Omar Apollo on his emotional new EP, 'Live For Me,' and ignoring the confines of genre

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2022 Invision

FILE - Omar Apollo performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Friday, April 22, 2022, in Indio, Calif. On his latest EP, Live For Me, Omar Apollo processes death, grief, acceptance and the lack of it big, traumatic emotions through intimate, lush sounds. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK – In just four songs on his latest EP, “Live For Me,” Omar Apollo processes death, grief, acceptance and the lack of it — big, traumatic emotions — through intimate, lush sounds.

The EP, out Friday, follows Apollo’s 2022 debut album “Ivory” and a 2023 Grammy nomination for best new artist. It’s also his first project since touring with SZA, and since his song “Evergreen (You Didn't Deserve Me At All)” went viral on social media, bringing swaths of new listeners to his music.

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The singer-songwriter recently debuted the EP's lead single at a show in London and went underground to preview the title track with TikTok’s latest sensation, “Tube Girl” Sabrina Bahsoon. Later this month, he’ll share New York's Madison Square Garden stage with Daniel Caesar and Montell Fish at Caesar’s “Superpowers World Tour.”

So, things are busy. But Apollo, 26, says all of it has felt productive, and inspiring.

“I just feel like I’m doing and living. I feel alive now and … I think that’s important,” he said.

Apollo spoke with The Associated Press via Zoom about the release, not conforming to any one genre and his favorite song as of late. One thing he didn’t want to talk about just yet: The portrait by artist Doron Langberg on the EP's front cover (and the NSFW extension of that painting on the back). More on that later, he said.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: You said in a statement that ‘Ice Slippin,’ the first song released from the EP, is about the feelings you had after coming out to your family. Why did now feel like the right time for you to put out this song?

APOLLO: A lot of the songs I write are emotions that I dealt with or am dealing with at that time. I think it was something that I wanted to go back to, travel back in time to. A lot has changed since then. ... That song was about me being in a car, driving during the winter and getting off the highway … and I was just sliding. It was such an emotional part of my life, and it also surfaced physically. So it was strange to see what I was dealing with and I feel how it was manifesting in my life physically. Everything kind of felt like this crash, you know?

AP: It feels like that song establishes the emotional landscape of ‘Live For Me.’ Of the four songs, why did you want “Ice Slippin” to be released first?

APOLLO: It was really important for this song to come out first, actually. A lot of people that I work with were like, ‘Why this one first?’ … But for me it was more about, this was a transition I wanted to make as an artist, to not feel bound by structure or other people’s ideas of me — more just like my decisions that I would make if I was still in Indiana living in the attic. I would upload that song first.

AP: And why these songs together on an EP, and not a longer project?

APOLLO: A longer project would definitely need more time. I’ve been on the road — I was on tour with SZA, I did two, three headline tours, so I haven’t really had time. These songs were made in between these things. Now I have time, so I’m working. But these songs have been done for a while and … I wanted to do something this year. I wanted to do something that wasn’t passive, that had intention. … It’s short, but it has a lot of my introspective world.

AP: The sound of these tracks feels a bit different than some of what you’ve done recently — do you think it is? Or does it feel like a natural evolution?

APOLLO: I think it’s better. I think it’s an evolution. I think everything is intentional on this. And yeah, like I’ve been big on types of music since the beginning, you know. I’ve been rapping since I did the first EP. I know on ‘Evergreen’ I was singing and singing, so people might just know me as a singer. But I like to do all genres. I love music, I got into music because I love all parts of it — so no, it doesn’t feel like I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go try this.’ I just feel like I’m doing and living. I feel alive now and ... I think that’s important.

AP: What is your process when approaching a new song idea?

APOLLO: One song at a time. Always. I can come up with an intentional example, or an idea. But it’s usually just one song at a time. Like, I have this idea stimulating my brain, and I’m going to sit here for 16 hours and figure it out because it’s fun.

AP: Is there any music that you’ve been listening to a lot recently?

APOLLO: I’ve had ‘TESLA’ by Lil Yachty on for the past four days. It’s the only song I listen to. It’s so strange, it’s just the only song I want to listen to right now. I think because my music can be really heavy sometimes, I don’t want to think too much. Sometimes I just want, you know, some hard sh—. And I like the feeling of that song, like — that’s fantastic. I love this.

AP: How do you hope this project is received?

APOLLO: The only thing I can hope for is for (fans) to be inspired in whatever way they choose. I know these songs can be interpreted in all different ways. … When I go to the shows and I see their faces and they’re crying, singing every word, that gives me energy. I’m up there trying my hardest, sweating, you know, out of breath, just trying to put on a good show. So that’s everything to me. I would just hope for people listening to learn something about themselves or be inspired.

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