The Sydney-based singer-songwriter will also be performing in festivals with other Australian talents like Daniel March, Lawson Hull, and Atlas Young.
After spending two years travelling, writing, and performing across 25 countries, Billy Otto returned home and released a new EP, entitled Born.
Featuring the hit singles Ghosts and Eyes Like Fire, the artist’s sophomore record boasts a unique and inspiring blend of indie/psychedelic/pop with lyrical depth and Otto’s amazing vocals.
Speaking to Lost At E Minor, Otto described Ghosts as reminiscent of 70’s surf-coast scenes wherein everything is alright in the world.
“Ghosts began as a breakup song, but actually organically evolved into a song about my dad,” he said. “We had had a massive fight six months before and the pangs were still lingering on.
“I had left the fight feeling like my dad needed mental help and that instead of being angsty and unforgiving, I really wanted him to be healed and for our connection to be mended.”
With a growing following both locally and internationally (he’s HUGE in Brazil), Otto is set to go on tour in December and January – though details have yet to be released.
As mentioned, he’ll also be performing alongside Daniel March, Lawson Hull, and Atlas Young in Newcastle on December 21 and in Sydney on December 22 for the PARLORFEST festivals, a pair of events we’re so excited to see.
We recently spoke to Otto to learn more about him and his music. Check it out:
Tell us how you went about building an international fan base using social media and word of mouth?
“Eight years ago I had a girlfriend from Atlanta, Georgia. Her name was Grace. I figured out that international relationships were super tricky, especially in the financial sense as a university student!
“So, I wanted to start organizing DIY tours so I could pay my way to see her. It kinda worked! I reached out to every human in the US that I knew through the college that I studied at whilst being educated abroad.
“This was a pretty early time period in the pre-Instagram boom era, but my girlfriend at the time was running social media for a bunch of Red Bull campaigns, and she taught me many of the insights of where social media was going.
“I thus got into the Instagram game kinda early and learned that I had a life that looked interesting and adventurous through the lens.
“In the following years, I ended up organizing tours to Europe, Asia, and Brazil all through Instagram! Having a film background meant that I was able to cash in on producing all my own video content from live show recordings to interviews and music videos on YouTube as well. I even tried marketing the vegan side of my music adventure through creating a vegan cooking show. It failed miserably LOL.
“After breaking up with Grace, I toured to Brazil and suddenly my social media started going somewhere. The youth of Brazil are SO excited about gringos. They love surf music and they love it when foreigners appreciate their culture. Supporting some bigger Brazilian artists and having some media attention on Brazilian TV was a good little break for me that opened me up to a whole new sphere of opportunity.
“I love meeting people anywhere. I’ll talk to everyone after a show, and organically things happen; new friends, writing collaborations, show opportunities, overseas tour potentials, smoothie hangs. I just think that your fans should be your mates. (as much as that is possible depending how big you become).”
Your sound is very nostalgic. What sort of music – and acts – inspired you early discoveries around songwriting and the craft of creating a memorable hook?
“I’m from Newcastle! I freaking adore Daniel Johns and all that Silverchair accomplished with their melodic and emotive rock sonics. I just want to write anthems. Daniel Johns wrote big choruses that meant something to him and to the young generation at the time.
“I really want to make songs that matter. Beholding a nostalgic spirit that echoes somewhere between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s is where I’d love to hangout.
“I’m a huge fan of Hall and Oates, Phil Collins, and The Beatles. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t confess my obsession with Tame Impala. Kevin Parker is the greatest songsmith of our generation (I believe). His nostalgic sentiment is strong but he is still constantly grabbing hold of what is real and present and important to him. I always want to ask the big questions in my music. Darkness. Light. Sex. God. Pain. Elation. Adventure. Connection. Loss.
“Hooks come to me in the most random places. I wrote the Eyes Like Fire chant in a massive bathroom when in tour in Santa Catarina Brazil. I was in the shower living in a massive bachelor pad in Sydney seven years ago when the chorus of Dreams came to my mind. Cruising around in my Jag in Chicago I was haunted with the summer sonic of All About You which evolved from a Mariah Carey melody.
“I think growing up in the 90s in a house of sisters where I’d always hear TLC and Whitney Houston definitely injected some soul into my subconscious. I write from feeling and the narrative then follows.
“I always urge young songwriters to lean on the side of minimalism. It’s my delight to leave enough space in a chorus and verse so that personal realization can occur.”
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Back in oz and back with the sis writing for TV. Jet lagged and reflective, I’m super excited to announce that my sisters and I will be taking a workshop at @sparc_aus Conference this weekend! Our session is titled “The mind of the songsmith”, songwriters and music performers – this moment is for you. Still not to late to register. I’m also playing with @melissaottomusic for the after party and @chrisebastian for the Friday night opener. Gonna be a ripper. Sydney creatives, don’t miss out! Photo @mattpotts
Where was Ghosts recorded and mixed and what can you tell us about the writing and production for the track?
“In the summer of 2016 I was hanging out with the Gang of Youths boys in New York whilst writing with my producer Luke Odea. I was in a super inspired state from walking the Brooklyn streets and chatting philosophy with Dave Le’aupepe.
“The same day, Luke showed me a demo idea that only contained bass, drums and guitar. He’s like, ‘bro what do you think of this?’ I was in love.
“Ghosts began as a breakup song, but actually organically evolved into a song about my dad. We had had a massive fight six months before and the pangs were still lingering on. I had left the fight feeling like my dad needed mental help and that instead of being angsty and unforgiving, I really wanted him to be healed and for our connection to be mended.
“The song sounds kinda reminiscent of the 70’s surf-coast scene where every guy is your brother, every girl is your sister and all is right in the world. It feels joyous, but the song is really a visceral plea to a family member to ‘not let go’ of treasure of father and son intimacy.
“We recorded the drums in Shirk Studio, Chicago. We then rented a friends lake house in Indiana. Padding up the lake house to record vocals was a bit of effort. We pulled apart a bunch of beds and made a bedroom feel super dead. I love making random houses into studios. Luke and I had zero distractions. It was just us in this big lake house. We had food, a pool, a stack of guitars and a whole lot of inspiration.
“The driving bass line in the song has a tone that I love. I found that Fender Precision bass online and had hardly played it before recording with it. I followed Luke in his intuition with the synths. I was so happy how they turned out! Ian Pritchett (The Beautiful Girls, Angus and Julia Stone, Boo Seeka) was the guy to call to get this song mixed right. It’s the best feeling ever when a mix feels colorful, warm and clear.”
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Belated Father’s Day wishes to my beloved dad. Dad, so honoured to have your name. Your support of my dreaming over the last 30 years has meant so much to me. You worked tirelessly for us kids in your little architecture office doing long hours, all so you could see us thrive. You never desire public accolade, and this is so challenging and inspiring to me. You’ve always done your best at anything you put your hand to. You have no idea how much you’ve taught me over the years. I did a roadie with Mum and Dad throughout Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Portugal in 2015. Some of the most precious memories, rediscovering our European heritage and gazing at gorgeous coastlines.