New Beginnings/Old Friends, Album Update, & The Book Report

New freestyle. We filmed this off to the side on the set of the Fingerprints music video (that song and video are coming up next). I’ve thought a lot about this concept, new beginnings old friends. It’ll surely be making an appearance on the new album in some form. I find myself still trying to start things over with people in my life who are long gone. I find myself waiting around, hoping to extract more than there is out of relationships that have fossilized years ago. But maybe it’s never too late to search for new beginnings with old friends.

Much love and hope you dig this.

New beginnings, old friends.
Directed by Brian Petchers.
Album on the way.
Andres Vahos on percussion
Gabe Valle on mandolin
Me on vocals and guitar

I’ve been at my desk lately, tying up the remainder of the album which has been my lifeblood project since 2015. At this point it is truthfully right around the corner. Sometimes I actively take time away from listening to these tracks and then I let them hit me again, from start to finish, and I get fresh perspective on the whole story and on what I originally set out to document. It’s always important to remember that and to reflect on how far you’ve come since your past. We’ve been in the mastering phase the last couple weeks and things are pretty much wrapped up. I guess at this point I’m just still getting organized in my head. I posted a short teaser clip of a song on my instagram. That’s going to be called The Only Torn-Up Boy in New York. I’m really excited about that one.

I’ve also been working on the physical copies — the design, the packaging, lots of little things that end up taking a whole day or two or three that I would never expect and could never predict. Like scanning photos, playing with them on the computer, creating the album art, getting help from Tom Flynn who can apply his sick design skills to it all. Locking down the last few videos that will capture what these songs mean to me, both literally and in a more emotional sense. Going through edits and exports.

To mark the (just about) end of the album creation phase, I wanted to share some behind the scenes snapshots from the last couple of years. Me when I first moved into my apartment, stumbling to find myself while living on my own. Me the day before shooting Break Some Ice exploring filming locations in the lower east side along the river. Me discovering a new studio I love for recording vocals in NYC. Me traveling, going to shows with my friends, visiting Ithaca NY, sending off another birthday. Me chipping away at the mountain that is about to be finalized into its adult form of 13 songs very dear to my heart…

So, scroll through these pictures of days spent in and out of the studio. This is a little invite into what my life has been the last few years and what my memories will be looking back on this time:

Goes without saying that I’m dying to officially announce this album, tell you all about it, and then get this in your hands!!!!

Lastly, The Book Report hit 1 million plays on Spotify. That’s a pretty big milestone for me. I think of The Book Report largely as my first song ever…so I find that completely wild. Until the day I die I will never forget writing that song in the bedroom at my mom’s house and finally letting that piano riff become something. I’ve heard from a lot of strangers about The Book Report and how they relate. Maybe we all relate to growing up in that way, on some level. Standing on top of our own respective suicide hills and looking out over a world filled with sorrow, confusion, very wrinkled paper towns, but still being able to see a future to come out there, a future I still believe can be endlessly forgiving of all of us.

We’ve all got higher hills to climb, regardless of our depths.

Thanks for playing this song through the years and giving its meaning a life outside of my small bedroom in that tiny upstate New York town.

Much love and I’ll be back with some good news…

photo by Tom Flynn:

The Only Living Boy in NY. New freestyle!

New video. The Only Living Boy in NY verse. I’ve sat on this verse for a while, trying to fit it into songs here and there, until eventually landing on loving it as an acapella just like this. Might make it into a song eventually.

Living in the city and facing what it means to be truly independent, both in a personal sense and in the sense of my music, has taught me a lot. They say New York changes you. Does wherever you live turn you into someone different than your hometown originally intended?

Hope you like the video. A lot more like this coming. Don’t want to keep you waiting for The Album much longer.

Directed by Brian Petchers, as usual. Shot in the freezing cold in the lower east side, NYC.


