Musician in the making: O’Reilly (12)’s artistic journey


Aashana Hari Staff Artist

Kate Beckler and Naomi Yaeger

In seventh grade, Dylan O’Reilly (12) first began spending time in the school’s music studio. “It was only juniors and seniors in there, and I was this little kid,” he said. “But I wanted to make music, so I sat in on the sessions, they taught me stuff, and I eventually started recording my own music.”

O’Reilly started on his path towards songwriting in the Middle Division (MD) by writing and performing rhymes for his friends, he said. The summer before eighth grade, O’Reilly recorded and released his first album Endless. O’Reilly released his first published song “Phone Calls” at the beginning of 8th grade, he said. Five years later, O’Reilly has recorded and published 20 songs with several in the works. 

Last summer, O’Reilly began working on his most recent releases, one of which is his newest song “Palace,” he said. “It’s darker and eerier than anything I’ve released so far, and it encapsulates how I’ve been feeling internally,” he said. “It’s a pretty unique song and it has sort of a lonely moody vibe to it.” Once it’s finished, O’Reilly plans on releasing an album that includes “Palace,” he said. “I don’t really want to give away too many details, but I’ll say that it’s a lot different from music I’ve released in the past.” 

“Palace” and his other song “Modern Life is Boring” are available on Spotify and Apple Music under his stage name “oreilly.wav.” O’Reilly worked with his friend and Horace Mann graduate Arjun Swarup to produce “Palace,” setting the tone for the album he plans to release. 

Generally, O’Reilly’s songs are composed of different musical sections. A standard rap, a genre he often works in, has a chorus, different verses, and a refrain. “I like to think of a verse as what you really want to say in a song,” he said. In most rap songs, a verse is between 16 and 32 measures while a refrain is a phrase that is repeated throughout the song, O’Reilly said. 

During the song writing process, O’Reilly tends to collaborate with friends. Last year on Valentine’s Day, he released a song with Wavehill Collective featuring his own verse and refrain, he said. Wavehill is a seven person band started by Jacob Shaw (12) that formed for the purpose of creating the song, “Love.” When writing his verses, O’Reilly said he used his intuition as a guide. “I really just wrote the lyrics based on how I was feeling at the time.” 

O’Reilly has become more comfortable with writing music and believes this will shine through in his upcoming projects. “The songs are more personal and they come from a real place,” he said.  When he first started making music as a freshman and sophomore, O’Reilly was not looking to find his unique style. “I was just trying to sound like everybody else,” he said. 

Although O’Reilly’s favorite part of songwriting is working on the lyrics, writing the song is only half of the work to getting it published. “After a song is recorded, it has to be mixed and mastered so that it actually sounds good,” O’Reilly said. “After I have the final master of the song, I’ll upload it to a website called Distrokid and choose a release date.” After Distrokid approves the song, it sends the song, artwork, and credits to the streaming services O’Reilly requested.

For his songs, O’Reilly takes inspiration from other artists including Kanye, Tyler, Kevin Abstract, Playboi Carti, Childish Gambino, David Bowie, and Prince. Through pulling inspiration from rappers, O’Reilly incorporates many musical genres and styles in his music, he said. 

In the future, O’Reilly sees himself pursuing a career in music while incorporating his other creative goals as well, such as screenwriting. “My goal is to combine all those elements into one thing or multiple projects down the line,” he said.

Ultimately, O’Reilly aims to make his music a way for listeners to feel supported and comforted. “I like artists who can connect with their audience or deliver a message that’s real,” he said. He strives to provide a similar experience for his listeners. “I just want to create a safe space where people feel understood and inspired.”