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Happiness

 

 

If I ask you why you’re unhappy, you might say: “I hate school. My girlfriend cheated on me. I lost my job. I have cancer. I’m depressed because nothing is going my way.” Understandable. These are all difficult obstacles. We’re conditioned to feel upset. It’s a signal that we aren’t getting what we want.

 

But what do you want? According to your answer, you want to enjoy school, you want a loyal girlfriend, you want a steady job and you want to be healthy. But why? So you can be happy!

 

Don’t you see what’s happening here? You’ve created conditions for your happiness, conditions that are out of your control. We can make efforts to maintain relationships, keep jobs and stay healthy, but it’s never a guarantee, in fact, you will inevitably get sick.

 

There are only two things you can control: your expectations and your attitude.

 

Let’s start with expectations.

 

I just got back from eating breakfast at a local restaurant. I’ve become friends with an older woman who works there. It wasn’t busy so I got to talk with her over my meal. She told me about her son who is the twelfth person diagnosed with an incredibly rare and untreatable disease called “double cortex syndrome.” He’s twelve years old, and at it’s worse he might have a dozen seizures in a day. The seizures have caused brain damage. He’s not expected to make it through his teenage years and he knows this.

 

But she says he’s generally an incredibly happy person. We didn’t get into why. I already knew. This boy’s conditions for happiness aren’t founded on success or girlfriends or health. He doesn’t expect any of it. All he requires for happiness is life. The miracle of being alive is enough for him.

 

We’ll come back to this. Let’s talk about attitude.

 

Two guys are learning how to ride motorcycles. Let’s call them Stefan and Stephen. Stefan and Stephen are riding together and turn a sharp corner, but their lack of experience causes them to crash into each other. Stefan falls on the pavement and along with a scraped arm he gets his leg caught under the bike and the engine burns his shin. Stephen keeps his balance but is redirected off the side of the road, hits a really fancy mailbox, and then crashes into the back of a Porsche. Stephen’s ankle gets broken along with some minor cuts and bruises. His motorcycle gets totaled. The mailbox and sports car have nothing to do with this at all.

 

Stefan drives Stephen to the hospital in his car, and after the doctor puts Stephen in a magical healing box that not only instantly heals his foot but also makes his hair extra luscious, the two of them step outside. Stefan tells Stephen that the accident was a sign and that he’s decided to sell his bike and stick to cars. Stephen says that cars aren’t that sticky. More importantly, he said that the accident is just part of the learning experience, and decides to buy Stefan’s bike from him and keep riding.

 

Stefan’s attitude is that adversity should be avoided and taken as a sign that he’s doing something wrong. Stephen sees the same adversity as a right of passage, as a necessary obstacle to becoming great.

 

Stephen’s hair was also already extra luscious to begin with and the magical box was actually just a really cute nurse kissing his broken ankle. I’m also clearly an egomaniac who loves my own name and will use every opportunity to ravage its common mispronunciation.

 

Silliness aside, here’s my point.

 

If you expect too much, your happiness will be chaotic and fleeting, dependent on circumstances out of your control. But there is a happiness that is indestructible, and it exists within all of us. We can feel this happiness when we manage our expectations. The ultimate goal is that our only requirement for fulfillment is the pure magic of being alive.

 

This is difficult. Buddhism calls this Nirvana, the highest degree of enlightenment. So for us plebs who might not be seeking the abandonment of all desire and complete detachment from ourselves, let’s use this wisdom as a way of checking in. We don’t have to abandon our desires and ourselves to be happy. If you want to be successful, fucking go for it. If you want life to be more adventurous, I dare you to move towards it. But just remember that your happiness will not always be a constant, and when you’re depressed, it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong, it’s because you’re pushing yourself to be better.

 

 

—Aug 23, 2016

I Think He Was An Angel

 

 

It was a scorching 106 degrees last Sunday in my new desert home of Joshua Tree. After a spontaneous morning flirting with a cute local over our double shot iced lattés and then being tricked into her hot yoga class, I sat at my piano chugging water with a vagabond’s impulse to hit the road.

 

I needed a break from writing my second album. I packed my backpack with a few bottles of water, some cash and my latest obsession “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. I zipped up my dusty boots, strapped on my colorful helmet and road my street-legal dirt bike about thirty minutes west to a local bar called “Pappy + Harriet’s.”

