Billy Otto is a unique, authentic and wonderfully creative human being. An absolute breath of fresh air, on the cusp of something big.
The world needs Billy Otto right now and Billy Otto actually loves the fucking world right back - all of it, every single bleeding bit of it.
He's been healing wounds and making music with his contagious effervescent energy that is epitomised in his brilliant new single - "California".
With Billy you can feel the pain and at the same time be totally uplifted and soothed. Very few songwriters can do this but Billy has this magic in his soul.
We wanted to know more about this energetic young man, his wildest dreams and his former life that inspired the sound and story of Billy Otto's "California".
"CALIFORNIA" is available to listen to now.
Hi Billy Otto How are you?
JON! I’m fucking well. Oh, actually today I got a little bit in my head over lockdown stuff. But all in all, I’m so grateful for my lifestyle, for my truth, for my health, my gorgeous partner. I cry tears of joy most days. I’ve just eaten some organic food, done some stretching and meditation. slept well. Part of me just knows that today is going to be the best day of my life.
Where do we find you today and what are you listening to right now? How does that music make you feel?
Right now I’m sitting in the radiant sun on a petal chair in my backyard. I’ve already surfed this morning but still needed some extra late arvo rays. I’m listening to TYCHO. They’re possibly my favourite all-time electronic band. I met the lads backstage at Splendour a few years back. Beautiful humans. The music is mesmerising, organic, visceral and ethereal. It always brings me back to living in the USA. When I listen to TYCHO I think less about my worries and completely fall into a state of flow and primal connection. I’m awake, aware and inspired to run my course.
Congratulations on your new song release. We absolutely love the hypnotic and powerful melodic vibrations of the new track “California.”
Your vocals really bring on the overall Billy Otto authentic passion that melts through the melody too.
Can you tell us about the song please. This lyric from the start grabs our attention. “She’s high like a satellite and I’m waiting on the other side...destroyed like her appetite” How did you come to write this song and can you tell us the back story please?
Yeah, I was in such a fucking low estate. A few months before I wrote California I literally wanted to die. I’d lost hope. My Californian ex-fiance stated to me that she wanted to leave the relationship a second time. It was like a deep re-immersion back into that trauma of which I’d thought I’d left.
She’d gone back to Cali because of the sudden Covid restrictions. And I was suspended between Sydney and the thought of moving to Byron land. Yeah, I felt like moving to Byron was the best thing for my head with all the unknowns of potential singleness. I needed some space from familiarity.
“She's high like a satellite, I’m waiting on the other side” is riffing on those feelings of anger and abandonment. Chrisy (my ex) had suddenly left, and had not completely communicated to me that she still wanted to be with me. I guess many of us can resonate with that feeling of sitting in limbo because of a lovers indecision. But what made things even more difficult was the concept of a pandemic. WTF is a pandemic? What does it mean for travel? My/our future? The idea of staying together and not seeing each others face for over a year was also fucking scary.
Something was then calling me to embrace the pain, to let go and to surrender. California begins with an observation of a struggling and terminal relationship.
It then begins to extrapolate on my own inner process of embracing change and completely believing that my ex-love did nothing wrong, but followed her heart intuition. My desire now is that we both completely feel free and in alignment with this inner divinity.
I was supposed to move to LA last year. I’d travelled to the US over 20 times for work and for love, and for years I’d dreamt on becoming a pop producer in the city of angels. And then life happened. But even thought I’m not there right now, I feel peace. I’m right here where I need to be. What happened in the past is perfect. Right now I’m shoeless, present, in flow, barefoot and frothy AF, and this is also perfect. My understanding of presence and now-ness has gone to a whole new heavenly height.
Considering the history of the song do you still have an affinity or need to move to California or do you feel you’ve evolved from that feeling or emotion?
Who knows what the future holds.. Especially with the world shutting down. I feel like I could stay in Byron forever. I want to marry Sylvie (my partner), I want to have kids with her. I want to have land here and build a house. But something is still calling me to LA. I don’t know if I’d want to live there in the longterm. But I’d love to have a community base there to be able to go back to annually for writing sessions.
I’ve got so many good friends in Cali and the standard of musician ship is so high. I’d honestly dream to be able to produce/write music with some of the A listers of the industry and they all end up in LA at some point. The energy there is insane; beautifully competitive, hustle vibes, Tarantino-esque buildings everywhere and the charm of Venice Beach.
What was your affinity with California prior to this song experience?
My brother lived in San Diego with his wife for 5 years. I used to tour in the US at least once a year, and I’d also have him host me for a portion of those tour trips in Southern California. My fiancé was from Newport Beach so I’d been connected with a lot of her family and community and had some amazing experiences.
I was also a preacher boy in another life. 8 years ago I was getting flown around the world to preach Jesus to young people, and California was a hotspot for my Jesus crowd. This crew in San Francisco wanted me to become a Pastor there lol.
I ended up being a minister in Chicago for sometime. Wild. My lifestyle and beliefs are much different now.. But God bless you all!
You appear to have really found your legend self since moving to Byron Bay. What do you love about the northern rivers region?
