2015 Artist Survey: Cullen Omori

Omori on 2015's Best Albums, Music Streaming, Outrageous Tour Requests, and Star Wars

Feb 25, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Photography by Alexa Lopez Bookmark and Share


For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.
 
Here are some answers from Cullen Omori. Omori is the former frontman of Smith Westerns. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is releasing his debut solo album, New Misery, on March 18 via Sub Pop.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. Fatal Jamz: Hell & Back 4 U (a sides 2013-2015)
2. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-Love
3. Jamie xx: In Colour
4. The Weeknd: Beauty Behind the Madness
5. Tame Impala: Currents
6. Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon
7. Tobias Jesso Jr.: Goon
8. Miguel: Wildheart
9. Fetty Wap: Fetty Wap
10. Drake and Future: What a Time to Be Alive

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?  
 
High point: Finally getting into the studio to record all these songs that I'd written in the aftermath of Smith Westerns breaking up and had been carrying in my back pocket for over a year with no guarantee that they would ever be heard outside the confines of my Chicago apartment. Low point: Being spit out by the indie darling machine at 25 with no money, no label, no "real" job experience, a high school education, and no "real" friends. 

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?  
 
To hopefully have this album connect with listeners at a level I've never achieved with my previous albums. It would be a relief to see the album resonate with listeners, as writing these songs was cathartic and meaningful to me in an uncertain and depressing time in my life. 

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

I think the idea of "fair" streaming is a nice talking point, but not nearly as important as it's made out to be, at least in regard to the whole "artist compensation" discussion. You get what you pay for, and people aren't that interested in paying for records anymore. No one picks up a guitar in 2015 and expects to get rich. They pick it up because they want to participate in the tradition of making the type of music that they like and define themselves by. So sign me up for whatever, I doubt the difference in percentages will make me a millionaire, nor do I care. 

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales? 

Releasing albums on Friday never seemed like a thing to me, and I honestly don't see how it would help sales any more than making all albums have a mandatory 13 tracks. 

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

The amount of money put into Top 40 artists is the greatest distinction. In a room full of people shouting, "Look at me!" the artist camp with the deepest pockets is going to scream the loudest and have the best chance of being heard by the largest audience. I love Top 40 radio (don't get me wrong) but do I think that these albums are the best albums in the world at the given moment? No. I think this embrace of mainstream pop music by music critics and indie musicians has more to do with shifting values than anything else. The idea that big bucks equals success has expanded to include fame, and "indie" musicians definitely seem to have taken note. Mainstream pop music represents that very attractive marriage between money and fame that we all want, so it makes sense to make that transition. It doesn't really seem to be enough to be good at what you do anymore. Now you need to be the most recognized and highly paid at whatever you do. I don't think you can blame anyone for doing what's in vogue.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up? 

I'll be the first to admit that without a college degree I'm pretty uninformed and probably shouldn't be giving my opinion about the upcoming election, although that doesn't seem to stop some. 

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift's 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist's album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

An artist covering an artist covering an artist? In that case I'd say a cover record of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett's Cheek to Cheek

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired? 

I'd have to have a real job first to be fired from one. I guess that's one of the perks and curses of being in a buzz band for the first seven years of your "adult" life. 

What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?

Playing Fast Ball's "The Way" at my sixth grade school band's pizza party and being told I killed the vibe afterwards.

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke? 

Aspirin, razor blade, extra-small condoms.

What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on? 

The date that led to this four-year plus relationship I'm currently in (still going strong, unfortunately). 

Which Star Wars character are you most like? 

Admiral Ackbar. Everything's a trap, there's always enemy ships in Sector 47. Nothing is ever as good as it seems. 

Where do you see yourself in five beers? 

Calling my sponsor while figuring out where to meet my dealer.

www.facebook.com/CullenOmoriMusic/

 



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