Can you start by telling me in what ways you’re an artist?
At this point I’m working on being an artist in all ways. So not just with writing and making music, but I even now view myself as a canvas or as a project. I’ve always liked to recreate myself. It’s the one thing I can control so I’ve changed my hair a lot, and my style. Now my focus has switched to health and I’m like, okay this is the form I’m in, this body, this human form that I’m in during this lifetime. Like, I can play with this too. Everything that I do at this point, I’m looking at it as an art form because I don’t know how else to survive.
My dad passed away in August and I know with time it’ll get easier, but the holidays have been really hard. I’ve just felt really weighed down and just sad. I’m grieving. Sometimes it feels unbearable, like this feeling is never gonna go away, and art has been my salvation. It keeps me sane, and I’ve even had to look at death as an art. It’s so mind boggling, I don’t know how we understand it, and everyone I know that has passed away, except for my grandparents, have died way too young. Totally wasn’t their time, even my dad, he was only 63. I feel like when someone dies younger, it’s really hard to wrap your mind around why. So I’ve had to force myself and convince myself that death is just this abstract art that I may not understand but there can be a beauty in it as well. It’s literally the only thing that’s making things a little more digestible for me.
How have you noticed your art practice shifting as you’ve been in grief?
Initially I didn’t write. And that’s very odd for me. I didn’t start writing until a month or two after it happened, and I’ve just noticed it takes me a while to process things and I don’t really write until I’ve reached some point in that process where I kind of understand where I’m at, ‘cause I know some people will do, what is that, like, three minutes of consciousness? I hate that shit. I’ve been having to perform this entire time and every single time I'm dreading it and afterwards I just fall apart. So I definitely can see that through this process I just need a lot of space to not be giving so much of myself and I just need time to observe myself, my thoughts, and where I’m at. The stuff that I am creating musically, like I’ve started working on a completely different musical project with some people. I’m collaborating more. But it’s not like my music, you know how I’m very emotional and sometimes uncomfortable, I’m just writing dance songs right now. I’ve seen myself play a little bit more and not take is so seriously.
That’s interesting. Does it feel good?
It feels really good to just not attach this pressure to it, you know? I’ve had to remind myself that it’s called playing. Play the guitar, play the piano, play a show. It's play. So I’ve kind of just gone back to why I’ve started in the first place. It’s been just about creating because I can, because it’s fun and I want to and not because I’m a songwriter and I have to be good.
I don’t perform, it seems exhausting. What do you think it takes from you and what have you gotten from it in the past?
I think it’s just a lot of energy. Mentally preparing for that. Spiritually, definitely. It can just be really draining to be in front of a bunch of people and be that vulnerable. It really is just opening yourself up and being like “here, take this. Take me.” And sometimes I’m left feeling like people take too much of me or I’ve offered up too much of myself. And the flip side is really rewarding because every single time I perform is a once in a lifetime thing. It will just never be the same experience so every time it’s unique, it’s special, and I’m very grateful for that, especially when I can feel the connectivity onstage. In this last show I played I had this full on mental breakdown two days ago before the show I was just freaking out and it took me hours to even try to find my center again and get up on stage. And I felt so relieved afterward, then people came up and talked to me. People just being like “you’re magic. And you really are healing.” And to have people say that to me that don’t know my intention or my mission, have never heard of me, it’s just that confirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, so then I’m like, “alright, okay, I’m cool now.” I grew up as an athlete, so I’m also incorporating those things back into my life. What I learned about competing and just learning a sport or a skill, no matter what you’re playing, it’s 90% mental. I have to take a lot of time to prepare myself for that and take care of myself which is why I’ve been just really lowkey and staying close to home, and around family, and close friends. Because the deeper I get into it, the worse my nerves and my anxiety has gotten. And I also don’t drink anymore. I used to drink pretty heavily and now I’ve realized that that was such a buffer before getting on stage and now it’s been six months that I’ve just been completely sober and my nerves are just eating away at me beforehand.
It’s so much, and if you’re reading the room and the energy’s wrong… I don’t know how you adapt and make it feel right again. It takes a lot of work.
I think it takes a lot of practice, too. I’ve been performing for over ten years so there’s a part of me that, even when I get nervous now, it’s like “hey look, you fucking did this yesterday, you do this every week. Chill out.” So there is that aspect, and again like sports or meditation or anything, the more you train, in something, when you’re actually competing then you kind of have the ability to coast, you don't have to focus as much on like, “oh this audience isn’t really receptive to what I’m doing right now, how can I change it.” Those instincts start to kick in.
What is your intention or mission?
It is for me to express myself, and for my self expression to encourage and empower other people to live authentically and live their truth. I’m trying to be the example, I guess. Because you can tell someone that all day. To change their narrative and be the narrator of their story, but I think with anything it’s easier for people to adapt that kind of practice when they see someone else doing it. So if i’m just completely vulnerable and sharing all my secrets and stories in front of strangers then I think it kind of lights something in other people to be like, “yo, maybe I can do that too.” I think by just being myself, I think that’s the best thing I can offer.
I want to go back to the way you present yourself as an art form. How did you get to that point?
