainstream. The insanely sweaty venue was so packed that the fire alarm went off and they had to cut the show short. Meeting Mac backstage way back then was a wild feeling, especially knowing the creative caliber his work would maintain for the rest of his life. Look at how many people he has inspired to expand their ideas of genre boundaries or what you can reveal on a personal level in a song. Mac is an inspiration for everybody who’s rapping and making music. Looking forward to listening to Circles.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I write about my personal life in a way that’s so honest that there is truly nothing to hide, and I hope it shows people that there are others out there going through the same exact things and perceiving life in the same exact ways that you are. I attempted to illustrate that point with We Were Only Kids Then, for instance. Adulthood doesn’t have any specific arrival point and no matter who you become, you don’t lose the person you once were. I spend a lot of time writing letters from my PO box back and forth with my listeners, DMing really opens things about our lives on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, and in general, just being reachable. I hope that can help people as much as music does. At the end of the day, if the messages or the words in my songs help one person, then I’ve changed the world in my mind.

I also got to be a part of a project in NYC that was pretty beautiful. I worked with students at the East Harlem middle school Global Tech Prep to plan and put on a Dylan Owen concert from the ground up. The students and I worked with some friends at Superfly (they throw festivals like Bonnaroo and Outside Lands) and the nonprofit organization Citizen Schools to host a series of after-school classes about being an artist in the industry and what it means to book, promote, and prepare a concert. I put on my best teaching hat for those classes. It was so cool to see the kids embrace making promotional posters, asking me about my social media, figuring out the live sound equipment, all of it. In the end, I think they loved putting on the show and in my opinion, they crushed it. They had a wild amount of enthusiasm all the way through the end. There’s a photo of it up on my community page on my website, which you can check out here:

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

No one should be afraid of sharing their emotions. The message of the new song We Were Only Kids Then, like all of my songs, pretty much boils down to that. The more we’re willing to talk about how we feel, even if it’s different than other people expect or something that’s not commonly talked about, and the more we’re willing to put our real selves and real stories out there in the world, the sooner we’ll become the best versions of ourselves. The mission I’m embarking on with my music is to inspire that same openness in other people. I feel that the goal getting closer every day.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

A lot of my friends in music are like me: they are running their own careers with a DIY team of friends. It definitely gets hard to keep going. I find it helps to always be in love with what you are working on, whether it’s challenging yourself to write in a different way or taking a break from writing if you hit a wall. Sometimes it helps to just read for a while and absorb words that inspire you. I just picked up a few poetry books by some of my favorite poets, Anis Mojgani, Buddy Wakefield, Andrea Gibson and more, and after We Were Only Kids Then promotion dies down, I plan to simply read for a little bit before revealing the next song.

Another secret tip I have is that the people who listen to and love my music keep me going more than they probably realize. I don’t think anyone could ever overstate how much impact it has to send a positive message to an artist who has impacted your life in some way. That has always been a huge thing that pushes me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

The biggest thing I wish someone told me is that it’s completely possible to work with your friends and still achieve the same musical vision that anyone with a huge team of industry players behind them can achieve. I realize this more and more with every project. I started out playing in coffee shops and doing open mic nights in upstate New York and was always worried that I wasn’t reaching people because I didn’t have a single connection in the music industry. In reality, I met people at those coffeeshop shows and through myspace messages that are avidly supporting today. The weird, misguided things I’ve done with my career have led me to find people who really understand and believe in the core intention of the music, and they love it even though it’s so underground. I’m so thankful for the people out there who are holding it down in this small and beautiful community.

Years ago, I also wish I understood that it’s okay to fall into seasons in your life where you move slowly and feel stuck. A lot of my album Holes In Our Stories is about coming to terms with those seasons, which I refer to as “holes” in the story of my life, and finding a way to patch them up and move on. Or perhaps how to move on without patching things up. What I learned from making the Holes album is that there is no right time to let go. Nothing in life is going to have a perfect conclusion. Not selling your house nor taping up your broken heart.

Another thing I’ve learned is that traveling opens your mind. I always thought I should wait to go on tour until I have a proper booking agent or some perfectly routed set of cities, but the truth is, every little show or trip I’ve taken for my music has reminded me how many people there are out there listening who really care. More than I’d ever know sitting at home behind a laptop screen with a janky bedroom microphone. I’m hungry to tour more as soon as I can, so throughout this year, I’ll be doing a lot more live events, shows, and meetups. Just all of it. The first one of these is January 29th in NYC, where everyone is invited to get coffee and hear a few acoustic versions of live songs at the We Were Only Kids Then listening party. We’re going to film a video of the event so everyone outside of NYC can be a part of it afterward too. I hope to end up meeting everybody who listens to my music someday.

Another thing I keep learning: collaboration can cause you to explore things you never would have otherwise. I see Watsky out here touring with Grieves and Travis Thompson and how it’s bringing different pockets of underground hip-hop together, for example, or I see how J. Cole and Dreamville’s entire crew came together on Revenge of the Dreamers III and the way it affected their individual flows and styles of expression. I want to collaborate with more people right now, especially up and coming artists who are pushing creative boundaries. For those out there listening, hit me with suggestions on who I should feature or work with this year.

Lastly, I work more and more every day on the lessons in my music: keeping my friends close, seeing a bigger picture and dreaming beyond my current place in life, or letting go of things that are old and dead and stagnant. These are the themes of my albums but they’re also the things I am constantly confronting and trying to come to grips with myself. Usually, when I’m writing an album, the theme of that album is a lesson I’m just starting to learn. I usually haven’t mastered it yet, which I’m sure you can hear in the lyrics on Holes In Our Stories or There’s More To Life. I’m generally about halfway there while writing, and then when I look back at my albums, I can allow the overall message to become mantras I genuinely live by.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 😊

I’d love to grab coffee with the singer Milck. I find her super inspiring and would be excited to make some records together, and I have one in mind in particular. Let’s make it happen

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@Dylanowenmusic on all sites. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are where I’m most active, and following me on Spotify is probably the biggest way to help directly impact my career right now. Thank you to everyone out there who is listening and letting these crazy songs into their lives.

Thank you for these great insights. This was very inspiring!

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