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Robert O’Connor – Separate Ways | The Heart’s Symphony

Introducing Robert O’Connor, an artist who has been dubbed “Ireland’s best-kept secret” by The Q Review. Hailing from Dublin, Robert has been making waves in the music industry since the release of his Nashville-infused single “You Found Me” in 2018. With each release, Robert shifts gears musically, showcasing his versatility as a musician and his ability to captivate audiences with his unique sound. As a result of his hard work and dedication, Robert has established a cult following and has become a favorite among fans in the LGBTQ community. His music has proven to be a hit, as he has scored nine consecutive Top 5 hits on the LGBTQ Music Chart, a testament to Robert’s talent and impact as an artist. If you’re looking for an artist who is not afraid to push boundaries and experiment with different sounds, then Robert O’Connor is the one for you. With his emotive vocals and powerful lyrics, he creates a truly captivating listening experience

Robert’s latest release, “Separate Ways” takes you on a journey of self-discovery, weaving a tale of two hearts torn asunder by the intricacies of love and the brutal realities of life. The song begins with a hint of intrigue as the instruments weave a spell of expectancy. Then, emotive vocals of Robert soar in, and you are instantly sucked into the story. The music pulses with energy, and you can’t help but let loose and dance. The bassline thunders, and you’re caught up in the rhythm. The lyrics are raw and exposed, capturing the ache and uncertainty that come with the end of a relationship. Robert’s voice is like a balm, soothing you as you navigate the turmoil of realizing that things have come to a close. The production on the track is unmatched, with electronic instrumentals and a catchy hook transporting you to a dazzling, glamorous world of sparkling energy and color. The song by Robert creates a symphony of emotions, with the lively synthesizers and arrangements complementing the softness of the vocals, stirring all your senses. As the song reaches its crescendo, you can’t help but release your emotions and embrace the energy of the music. It’s a cathartic release, a way to let go of the past and embrace the future.

We recently had an opportunity to interview Robert about his latest single, “Separate Ways,” and more. Want to know more? Then keep reading!

1. Hey Robert O’Connor! Congratulations on your new infectious track “Separate ways” from “Severence” EP. I couldn’t get enough of the track, honestly! What was the spark that ignited the creative fire behind “Separate Ways”? Take us behind the scenes of the creative process and give us an insider’s look into how this masterpiece was crafted.

A: Thanks so much, I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the track. I wrote the track in 2020 after I had released my ‘Transcendence’ EP. Originally I took the idea to the producer of that record, Skynem GT, and we were continuing along the EDM path we had been on, but there was a feeling that I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I went in a different direction with Gareth Shortland, who ended up producing the entire record. Lyrically, the song is a follow-up to my previous single “Save You”, which would become the first single from my ‘Severance’ EP. Where “Save You” was set at the beginning of a relationship, when you think you can fix anything that’s wrong, “Separate Ways” is at the end, when you’re despairing and feeling spent. Ultimately it’s a song about communication, or lack of it. The key line, “If you can’t open this way, I think we should go our separate ways”, really sums it up. It’s a very simple song, it’s direct, and there’s no anger there, it’s quite matter-of-fact.

2. Your unique vocal delivery in “Separate Ways” is mesmerizing. Can you share your inspiration for it? Also, the lyrics contrast with the upbeat dance-pop sound. What was the reasoning behind this unique choice of depicting a heartbreak theme?

A: I recorded the vocals in less than two hours with Richey McCourt, who handled most of the vocal production on this EP. I found I took a slightly different approach vocally on “Separate Ways”, I think there’s a real groove to the verse vocals especially, and my producer Gareth said while he was mixing the track that he was getting a bit of a Craig David vibe. I loved UK garage in my teens, so that was a great compliment – and it gave me the idea to then create a Garage Remix, which is completely different from my usual output. I think, in terms of the lyrics contrasting with the music, for me the lyric is quite cold and I wanted the music to reflect that, there’s a starkness to the production, it feels darker than any of the other tracks on ‘Severance’. The EP loosely tells the story of a relationship beginning-to-end, but it could be applied to friendships as well – I’ve said before that during the Covid years our relationships and friendships were tested, and we had time to think about where we were in our lives, personally and professionally. 

