In Session: Om Quillio
AMSTERDAM – Some folks define themselves by how they break. Others define themselves by how they repair. For Om Quillio, it’s a seemingly healthy mixture of this duality. Releasing an EP tomorrow on Earth Day (April 22nd), entitled Evergreen, the songwriter is embracing their first record release in over six years. Throughout the record, listeners can expect to be greeted with social commentary on prevalent global issues, and Quillio handles the task with tenuous care. A voice that demands attention, showing the pain that she’s not only healed from, but has put through a crucible. A sonic crucible of pain, despair, hope, and foresight. Evergreen is a record that could easily make people’s heads spin with its rich and lush instrumentation serving as a bedrock for the songwriter’s wonderful vocal stylings.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the artist nearly a year after we first met. What follows is an in-depth look into their album, as well as several other topics. For the full discussion, please continue reading. You can support the artist by following the links near the end of the article.
Lucas Garrett: Thank you, Om, for sitting down with me today. How’s it been? It’s been a while since we talked last.
Om Quillio: Yeah, it’s been almost a year! Nice to talk to you again.
LG: A lot has happened, for me, in a year. How’s your year been?
OQ: A lot has happened. A lot of leveling has happened, healing-wise. But, a lot has been maintained. A year ago, I really got to a great place; a new opening. This year, this time, it’s nice to feel like, “Oh!” I took that progress and I kept leveling.
LG: It’s great to hear that. I know you’re working on a new EP.
LG: What is the name of that EP and how did it come to be written?
OQ: The EP is called Evergreen, and it has been being written… I’ve had a record Earthside that I’ve been talking about for seven years. Hahaha. That will be released hopefully this year; this is really what we’re gearing up for. We’re recording it this weekend and doing it for the final time. But, besides that, these four songs that are on the EP, Evergreen, were being written in the background for the past years since I moved back from Texas in 2018. My spirit said, “Get these songs off your chest. A lot of the subject matter is pertinent to what we’re going through with the world and our relationship with human chaos.” I think it’s time.
I sent them to my sweet, amazing friend, Troy Pohl – who is also producing Earthside, the record. He and I have become good friends over that process and the magic that he’s doing with the tracks – it’s all just coming together so quickly and so easily. Now I understand the spiritual undertaking of being asked to release the EP first.
LG: Correct me if I’m wrong, but evergreens are one of the most ubiquitous trees out there, as far as its pervasiveness and where you can find it in the world. Was that important to you, or was it just happenstance that it worked out that way? Tell us a bit about the name of the EP.
OQ: What’s so funny about Evergreen is that there are so many different things. Yes, it’s important to me and I feel it’s important that there are evergreen trees and evergreen plants in every climate area of the world that has trees. It’s a variety we all experience.
But, Troy has been helping me record the Earthside record since 2019. This is the fourth time we’re recording it and there were times when we’d finish a version of a song or the whole thing and I’d be like, “That’s good, but it’s not it.” One time he said to me, “That’s fine, the song is evergreen.” That really f*cked me up.
OQ: You know what I mean? Those two things intersecting and overlapping determined the name. Plus, I’d written the song “Evergreen.” My youngest stepbrother also reminded me he’d gotten the word evergreen tattooed on himself five years ago. It’s a funny that’s been in my ether so fully for a while.
LG: It sounds like it’s very spiritual.
LG: As a recording artist, how frustrating is it to be done with something, and it just doesn’t resonate? It’s hard to deal with that, I think. When we get to the end of something and are like, “I like it, but something’s off about it.” I think it’s inspiring you stuck with it so long. I feel a lot of artists would have been like, “F*ck it. I’m going to put it out there because I’m moving on from it.” How do you, as an artist, find the patience to not release it? There’s a school of thought that things are never done, but are as close to being done as possible. How do you decide when it’s done?
