Reading the stories on this website is a humbling experience, seeing that every person has been through so many things — both good and bad — and it only goes to show the evils of ignorance and presumptions, which may just rid one of many a great encounter. At the same time, acknowledging the scope of everybody’s inner world can become a maddening experience. When stuck in traffic or when boarding a bus, the realization that everyone there has a family to go home to (or not), with their own individual problems and pockets of happiness, who are having children, each with their own proper names and lives, etc., etc. can drive one crazy.
Did you know that there is a word for this? Sonder, or “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” I am afraid some people never have this feeling, which is unfortunate for themselves and everyone around them. But I am also convinced that an artist cannot live without it. The artist manages to internalize other people’s stories and turn them into art: in doing it, the artist makes the ocean’s vastness intelligible, drop by drop. In keeping with this analogy, we find that some stories are constantly and haphazardly pumped from the water’s surface, whereas others must be sought for at the depth of the Mariana trench.
I fear that my story belongs to the latter category, but don’t pity me because I’ve already come to terms with obscurity. Now let this be the introduction to my own little story about how a Dutch bloke decided to write an album based on the first publication by America’s greatest author.
I’ve been seeing a therapist for the last three years for depression, and the experience has been intense, frustrating, and upsetting, but also illuminating. Often during the sessions, a thought will percolate up from my subconscious, and sometimes, by talking it through, ideas will start to form that will eventually wend their way into my writing. It’s as though therapy acts as a catalyst, the fuel that ignites my imaginative mind, and that feeds into that space where a song is born. If nothing else, in the last few years I believe I have become skilled at one particular thing: allowing it, whatever it is, to happen. And when it happens, I do my best to get out of my own way.
It was March in Seattle, and I’d just had all four wisdom teeth removed while listening to Megadeth. I was lying in bed – – healing and reading Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” – – when I got a text from a fellow singer/songwriter (we’ll call him Drew), asking if I’d like to join him for a road trip to Austin, Texas. We would leave in a few days. After arriving we’d stay with a traveling musician named DB Rouse who lived and worked on a horse ranch just outside of the city. DB had set up a makeshift recording studio in a shack on the property and had invited Drew to come down and record some songs.
My need for adventure greatly outweighed my need for rest, so I agreed to tag along.
The different settings for my latest album, Desert Cities – Part One, span from Denver to Seoul. Track three, Brooklyn, is a love song for the gritty and enigmatic Bushwick neighborhood and track four, Coming Home, rides the metro north to Midtown where home is not a place but a person (and a lovely oasis at that). Track two, Lost in Seoul, reflects on the foreign shores of South Korea, “the crowded streets, the angry East Sea, don’t mind if I belong here for a while.”
Only track one, Hold out Thirst, mentions a dry, barren, lifeless, sandy desert. Its brief and stark first refrain, “I went to the desert and held out my thirst,” captured something much bigger in me when I first listened back to the completed album. The desert, in this case, is where one goes to reflect deeply, to test themselves against the elements, physically and emotionally and to experience thirst as a fundamental sensation of life, to feel acutely alive. The remainder of the album (part two included, TBR Fall 2019) is born of this same desire.
I get asked several times a day what I do for work, and this is while I’m on the job. I make most of my money as a rideshare driver, but I consider myself a singer-songwriter and musician. So when the question comes up, “Is this your full-time job?” I happily reply part-time and ask if they would like to hear my music. I’ve made some great connections this way, and it really helped me prepare for the release of my new ep “Both Sides.”
To begin, the album took about a year to finish, from writing to final production. Ultimately, I think it describes a period of thawing out from a pretty deep depression. The loss of several family members, a big move from Illinois to Oregon to live closer to my sisters after graduating from college to begin processing a lot of dark stuff that was hanging over me. So this album was a product of that time, of coping, thawing and trying to navigate my way back to somewhere that would hopefully be a lot healthier.
Kind of like how meditating gives us a focused space for our peaceful energy to flourish, having a vlog has helped me to take my connection with my listeners to essentially a sacred space.
I often think deeply about the whole picture and how can I as an artist create safe spaces during quality entertainment experiences. I want to give people a window into my songwriting process and other aspects of me being because we are all creating this world together. I get inspired often by intense things clouded by introverted struggles with no release but music. And I didn’t want just those intense songs to be all I gave the world. Perhaps a good analogy is that not cleaning for weeks results in a big beautiful cleaning. And weekly songwriting is like weekly maintenance cleaning.
When I play a song for you, I want to create an experience that sticks with you. I want to take you to a place in your mind where you feel accepted and understood in a unique way that you haven’t before. That’s what music does. It understands us. I think everyone needs a chance to feel understood.