Basically, my late teens/early 20's were one big functional depression.
Basically, my late teens/early 20’s were one big functional depression. Right after high school, I attempted to move to New York City to be a big star and I and I failed miserably. By “failed miserably” I mean, I’d been in New York for less than 24 hours before I was back in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Prior to “moving” I’d quit my job at the movie theatre and I told everyone I was gonna move to New York and be famous and most everyone believed me (or at least they didn’t voice their disbelief to my face.) In retrospect, I was high on other people’s confidence in me. + I’d been accepted to a film acting school in New York so I was really feelin’ myself. When I got to New York with like $200, nowhere to live and no real plan and my dreams came crashing down on my head I had to call my Mom and tell her that I’d failed and that she was right and please, please, please help me. To this day, it’s the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make. My mom freaked. In two hours she had me on the first plane back to Denver, Colorado and a few hours after that, I was back at her apartment sitting on the couch wondering what the fuck had just happened to me. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. I didn’t wanna show my face in public for fear I’d see someone who’d say “I thought you were moving to New York.” For about a month I stayed home, watching porn and sitcoms and eating junk food. When I was done moping I started working a string of 9 to 5’s. When I wasn’t doing that I was partying with friends or hanging out at the hookah lounge or trying to get laid. It was fun I guess, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I was running around but I was really going anywhere. I was a busy body but I wasn’t really doing anything. I had all these ideas and feelings that desperately wanted to be expressed. There was a whole multiverse of information inside of me waiting for a big bang. I’d written songs before. As early as age 5 or 6 I remember locking myself in the bathroom and making up songs. I’d daydream about all these albums I wanted to make. I started committing songs to paper around age 13. By the time I turned 18 I’d probably written about 10 albums worth of songs. I’d just never recorded an actual album. I was sure I would. I guess I was just waiting for a record label to come along and legitimize my ideas and ambitions. The idea of doing it myself hadn’t entered my mind. Once I was back in The Springs, and before I realized what I was doing, I went diy. I just started using whatever resources I had around to bring my ideas into being. My Aunty Tonya had just gotten a new Mac and showing up at her house around 7pm and staying in her guest room until 2, 3, 4, 5 in the morning making music. The concept of saving up money for a MIDI keyboard hadn’t occurred to me at that point so I used the musical typing function for tracking instruments. So on the keyboard “A” was C, “W” was C#, “S” was D and so on. I recorded vocals by singing directly into the computer microphone. I became determined to find my voice, to express myself even if I didn’t have all the tools I needed. That was one of the things that brought me out of the dark place I’d been in. I don’t wanna sound corny but in that way, music saved me. It really did. My music. The music of others. I started going to Independent Records to buy CDs pretty regularly. It was then that I became intimately familiar with albums that changed my life. N.E.R.D.’s Seeing Sounds resonated with me immediately musically. It was innovative. Eclectic. Gorillaz Demon Days spoke volumes about the times and was just artistically excellent. Joni Mitchell’s Blue expressed the nuances of all the loneliness, sadness and longing I’d been feeling in ways that I didn’t know were possible. The first listen brought me to the brink of tears. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue literally sounded like various shades of blue dancing around. Chester French’s Love The Future was miles away from the sort of “alternative” music that was popular at the time in all the best ways. Janelle Monae’s Metropolis and The Archandroid spoke directly to my soul, my body and my mind. It felt like something from the past and the future all at once. Tom Waits’ SwordfishTrombones. Fuck. A cab driver turned me on to The Beach Boys Surfs Up. I started buying my favorite childhood albums and getting lost in them like I used to. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope and Mariah Carey’s Butterfly to name a couple. I dug into The Beatles. I was really enthralled with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I started searching albums on wikipedia to learn more about the processes, the artists and all of the things that have to occur to make a great album possible. That’s where I came across the term “concept album.” It was something I’d always wanted to make (and albums that fell under that category always resonated with me) but until then I didn’t know there was a term for it. By then I’d attempted like four or five concept albums. I would write out tracklists and think of titles and draw sketches of what the cover art would be like. I always wanted to make these really intricate, ambitious, conceptual, magnum opus types of albums that had the power to change the people who heard them. That’s why finishing S.I.N. [Act I] is huge for me. Not only is it a concept album but it distills many different ideas into one cohesive whole. There’s a central message about the liberation of the body, the mind and the soul from wickedness in high places and the limits of paradise. I’m proud to have accomplished something that feels like it’s been a lifetime in the making. Now that it’s done I have a much better idea of what I wanna do. To create while maintaining my autonomy. To be true to the visions that are revealed to me. To provoke thought and inspire change through my work. To reach as many as people as possible with my message (with my integrity intact.) I’m glad the New York thing didn’t work out. It’s been challenging but weathering the adversity has given me an awareness of who I am as an artist and as a human being that’s invaluable. I don’t need someone to cosign on me. I don’t need a certain level of notoriety or financial backing to make a full length concept opus (although financial backing would be fucking great and I’m certainly not ruling out that possibility completely.) With the help of a lot of people, I made a concept opus. And I’ll do it again. I’m glad that the New York thing went down how it did. I’m not sorry I tried. And I’m glad to say I’m as ambitious and resourceful now as I was then. But I no longer think that moving to a certain city or signing a certain deal will be what makes me. And I’m not really interested in impressing people like I was back then. In my artistic life, my primary focus is creating. From the inside out. More importantly, I’ll never arrive. My success won’t be a singular event. It’s a journey. Everyday, every time I create, piece by piece, I realize myself.
To anyone reading this, if there’s something you know you’re meant to do, just do it. Start where you are. Focus on the work that gives you joy. The work that’s essential to your evolution. You have the tools. And any tools you need that you don’t currently have will come to you as soon as you start doing what you’re supposed to do.
P.S. I keep saying I’m gonna drop my concept single + music video + album soon. I really will. Soon. Soonish.