It’s downpouring
Bad thinking
On our porches
And glass ceilings
We all have issues
How come it’s
That I’m the last living boy here in New York and I’m proud of it
Paramount fears here to tear us down
Shouldn’t plan it out, damaged now, damnit, how could he
The copper train bandits and abandoned house rookies
I was cutting finger holes in my hand me down hoodies
Trying to feel something real
Something here
Something relevant
My fingertips grow cold, I give em hell again
No a-team man I’m the
Safe sea sailor stuck
No break beat battler,
No JD Salinger
No scraped clean calendar
The same grey jean Main Street traveler who’s stuck waist deep down like the
Tragic heroes that they all sold us
Watching TV with my mom from the floor of our dark ocean
Start over, heartbroken
Part old soul whispering with city park old soldiers
Part winter frozen
Trying to find footing where the road slips
Part throwing roses
Part held by clothespins
Part perfect family, part broken home kid
I don’t call for help these days nobody notices
Part eagle scout, part hopeless
I’m trying to part ways with the parts of me it’s hard to be alone with
Cuz it’s hard being alone when you’re the only living boy in New York.

"Mourn" live video is out now!

"Mourn" live is out now. Directed by Brian Petchers. I wrote this song with just a keyboard and my voice alone in my room, as I do with many of my songs, so I wanted to film a version playing it in a similar unplugged way. Brought a few friends who helped make it sound way more beautiful. Shoutout to Astoria Soundworks where we filmed this. Fully live audio captured from a one-take recording.

"Mourn" is out now. Listen everywhere:

Dylan Owen on vocals and keyboard
Chanele McGuinness on vocals
Regina Zaremba on vocals
Gabe Valle on violin
Nate Sander on acoustic guitar and trumpet
Live recording, engineering, and mixing by Enrique Mancia
Mastered by Skinny Atlas
Directed and edited by Brian Petchers

It's crowded in heaven tonight.

"Mourn" is out now. Listen on YoutubeSpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud.

When we come home, they'll name the streets after us.

For my grandpa John, that really was the case. 

Dylan Owen John Spear Way

If you ever want to see it in person, drive through Washingtonville, New York, stop at Betty's Country Kitchen, honk your horn at the blue CYO gym as you pass'll see his street sign right on main street on Route 208. It all looks pretty similar to when I used to be a kid there, dressing up in wizard capes in my cousins' basement, immortalized somewhere on home video tapes that I may never see.

There have only been a few times in my life where I wrote a line without knowing what it means and then a few years later, it ended up becoming true. When we come home they'll name the streets after us became that way. But I didn't get lucky with that one, it's because of my grandfather's once-in-a-generation dedication to the community in which he lived.

He was king of his town, a town called Washingtonville. And nothing could stop him from moving about town, not even cancer.

When we got the news, we didn't know how long to expect him to be around. But he stayed, surprised us all, fought for a while. Fought from a hospital bed and fought from a homemade hospital bed. He was deeply religious, and he of all people didn't have to give his mortality a run for its money, but he was stubborn, ritualistic, not one for giving up. He was a lot to look up to. And he seemed to think his work here wasn't done yet.

That life work was made up of a lot of things. He ran our family's printing business, Spear Printing Co., and therefore printing is embedded in so many of my childhood memories. The smell of the print shop. The countless whistling, loud machines, the dusty stacks of different sized paper, the maze of rooms and wood wall paneling...the ringing phones. It's a smell and environment you don't forget, especially when you first experience it as a kid. Everyone in our family helped out at "the Shop" at one time or another. Printing was my grandpa's career but also a way he could give back. He printed my first ever business cards for me as an "artist" when I used to sketch the same four characters again and again in the fourth grade. It was magic to see my name on a business card alongside my drawings that birthday. Years later he would be there for me when I released my first music. He printed the cover of A Living Inverse, and then a year later printed the entire album booklet for How To Stay Young. He would measure things out with scientific precision, doing machine-like math of slicing measurements in his head, often talking out loud to himself...these moments in the print shop quite literally helped bring my music into reality.

