Alex O’Connor has that certain knack for making empathy-inducing music that is as charming as it is disarming. You may now be familiar with his stage name, Rex Orange County, as he has been picking up a lot of attention of late – despite only having a mini-album and an EP’s worth of tracks of his woozy, youthful croonings.
The 18-year-old’s brutally honest songs have been pulling on the heart-strings of Tyler, the Creator and BADBADNOTGOOD, as well as pricking the ears of Zane Lowe, who has previously labelled his track “UNO” as his ‘Hottest Record In The World.’ Rex will release his album, Apricot Princess, tomorrow – and we’ve been treated to premiering the album’s brilliant swansong, “Happiness,” which again was given the status of ‘Hottest Record’ on last night’s Beats 1 Show.
“Happiness” finds the multi-instrumentalist envisaging a future way beyond his tender years. He muses over a lifetime of love with a twinkling piano and radiant strings; reflecting on whether his feelings towards his special other will be reciprocated when he’s aged 81 “and forgetting things.” Talking to us about the track, Rex said, “It pretty much sums up Apricot Princess as a whole. I’ve recently been really lucky and found someone amazing for me and “Happiness” is simply about my core feelings on my relationship with her and how my life has been for the past year and a half.” Swoon over the heartfelt brilliance below.
We caught up with the young prodigy over email, where he talked to us about the meaning behind his name, his dream musical collaborators and his plans for the rest of what is set to be a breakthrough year for Rex.
When did you first start making music?
I started writing music in the beginning of 2015. I always played drums and piano but didn’t take on the solo thing until I was mid-way through college and realised i didn’t want to be a drummer for my whole life!
What’s the meaning behind your name?
Not a lot actually… I get this question all the time! My last name is O’Connor and therefore my initials are OC and I had a teacher that would called me ‘The OC’… for some reason at the time, having a kind of random association with ‘The OC’ was kinda funny to me! Rex is just a name I liked….
What was it like growing up in Surrey? I know growing up out of a place without a vibrant music scene makes you gravitate towards a place where there is – like Peckham, where you’re set to play next month.
I actually went to college in & now live in South London which is why Peckham was a good choice… plus I like the venue. If you don’t know it, Surrey is really nice. We have the internet in Surrey! It’s just as easy to get inspired by everything out there.
For someone so young, your tracks have a lot of emotional depth. Has music always been essential for you in terms of channelling your feelings?
Yeah, I think I’m lucky to be able to talk about all that through songs. I didn’t know I could do it until I started writing though… Before that I wasn’t so good at talking about deep shit like that in normal social situations!
Who were your main music influences growing up?
Mainly Stevie Wonder and a lot of rap like Kayne & Jay, Eminem, André 3000. Then there’s artists like Pharrell and of course Frank… But I love everything! I would listen to everything and know what songs I specifically love and don’t like regardless of the genre.
It’s all kicked off pretty quickly for you in terms of co-signs from Tyler, BADBADNOTGOOD and Zane Lowe ‘Hottest Record in the World’ honours. What do you think has made it happen so quickly?
I have no idea! I think I say things in a fairly relatable way and I know I’m not the only guy that’s been through typical teenage troubles…
Which artist would be your dream collaboration?
Young Thug. Or Pharrell. Or both!
What’s next for you in 2017?
I’m about to play the album at these sold out shows in Peckham on May 11th and 12th, and I’m doing a show in New York on May 18th. Then you can catch me at festivals like Lovebox, Parklife and Longitude over the summer before maybe some more live stuff around UK/Europe and the US towards the end of the year.
Keep up with Rex on Twitter.
For more of our premieres, check out A$AP Rocky-approves Joe Fox’s new video for “Aftershow” here.