There’s room for a breeze to run through the early afternoon crowd on the second day of Mala Luna. The crowd is sizeable but spaced out, fans taking advantage of the breathing room. Xavier Omär joins the stage with his band in a fiesta-colored San Antonio Spurs jacket in full respect of the city that he’s claimed as his musical hometown. Omär’s distinct voice and style of easy-going but spirited soul music plays well to kick off the festival’s wider known names for the day; from his cult classic debut project with Sango to taking over playlists with catchy pop-infused R&B tunes, the singer’s catalog holds several gems for fans of the new generation of R&B. As he starts the show, Omär plays to his strengths and dives into a well known classic: the Pokemon theme song. Full of genuine passion and amusement, Omär’s rendition awakens the crowd and invites them space to enjoy whatever might come from the stage, impossibly familiar or totally brand new. Unexpectedness, experimentation, entertainment, and true connection; these elements that Omär purposely incorporates into his show find their way into our conversation afterward on the grounds of Mala Luna where MUD sat down with the singer for quick and rich dive into his connection to San Antonio, past collaborations, and crafting his particular style.
How’d you enjoy your show?
It was a lot of fun. To be able to get up there and forget some things as far as whatever’s going around me, escape with crowd, have fun with the band. In my hometown I wake up and get to perform a festival man, that’s crazy.
San Antonio hasn’t had a big music festival before Mala Luna. How does it feel for you having gotten your start here to perform at the first festival like this in its second year?
It’s cool because finally the city is getting recognized as a market that deserves it. That’s what really matters. Especially as a guy who came up trying to do R&B in this city knowing that it wasn’t really a thing people paid attention to like that. The younger generation starting to make the groundswell, starts making a demand so more artists start coming on tour, and you get this. It’s cool to be a part of it at the beginning stages of it, I know that it’s gonna grow year after year.
You talked on stage about your early song being written here. What was it like starting your career here? Is there anything about the city that inspired you
It wasn’t as much anything about the city but more so that my life was here. My friends and their lives and what we were all going through; the girls I dated while I was here. All that had an impact on the music. It was one of those things where you take your life and you do the best that you can to explain where you are and hope that people can relate to it. And to learn from where you are so people can see your situation, if it’s similar, see it from a new perspective.
You played a lot of music from your past collaboration with Sango, but you also have some new tracks out recently. Anything big coming up to watch out for?
Just a couple new tracks that I want to put out, things that I wanted to get some music out to fans. I was actually in a creative block when I created it and was trying to get past it but I still really liked it so I think people will really appreciate it. We also got a tour coming up so it’ll be new music for that, both for places I’ve been to a lot so they have something new and places that I haven’t been to yet, to say thank you for holding it down. For the places I haven’t played, it will be like having 3 EPs worth of new music to perform for them so I’m excited.
You work a lot with other artists; what is like for you to collaborate? Especially with artists like Sango and Noname who are artists’ artists and really pay attention to craft.
It’s cool to be recognized by people who are so particular in their music and have them reach out. That’s what happened in both instances; Sango found me online after he heard a song in late 2012 and contacted me like “Hey, can we work?”. I didn’t know who he was or anything at the time, it was one of those lucky God moments. Noname, I knew who she was but Telephone wasn’t out yet so the buzz wasn’t crazy the way it is now; even then though, I was like, of course I wanna work, give me the opportunity. To be able to get the trust of people like her, like Mick Jenkins, like Sylvan LaCue… a lot of these people have become my friends too so it’s been really cool.
There’s actually a common thread in a lot of the people that I work with and the way they and I make our music, even though it’s different. Like I put a lot of pop elements, but people hear the soul and the artistry and they connect to that as well. It’s a real compliment and a lot of encouragement to be able to work with people who are that intellectual and do pay that much detail to what they’re doing in their music. I don’t even know how to describe it except to say I’m grateful for those chances.
I actually just read an article that said you described your sound as “pop-soul”. Could you go into that more?
[Laughs] That’s the thing, I said I wouldn’t brand it as that, but that it was one way to describe it. I mean it is pop and it is soul and R&B. I mean you got a song like Afraid which is full R&B, then you got a song like Specialize which seems to be full pop, then you got Blind Man which is both. I think that kind of speaks to who I am as well, you put shuffle on my music and you never know what you’re gonna get.
Are there any influences or styles that you want to incorporate or work with that you haven’t yet?
I’ve been working with some people on more dance-y things… I mean I wanna touch the full pop world, the deep R&B world. I mean, if I get the chance to do a rock song man, I’ma do it [laughs] I wouldn’t do a full rock album but if I get a chance to work with somebody in that capacity I’m definitely going to do that. I love Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, yea, it could happen.
Is there anything about the South or Southern music that inspires you or personal connections you have?
The South is where I lived the longest in my life. I bounced around almost every three years and about fourteen of those years are in the South. Being able to see the way that South connects to music differently than other areas of the country or the world, I feel I’ve been able to put some of that in my music. Obviously, partly because I’m a drummer as well but definitely partly because I’m from the South, I love bass [laughs]. I love those hard kicks so I have songs where I might be sing kind of soft and sweet, but those drums are hitting though. That was a contrast I wasn’t really hearing so it was something I wanted to try and incorporate. It’s not just the bass though, I feel like any type of grittiness and soul is Southern, like if it feels good and feels like home cooking… that’s Southern. I feel like the South has some of the best music because of that.
Who are you listening to right now? Is there anyone you have on repeat or want to shout out?
There’s this duo, Iris Temple. Both of their names are Quinn so that’s kind of cool. They’re a R&B influenced duo. Namesake. This rapper named pinkcaravan!. I like talking about new people for questions like these and think those artists are making great music, things that make you want to go back to them again and again.