His work also included being the founder and director of the local CYO basketball program where he provided so many kids with the means to play basketball, serving as editor and publisher of the Orange County newspaper, coaching basketball and traveling with his teams until his last moments, and attending daily Mass as an altar server at the local church, all while contributing to the town planning board as a fifty-year a whole lot more.

John Spear by Dominick Fiorille

But there's a way the world sees John Spear, and then there's a way that I see my grandpa.

When I was living at home and when my grandpa was sick, I was going through a lot that I wasn't aware of at the time. Eighteen days after There's More To Life came out, my grandpa passed.

It rained so hard afterward that it seemed to suggest heaven was opening up to welcome a new member, and shaking up the clouds by doing so. Or maybe, the weather was simply mourning with us. Either way it was fitting, our family spirit was somber, but there was also a lot of work to do. Writing the perfect eulogy with my uncle, planning the luncheon for after the funeral mass, making sure the wake would be able to fit everyone who would come (no joke, thousands of people) to memorialize John. I shook almost all of their hands. So many of them had no idea who I was, and probably never will, and though they had brilliant and heartwarming memories of John, they didn't have memories of him as a grandparent.

I often feel like we don't give ourselves time to mourn.

There are a lot of things that happen that people don't talk about when somebody dies. The energy and work that goes into planning a funeral, writing a eulogy heavy enough to hold up to the life it honors, the nuances of the family members' relationships to each other, who knew the deceased the most and who deserves to do what. It makes me think: is it ever possible to memorialize someone fully, completely, and truly? What about who that person was when they were alone in front of the mirror on their sunlit mornings, filled with optimism? What about the person they may have aspired to be but never became, a projection of the person we loved that we never got to witness?

Someone in my ex-girlfriend's family had cancer, which I've hinted at in some of my songs, and I always knew when we were together that I could never fully understand what they were going through. The pain it causes when someone you love is bedridden day after day, the way it feels to constantly visit the hospital, the nuance of every day...administering medicine, the confusion of different doctors' opinions. When someone you love is sick you're constantly searching for the truth. You search for a cure in a big sense, but you also search for a way to cure every day that brings another tidal wave of pain.

Years later, just like how my lyrics about renaming the streets would become true, this circular grief would also become I became entrenched in the experience of one family member having cancer, and then watched it turn into two. And at last, finally, I felt like I understood.

John Spear Coach

Our grandparents are our couriers of memories. 

They tell us stories, and we know in the moment that someday they won't be with us anymore, and it will be up to us to remember those stories and store them in our heads to keep them alive for our children someday...yet somehow it's still hard to listen, still hard to ask the right questions and understand the details of our grandparents' lives, hard to ever understand who their first loves were, hard to ever know what is hiding deep down in their memories...

So instead, we get some little things, their idiosyncrasies, the things that stick with us for one reason or another, perhaps because they are the things that relate to us individually the most. My grandpa always mixed orange juice and cranberry juice with particular proportions that felt perfect to him, and I've since taken up the trade; he contributed to my music by printing my album covers and booklets; he lived his life as a shining example of how to give back to a community, which I admire and aspire to do; he drove me to the airport in an unforgettable race down the highway to fly to visit Annie for the first time, so he helped me fall in love; and he was a printer who worked with ink for his entire life, by writing it, by printing it, by sacrificing himself for it just as I plan to do with mine.

So rest in peace to my grandpa, and rest in peace to all of our grandparents. May we appreciate them while they're with us. Hear their stories, remain in awe of their idiosyncrasies. If I never got time to mourn, writing this is my attempt at closure. Releasing this song is my attempt at sharing what I've been through and also my personal tribute to the first grandparent I am lucky enough to miss.

I'd like to leave you with two things:

This article:
John Spear will Always Have His Way in Washingtonville:

And the original demo from which I made "Mourn." I wouldn't normally share something like this, but I want this to exist permanently somewhere, and what better place?

I hope you like it.

May all our heroes find their restless place in the sky.

