I was at a concert once and I closed my eyes. The band stopped playing, but the song didn’t end. It was at that moment, as the humans on stage took a breath and those in the audience made a loud and beautiful noise, that something clicked for me, and I witnessed this embrace, this cultural hug, this mutual understanding between performer and audience, and I felt this unmistakable connection where two felt like one.
Writer, artist, DJ, CEO, marketing director, schoolteacher, performer, festival-goer, we’re not all that different.
As an artist, or maybe just as a human, I struggle with anxiety, notably social anxiety, and getting out of my own head. It’s nice in there sometimes, but other times it’s scary. Thoughts are racing and sometimes it feels like my thoughts are actually fighting for my attention. Like “hey pick me! Think about me! I’m it!” as if it’s recess in grade school and captains are choosing kickball teams.
Throughout my life, I’ve done research. I’ll never forget the teacher that introduced me to the Rolling Stones and encouraged me to write my own songs. My parents never told me to stop, they simply fostered and environment for growth to take place. My teacher moved away, and I looked around and said to myself, “cool, this is up to me now.” I started to teach myself, I used the internet, I used my folks old record collection and started studying J Dilla, The Neptunes, DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, people who to me, are undoubtedly in the same musical family tree as Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, Mozart, Prince, Stevie Wonder.
One of the biggest game-changers in my journey as a human being and as an artist, has been the development and formation of a daily meditation practice, one I do two times a day now, once at morning, once in the afternoon.
And I do have to mention the importance of my morning walk with my dog Huey. He was named “Convict” by his previous owner. He got out one day at a farm, attacked a sheep, was going to be shot, but thankfully was rescued and made his way into my life. Today he’s my best friend and my hero. Whenever I get frustrated, I look at Huey and ask myself, “How can I be more like him?”
And then I ask myself other questions.
How can I authentically follow my bliss?
How can I be a vessel for love?
How can I create and give back?
How can I practice self-care and share?
How can I change the world through pop music?
And why do I do what I do?
I do what I do because besides sitting still, that’s all there is to do.
Create and give. Create songs. Give hope. Create connection. Give life meaning. Create a safe environment for others to explore their own creative interests and help give rise to a new cultural ecosystem. One that uses technology as a tool and not a toy, one that helps redefine “cool”, and one that reframes the narrative surrounding ownership and ideas in the modern day.
How do we sit down and download new ideas instead of waiting to be told what to do, what to play, and how to play it, as if we’re sheep? How to we go from consumer of culture to producer of culture? From third chair trumpet player to composer? How do we follow, and most importantly, how do we lead?
(Those are some of the questions I’d like to propose today, and if I was on stage, and I had to give an answer to this question, it’d probably go… something like this…)
I’d say follow the wind and follow love because love always has been, and always will be, the most powerful brand, the most powerful performer, the most powerful force in the world. How do we spread those seeds of love? (I know another question, I’m supposed to be giving an answer…)
This abundant nature of love can take the form of thoughts, of ideas, of songs, of events, and they can also take the form of our presence, our engagement, our ability and our willingness to listen instead of being so anxious to talk.
Love is like water. Love can take the form of anything and our intention makes it so. It’s this intention combined with our own unique set of life experiences, aka: “our story” that makes this transformation possible. Our intention is our superpower and our mindset is how we channel our story, how we express ourselves, how we create, and how we look at the canvas.
As humans, we live, we breathe, we create, and we are in a constant state of becoming. Through this, we not only learn about our history and where we are going, but we also learn about ourselves and who we are, right now, in this moment.
Through self-care practices such as meditation coupled with safe creative environments, we too can exist (and act) in love. We too can pull abundance into form, and we too can do anything.
And we will do anything. Anything, that is, to make this world a better place. A world where we plant seeds that grow into trees that we may never sit under, and we’re okay with that, and that’s actually what makes music, art, and life so valuable. It’s not about the studio, the gear, the teacher, or the student. It’s about the song. Every song at some point has to pass through consciousness and pass through our mind. It has to pass through the one tool, the one piece of technology, the one operating system that is most important to humanity. And that’s our mind, our mindset, our intellect, our heart, and those chakra things. This matter, this material, the substance, the songs, the messages, the ideas, they have to pass through and we have to get out of the way.
We have to adjust and constantly tweak our filters, our input, our output, our downloading vs our uploading so that we can better get out of the way. We have to, as my wife (future tense) would say, “Be Better.” We don’t have to focus on “doing better,” because when we focus on “being better,” we will automatically do better, and our intentions will then be stronger and more clear and more direct and our life stories will continue to unfold right in front of our eyes.
As we develop this “growth” mindset, this “on the road” mindset, we start to better understand this expansive web of connection and influence. We start to understand how we can make songs (the dots if you will) as artists, and how we can also connect the dots like never before, like an entrepreneur, like an executive, like a Nipsey Hussle, like a Jimmy Iovine, like Jay-Z, like Beyonce. People like these empower others to be their own bosses, to diversify and expand their skill-sets, and once again, redefine “cool”, and restructure the narrative around ownership and intellectual property. So yes we can create the dots and connect the dots. Yes we can synthesize sounds, curate songs, and yes we can, also synthesize and connect people.
And we can also take a step back and breathe, as that band did that night in Charlottesville, Virginia, (right down the street from Melody Supreme, a record shop, right by where Heather Heyer lost her life August 7th, 2017.) Or maybe we can’t. Maybe there is no hope. Maybe we can’t stand up and fight for our right…
Or maybe we can. Maybe we can breathe, and instead of attacking others from a place of hatred, we can act, communicate, and create from a place of love and self-awareness. Maybe then, as we open up, and get out of our own way, our own head, can we then allow others to modify, remix, and to be a part of the song in whatever way they see fit. Maybe then we can get somewhere. Maybe then we can push culture forward.
Yes we must own our stories, but we don’t really own these ideas, these songs, and these dreams. We don’t own art, we don’t own God, and we don’t own love. These are things that simply pass through us. They are not us. Just like our thoughts and emotions are not us.
You and I both have the ability to catch things as they pass through consciousness. Maybe we record them. Maybe we can play them live. Maybe we just talk about them, share them, and in doing so, teach with them. And if you happen to be a creator, then somewhere inside of you (as long as you continue to dig and apply yourself to the project that is your life), you also have a master plan.
If you are able to catch some of these things and get them out of your head and maybe even out into the world, then that is a revolutionary act in and of itself. That is an act of self-care. That is a wellness exercise. Have we forgotten this somewhere along the line? Have we forgotten that this act of creation alone can inspire? Can empower? Can motivate? Can affect change? Can bring hope?
Have we forgotten that we are the band? Have we forgotten that some of us have the responsibility to be that voice for those people without a voice? For those people that are still finding themselves and are still mastering their voice? Have we forgotten that no matter what, no matter where you come from or what you have been through, that your story is important and that your voice is important?
Our real power is in our mindset. That’s our filter. Love is the water and we,,,, (deep breath) as humans, are the cups.
Abundance Runneth Over