Have you read The Alchemist? The idea of finding your personal legend is expressed so profoundly in that book. Just finished reading it recently. Earth-shattering literary medicine.
Oh Byron.. Bunjalung Country sure has a special energy to it. I feel so at home here. My life has slowed down so much, my network of friends and surrogate family has exploded. it’s just so easy to find fam that are on a similar journey to yourself - open minded, soft hearted, expansive in rhetoric, practical in consciousness. Social and environmental justice is part of the fabric of locals here. We meet less at pubs and more at the ocean.
Right now I’m doing office admin overlooking a farm observing native birds and noisy cows, and the sun is setting gloriously. What is life? Blessed yes blessed..
What’s a typical day in the life of Billy Otto right now?
Snuggle with Sylvie
Surf with Kyle Lionhart at Brunswick
Get chai with Kyle Lionhart at Brunswick (Old Maids) Emails
Go for run
Have you had any negative experiences there?
When I first moved to Byron I lived with someone that was pretty wild. She was really emotionally unstable and told me some really mean things. It messed with me for a bit. I became quite sullen over it for a couple of weeks. But yeah, she was working through some karma I suppose. At the end of the day, moments like these become really important curriculum for us, tools to elevate.. initiation..
Have you got a song about Byron baes coming out soon too? :)
Yep! Netflix commissioned me to write a song for them after they took me out for breakfast. I
co-wrote it with Dazza from Savage Garden and goes like this:
“I would fly you to the moon and back If you'll be if you'll be my baeby
Got a ticket for a world where
So would you be my baeby Ooh-ooh”
As an activist and songwriter what do you feel passionate about now that needs attention in consideration of the environment and society in the Byron community or Australia as a whole?
I’m super passionate about bringing awareness about overfishing. I believe that Big Fishing corporations don’t really want the pubic to know how much they are truly decimating our beloved ocean through their rapid depletion of critical biomass, their by-kill, their plastic nets getting left behind (a shit load of plastic waste comes from big fishing.)
I’m also really fired up about the #stopPep11 campaign. My good friends Damo Cole and Seano Doherty are leading the charge to stop oil and gas drilling happening off the coast of Newcastle,m Central Coast and Sydney. A spill is going to annihilate the intricate and fragile oceanic ecosystems that flow there.
My song “Can’t take the Ocean out of Me” has been used for their campaigning, as it was used for the #fightforthebight campaign.
Big oil and gas are huge giants, powerful as fuck. But I think we have a chance. The high vibrations are on the rise.
Where is your favourite travel destination in the world?
Brazil! Miss those hugs and big smiles. Toured there 4 times and it still feels like a second home. Brazil was the country that helped “break” me as an artist. I’d never really built such a strong fanbase in a country before. I’m indebted to my Brazileiros. Minha Familia.. Minhas pessoas..
We love your positive attitude and your very refreshing, loving masculine nature. How do you fire up your positive energy each day?
Start the day with gratitude. Sometimes I write down my thankfulness for the day. Sometimes I just declare it to my partner or to the universe. I abundant joy and embrace of life and humanity emanates from this place of gratefulness. Keep your phone on airplane mode and sit in that space crazy awesome gratitude.
Have you got any advice to maintaining mental health during this lockdown and covid time?
The mainstream media and social media algorithms want us to stay addicted to our phones. This is not cool. They want us to tribalism, demonise, polarise; to hate our friends.
I think it’s a good time to sit in silence and get into nature as much as we are able. I often listen to frequency music, sitar, didgeridoo, sound bowls.. These sonic tools help me to get out of my head and back into my body.
Oh, and if your in love, make lots of love. My sex life has been amazing in lockdown. Let the passionate love flow.
How are you handling lockdown? Not being able to tour, meet and entertain new people and generally spread the love of your music must be difficult but this can also be an excellent time to study or learn more about yourself or pick up new skills.
Honestly... I’m so so happy. My tour was canceled (again) but I’m really taking this time as a gift from the gods to knuckle down on my projects and creative endeavours. I’m finishing songs, and honing deeply into my craft. I literally have songs and ideas overflowing everyday. There’s honestly not enough time in a day to manifest them all. I really do miss touring though. I hope it becomes a thing once more.
Sylvie is a professional painter, and she’s quite the prodigal. I also paint and I think I’ll probably start building some of my figurative works into an exhibition.
I’m doing a bunch of co-labs with different artists around the world. Having time off the road means that I have time to work with producers in the dance and house world (for example), which is something I’ve just not had the time and headspace for.
What are you doing to entertain, learn and enjoy during lockdown?
Do you have any advice for people to help them come to terms or feel satisfied during lockdown?
I recently signed up to Gaia TV and I’ve been deep diving with alien stuff. It’s wild! I’m so fucking far down the rabbit hole with extraterrestrial shit. It’s great.
I’ve been digging deeply into pre-history with books by the great anthropologist Graham Hancock. I’m a huge history addict and I’ve been really delving into lost civilizations in North, South and Central America and their links to Egypt, Australia, and Polynesia.
To anyone who’s taking notes from this convo, I reckon staying off porn has been really good for me. I used to indulge in it as a teenager and through chapters of my twenties.. But it doesn’t serve me anymore. Engaging in that activity really really stifles my creative flow and I feel like shit.