I swear upon this family blanket
I swear upon my cracking skin
That this winter’s just a habit
I’m slowly getting out of it

My Grandpa’s crying over breakfast
He says this meal just doesn’t fit
I can’t stomach my food either
The weather must have made me sick

We don’t have many things in common
But tonight we’ve gotta
Don’t leave anything forgotten
It's all we do

I’m giving up my gold
I’m selling all my shit
I’d rather have nothing than grow up someday and lose everything
I’m giving up my gold
I’m selling all my shit
I’d rather have nothing than grow up someday and lose everything
I’m giving up my gold
I’m selling all my shit
I’d rather have nothing than grow up someday and lose everything

I know it’s cloudy in heaven tonight
But will you let my Grandpa in?
I know it’s cloudy in heaven tonight
But will you let my Grandpa in?
I know it’s cloudy in heaven tonight
But will you let my Grandpa in?
I know it’s crowded in heaven tonight
But will you let my Grandpa in?

break some ice, kid.

Here goes nothing.

  Photo by Liz Maney

Photo by Liz Maney

Answering an email from a stranger. To hopping on a phone call. To growing into friends. To getting coffee in the Chelsea area of Manhattan at a small, nostalgia-filled eatery that I can't remember the name of. But I remember the stained-glass coated table and most of all, I remember the idea: turning my music into a short film.

These conversations with a young director named Brian Petchers were the beginning of break some ice. But really, the making of it started much earlier, when I took a break from music publicly for a while unintentionally, when I put the microphone down to rest and started to feel most comfortable hiding my head, keeping my thoughts secret and safe on the pages of my notebook...which day by day were getting filled less and less. I went into a regretful stage of hibernation, of letting life pass me by, and of not giving myself the chance to move forward. And I regretted it even as it was happening. Has that ever happened to you?

Breaking through the ice began for me when I would think about what I wanted to say next in my music. I wanted to put all of the thoughts from this lifeless period, from these stagnant years, from my own self-criticism, from my own failure to launch during young adulthood and intangible fear of the world into one single thesis statement. I wanted to make a grand overture that could encompass everything I'd attempt to talk about in my future songs - death, love, how to heal heartbreak, being lost for what feels like forever in your twenties, looking at my childhood through the eyes of a kid the way I remember it and then again through the eyes of myself now. And a lot more. The things I want for the future and some of the things that I know I have to accept.

At the bottom, and the beginning, of those emotions, is where break some ice began.

Where it ended up is what makes me look back and feel a little bit of a knot in my throat. A good knot. A proud, but bittersweet one. I'm proud I took the things that were troubling me and turned them into something I love and that has so much meaning for me, but it is hard to not look back on the quietest years of my twenties in frustration. It's hard to not want to yell backwards into the void, to shout at the regret that started it all. To turn the nothingness into noise.

  Photo by Liz Maney

Photo by Liz Maney

So let's dive into what that nothingness was. It's probably time I share it with somebody: I waited for years for love. A perfect, superstitious love that I salute to now as something that got the best of me and that isn't coming back. I also waited years to make sense of things everyone else seemed to understand, but I never got clarity on while they were happening. Death is one of those things for me, with the passing of a close family member for the first time taking me by surprise. The strange, tropical grief season where it always rained and we set up funeral services, where I shook a few thousand hands at a packed wake, where I reminded a lot of distant relatives of my name and which son I am. The one that does music. I'll talk more about this in a few weeks. But I also waited for music itself, protesting against any kind of change, protesting any story I might want to tell, out of the fear that talking about something means it is finished for good, or it is finally complete. Not perfectionism but something different, something more like obsession. My songs become real when I share them with the world. And some of them I didn't want to be real, I didn't want those stories to potentially be over.

So my writer's block grew, from a symptom to a disorder, from a sticky note above my desk to new wallpaper that covered my entire house, the house of most of my childhood, until I had to pack up my things and leave for a new start. And so I started all over, in an apartment in New York City.