OQ: Well, a lot of it, to be honest – I was frustrated, and thank you for speaking to that. I get it and I think a lot of folks get it. I really did want to say, “F*ck it, let’s just release it.” In the recent three years – that’s been the incubation period that I’ve been in, with the rest of us – certain literal, physical events were stopping me. Like the pandemic. I was feeling, “What’s the point? We’re still locked up in the house; what’s the point of releasing it now?” Plus, I don’t know, Lucas, I haven’t released music… Last year I released “Trust,” but I haven’t released music otherwise in six or seven years.It got easy after the second time of recording Earthside, in that way, that I started to understand these songs had a life of their own. I will say, last summer after releasing “Trust,” this has been the frustrating period – from then ‘til now. I was determined Earthside would be out by now. I’ve learned so much about self-recording in the process of recording Earthside and during the pandemic; building my own set-up. These four songs on Evergreen I self-recorded and sent to Troy. They were the easiest and the quickest, and I didn’t try as much as I did with the full-length record. It was very satisfying in that way. They sort of healed the wounds, so to speak.
LG: What I’ve heard from the EP is really intense. Not musically intense, but there’s a f*cking vibe to it that I’m all about.
OQ: Thank you! I’m excited about the vibe.
LG: It’s like, “What the hell am I listening to?”
OQ: Hahahahaha. Yes!
LG: You’re a terrific songwriter and I’m really glad we can connect like this, because – I don’t know about you – it inspires me when I hear other artists that I enjoy talking to; connecting with; when I hear the art and I’m thinking, “OK, I see what you’re doing there.” One of the more important things – and let me know what you think – that we get lost in is, it’s often about my album; my songs; my shows; my this and that. I really think that as creatives that if we treat “my” as “our” more often it’s healthier on the mindset. What do you think about that?
OQ: I agree with everything you’re saying there. Living in a place like Austin, Texas – there’s a lot of culture and culture in the way of information-age, technology stuff like Instagram – but there was a community where folks lifted people up. I watched that change in Albany. And, it was natural with human progression. But, I could have a show at Valentine’s – showing my age there – or what feels like a good equivalent now, No Fun. I could have a show where there’s 500 people and pin drop silent; queued in and crying and doing the whole thing. Once we got this idea of Instagram and having singular likes correlated to an experience, that just f*cks the psyche up. We’re naturally more competitive. Why wouldn’t you rank it in a numerical way?
LG: Yeah. It’s like what the f*ck’s wrong with me? She got 50 likes on that little thing, but I only got twelve. I get what you mean, totally.
OQ: Yeah, it’s separate from experiencing someone else’s art, but it doesn’t feel separate when you can access both at the same time. You know?
OQ: And, that feels how it feels; I wish it didn’t sometimes. It’s kind of cool that we’re traveling back to each other, though, in some way. It’s nice to just hear each other. I’m glad I’m entering back with this EP because even I am listening to myself in a way I haven’t allowed before.
LG: It could be in a movie. It’s haunting and it’s real. And, that’s important. I don’t care what notes you’re singing; or what you’re playing; or what the keyboard is doing. When I hear music, I’m like, “How does this make me feel?” More often than not, I like music that makes me go, “What the hell was that?” If I think, “Oh, that’ s a nice little song,” I probably won’t listen to it again, or at least right away, you know what I mean?
LG: I really feel you’re on to something here.
OQ: I really do have to say that it’s Troy as well. He is a main collaborator. He offered that drone effect and he likes weird shit. The trust, pun intended, with him in this musical relationship… He goes weird or he’ll offer something weird on something I send him or vice-versa, and it just helps me go weirder. Which is great and it feels really good.
LG: How do you feel your songs have developed over the pandemic? As a songwriter, has your voice changed, or have you doubled down and gone further into your own essence?
