My work has been primarily focused on writing but that has shifted over the years some. When I was in college at Colorado State I ended up getting really interested in creative nonfiction writing, so essays were big for me for awhile. That shifted in the years following college into an interest in poetry. And then the poetry ended up shifting some, I still write poetry but that kind of led me into song writing, so that’s what I've been focusing on lately.
What drives you to create?
Well I think it’s very much a spiritual relationship for me. So it’s a little bit mysterious to me, what that force is. I think it’s something that I feel like I came into the world with, that drive, it’s always been there. It took time to kind of coax it out in this society. I've always had the drive to create but I didn’t know that it could be serious work. And by serious work I just mean work that we can take as seriously as any other career work.
So that’s one piece. And then I think it’s been so long that I've been doing creative work on a constant basis that it is a part of my health and my daily practices. Another piece is that I need a way to process living and being in this world. The creative process feels to me like a distilling of all of that information and I come out the other side being able to understand more and live here better.
Can you tell me about the process of a project?
I have a really whimsical process I think. An idea will come to me and if it’s an idea that feels like it’s got a lot of potential I'll get really excited. If it’s an idea that has a lot to it, it’ll just stick with me and I'll have it in the back of my mind like a little itch or something until I resolve that.
But it’s funny I'm not working on any huge projects right now. Whereas when I first graduated from college I was really into this idea of making a section of my life into a creative project. It felt like I had put a lot of pressure on myself to create only in that way for that time. It didn’t really work, I ended up writing a bunch of poetry that was all disjointed and essays that never ended up having themes that connected them. There are essay collections that could go together that are still unfinished.
Something I love about song-writing is it takes that pressure off of me to have to relate everything to each other.
So if a song is a project then from the inception, the idea is just a line that comes into my head and it’s really interesting cause like it comes as song. I'll try to work with it immediately, if it feels like something that’s meaningful it’s really hard for me to not just be like fuck everything else I gotta go work on this.
My process is now on paper and I've been pinning it up on my wall so I can look at the pieces of it and have space to move around the verses.
What do you find humbling about creating art?
I find it humbling to share with people. It’s an energy, that creative force I don’t really understand it it’s kind of a mystery to me, in the same way that the natural world is kind of a mystery to me. That’s very humbling. I feel like I don’t have control, I can’t turn that faucet on and write something that feels really great. It’s a mystery why at times it feels really really right and at other times it feels awkward and I forget that I can even create at all.
So that’s humbling and then also just sharing yourself authentically with people, it’s a very humbling experience. I think we tend to play pretend a lot and it’s humbling to be in a space where you just show people where you really are.
Do you share most of your work with people?
Do you feel like there’s an element to sharing that becomes critical to the piece?
Well I haven’t shared most of it just because there’s a lot- there are notebooks and notebooks. If there’s a lot there and I'm really excited about it then that’s something that I want to share. I think for a lot of creatives there’s an iceberg of what they share and then this huge body of work underneath that includes a lot of stuff that had to get through.
What do you think the role of an artist is in the world?
My feeling is that it’s such an important role and that especially during times when people seem to be feeling a heightened sense of fear, I think the artist is very important and it’s important for people who are drawn to the arts to honor that for themselves.
I feel the role of the artist in the world is partially an interpretive role. Art helps me interpret the world and survive in it. To help others understand they’re not alone in their experience. Creativity for me is a force that goes around obstacles, it’s a force that’s really powerful, it can’t be stopped.
It seems like songs are really for other people, in a way that most other art forms are not. Do you feel that your story is imprinted in lyrics or is it easy to remove yourself and give it to the audience?
I think there’s an aspect of accessibility with a lot of songs that just maybe isn’t necessarily there when you’re working in the mode of poetry. Music is a part of so many different people’s lives.
For a lot of people, it is a way that poetry comes into their life that they’re not even cognizant of and that’s great. I am writing for accessibility in a way, I want people to be able to access the ideas. I'm not writing toward trying to be obscure, I want to express myself in a way that is authentic and very specific and accurate.
I heard something recently, I might have been watching a John Mayer lecture but he talked about if the audience forgets, if they’re not thinking about the situation that led you to write this song and they’re instead allowing themselves to be placed within it or if they’re creating a scene in their mind that can relate to their life then you’ve succeeded because you’ve made a space for them.
Since I was a young young child I would listen on my disc-man to music and it made a space for me and I wasn’t thinking about what this artist intended when they wrote this song, it totally plugged right into my life as a ten year old and it gave me a pipeline out of my house. I could like view the world outside of my family and that’s so valuable for people.
What do you think the greatest thing that art has ever done for you is?
I think that art has helped me to realize that I would not rather be anyone else but myself. I've been given a particular way of interpreting the world and it’s been such a gift. I wouldn’t rather have anybody else’s set of tools, that I'm really grateful for the ones that I've been given.
When did you first identify yourself as an artist?
Oh it took a long time.
There’s this strange pressure I think people feel that they have to have achieved some level of commercial success, like they have to have gotten a book published and then they’re an author. When I was in college that was a very supportive atmosphere, you’re here to do this work, do it.
And then there was this drop off afterwards and I went into society and people were like what do you do and it was such an uncomfortable question to answer. I kind of squirmed under that question for years after college.
But around the time that I started working with Wolverine Farm in Fort Collins I started saying I'm a writer and I was writing for the Fort Collins Courier and so it felt like I could legitimize this claim but that is bullshit. It’s like if you feel like you’re a writer then you are. I'm kind of slowly wading into that with, can I say I'm a musician? I definitely do not feel comfortable saying that yet. But I've been working on music all the time so it’s like how do you earn your stripes.
Ultimately I feel like it’s a bullshit thing that anyone has to earn their stripes. I think when I claim space and say it’s acceptable for me to say that I am these things then it makes a space for other people to do the same thing. It can look like a mess and still be a real thing.
What is beauty to you?
Beauty is so much to me. Beauty is paying attention. We only have to step into a state of awareness to have an endless level of inspiration that we can draw from in order to play with and create.
My main relationship in this world is to creativity. It is what my whole life starts and comes back to.
So when I see other people doing that and being brave, it’s kind of like the most beautiful thing in the world to me. And the quality of what they’re creating, as if I have the right to judge that, matters so much less to me than the act of standing up and being willing to share authentically your experience in the world and not be intimidated down by this place that we live kind of wants you to just be quiet and conform and consume. It’s hard to step outside of the pressures of the world that we live in but it’s also a practice and when I witness people doing that it definitely gives me hope.
There’s a lot of beauty here still and I try to remind myself of that when I'm like holy shit we live in a desolate wasteland. There’s such a high level of beauty that we can engage with here still.