I needed a new song that could encompass the journey into and out of these emotions, these built-up concepts that had become barriers for me, in order for me to break out of them.

That song idea started with wanting to write an overture for the album, and it eventually became the short film that Brian Petchers turned it into today.

The process of making the video itself became my vehicle for getting out there and living. From drafting up ideas over email, long and inspired stream-of-consciousness style phone calls between Brian and I, setting up schedules for the endless list of friends and actors involved in the various scenes, plotting all of the invisible logistics in great detail with Regina, finding a way for a door to open on to a beach the week of the was good work, good stress, and a really fulfilling couple of months. Bringing the video to life helped wake me up and brought me back to life a bit, too.

I think it's my proudest single piece of work, all things considered, in terms of something I can press play on and feel like it explains who I am pretty wholeheartedly, or that it can serve as the film version of the movie I've been playing in my head since I was a young kid. Where love with a soulmate exists in its own universe, undisturbed, as purple and as lush as the bright lights of memory. Where everybody lives to an old age. Where everyone's life is cinematic, is unbroken, where everything makes a little more sense.

A lot of times when I'm trying to fall asleep at night...I picture myself somewhere peaceful. At the base of a mountain. Trees blocking the sky. Tucked away beneath soil and leaves and roots, that like grandparents' arms stretch out forever and are centuries old...

It's in that place where the Break Some Ice video exists for me.

So welcome to my world. I'm finally back, I've broken through a lot of things in order to be here, and I don't plan on getting so frozen up again. Where do we go from here, my friend?

My roaring twenties were quiet. This film is for anybody who has ever felt frozen in their life.
 My little brothers

My little brothers

 Me and Vlada Roslyakova in an abandoned gazebo somewhere near the beach in New York City...approximately 6AM after running on no sleep and right after shooting the beach scenes.

Me and Vlada Roslyakova in an abandoned gazebo somewhere near the beach in New York City...approximately 6AM after running on no sleep and right after shooting the beach scenes.

 Me in The Paper Room. This was my home for about 6 months after we filmed the video. I didn't want it to be over.

Me in The Paper Room. This was my home for about 6 months after we filmed the video. I didn't want it to be over.

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 4.00.29 PM.png


Directed by Brian Petchers
Co-produced by Brian Petchers, Dylan Owen, and Regina Zaremba
Edited by Brian Petchers
Art Direction by Brian Petchers and Dylan Owen
Director of Photography Jack Shanahan
First AC Jeff Clanet
2nd AC Phillip Laskaris
Drone operation by Vincent Rappa
VFX by Rafatoon
Hair & Makeup by Sam Granados
Production Assistant and on set photography by Liz Maney
Production Assistant RJ Wolak Frank
Production Assistant David Wong
Production Assistant Dominique Cortesiano

Starring: Vlada Roslyakova Dylan Owen Les Ferguson Gabe & Noah Owen Liz Lennon Tom Flynn Jessica Eve Kelly Mulvihill Javier Sanchez Julia Eckley Robert Barnes Liz Maney Tara Kane Conor Burnett Skinny Atlas Tommy McCormick Josh Angehr Jim Snyder Upgrade Tommy Owen Conor Burnett Jeff Kleinberger Josh Cseh Zaid Jangda Ali Malik Adam Malik Amaar Malik Asad Chowdhury Sameer Al-Tariq Tarek Sobhy Mike Ruckert

Deepest thank you and shoutouts to: Mom, Dad & E, Tom Flynn, Lori Petchers & Joe Plotkin, Mike Spear, Beth Oldis, Jeff Kleinberger, Tommy McCormick, Goshen Central Schools Transportation Department, Mary Spear & Spear Printing Co

Written and performed by Dylan Owen
Produced by Skinny Atlas
Mixed by Jason Moss
Mastered by Chris Gehringer
Recorded in Dylan's apartment


Here are a ton of beautiful behind-the-scenes photos by Liz Maney that capture the incredible (and endless) team of creative people who put this together.