OQ: I was a classical voice student in high school, and a little bit in college. I’ve always studied voice – even before age ten. In studying voice, especially when you go to the classical end of it, you learn about the muscles and the vocal cords. Your voice literally doesn’t stop maturing as a female, let’s say, until you’re 29, and I feel that. I’m 31, and I’m going to be 32 this summer. I have a depth and a low end, now, that I’ve only ever dreamed of. There’s an effortlessness to singing now that forces me to write songs that feel more creative.
It’s not a game, but for so long, I was very focused on maturing my voice and leveling up and being able to sing whatever I wanted. I feel very present in that ability, now. The last three years have definitely been a part of that. But, also, I got my heart broken pretty f*cking hard eight different ways in 2021, so… Haha.
LG: Sorry to hear that.
OQ: Oh, no, you know, thank you. I appreciate that. If anything has built my career, it’s been heartbreak – and not just through romantic endeavors. It’s like that Japanese modality, Kintsugi.
LG: I’ve heard about that.
OQ: It’s where a piece of pottery gets broken, or a piece of ceramic that someone made. They’ll re-glue it back and fill the cracks with gold so you can see where it broke. I can look back at every heartbreak or devastation and see the process it took to heal, or the me I had to become in healing that person. It’s so grand. I’m releasing this music because I’m physically ready. I’ve been really physically debilitated by some mental health stuff, but it goes deeper. Some stuff that’s been happening with my brain has healed. So, a big part of these releases is just feeling healthy. I want to just mess around with so many instruments and things now. There’s been this general expansion with the heartbreak. It really made me look at what I really wanted to do, which is write songs!
LG: I think we’re all a little broken, but it depends on how we break. If a person is a vase, they might break and turn into a thousand shards, while another might break into a dagger; a weapon. It’s not if you break, it’s how you break that matters. You know?
OQ: I do. I do. I think it’s funny because for so long I tried to control… I think how you break is good, but I think, really, it’s the aftercare. How you take care of how it broke, you know?
OQ: I was playing the Magic Forest Fest in Coeymans in September. I had a particularly heartbreaking and pretty devastating feeling the day I was playing there. I remember feeling, “Oh, wow. I’m at a festival and I have to play a gig to potentially hundreds of people in the forest in a few minutes.” The feeling of heartbreak hit and I didn’t have time. I was about to do the most emotional activity, so I threw myself into it and played the set. And, it was raw, for sure; really good from my perspective – I performed well. It was the perfect place for it to happen.
LG: I could talk about this for hours…
OQ: Me too.
LG: Back to the music, and Evergreen. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what the songs mean for you?
OQ: From my perspective – especially coming back from Texas in 2018 – I am talking about climate change; racism; classism, and my feelings of, “Doesn’t anybody see?” There’re four songs on this EP and the first song is, “Earth Eyes.” The second song is “Ceasefire,” which was born in 2018 – it started this group. The third song is “Evergreen,” and the fourth song is called “Where.” There’s a helplessness in experiencing these topics as a human and being part of a collective and thinking that you can do something about climate change; thinking you can do something about racism as a whole. There’s a helplessness to that, because you truly can’t.
LG: You can’t.
OQ: You can’t. You can help your community; you can listen to folks’ experiences. You can feel – from my perspective, I’m a psychic medium and have worked with people in that regard. It’s why I write songs: to give people access to a healing modality that is within them. That’s what these songs are about, and it’s crazy. There’s a lot of dissonance. We’re going through more than we asked for, but it’s also what we’re here for, and we’ve gotta do it. That’s what this album is about.
LG: That’s a very intense answer. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
OQ: Evergreen is being released tomorrow, the 22nd, on Earth Day. I’m finally releasing music and I’m excited to keep recording. The next record will be at least eleven songs, and the plan is to get those fifteen songs out soon. You can find my music on my Bandcamp page, as well as all the major streaming services. I’m releasing Evergreen for free. People can pay for it what they’d like, but it’s really my gift – given that it’s on Earth Day. After all of my personal healing, and the pandemic…
LG: Thanks for the chat, Om. It’s always a pleasure.
OQ: Thank you so much. You as well.