A songwriter Journal about change, goals and how to reflect your experiences in indie music.
How has the pandemic changed the way you experience music?
When the world came to a screeching halt, it gave me a moment to stop. To stop and have a chance to take a deep breath. To be; inhale. There isn’t another moment in my life when I’ve had that chance to stop. Nothing mattered except the health of my family. Everything was different, including music. Music was my window to the world, the window to my heart, and the window to my ability to cope. And since that crazy day in March, I have held onto music as one of my lifelines. Suddenly the music changed in that the topics I wrote about felt a lot weightier. The topics that mattered to me last October when I released my third album, “The Whole Truth,” seemed less critical than the social injustices that had been right in front of me all along. Suddenly I could see these issues, or retrospectively I was confronted with them and decided to see them. And singing about much else lacked the relevance or purpose when contemplating what to write.
What are your goals as a songwriter?
As a songwriter, my goals are to open our eyes and consider humanity, people of all types with different points of view. My plea to consider the longer-term consequences of our actions we take today. My plea to choose truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My plea to be a part of a solution for positive change rather than complicit in reality. I can help make a change. We ALL can help make positive changes.
When the world changed, so did my music. It started in January of this year, six weeks before the world shutting down. I was touring for my latest album in California and began writing a song from a sign I had seen in a small town on the side of the road, “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay”. How did they know what was coming? Rather, how is it that I had failed to realize that nothing felt okay at that very moment? And so my song was born; a prescient moment I had no idea would have such a significant impact. The world was NOT okay. The world’s mental health and millions in it were crumbling by the second. The depression, suicide rates, and governments’ house of cards began their inevitable downfall. This was my life driving across the state of California, land of the free and sunshine. Nothing felt quite as divided as my sense of existence.
Accepting that, being NOT okay, is hard. Most ignore it rather than admitting it and dealing with it. And talking about it? No way. We live in a country where we’re taught vulnerability and sadness is a state of weakness. Just look at the administration running our country, putting down those who show weakness or differences with unique challenges. Or condoning vile hatred and violence of those believing their skin color defines supreme power. How could I be a part of a country with these values? Nothing made sense of how we got to where we were at. Nothing looked the same to me from that moment on.
And so I changed. Not my viewpoints as my core values are the same as they have always been. But my voice changed and my empowerment to speak for the injustices dominating my surroundings. No topic felt off-limits with the concern of offending someone. Because NOT speaking out against wrong is the only crime committed. Complicitness.
Let’s talk about your music video. Can you break it down for us?
When it came time to create a music video, the video needed to depict the world exactly as it is in ways that might be hard to notice. The song is a wake-up call. It is a call to action to dig deep, think for yourself and decide the type of person you want to be moving forward.
It is reflective, so I begin the song doing just that; walking amongst the greatest gifts, we have all been given, nature. Quickly moving into the start of the song’s first verse watching it slowly vanish, “only thinking for today.” How am I a part of this problem, and what will I do to be a part of a viable solution?
Moving into this chorus, I intentionally begin to bring it back to actual people. A reminder that we never truly know what another person is battling. Approaching dialogue with kindness and compassion seems to be an important reminder of such unstable times we live in. A reminder that just because you can’t actually cry doesn’t mean life’s “All Good.”
Verse two begins to address a problem I have been blessed not to experience: homelessness. I live in a city where hundreds live amongst the streets, under highways, and encampments with no one paying attention to help them trying to survive. Yes, organizations address this problem; but the problem has grown larger than most cities can handle. Why have I been given opportunities that those with different skin color or economic backgrounds have not been granted?
Aren’t we all human beings? Is this how we take care of each other in times of trouble? Haven’t we all just get a little too numb?
Is there a scene in your video that indicates how it relates to both music and the world?
The scene of the beautiful, sad, African American woman’s face morphing into mine is one of the stronger images in this music video; two people, one species.
How does the video end, and can you help us understand what intention or message you would like to express for it?
Finally, waking up each day and living in a world of division and hateful lies is tearing me apart. It’s tearing my country apart, and I will not sit idly by and concede. It’s not what my grandparents and their parents fought for to build their dreams. I ask: what happened to tolerance, acceptance, and a little compassion? We’re all slowly “watching hate and fear steal freedom from the world.”
Ultimately, my video concludes by asking the viewers to contemplate what kind of person they will be moving forward? It’s time for us all to take a good long look at ourselves from within; ask those tough questions, and discover the solutions to bring healing to the world.
What is something about this song and/or video you think people might overlook?
Being at rock bottom does not have to be an end-state. Small changes yield big outcomes. We all have to change to help this world be a better place. We need more empathy to change our dialog from politics to people.
Keeping live music alive: Keeping in mind your goal for 2021 to keep creating music, how can you both adapt to the needs of music today while preparing for what you think will be the needs of music in the future?
I have many goals, but the most important one is the message behind my new song, “All Good”. My plea to open our eyes and consider humanity, people of all types with all different points of view. My plea to consider the longer-term consequences of our actions we take today. My plea to choose truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My plea to be a part of a solution for positive change rather than complicit in reality. I can help make a change. We ALL can help make positive changes.
What, specifically, are you doing or do you see other artists doing to serve this end?
I see a lot of artists writing about similar topics, standing strong and speaking out. It’s incredibly inspirational to see that, and I hope I have similar effects on others. Love is contagious. Kindness always wins in the end.
What does the world look like if your music or any creator stops creating?
I don’t even like to imagine that kind of world as music has been an important healer for me throughout my life. I also know the impacts music has on people, and sometimes it’s life-saving.
The pandemic has resulted in a stagnation of creativity for many while offering an incentive to create for others; how have you kept your creative energy alive and your art so fun in such dour times?
This period in history had quite the opposite effect on me.
I feel lucky because it jarred me awake from a very long few years. But rather than dwell on what I haven’t done, I now have the energy to focus on how to help motivate us all to make necessary changes today. I challenge everyone to contribute to making a change and positively affect future generations. We ALL can do better. And we can all do this together.