MAJOR FLEX: Conner Eko
Californian indie-pop artist Conner Eko returns with a new track for the holiday season today, 'Christmas Morning Goodbye'. The track steers away from the usual merry themes of a Christmas song and instead focuses on the real and raw emotion that many of us feel around this time of year. We wanted to find out more about what inspired Conner Eko on this while also delving into his fascinating life outside of music.
Hey Conner Eko! Could you describe your sound & style for any of our readers who may not have heard of you before?
I consider myself a singer-songwriter first and foremost so much of the time I begin a song with the piano and vocal or guitar and vocal, then I move on to producing it to give it a “sound & style”. Song meaning and lyrics are very important in my songwriting. I want my music to tell a meaningful or interesting and well thought of story or to express what I need to as an artist. Having thematic songs is the top priority for me when making a song.
As far as my “sound”, this is so hard for me to describe as an artist to answer. I am so close to the music and I have many influences across many genres and decades. However, my sound has been compared to M83, The Killers, Tame Impala, James Blunt, U2, Phil Collins, Brandon Flowers, Switchfoot, Elton John, and many others. It varies from song to song and I don’t want to pigeonhole myself to one sound. I’m an artist and want to reinvent myself and explore many styles and sounds in my music that I release even if that is not “what you’re supposed to do”.
Could you tell us about the themes in your new track ‘Christmas Morning Goodbye’?
I never intended to write a Christmas song. In fact, I’m not really a Christmas music type of person, but one morning this past fall, I woke early and went straight to my piano and the song basically wrote itself.
The song has a powerful message that can be about a complete breakup between lovers, or them just moving past and healing from deep unclosed wounds. It is about personal and interpersonal forgiveness and the solace that can come from being honest and real about the fact that things are never perfect and that is okay, if we are brave to omit our own faults, and confront them and each other with an open heart. Although extremely challenging, this act can allow parties involved to open up new doors and close the one with all their problems ("a gift").
Since I never thought I’d release a Christmas song, the only reason I decided to move forward with it is because of the powerful message it has and I just love it as a song. I don’t actually consider it a “Christmas song”, even though it has Christmas in the title and lyrics. The last verse, “It feels like Christmas morning in the middle of July”, implies that this is a feeling we can have anytime of the year--that feeling you get the morning of a holiday, but this time (whether good or bad) is mixed with emotions of saying goodbye.
I like the song and am very proud of it as the next step in my development and it has a theme of healing through forgiveness and moving on.
What’s your favourite Christmas song?
Probably “Last Christmas” by Wham!
And your least favourite?
I don’t really have a least favourite.
What was the inspiration behind the music video for the track?
I wanted to create something simple and was inspired by the one shot, one camera, one take music videos like “Yellow” by Coldplay and “Tennis Court” by Lorde.
I originally wanted to do something very similar to the Lorde video with me just in my living room lip singing to some of the song and playing with lights, but the filmmaker, Anson Tan, got the idea to do a second location and to put some choreography of me between the two locations. I liked his ideas and found a gorgeous park for a second location so we went with these ideas in the final video.
Aside from making music, you’re also doing a PhD in Astrophysics, wow! Could you tell us more about this?
I fell in love with astronomy many years ago after watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. I not only find astronomy, the cosmic evolution of our universe, and the idea of life elsewhere interesting, but I also really connected with Carl Sagan’s message about how science and the cosmic perspective could help humanity be better to each other, our planet, and to other life.
When you look at Earth in the deep abyss of space all isolated and alone, it really makes you think about humanity, what we’ve done, and where we’re going.
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.” - Carl Sagan
For my PhD, I am studying exoplanets, which are planets around other star systems, as well as researching how getting school teachers and their students involved in this type of work and “learning science by doing science” can help them to better learn/teach science and possibly get students more motivated to enter into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Have you considered writing music about your passion for astronomy/science?
Yes. I actually have some songs in the works that include some of the “pale blue dot” themes mentioned already. However, I don’t plan it to be the only thing I write about. There’s a lot I want to write about as a songwriter and any astro/science themes that I do end up including will be done subtly and tastefully.
You have stated that you used to be religious and even considered being a priest! What caused the transition and what’s your relationship with religion today?
In short, I had a religious experience in my teenage years and felt like I could help others by becoming a priest. Later, I fell in love, grew away from religions, and realized I wanted to help others in different ways.
There is an interesting story about the moment when I realized that I was leaving the idea of becoming a priest behind. A while ago, while I was staying at a Benedictine monastery and considering becoming a monk, my girlfriend at the time found the medal of St. Benedict in her coffee tip jar several hundreds of miles away. At the time, I saw this as a sign and later ended up marrying her.
Today, I am not religious and consider myself to be an agnostic. I think religion can help a lot of people, and in some ways it helped me in the past, but I am also openly critical of it for various reasons. I think the conversation I would have with my 20 year old self would be very interesting.
We’re so sorry to hear about your accident in 2021 that caused a major brain injury - how has this affected you since?
I had to take a leave of absence from my PhD and many activities I was used to came to a grinding halt. The silver lining was that one of the only things I could do early on that didn’t give me bad concussion symptoms was to play my piano, sing, and write songs. In fact, I found this to actually help with my symptoms and healing process.
Additionally, I’ve never felt more creative and from my perspective, my songwriting is the best it has been and it is getting better daily. This injury and the subsequent pause on “life” it caused also forced me to rethink my life and has got me reconnected with writing and performing my music--something I had been away from for many years. I decided to shelve my regrets and jump back into it and hear I am!
The injury also caused me to really take care of my mental health. I have struggled with major depression my whole life, but post-concussion syndrome made it much worse, which is a common effect of this syndrome. I have had some of my lowest points in recent months, but because of being honest and open about this, and with help from those close to me and my doctors and mental health experts, I have been able to make a lot of improvements and possibly have saved my life.
Moving forward, I am still dealing with almost daily headaches, weekly complex migraines and nausea, and other impacts of post-concussion syndrome, but I am making many improvements and have returned to reduced work on my science/education research at the SETI Institute and plan to return to my PhD in January 2022.
Even though this year has been really hard, I have grown a lot and now feel committed to moving forward to never letting music and songwriting slip away, and to being open and honest about the importance of mental health and head trauma.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Life is unexpected when you least expect it! Don’t wait for tomorrow to shelve your regrets and do what you want with your life despite social norms and financial worries. Forgive yourself and others and never give up.
Also, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” (Harry Potter fans will know what’s up)
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Finally, what’s next for Conner Eko?
I have many new songs that I want to release in 2022! I have already started recording my next music releases and I will release either a series of singles, an EP, or a full album in 2022 (this all depends on funding). In 2022, expect new music, live performances, and hopefully some collaborations. My ultimate goal is to be doing music and songwriting full-time and tour the world so I’m taking those steps!
Conner Eko's debut release 'SINK':
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