Finneas O’Connell: ‘I was writing a very interpersonal introspective album’

In his latest ‘At Home With’ conversation on Apple Music 1, Zane Lowe is joined by FINNEAS to discuss his forthcoming new album ‘Optimist’. He tells him how the pandemic influenced the album, why he roots for Lil Nas X, being grateful to tour Billie Eilish’s latest album, and shares his thoughts on the latest releases from Kanye West, Drake, and Baby Keem. He also discusses leaning more into film scoring work, competition, teaching himself music production, being an introvert, writer’s block, and more.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About His Forthcoming New Album ‘Optimist’ And How The Pandemic Influenced It…

When I listen to it back now, I was writing a very interpersonal introspective album, and I think that’s what a year of sitting at home and thinking will do to you. And I sort of, that’s been the thing I’ve said about Billie’s album as well, that I feel that had our year gone according to plan, had there been no COVID, had we just toured for the past 12 months, I think the second album we would’ve made would’ve just been pointing at things, would’ve been pointing out the window at stuff. And I feel like instead we made this album about how we feel. And why we feel how we feel, and I feel like this, when I listen to this album of mine I’m like, “Oh yeah, this is how I was feeling and this is how I’ve felt my whole life about certain things,” and for that reason I’m very proud of this record and I feel very comfortable with it. I think sometimes when stuff is finished and sits on a shelf for a while, you look up at it and you’re like, “I don’t know how well that’s aging.” I think this album is honest enough that it doesn’t really matter how it ages because it’s how I feel.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music Why He Roots For Lil Nas X…

I was at the VMA’s. …I got all emotional watching his performance. I just think there’s something about what he’s doing that you can’t even believe that he’s the first one to do it. This is the first gay black … pop star, rap star, artist to be this mainstream. I was just, I was so happy. I was very happy that, I think he’s very talented and he’s a really good guy, and he is working his ass off, and I just was like – I think this is a weird, I was actually saying this to him that day or the next day, we’re in this period of time where there’s a lot of regression. There’s a lot of Texas abortion ban law. We’re not in as progressive a time as we should be, and I think the people that are driving progress forward in the world are sort of pop culture figures. And in addition to having really catchy songs and being ripped, Lil Nas X is ripped. In addition to those things, I’m just such a fan of, I’m a fan of how unapologetic he is. And funny too. I’ve said this sort of, I’ve been public about this, but it’s impossible not to root for him. I don’t know. There’s all this sort of, in kind of every arena within the arts, there’s this sort of pitting artists against each other thing of sales and charts and awards and whatever, and I don’t know. If there’s one thing we’ve come out of all of it with, it’s if a person is kind and talented, you want to root for them, you know what I mean?

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Touring Billie Eilish’s Latest Album ‘Happier Than Ever’…

I think this past show we opened with ‘Bury A Friend’. Billie essentially designed the set list. I had a couple notes, but I like the sort of like, “Where were we?” That was the song we were opening with in March of 2020. I liked that sort of nod to like, “All right. Where did we leave off?”End of the day, we’ve all seen tours where artists are on a weird tiff and they play only their new jazz album. And it’s so annoying. Like, “Oh my God, I want to hear your hit. Sorry. But I also want to hear deep cuts, but I don’t ever not want to hear the song you’re famous for.” NDA is super fun. ‘Therefore I Am’ is super fun. Therefore I Am came out so long ago now that people forget that still came out during COVID. But that was great to perform. And then ‘Happier Than Ever’ is just insane. That’s the song from this record that, live, you’re just like, “Oh. Oh boy, it’s got legs.” But, yeah, man. So we’re in the business of crowd pleasing. That’s what we’re trying to do.It’s fun, man. There’s a lot to be grateful for. That’s the whole… Probably, if you look at any form of philosophical practice, gratitude is recognition of what you have that you could not have. Gratitude isn’t like buying something and then being grateful for it. It’s being grateful for the ability that you… The fact that you’re walking around, that you’re in good health, that your eyes work. Stuff like that. So there’s a wave of gratitude in this season for people like me for, for artists that… It’s just like, “Oh, I know exactly how it feels to not have this.”

