Rex Orange County’s recent album ‘Apricot Princess’ is the sound of falling in love. Over 10 sickly-sweet songs, Surrey-born musician Alex O’Connor encapsulates those butterflies-in-your-tummy feelings with lashings of jazzy piano and tales of tripping head-over-heels for someone. It is utterly joyous.
His next single – the ’70s-soul-infused ‘Loving Is Easy’ – continues that theme, blending lush strings with subtle nods to some of the 19-year-old’s musical influences, such as LA jazz king Thundercat. “I feel like a really positive person now, for sure,” O’Connor says. “And I think I will be for a while.”
He’s got good reason to be chipper. It was only once his stint at The BRIT School started in 2014 that he considered a career as a solo musician, having been stuck behind a drumkit for most of his life. “It felt like the exact right time to be myself and not just the guy at the back of the stage. I like being at the front – it’s where I’m meant to be,” he explains.
And it’s served him well. ‘Apricot Princess’, his gorgeous second collection of songs, saw him land a gig in Frank Ocean’s touring band this past summer, and in September he performed guitar with Skepta at the Mercury Awards. Not bad company, really.
It was his guest spot on Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album ‘Flower Boy’ that cemented O’Connor as one of Britain’s most in-demand songwriters. “He just picked me up on email, but I was pretty convinced it wasn’t him at first,” O’Connor says. Soon after, though, he was flown out to LA to sing on the woozy ‘Boredom’ and album opener ‘Foreword’. It’s already having an effect on how he works. “I feel like collaborating is something I need to try more of,” he says. “Like how Frank Ocean and Damon Albarn are able to do – it’d just be super-impressive to hear other people’s cool s**t on my project.”
With US shows on the horizon, O’Connor is only just beginning to grasp exactly what this next phase of his career looks like. But given that he’s settling into living in London with his partner, and he’s “very much in love” right now, you can consider your next Valentine’s Day mixtape well and truly sorted.