Get outside, study the birds, write your friend a poem, build your business online, listen to Blondie.. Just get creative! Use this time to incubate and go inward. Never in the worlds history have we had such a moment to cocoon, to get back in that beautiful chrysalis and re-emerge in wonder, fire and light.
We dig your style too. A mix of a Ian Curtis (Joy Division), Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and of course original Billy Otto. How would you describe your style and what’s some of your favourite style pieces?
Dude all those names are idols of mine! Chuffed.. I’ve travelled over 50 countries, read tonnes of books and immersed myself in urban and regional sub-cultures. I think I just love finding that balance between the organic and the gritty, the country/coastal and the urban/city. I’m addicted to op-shops and will purchase vintage clothing until I die.
Fashion is just another form of art. As long as it doesn’t become of attachment, it’s great. Since breaking out of the toxic masculine realm of my Rugby League town (Newcastle) I’ve been able to come to terms with my sacred feminine; and I just love earrings, long hair, cardigans, jackets, sharing the wardrobe with Sylvie, hats.. I have a Vogue 100 book on my studio desk.
But I think I’ll be tightly linked up with traditional rock n roll styles from the late 70s and early 80s. I love band shirts, I love bootleg black jeans. I’m just always mindful of the waste that emanates from the fashion industry and want to do my best to work with brands that think and work ethically.
What are your vices and how do you release energy?
I like drinking coffee, but I’m trying to take a few weeks of the stuff each month.
I used to get sucked into eating lots of vegan organic chocolate treats. Nowadays I’m trying combat that with eating lots of fruit! lol. I’m such a fucking sweet tooth.
I love breathing deeply in the mornings. Wim Hoff changed my life a few years back, and breath-work has become an important tool for releasing energy everyday.
What can we find you listening to on a Friday night mate?
The Beatles are my all-time favorite band. And they are my anthem for most weekends. I’m cranking “Let It Be” the album at the moment. Lennon and Harrison are my dudes; a huge well of inspiration and reference for my "songsmithing".
What instruments do you play overall?
I play all mainstream instruments except for strings. Like, I’m known for being a guitarist, vocalist and bass player, but I also play saxophone and piano and drums and mandolin and banjo and slide guitar. I love producing other artists because i get to play so many different and weird instruments.
Have you got a favourite source of affection that inspires your musical intuition?
Every morning I wake up on a farm with Sylvie - we snuggle, kiss, watch the sunrise, whisper our affection to each other.. at the moment she is my fave source of affection. She inspires songs of mine every week.
The ocean is the source of all source however. Surfing everyday is church for me - every wave is a liturgy of its own, every plunge is its own sacred hymn. Every day that I come out of the water I start singing something. It’s like a magical vortex of sorts.
What makes you satisfied and content each day Billy?
It’s believing my truth that I am a soul who has chosen this body. My soul wants to experience things. It wants delve into connection and beautiful nuances of human connection. I just know that I’m doing exactly what I’m called to at this point. I have never experienced that kind of clarity before. As a man standing in my sacred masculine I feel strong, anchored, frothy for the morning light and zealous for social change. I think my embrace of the idea of “now” has forever changed my demeanor.
We are really looking forward to watching you perform live soon. Any intended tours coming up once we can roam the streets again?
All of my California Tour shows were cancelled.. Praying for a fresh run of shows in November/ December if borders can stay open!
All the very best and Thankyou. Have a great day.
Listen to CALIFORNIA
Billy Otto - @billyotto
About Billy Otto
“Billy Otto is a Byron Bay based singer-songwriter, record producer, mental health
advocate, surfer and environmental activist. With his confessional lyrics, sun-drenched vocals and earnest desire to inspire his audiences, it doesn’t take long to feel enamored with the exquisite, ethereal sound he’s crafted over the past seven years. Having sold out his last Australian headline tour in early 2021, his coastal sonic lands somewhere between Radiohead and Tame Impala; his thrilling live show landing him support shows for the likes of Yumi Zouma and Kyle Lionhart. Having journeyed the globe writing,
performing and speaking across over 50 countries, Billy feels that creating music and community is his pen-ultimate mode of joy and nourishment.
Having played to thousands of fans across Brazil, Japan, Sweden, North America and Australia, his eclectic infusion of dream pop, psychedelic and folk have been known to bring his audiences into a trance and to facilitate an even deeper sense of unity and connectedness. Otto is no stranger to indie music blogs and streaming platforms having racked up a plethora up millions up streams over his short career.
Billy has been privileged to collaborate with members from iconic Australian bands
such as The Temper Trap, Gang of Youths, Sticky Fingers and The Beautiful Girls. His heart for the environment is strong, and his music and activist voice has been used for environmental campaigns in collaboration with the Surfrider Foundation. Recently his song “Can’t Take TheOcean Out Of Me” was harnessed for a monumental nationwide paddle-out campaign to protect the South Australian coastline from irresponsible oil drilling. The song was picked up by Patagonia for their latest activist documentary. Expect to see and erhar plenty more from Billy Otto"