Xavier Omär spent much of his early life moving: his father was in the military, and he relocated from his native Monterey, California, to Georgia, and other places in between with his family. Then, in the mid-aughts, at the age of twenty, he arrived in San Antonio—a city in which he didn’t know anyone besides his dad. But, as Omär tells it, he never felt like he truly belonged anywhere until he got to Texas.
“Once I got to San Antonio, that’s where I started making my music, and that is where I have some of my deepest friendships,” he tells Texas Monthly. “Though I haven’t been here all that long, this is home for me now.” This sense of belonging reverberates all throughout If You Feel, his new album released by RCA Records last week.
With hip-hop, jazz, and pop-inflected production, the album is carried by Omär’s thrilling style on songs like “More Than Less,” where he uses auto-tune and pitch-shifting to channel his layered vocals and delivery. And on the likes of “Want/Need” and “Protect,” he takes personal experiences and zooms out to reveal universal truths. A stunningly assured record born from a love of pop structures and indie songwriting, it blushes with the joy of a man coming into his own as a partner, son, and person. Xavier Omär has finally found a home with his music, and he’s eager to tell us about it.
On Love and Faith
While writing If You Feel in 2019 (the earliest ideas of this album began in 2015, though), Omär discovered an overlap between his relationship with his wife and his faith: the feeling that even when you can’t love yourself, someone else is there to prop you up. On “Find Me.,” which Omär modeled after the beat and sample on Kanye West’s “Fade,” he sings about “… feeling so strongly about the love my wife gives me that it gives me confidence. I feel like that’s a different side of being able to be free and live in knowing you’re loved rather than having to be the focus of giving.” He adds, “That’s exactly the thought process that I have in my faith as well. No matter mountains, no matter valleys, God’s love is going to find me wherever I am.” This notion is reflected throughout the album, especially on tracks like “More Than Less,” in which he chronicles updating his Christian beliefs to more accurately reflect his experiences as a young adult tempted by love, fame, and success.
At least one of Omär’s exes lives in Texas. After going through a breakup with a girl from Austin, he realized he was placing his life into the relationship to such a degree that his personality was dictated by the ebbs and flows of a tumultuous love. This story is reflected on “Something Changed,” which recalls a rough breakup. “Might’ve been lyin’ if I’m speakin’ up/I know I haven’t been mysеlf,” he sings before the first chorus.
“Something changed from that relationship, and a lot has changed about me because of it,” he says of the track. “I look in the mirror, and I don’t see the person I wanted to see. There’s something there, but it ain’t me. That’s not what I want.” Now happily married to his wife Christin, someone he met after said breakup, Omär credits that failed relationship in Austin as a turning point in his life.
On Different Kinds of Love Songs
The album also includes Omär’s first serious attempt at writing songs not about love. On previous albums like 2016’s The Everlasting Wave and 2019’s Moments Spent Loving You, he’s sung about falling in and out of love. But on his new song “All Our Time,” he wanted to reminisce about young adulthood and spending long summers defined by the great friendships he’s experienced. “I had just moved to San Antonio to be closer to my now wife. We were dating at the time, and everything was different around me … so I wrote a song about missing my friends,” he says. In a sense, it’s still a love song. But here, Omär aims his focus on the fruitful relationships that sustain us, especially during trying moments.
Omär turns to Christin when he’s struggling with a song or wants to show her something he’s particularly proud of. “She’s known my music longer than I’ve known about her, which is pretty cool,” he says. Funny enough, she still didn’t really want to give me the time of day in the beginning.” But Christin’s taste is more particular than Xavier’s, so when she picks out a song as being particularly effective, the musician hones in on exactly what she likes about the work. “If she does love a song by me, I definitely pay attention to that,” he says. “I still have my own freedoms about what I want and don’t want to put out, but I definitely pay attention to what she really, really likes.”
On Bon Iver
Omär is a self-proclaimed Bon Iver super fan, and his track “Bon Iverre” is a nod to Justin Vernon’s original name for the project, before he cut off the “re” and introduced his folk project to the world. Vernon’s 2011 album Bon Iver, Bon Iver carries tremendous weight for Omär, particularly the way that the musician tapped into vulnerability, both musically and lyrically, and turned it into strength. “Anytime I’m going through anything, I could be happy, I could be sad, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “I know if I just listen to some Bon Iver songs, I’m going to be fine.”