It really for me is just experimenting and playing around, like photoshoots for me are extremely awkward. I’m awkward. I know it comes off a certain way, which is great, and there is intention behind that, but it's’ also just acting for me. It’s just like dress up. Then 50% or more of that is the photographer. I never wanted to be a model, like never. It was the last thing I wanted to do. It’s become an outlet for me, just another form of expression, but I also really like being someone else’s canvas. Because I think photographers are kind of underrated and overlooked. You see the setting and the model and you’re like, “wow this is awesome,” but the photographers like the one that sees that and sets up the angle and the lighting and the everything so it comes out the way you’re seeing it.
What collaborations have you been working on?
I’m working on some music with Sure Ellz and Crl Crrll . It’s really just so much fun. My friend Khalil, or Sure Ellz, he just came back from L.A and he also was one of the producers on “Live and Die Like This,” our chemistry with creating is just on point. Naturally we were like, oh let’s get in the studio. Our friend Carl created a post like, “I have some time in December if anyone wants to collaborate,” so we were like, “yes.” And it just happened so naturally, we’d go to the studio and the first day we ended up making a full song. We recorded this whole damn thing and I was just like what the fuck. In six hours. It's just really liberating and it’s so much fun.
What do you think identifying with being an artist has done for you in the world?
Well that’s kind of funny because when I did the Stain’d magazine open mic my topic was identity and that is still something. I think then I was really confused with what my identity was and what I identified with and now I’m like fuck identity. I feel like even identifying myself as an artist puts me in this box and I read, finally, this book The Power of Now and that kind of set these ideas in stone for me, that humans have this deep need to identify with things even if it’s bad, like pain. It just kind of becomes like subconscious identity and at this point I would just say I am. I am that I am. I don’t know what that is, I don’t know if I need to know.
I feel like as an artist there’s this pressure to brand yourself out.
It’s so annoying. That’s the business side of it, which I can literally not stand. I get it, coming from a business standpoint and the industry, people need to know what they’re selling. I get it but I don’t wanna just be a part of it. I hate that, and that’s honestly why the record that I’m working on “Brain Chemistry” is this two part thing. The left brain right brain is to show that we aren’t just one fucking thing. We have layers and this duality. Within this industry they want you to market yourself, like a TV show, they want to type cast you as the good girl or the girl next door or the bad girl or the rockstar. I just can be all of those things in one day. So yeah, I’m super over the branding and it’s almost impossible to get around because we’re in this digital age of social media marketing and it’s become so important to have a brand. To brand yourself. It’s more important than the art and that’s why I’m not about it. You can have this whole curated gallery which is what instagram is. People need to stop thinking that’s someone’s real life. That “oh this is what I am and this is my brand,” and then your art is trash. It’s so weird. It’s like, I’ve seen it with people that have this really strong brand with pictures and visuals and stuff and they’ve put out one song on Soundcloud. Like do you make music? You have 100,000 followers and one song? Are you kidding me?
It’s weird to think about what that means people want. It’s frightening. How do you feel like you’ve evolved as an artist in the last ten years?
I think I’m like a mountain goat.
Well, I’m really into astrology and my sun sign is virgo, my moon sign is Leo, which I find weird sometimes, my rising sign is Capricorn. Both my parents were Capricorn also, so I just have a lot of like cap energy and a lot of earth energy. Over the past ten years as an artist it has just been a slow climb and I’m still on this climb. I’ve seen my writing improve and evolve in the way that I say things, my voice has gotten better and my voice control and my breathing. My stage presence has improved, everything has been a progression. I play guitar now, I didn’t play guitar four years ago. Now I’m starting to play electric guitar and also one of my goals is to learn other languages so I can write in other languages. My progression has definitely been very slow but very steady. That’s actually one of the main things that people have told me that I do know and have seen me even in the past three years, how much I’ve evolved and that has been one of the most fulfilling things because before I knew I wanted to inspire people or encourage people, I just wanted to grow. So it’s cool. I’m excited to see how ten years from now what that answer will be. I’ve never actually had to answer that question before. So I’m kind of like damn, I’ve done some things. A friend of mine helped me do a one sheet and he’s also been a part of my growth and my evolution for the past maybe seven years. He made this lay out of all the places I’ve played, all the publications I’ve been in, awards that I’ve won… and actually looking at that, like a resume on one piece of paper I was like, damn. But it just made me want more. If I could do this without even knowing I was doing that imagine what I could accomplish with a team behind me. Like I could really do something here. I’m never satisfied.
Okay, my last question is: what does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is a weapon, I’ve learned. I was playing a show in some shitty bar years ago and it was one of those bathroom that everybody writes on and I’m sitting on the toilet and I see this, I have no idea if someone just came up with it or if it’s an actual quote but it said “Beauty’s a weapon, kill them all.” I always remembered it. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized that beauty is a weapon and it can be worn as an armor and I feel that people could take that in a negative way. I don’t think that it’s negative. I haven’t figured out how I want to explain it yet, but I’ve noticed that if you are able to discover your own beauty and become aware of it, the world can take that and destroy it for you. And you get to this place where you have to restore your beauty and believe it again, but that kind of opens you to believe in other people’s beauty. I think at that point you can use it as a tool. I like the word weapon, though.
That was lovely. Thanks for your time. I know that it’s a heavy time and you’re busy, I really appreciate it.
Thank you, I really believe in what you guys do and what you’re creating and what you’re cultivating, and the community that you’re growing. I’m honored that you asked me to do this even in all my confusion. I’m just making shit up and it’s cool that I’m allowed to do that here in this space. So thank you.