Tune In: Almost Owen

Almost Owen is in the house

Marching to the beat of his own drum is what Isaac Haselkorn — aka the frontman of the three-member band Almost Owen, which is also Haselkorn’s stage name — does best.

Born and bred in the Boston area, Almost Owen learned to play drums growing up. After several injuries limited the use of his left arm and he coincidentally met the great singer-songwriter Paul Simon, he packed his bags for India. There, he started writing and producing his songs and honing his passion for music. Before long, he was touring and playing gigs in China, Europe and Central America before returning home to Boston. Once his injuries healed, he was once again able to drum, making the singer-songwriter-drummer-producer persona a rare act.

These days, Almost Owen performs and tours regionally, gathering devoted fans along the way. One of many admirers, Archer asked AO (his moniker) to be the featured act at the March 2018 opening of Archer Hotel Burlington, just northwest of Boston. The music was a highlight of the evening’s festivities.

Photo courtesy of Almost Owen | Archer Hotel Burlington
Photo courtesy of Almost Owen

Archer: Where were you born?

Almost Owen: I was born and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. I grew up in a condo community that was mostly inhabited by empty nesters. My brother and I had free reign to rule the under-18 age bracket.

Archer: Where do you live now?

Almost Owen: I spent a number of years living and touring abroad. Now, I’m back in Boston grinding it out with my band.

Archer: How did you find your passion in music?

Almost Owen: Both of my parents are music fanatics. My dad worked for years as an usher at the Filmore East and later became friends with Bruce Springsteen’s manager. He always had the skinny on concert tickets. Growing up around so much music, I caught the bug early.

Archer: Which instruments do you play?

Almost Owen: I started playing piano when I was 5 years old. A few years later, I picked up drums, which was my primary instrument for about 10 years.

In 2010, I sustained an injury to my left shoulder that made playing close to impossible. It ended up being the best thing that has ever happened to me. Searching for something else to do in music, I started singing, writing and producing. That brought me to where I am today. The best part is that I can play drums again, too!

Archer: What and who are your primary influences?

Almost Owen: Equal parts old school and new school. I come from a jazz background and have always been a sucker for laid-back and warm music. Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett are two of my favorites. I also am crazy about (on the one hand) folk music and (on the other) soul music: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Marvin Gaye, Donnie Hathaway to name a few.

More recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop and R&B: Kendrick Lamar, Joyner Lucas, Anderson Paak, etc.

Archer: How do you describe your sound (besides awesome — you’ve got some serious talent!)?

Almost Owen: A cross between Paul Simon and Drake.

Photo courtesy of Almost Owen | Archer Hotel Burlington
Photo courtesy of Almost Owen

Archer: Where have you performed?

Almost Owen: I’ve been fortunate to perform at some pretty awesome places. To name a few: UNESCO HQ in Paris, the Panama Jazz Festival, Symphony Hall. I also headlined the Meghalaya Arts and Culture festival back in 2014.

These days, I play weekly residencies at Capo in South Boston, Ocean Prime in the Seaport and Lucky’s lounge in Fort Point.

Archer: What is your favorite venue to play — small clubs, festivals, theaters and the like — and why?

Almost Owen: Anywhere with a captive audience works for me.

Archer: Do you play with a rotating group of musicians or do you tend to play with the same people?

Almost Owen: My first year back in Boston, I played more than 150 shows with a rotating cast of musicians. Though there is some novelty in it, it is exhausting!

Over the past two years, I’ve been developing my team (shout-out to guitarist and collaborator Erik Jalajas, drummer and live arrangement master Vancil Cooper, Julian Beechko, Andrew Grandahl and Ken Tutunjian). They are the best guys in the world.

Archer: Here’s a popular question: Where did the name Almost Owen come from?

Almost Owen: It was the name my parents “almost” named me. People call me AO for short.

Archer: Do you have a record label?

Almost Owen: Yep. Right now it’s called Hot Lava, LLC. Don’t laugh.

OK, you can laugh a little bit ….

Photo courtesy of Almost Owen |Archer Hotel Burlington
Photo courtesy of Almost Owen

Archer: What are the primary themes you write about? How do you decide what to write about?

Almost Owen: My debut album, “Late Night Dangerous,” is all about a single relationship. It tells the story of the love affair from beginning to end. Coming out of that relationship, I was writing a lot about love and betrayal. It’s exclusively available — for free — to my inner circle: the AO Fam. You can join the AO Fam and get it at almostowen.com.

These days, I’m writing more generally about what it’s like to be a 20-something-year-old in 2018.

Archer: What is your ultimate goal with your music?

Almost Owen: To keep doing what I’m doing, but with a bigger platform and higher budgets to chase down new and crazy ideas.

Archer: Do you have a few favorite songs that you’ve written?

Almost Owen: The last song on “Late Night Dangerous” is called “Rush” and is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve got a new song called “The Old Days” that’s pretty heartbreaking. Gets me every time. There’s a livestream on my Facebook page where I play it acoustically.

Archer: What are you currently working on?

Almost Owen: I’m putting on a CD release concert in June that I’m very excited about. Once “Late Night Dangerous” is fully released, I have another project (TBA) that I’m very excited to start sharing with my fans.

Archer: Anything else you’d like to add?

Almost Owen: Thank you for having me. If you like the music, definitely join the AO Fam. I send out lots of new songs, live videos and behind-the-scenes footage that aren’t available anywhere else. I also do a livestream concert every Sunday night on my Facebook page at 6 PM EST. Hope to see you there!

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