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Enjoying The Latest Albums From Kanye West, Drake, and Baby Keem…

I think sometimes feuds benefit everybody. I loved Donda and I loved Certified Lover Boy. I love both. I’m judging them off of themselves. I’m not comparing, you know, apples and oranges. I’m not comparing those two albums to each other. I’m just enjoying the songs. I listened to both those albums and was, thoroughly enjoyed myself. I went on this long two hour hike, listened to all of Donda, loved it. Listened to all of CLB on a flight, loved that. And then I was driving home from a rehearsal or something and listened to all of Baby Keem’s album and was like, this wins. If there’s a competition between these album, right now, I was like, this is the winner right now.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Leaning More Into Film Scoring Work…

I’m just dipping my toes into it now, man. I actually scored a movie around Christmas called The Fallout. That’s going to be on HBO max with Jenna Ortega and Ziegler, Maddie Ziegler. That’s great. It’s a really great movie. And that was my first experience in it ever. And I’m working on something now that I don’t get to talk about, but man, I’ve got to be honest. I bet this is like you with so many things Zane. The more I do it, the more I appreciate score and soundtracks and also the more I’m tortured and intimidated by them. You know what I mean? I hear where, if I’d never scored anything, I might hear the white Lotus soundtrack and be like, this is tight. And now I hear it and I’m like, oh my God, this is so good. How could I possibly do something this good? You know what I mean? Where this more aspirational where I look at it and I’m like, God, that’s impressive.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Competition…

There’s no one within the music world that Billie and I are ever trying to beat. We’re just trying to make what we want to make and play for the crowd, and I don’t know. That’s, it’s so funny these, you read these things of surpassing this, surpassing that. It’s interesting, and it’s, sometimes it’s seminal and groundbreaking and that’s cool and worth celebrating. But it’s like yeah, never do we set out to dominate anyone else. We’re just excited to be on the bill.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Recording Anywhere and Teaching Himself Production…

It’s funny man, when Billie and I were first coming out, it was like, the headline was, can you believe they made this in a bedroom? And now it’s like, everyone. No one works in a studio. It’s sick, man. When I was coming up, there was no Louis Bell, monthly class. I couldn’t watch Charlie Puth teach you how to use pro tools. I swear to God, I was watching Praise Band YouTube Logic tutorials, hardcore Christian. Because those were the guys that were willing to share it all, were like, “Hey, here’s how to record midi on Logic. This is my song, No Compromise.” I learn new stuff all the time

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Being An Introvert…

I feel like I’m not an extrovert, by nature I’m pretty introverted. COVID for me, it was pretty easy sitting around at home and making music. That was not a challenge. My tolerance is lower and lessened, like my tolerance for things like that, I have a harder time with it than I once did. But that being said, even though I’m maybe introverted by nature, I’m still fascinated by people and love. I probably love a long conversation with somebody more than I… I love that more than I love any experiential… I’d much rather just sit at a table and drink a coffee and talk to somebody for two hours than go to an amusement park or go see a film or something. I’d rather just talk and learn about a person. That’s the most stimulating thing to me. So yeah, I think the transition between only FaceTimes to real encounters over the past couple of months has been odd, but engaging. And you can fake it until you make it. You can pretend to not be uncomfortable until you actually are in a conversation and enjoying yourself. But I will say, and maybe this is true for you. I’ll come away from a three hour social event and I’ll be completely brain dead. I’ll be completely fried because the whole time I was consciously asking the right question and being engaged, and not floating through and checking out to the part on the wall.

FINNEAS Tells Apple Music About Writer’s Block…

I’m one of those people that, I don’t really have writers block, per se, ever. I sort of ascribe to… I remember years ago seeing an Ed Sheeran-y thing where… To me, the cure for writer’s block is just write a bad song, write a song that you’re like, “Ah, it’s not very good.” But you wrote something, and also it’s all subjective, and you don’t know. So I don’t necessarily… Let’s say if I have an artist coming over that I’m not a fan of, whatever. We’ll make something that day. It’s a little like social interaction, I can turn it on. But on extracurricular hours like yesterday, I had no deadline, no urgent thing, nobody was coming over and I was down in my studio and I was like, “Oh, shit. I got nothing today.” And could I have forced a song out? Yeah, absolutely. But it wouldn’t have brought me any joy and I don’t know that it would’ve been any good. I think, also, it’s like food. You go to your favorite restaurant, it’s amazing. And if you went back the next day, you’d be kind of like, “This is weird. I had this yesterday…It’s just moderation, man. Sometimes the day between writing songs is the reason that the next song is so good.

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