Rex Orange County is Tyler, The Creator’s secret weapon on Flower Boy. His dreamy, searching vocals usher us between Tyler’s verses on opening track “Foreword” and his spritely cadence demands attention on album highlight, “Boredom.”

Growing up in Haslemere, a suburb of Surrey, England, Rex’s earliest musical memories are as a five year old in the choir—singing at the school where his mother worked. Yet, his proper musical renaissance happened around age sixteen. 

Following a move to London, his transition from small town to big city living led to a slew of music discoveries all at once, prompting him to start making his own. Among those new influences was Tyler, The Creator.

So how did Tyler go from major influencer to collaborator? As it turns out, Tyler is a bonafide Rex Orange County fan.

Rex excitedly explains the roots of their connection: “He had emailed me in the summer of last year. He told me he liked my songs, and which ones he liked the most. I didn’t believe it was him, initially, but then he hit me on Twitter. We were talking for a while, which is crazy for me because I was one of those kids who was a big fan. Through him I found The Internet, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank, and all of them. Tyler was a big influence to me even before we worked together, so when we started working it was like 'Wow!'"

Collaborating with Tyler challenged Rex’s own creative process. After finishing “Boredom,” they had a studio day left over and Tyler suggested Rex lay vocals for “Foreword.” Unlike “Boredom,” where Tyler had the lyrics ready and was waiting on Rex’s voice, “Foreword” still needed to be written. 

“'Foreword,' which opens the album, was my first experience of writing on the spot, in the studio,” Rex explains. “I gave it a go and we spent a couple of hours on it—by the end it was the one. The pressure of wanting to have my voice on the album made me write better than I ever had. I’d never written off-top in front of other people, but now I have.”

Since the release of Flower Boy, Rex’s music has reached a wider audience, directing new ears to his excellent 2017 Apricot Princess album.

While it is titled after a pet name for his girlfriend and singer, Thea, the album is much more than a collection of love songs. Apricot Princess is an endearing rumination on Rex Orange County’s emotional state, combining deceptively dark moments with somber pivots on songs like “Untitled” and “Never Enough.” 

Pointing out a difference between Tyler's album and his own, Rex says, "Flower Boy is quite an outdoor album. You hear it and feel like you’re riding around on a bicycle, surrounded with trees and it’s really sunny. Apricot Princess is like an inside album. You can listen to the album and feel all of those emotions within one night. It can be happy and dancey, and then you can think of something that you’ve fucked up on."

Looking to build on his recent success, Rex tells us, “I want to make myself better and get working with some of my biggest influences,” and mentions that Young Thug is one of his dream collaborators.

Listen to Apricot Princess below and continue for our full interview with Rex.

What’s your earliest music memory?

Singing in the choir when I was five or six years old. It was at this school that my mom was working at, and I ended up spending time there and singing when I was super young.

How has being from Haslemere colored your music?
 
I had a delayed reaction to finding a load of good music. When I fifteen or sixteen and was in London, moving from a small town and now going to a big city, I discovered so much new music. Finding all of that music and being inspired that much all at once, that was the benefit of being from a small place.

Was that what initially prompted you to begin making music?
 
Definitely! I was playing drums before that period happened, and as soon as I heard all the new music, I started to sing.

Could you imagine making music without having moved to London?
 
Yes! But I wouldn’t be here today. I’d still be playing music and making music somehow, but going to London was for sure the point at which I was inspired to take it more seriously.

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Image via Rex Orange County

How did you and Tyler end up working together on Flower Boy?
 
He had emailed me in the summer of last year. He told me he liked my songs, and which ones he liked the most. I didn’t believe it was him, initially, but then he hit me on Twitter. We were talking for a while, which is crazy for me because I was one of those kids who was a big fan. Through him I found The Internet, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank, and all of them. Tyler was a big influence to me even before we worked together, so when we started working it was like “Wow!” Then talking got to a point where he asked me to sing on a song and I said, “Of course.”

'APRICOT PRINCESS' IS like a big party where everything is super positive, but at the same time you’re going through all of these emotions.

How did working with Tyler challenge your own process?
 
“Foreword,” which opens the album, was my first experience of writing on the spot, in the studio. I had never done that. We’d done “Boredom,” but he had written that part and just wanted me to sing it. Then he realized we had another studio day and asked me what I wanted to do. He told me he had another song for me, if I wanted to try it. There were no vocals, so I had to write something. I gave it a go and we spent a couple of hours on it—by the end it was the one. The pressure of wanting to have my voice on the album made me write better than I ever had. I’d never written off-top, in front of other people, but now I have.

How has your career changed since the album’s release?
 
I would definitely thank Tyler, because there’s no doubt that I’ve reached a wider audience. I think I’m still doing the same things day to day, making music and being myself. It hasn’t changed me at all, but this will probably be important for my career in the long-run.

Did the making of Flower Boy cross over into the making of your latest album Apricot Princess?
 
When I first went out to meet him, I had a lot of Apricot Princess ready. I had the first ideas made, and then having gone out to work with him, for sure his process and his mind made me write certain other bits of the album.

You’ve said that these two words (Apricot Princess) have captured how you’ve been feeling for the past year.
 
It’s a phrase that I named my girlfriend, Thea. She’s a singer as well, and she’s on “Sycamore Girl.” The words are associated with the things I’m talking about on the album.

Now I think more carefully. I want songs to mean a million different things, rather than me just saying that I’m really fucking sad.

How did your approach to writing Apricot Princess differ from bcos u will never b free?
 
Bcos u will never b free was really aggressive and I wasn’t worried about how people were going to take certain lyrics. I was super open with what I was saying. It wasn’t any different production wise, but lyrically I didn’t think bcos was going to get me to where I am today. Now I think more carefully. I want songs to mean a million different things, rather than me just saying that I’m really fucking sad. At that point, that was what I wanted people to see, but I’m not there anymore.

I can feel that care in the pivots, when you flip the emotion after “Untitled,” and tackle death on “Never Enough.”

I was talking about this the other day, actually. For instance, Flower Boy is quite an outdoor album. You hear it and feel like you’re riding around on a bicycle, surrounded with trees and it’s really sunny. Apricot Princess is like an inside album. You can listen to the album and feel all of those emotions within one night. It can be happy and dancey, and then you can think of something that you’ve fucked up on. Then you’re upset and regret something, and then you remember that there are other things in your life to reflect on them. That’s “Never Enough” and “Waiting Room.” But “Sycamore Girl,” “Apricot Princess,” and “Television” as the happier moments. It’s like a big party where everything is super positive, but at the same time you’re going through all of these emotions.

Your approach to genre is equally as fluid. Do you keep genre in mind when you make your music?
 
I don’t think about genre at all, especially not now. I may have in the past, but on Apricot Princess and from now on, I don’t put a label on things. As long as there are nice chords and keys, and it feels right, that’s what I care about. I want nice songs. I don’t want to worry about where I have to place songs on a playlist. I’m looking to make genuine, great songs and put them together into albums.

You mention your girlfriend, Thea, what other roles does she play in your music?
 
She influenced a lot of the emotions and songs on the album, but she’s her own person. If she wants to make another song together, that’s what will happen. We are just lucky to be with each other and make our own music.

Where do you see yourself going from Apricot Princess and Flower Boy, what’s the next emotion you’re going to capture?
 
I would probably maintain the spectrum of emotions to be able to talk about positive and negative things, not just love songs. I would love to expand and challenge my own lyrics. I want to make myself better and get working with some of my biggest influences, and make the best music I can.

What’s your dream collab?

Probably Young Thug. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I really do want it to happen.