A Nowhere Kid from a Nowhere Town with Dreams to Take Him Everywhere
// Image courtesy of Dylan Owen.
Dylan Owen is a self-proclaimed nowhere kid from a nowhere town in upstate New York. As a kid, his drawing notebook was glued to his hand, and he has been writing songs, poetry, and doodling for as long as he could remember. As he grew up, he spent many nights making memories with his hometown friends, downloading music off of his family computer, and continuing to write and draw. While he has since moved away from small town America, small town America has not stopped influencing him and his music. His new album, Keep Your Friends Close, I’ll Always With Mine, is a reflection on the crossroads Dylan finds himself at right now between nostalgic reminiscing on his childhood and moving forwards with his music career and to chase his dreams.
How did you get started in music? How did you get to this point?
DO: So I got started when I was really just a super creative kid. I grew up in upstate New York in a super small town. I used to draw a lot, like kinda drawing in my drawing notebook. And then I started loving the sound of music and I started writing songs in my drawing notepad, and it naturally progressed from drawing to wanting to write poetry and little jingles and songs, and I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember now.
To me, many of your songs have a slam-poetry and spoken word-esque form of rap to it. Did anything in particular inspire you to write music like that?
DO: I’ve always loved stuff that’s cross-genre and a little hard to define. I was super into artists like Watsky when I first started making music, and I actually think that the sound I make is a product of where I grew up. Where I was, there wasn’t really a music scene, so I would just find stuff on the internet, and that kind of led to me making the music that I make. A lot of it was very DIY and still is and just using the resources around me. So I guess I focus on the self-expression side of it first and foremost, and any kind of being part of a scene or anything like that was kind of secondary. Also, there was sort of a pop punk and hardcore scene where I grew up, and I would go to those shows and listen to that music, so I guess there’s inherently that influence too.
Would you mind talking about the progression of your music?
DO: I think it started out where I didn’t really have many options on the beats I would be recording over. There were like one or two people in my town that would produce, so I would use whatever was at my disposal. I think earlier on, my music had a bit more of an underground rapper or hip hop sound. From there, it moved to being a bit more intentional where I’m in the studio with friends and producers, and I can steer the direction of my sound and my music. I think that’s how I landed on something like “Welcome to the Crossroads” that's a bit more accessible and a bit more structured in terms of the songwriting. I also think that on my album “Holes in our Stories,” which you can also hear on Spotify, I went a bit more in the spoken word and indie/alternative singer-songwriter meets hip hop direction, but I think with “Welcome to the Crossroads” and “The Comeback Home” and everything that’s going to be on the “Keep Your Friends Close” album, I think it is a bit poppier, a bit more accessible, a bit more fun, but still with meaningful lyrics. It’s not always so heavy subject-matter wise.
What were some of your inspirations for this new EP, Welcome to the Crossroads? What headspace were you in and what did the production look like?
DO: A lot of these were produced by me and two people. One of them is my hometown friend and producer, his name is Skinny Atlas, and he’s this artist; he’s great though I’ve been working with him forever. The other one his name is naebird, and he’s out in Los Angeles, so it was a lot of sending files between the three of us and making it happen. In terms of my headspace, lately I’ve been wanting to get my music out there more and have more fun with it, and I’ve been doing it for what feels like forever because I started so young, so I think I want these songs to be fun, I want to drop more music and work with more people, collaborate more, and just capture music that's a reflection of being present and the present right now. Not necessarily always looking back and thinking about my past and diagnosing how I feel about it or comparing it to the present. It's more about being present and having fun and expressing myself. So I think regarding my headspace, it’s kind of a post isolation mentality just wanting to put myself out there and have fun and try new sounds. Hopefully it reflects some of that!
How did you choose the name Welcome to the Crossroads for this EP?
The crossroads to me is that a lot of these songs are about dwelling on this old relationship that I was in which was a long distance relationship and all throughout the "Keep Your Friends Close” album you’ll hear it. So the crossroads is basically between looking back at that and being stuck in that mentality vs being present and moving forward and embracing the feelings of change that you kind of need to move on from a relationship and to grow personally. So it’s the crossroads between looking back and moving forwards.
What themes or messages do you hope that a listener comes away from Keep Your Friends Close, I’ll Always With Mine with?
I hope that people feel uplifted and understood from my music. That’s kinda always what I want. Even if it’s just a very fun track or whatever. I want people to hopefully feel like I’ve voiced something that they think or maybe haven’t heard somebody say on a song before. So just making people feel understood is the goal of my songs.
What is your favorite song on this EP and what does it mean to you?
I would say that my favorite is actually “Old Friends Reunited.” I just like the sound of it and stylistically, it just felt like something new for me, so I really like that one, and I would say that what I like about it is stylistically it’s different, and imagery-wise, I love how nostalgic it makes me feel. I’m thinking about growing up in my town, this town called Goshen, and being there with my local friends and the snowy streets of Goshen and us like hanging out and staying up late. Somehow, the emotions in the music really matches the emotions I felt in those moments. It’s like when you hang out and feel like anything could happen on those nights. It feels like your life and your evenings are filled with so much adventure. Putting that in a more poetic lens, it felt fun to me and fun to think about my hometown friends listening to it and what they would think and what their understanding would be.
What do you see for yourself in the future?
I will absolutely still be making music. This is a lifelong ambition for me, and I can’t even help it. I don't think that I’ll ever stop, and I’ve been doing it for as long as I had access to it, and I think I’ll evolve stylistically as I go along. This year, I’m gonna release two EPs of fully new music, and five years from now, I would like to be touring full time and just to have a bigger operation in terms of being able to do this around the clock and being able to execute my vision always. Whereas right now, I’m able to, but it takes a lot of all friends and family on deck and everyone working to make it happen, and it would be great to eventually have the resources to just make a music video on a whim. I think the same vision you see now but on a bigger scale and able to be executed faster.
Do you have any last comments or do you wish that I asked any other questions?
The only thing I would say is that I would like fans and listeners to know how much it actually really impacts my life and an artist’s life if they’re listening on Spotify or buying shirt, just kinda like any little way you’re supporting, it really does have a big impact for an artist that is so independent. I just want people to know that I appreciate it and that it goes a long way, and that no matter what, I am going to keep going and keep the wheel spinning.
// Ian Palk ‘25 is a DJ and writer for The Record Hospital.