The O’My’s Break Through to Tomorrow
The O’My’s are, at this point, an institution of the Chicago Music Renaissance. Artists and trends have come and gone, but the O’My’s remain. Their longevity has made them a staple of the local scene. Having just released their Tomorrow album, the most conspicuous talking point surrounding the drop has been their tumultuous 3 year journey with the project. Thankfully, mistakes present opportunity - humble and constantly learning, the O’My’s are able to navigate yesterday’s struggles to uncover today’s values and tomorrow’s promises.
Maceo Haymes (guitar and vocals) and Nick Hennessey (keys and backing vocals) linked after high school and have been creating ever since, about 10 years now. Today, the rest of the frequently rotating band also includes Boyang Matsapola, Eric Mateo, and Eddie Burns. Their relevance has always been high for those in the know and they have flirted with mainstream success over the years.
After releasing Potty Mouth, Chicago Style, A Humble Masterpiece, and Keeping the Faith, the road to Tomorrow began. The project arrived on September 7th, after 3 years in the cooker. In that time, few shows were performed, the band rotated, their profile shrank, their writing process stalled. Yet, it was in those difficulties where they became closer to the artists and people they wanted to be - through the experience of their struggle emerged the clarity of what they hold dear and value most.
Yesterday, The O’My’s were Grappling with Tomorrow
“Ideally, struggle breeds growth. Sometimes it might swallow you up, and that might stifle it, I don’t think it’s really that possible to grow without it. I generally see struggle as the first step to growth. Without that there’s not much to write about, or look back and reflect on, and work towards.” Today, with the album officially released, they can point to growth and a happy ending. But while they were in it, the going was rough.
Difficulty struck almost immediately when Maceo lost his voice as they began creating the project. Practically and symbolically, the experience was devastating. In a city of unique artists, Maceo’s voice stands out, uncommon among the uncommon. In person, it’s soft yet direct. On track its elasticity amazes, effortlessly stretching from baritone to falsetto. Maceo describes losing it for 3 months as “traumatizing”.
When Maceo’s voice came back the O’My’s encountered another problem - writing the music. Initially shaking up their process, Nick and Maceo had ditched the tried-and-true method of writing hook then verse in favor of something more experimental. Intending to explore new sounds, they would start jamming, hit record, and leave it on until they were finished. Recording stalled when they found they couldn’t go from radiant sound to completed song as easily as they expected. “The process, which was kind of ass-backwards compared to how we’ve always done things. We’ll generally start with the song’s chorus. In this one we just decided to make a bunch of sounds, Nick and I. They sounded cool, but then we were like - what do we do with these? That’s where the work started, and where we got lost, and eventually found our way back.”
After 6 years of living together Nick and Maceo moved out as roommates. The move, they felt, was necessary. “We all have the same friends, and there was never escaping all of our friends. Whatever day I wanted to just chill and have a day off from people, was the day he felt like turning up...And vice versa! Personal time...just wasn’t a thing for us for 6 years.” New independence meant a new level of self-reflection that wasn’t easy. It wasn’t just a move, it was a new lifestyle. No longer could they wake up and jam. Now creating involved planning ahead, transporting gear, making schedules. Nick explains that the move came “at risk of actually feeling like work at certain points. You have to be, as opposed to being 100% fluid…”
The O’My’s were experiencing growing pains: How to handle loss, change, discomfort. They got through these difficulties the way we all do - leaning on their values, what we hold important and prioritize. Value was actually the original title of Tomorrow, and that theme remains in the project as it is today. Adversity puts us under a microscope and clarifies the things we hold dear. So these challenges the O’My’s faced proved necessary, actually benefiting the completion of Tomorrow and in their own lives.
Tomorrow and Values
Tomorrow puts the O’My’s cards on the table, exploring the values they hold dear, where they fall short and what they’re humble enough to work on. People are at the center. The cornerstone of Tomorrow is an intro off of the second to last track “Walkout” - a recorded phone call with Maceo’s Grandmother. She recalls their family’s relationship with music, a tool to stay connected, sharing intimate moments with those closest.
