Have you ever fallen into a musical rut? Do you spend hours scrolling through endless album recommendation forums and Soundcloud playlists? YouTube’s “recommended” doesn’t seem to understand you anymore? You COULD consult TikTok to see what’s trending, but you don’t just want to find a song that’s popular, and you long for more than thirty thrilling seconds. You want to find music that means something, right? If so, Owen O’Leary has one question for you – are you ready to Get Rec’d?
NYU Tisch’s musical theater prodigy is a podcast superfan. He avoids algorithms and prefers the authenticity of everyday stories for the sake of human connection rather than Billboard motives. With such high regard for the art, Owen took it upon himself in March 2021 to start his own discourse about how to expand one’s music library and has since hosted a plethora of interviews with Abby T, Beth Million, Nick Cooper, most recently Molly Indigo, to name a few.
Each episode starts out with a song rec for the week. Then, Owen discusses music with guests at great lengths – What was the first song they ever heard? What music takes them back to a certain point in their life? How did they discover their talent? What other artists do they recommend? The in-depth dialogue allows listeners to not only emotionally connect with artists, but also the art being discussed.
The show is entirely self-produced from the dynamic hosting to the spectacular theme song. The singer and songwriter’s Spotify Wrapped tallied 20K+ streams reaching 80+ countries. His 2020 EP ‘Where The Birds Go,’ along with four singles, ‘Tan Lines’ (2020), ‘You Look Good in Blue :)’ (2020), ‘Music In My Head’ (2021), and ‘23’ (2021). Regarding his latest single, Owen elaborates, “The song is just about feeling like life as an artist is hard to sustain, and how capitalism is making things really hard for young people.”
In an interview with Owen, we explored his perspective of the podcasting atmosphere, his personal connection to conversation, and how he’s developed an encyclopedia of music recommendations.
What’s up, Owen? We’re so happy to have you! Thank you so much for your time. I’d love to start off with a check-in to make sure you’re doing okay. How has everything been for you?
Hey! I’m happy to be had! Things have been a little up and down for me lately. Some big changes in my life all happened in a short span of time, but I’m starting to get into a pretty rigid routine, and I’m doing things that I love to do, so things are looking up. Thank you for asking.
How would you describe your perspective of the podcasting atmosphere? Any challenges thus far?
I am truly a podcast superfan. There are about six I listen to the day they come out and I’ve heard the entire backlog of many more. I think what attracts me to podcasts is their accessibility. I get to listen to real, everyday people that I am able to curate for myself. These aren’t opinions or stories that I’m being spoon-fed from a Netflix algorithm that has an agenda.
The aspect of podcasts I love comes with some baggage as well though. Not only do I have to record and edit the pod, but also manage and market it, which takes a ton of time and resources that I don’t necessarily have. But I believe I have a very unique and fun product. I have faith that people who want to listen will find it.
What is your personal connection to conversation? Are there any conversations you’ve had that hold emphasis?
I’ve had a bit of a shift in thinking over the past year. I think I view conversation and connecting somewhat differently now. I realize that every conversation you have has the potential to, for lack of a better word, network. A large number of my guests are friends of friends or people I’ve met online. Simply taking the time to invest attention has spread my musical network so far.
Can you tell us how you’ve developed your massive library of music recommendations? What attracts you to a song (nostalgia, momentum, lyricism, etc.) Do you think there’s such a thing as a “bad song?”
I actually haven’t! I started this podcast because I felt out of the loop. I listened to almost only Regina Spektor for like 5 years. This podcast has brought a bunch of music into my life that I might have never heard otherwise, mostly that of the guests. Hearing music from up-and-coming artists is so inspiring because they work so hard and jump through so many hoops to get songs recorded and produced. It’s very inspiring to know they believe so deeply in the importance of their message and are willing to put in that much work.
The aspect of a song that attracts me is the passion behind it, hence my public beef with Ariana Grande. I am highly against music that is made for the market or made around the idea that not caring is cool. My bare minimum is passion, and that transcends genre or production quality.
I do think there is such a thing as a bad song. I think a bad song is one that is made for mass appeal by a team of men in suits, figuring out what will make as much money as possible. Music is powerful in its ability to move and inspire. I think rich people are exploiting that power for sales.
Originally the podcast began with you and your sister, Ellie. We love the dynamic you’ve shared with her in previous episodes. As you’ve stated, due to scheduling conflict, the podcast will continue with you as a solo host. Would you like to comment on your experience as co-hosts?
Doing the pod with Ellie was great, but I’m in NYC, she’s in Nashville, and we’re both in school. It’s way too hard to schedule a time for us to meet with a third guest every week, or even do a backlog. She’s still a big friend of the show, and I’m certain she’ll be on in the future as a guest or make special appearances.
I keep envisioning Get Rec’d as a virtual record store, haha! If you owned an actual record store, what would be the vibe?
In a dream scenario, it probably wouldn’t be a store at all. Maybe more like take a record, leave a record. Everyone just trades, and no money is exchanged. It would also be an event space for people to perform, whether there’s an open mic or line up. As far as the vibes go, I consider myself a maximalist. Tons of lights and colors. Things that would excite you to be there.
You’re a musician and producer. I’m IN LOVE with the Get Rec’d theme song! How would you compare and contrast the process of producing music vs. a podcast?
While producing a podcast, there’s a formula and structure, and I know how it SHOULD sound. When I’m producing my music, it’s all just how it feels to me, and what I think sounds the best. Producing the pod is kinda wild because every episode takes about an hour to record, and then an hour and a half to edit and produce. A song – something that’s a tenth of the length of a podcast – takes hours, days, and weeks.
The final question you usually ask all of your guests is, “If you could collaborate with one artist in the industry right now, who would it be?” Who’s an artist YOU would love to work with? Anyone in the podcast industry you’d love to co-host an episode with?
I mean, the answer is really like a million people. That’s what makes this question so tough. The gut answer is Regina Spektor, but I think my final answer is Lady Gaga. I think she’s so inspiring, and I would love to leech off her creative energy.
I think my dream co-host would be Nicole Byer from the podcast Why Won’t You Date Me and the Netflix show Nailed It. She is so fun, funny, and I just think we would have a blast.
What kind of community are you hoping to build with Get Rec’d? What projects can we expect from you in the future?
I am hoping to create a promotional platform for new artists to showcase their work and personalities, especially those for whom the music industry is less accessible. My focus is to uplift women, LGBTQ+, and POC artists. These groups can often be marginalized in the music industry.
On top of that, I have already begun to make a network of new musicians globally who are insanely talented and passionate about what they do. Surrounding yourself with inspiring people is the best way to get inspired.
In the future, I hope to be able to do Get Rec’d live shows where artists perform songs and dive into their creative process. There are other projects in the works that I can tell you about later 😉 or you can find them in the future @browenbroleary or @getrecdpod.
So if you’re in need of new music, you HAVE to check out the Get Rec’d podcast. Owen will freaking rec you!