3. How does “Separate Ways” reflect your personal experiences or emotions?

A: It’s definitely true-to-life, but there’s always an element of artistic license. I don’t like to discuss specifically what or who the songs are about, sometimes they’re about what’s happening or happened in the past in my life, or about a situation someone I know is in, and sometimes it can literally be a line in a book or in a movie that has given me an idea. I like to think that the themes I write about are universally relatable though, and we’ve all severed ties with someone we love, and gone through the emotions that come with that.

4. How do you envision people engaging with the song, both on the dance floor and in their everyday lives?

A: I think it sounds great in headphones in a dark room – that’s a very immersive experience! I’ve also been told it’s a great gym track, and I actually do something I call ‘the treadmill test’ when I record a new track. I tend to take demos to the gym and listen and analyze – there’s something about that process that gives me clarity. A lot of the reviews have mentioned that it’s fit for the dancefloor, and I’d be thrilled for it to be played in clubs.

5. I see that this EP,” Severance,” is in collaboration with producer Gareth Shortland. How has the journey been so far? How has working with Gareth influenced your music and your artistic vision?

A: Gareth is the producer on the entire record. I tend to enjoy working with one producer on a project. I like a cohesive sound, and on this occasion there’s also a concept to the record lyrically. When we started working together on “Save You”, there was no gameplan, I just wanted to try on the ‘00s trance sound for size, and I felt then that I wanted to continue to explore different nostalgic sounds from the ‘80s and ‘90s too. The second single “Been & Gone” was the turning point for us, and the moment we decided to do a full EP together. It’s been really easy, stress-free and as I’ve said on more than one occasion, a true labour of love. We made the music we both love, and now listeners who share our love for this kind of music are discovering me. I feel like by stepping away from the modern EDM and singer/songwriter genres I’ve explored in the past, I’ve kind of left the competition and created a niche space of my own. Gareth has brought his wealth of experience working with the like of Steps, Erasure and Will Young to the table, along with his passion for ‘90s pop music. It really has been a match made in pop heaven, he’s the producer I’ve been waiting to meet since I started making music, I believe that.

6. Can you discuss any specific musical influences or inspirations that you drew on while creating “Separate Ways”?

A: I was listening to a lot of vintage dance music – from Chicane to Paul Van Dyk and Fragma to Sash! Sonically, it takes those influences and puts them through a modern filter, so it doesn’t sound dated either. Like I said, I had listened to a lot of modern EDM and tech house as well, before approaching Gareth, and you’ll hear those influences on the Fletz Remix, which is released on February 3. The lyric and vocal melody was written very quickly, and the vocal was recorded in a couple of hours, what took longest was settling on an approach, I think we went through quite a few demos before I felt we had hit a sweet spot. I know I’m not the easiest to work with, I’ll find a synth buried in the mix that doesn’t sit well with me, and I’ll fixate on it – but the way I look at it is once it’s out there it’s out there and it’s my name on there, I have to be able to stand over it, even if that means be being a pain in the ass for a few weeks!

7. How does your Irish background influence your music?

A: I don’t know if it does, to be honest. We have very tightly playlisted commercial radio here, and while there are a few great niche shows on local stations, the vast majority of what I hear on radio leaves me cold. There’s a lot of guys here influenced by the likes of Ed Sheeran and Dermot Kennedy and so we end up with a lot of B-grade copies of that sound, and I just don’t find that very interesting, especially when it’s sung in an affected accent that sounds learned. I’ve had producers before tell me “sing it like this, pronounce it like that”, and for me that’s a hard no, I take pride in singing in my own natural tone, and I suppose that’s an Irish accent, so there’s that! I understand borrowing elements from other artists work, paying tribute, whatever you want to call it, but your voice should always be your own!

8. Any upcoming projects or releases that you’re excited about?

A: “Separate Ways” is the final single from the ‘Severance’ EP, and as I write this I’ve just released the Garage Remix, with the Fletz Remix to follow, it’s a nice single package I think, I’ve shown a few different sides to the song. I’ve started writing for the next record, and it’s more daunting than ever now that I have active listeners and fans, but I definitely want to cater to them, while developing my sound further and continuing to experiment. I think it’s gonna be a pretty quick turnaround, I don’t see any reason to wait. Remember the good old days of the ‘90s when an artist would release a new record every year? Let’s bring that back!

Enjoy listening to Separate Ways by Robert O’Connor here.

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