“I decided to use that space to call my grandmother, who was really the first person that I saw sing in my life, her and her sister and my grandfather. Me and all the grandchildren were in Virginia, and it was the first time I saw music not on the radio, but something used in daily life to share joy and experience together, build bonds and give some sort of love. That always stuck with me.”
Her words tell a simple, beautiful story - “We sang together quite often. It just wasn’t on Sunday but thats when we got together as a family. And we all participated doing something together. We would just have like a second service. Somebody would pray, somebody speak, somebody would sing and just have a good time. We enjoyed that, family time together.”
Tomorrow is fascinated by interpersonal relationships, whether paying respect or expressing regret. Bitter sweet ‘Starship’, “Nina Fresa” and “Baskets” take people for granted, victims of discontent (on “Baskets”, nailing the refrain that “You want a rock sweeter than honey…”). Inner life is also explored, most notably by “Idea”, where Maceo and Chance The Rapper put faith into words.
“We knew it was either going to be a Chance verse, or just my vocals. He was the only person that could deliver and connect to the narrative in that way. We knew he could do it, because he’s that raw.” Nick puts it even more simply - “the song didn’t need a rapper, it just needed Chance.”
Throughout Tomorrow, Nick and Maceo tap into the values that define who they are. “The things that are central are people, and more particularly, family. Family being blood family and chosen family. Those connections, maintaining them and putting love into them, the joy you get reciprocating them, those are at the highest value. Then other things, like responsibility and justice and struggle, relationships…”
In the background of Tomorrow is Nick and Maceo’s push towards independence, meeting their own expectations. “Another thing I was aware of falling short of was also just my own work. What I expect from myself. That was really what a lot of this project was about...pushing ourselves to really be accountable to what we’re trying to do and the music we’re trying to make. Be a little more intentional. When we were living together, it wasn’t intentional, it was just happening and we we’re making shit. If it’s sounded cool, we liked it. It’s a lot easier, especially trying to figure out how to live in the world, if you have a grasp and what you want to be and how far you are away from it.”
Values Going Forward
Tomorrow is here, and the lessons they’ve received over the last few years can guide them for years to come, if they choose. In their personal lives, they’re learning to truly respect valued relationships. “Friendships, relationships, just life. You can’t have time for everybody in your life, so figuring out how to do that is difficult. Of course, that’s also part of what being human is...valuing those precious moments you spend with other people, where you have connections that you can’t make them again - they belong to those moments. Valuing those moments gives you a lot more perspective on what’s important.”
Appreciating their talents, respecting their gifts. For Maceo, part of this was losing his voice. “I learned to respect it, appreciate it and not take it for granted. That taught me to take care of it better, and reintroduced me to my voice, myself...getting to know that part of yourself again is something I hadn’t done since high school.” There’s also the aspect of honoring his voice figuratively, and not “falling short of...my own work. What I expect from myself. That was really what a lot of this project was about...pushing ourselves to really be accountable to what we’re trying to do and the music we’re trying to make. Be a little more intentional.”
Their newfound independence allowed them to both work on developing voices of their own, making for songwriting on Tomorrow (lyrically, musically) that was stronger than ever. “When we were living together, it wasn’t intentional, it was just happening and we we’re making shit. If it’s sounded cool, we liked it. It’s a lot easier, especially trying to figure out how to live in the world, if you have a grasp and what you want to be and how far you are away from it.”
Change meant growth, “the growth as people, that comes from moving on from a period of life that’s your 20’s...the majority of our 20’s, the early / college years, were spent in a house together. It was something that was lifted from us both, getting out of that bachelor pad situation that causes you to the next step of growth as individuals. Us developing our own lives and homes.”
Now Tomorrow is out, a long journey ends and the next begins. Breathing a sigh of relief, Nick is able to keep it all in perspective, bringing it back to the community that makes what they do possible.“I’ve been feeling very very grateful this last week. I try to always remain grateful, I think we both have so many people in our corner and we have as the band for so long, that it’s just - it’s been a good week. Getting to enjoy it with all those people was a good couple days right there.”