Though already ten years into his music career, Olen is still on the verge of making his grand debut. The Los Angeles-based Filipino-American has found a way to add his own personal twist to pop, and addressing big topics and searching for meaning in the world through big anthems and tender ballads.
As he readies his EP So Codependant, Olen today releases the buoyant soul-pop song “Got a Name”. The incredible song marks Olen as a great voice to watch, and the artist was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his newest piece of music.
Indy Review: How did you first get started in music, and how did you figure out your sound?
Olen: My dad spent most of his working life playing music in nursing homes, Alzheimer’s Units, and ICUs. He used to take me along with him and I’d “play” a tiny guitar next to him while he sang. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t actually playing anything so after I inherited my older cousin’s junior drum kit, my drums and I were inseparable. He’d play a song and all of a sudden peoples’ eyes, who sometimes couldn’t even remember their kids names, would light up. I experienced the healing power of music at an early age and it’s been my life ever since.
As far as figuring out my sound, I feel like that’s always gonna be in process—but working with people whom I look up to musically— namely my collaborators Ryan Spraker and Tom Peyton has informed it quite a bit!
IR: What was the initial inspiration for “Got a Name”? How did the writing process start?
O: My producer and musical ride-or-die Ryan Spraker came up with the initial idea. It’s funny, I feel like it is such a personal tune— but it only came together because I was writing it with people I really know and trust. I love writing on my own, but working with people who can get you out of your comfort zone and push you to get better has been invaluable.
IR: The found the line “I was dying to find myself. Came up empty-handed what the fuck is that about?” really effective. Did that stem from any one specific experience?
O: It didn’t come from any specific experience, but I guess speaks to the overall message of the song— I’m just trying to figure out who I am and sometimes that process can be frustrating lol.
IR: Why does figuring out the importance behind your name hold such a strong meaning for you?
O: It comes back to owning who you are, the parts you’re proud of, the parts you’re not, warts and all. It’s who you are, and you should be 100% confident in that, even if you don’t have it all figured out.
IR: The track, both vocally and in the production, reminds me of a number of classic soul songs. Were there any musical cues or references you had when composing the track?
O: Undoubtedly so influenced by classic soul music and artists like Smokey Robinson and Billy Joel.
IR: Who are some of your biggest vocal influences?
O: Celine Dion (my family used to make me sing “My Heart Will Go On” at family parties on the karaoke machine), Hamilton Leithauser and Billy Joel
IR: How does the song fit into the general theme and sound of your upcoming EP, So Codependent?
O: It’s probably the most “grand” sounding tune of the bunch, def the most horns—recorded by Jay Jennings by the way. The EP is all about love, mistakes, growing up, and self-discovery— and “Got A Name” has a little bit of all of that.
Be one of the first to hear “Got a Name” in our A Single Sit-Down Playlist on Spotify!