 

I walked in with a mean strut, my helmet in my left hand like a trophy that says “I’m stupid enough to ride a motorcycle.” I asked the bartender for their Golden Road hefeweizen. As she was pouring it, an older gentlemen sitting to my right turned to me and said hello.

 

I can’t remember the color of his eyes, but I remember the feeling of his gaze. A look of hardened joy, as if no hardship could strip his contentment. A soft playfulness accompanied by a heavy wisdom. He must’ve seen my helmet. His Harley was parked outside and we started talking motorcycles. The bartender handed me my beer in a mason jar and I decided to sit with this interesting fellow.

 

“I raced motorcycles when I was your age,” he said. “One time my throttle got stuck and I drove into a concrete wall at nearly 100 mph. I lost all my teeth but it didn’t stop me from getting back on. I thought I was invincible.” We talked a while about that, how believing you’re invincible protects you. We agreed that fear makes us more vulnerable to harm, that our naivety as children makes us powerful. “I think that’s why we are seeing so many young people executing revolutionary ideas,” I said. “They aren’t hindered by the high probability of failure. They just go for it.”

 

“Maybe naivety is the ultimate wisdom,” he said. The gentleman made a toast with his whiskey drink, and after grabbing a second beer I was firing off questions about his life. He was taken over by a wonderful excitement. I think it was my heartfelt curiosity.

 

“Number 80,” he said. “They were smart for picking me.” He was drafted into the army and fought in Vietnam for eleven and a half months. “My ignorance made for a good soldier.” Story after story, I couldn’t believe this man was still alive, let alone sane. He told me how adaptable the human mind is, that getting shot at everyday becomes normal. “Over time, we become comfortable with discomfort.” Somewhere in our war talk he said, “When bullets are flying, instincts take over and you become a different person. I got to see that side of myself. The hardship of war unmasked my strength. I didn’t know I was capable of dealing with such adversity.”

 

Someone yelled my name. I looked up and my friend Esjay who I hadn’t seen in over a year was standing right there. Her stunning 6-foot presence and her alluring South African accent almost made me forget about my new friend. We screamed at each other in exciting disbelief that we’ve collided in the middle of nowhere. She introduced me to her girlfriend, and as we began planning a road trip to Mexico, the gentleman waited patiently, occasionally turning around and giving us a big smile. She said her friend was playing a show outside on the patio in a couple hours. I said I would catch up with her a little later and eagerly returned back to my seat.

 

He handed me another beer. We drifted off the topic of war and forgot about time. He told me that the bar used to be a gas station. He showed me the blemishes on the floor where the pumps used to be. He was really thrilled to prove it and it got me excited about something I normally wouldn’t care about. We walked around the bar. I remember feeling so present. When we got back to our seats, I had to ask him, “Were you grateful for your time in Vietnam?”

 

He said very convincingly, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe every man should serve at some point in his life. That’s my greatest objection with the younger generation; you guys are too caught up with yourselves to serve your country.”

 

There was a pause, the longest one yet. I sipped my third beer, nodded my head and then turned my body to face him. I said, very slowly and calmly, “You’re right, we don’t want to serve our country. But this is what makes us special.”

 

“How so?” he asked.

 

I became more impassioned. “We are the disillusioned generation. We don’t carry weapons because we carry awareness, an awareness that our country has mislead us. We were told to abandon our passions, go to college and hastily select careers so we can half-heartedly work the rest of our lives to pay back the debt. We were taught to believe that materialism would bring us fulfillment but no matter how much we buy we still feel empty. We were told to play it safe so we don’t let everyone down, but we let down the only person that matters. Ourselves. And now we don’t love ourselves. We were promised independence, but all that our efforts have earned us is the illusion of freedom.”

 

“We won’t serve our country because we won’t fight for a government that wages war for profit. We won’t support a system that benefits the rich and entraps the poor. We won’t partake in an election process that patronizes the youth to vote and then forgets to put their candidate’s name on the ballot. Our selfishness is our strength and could be the imputes for change. We are educating ourselves through our own curiosity, a.k.a. our search history. We are becoming resistant to propaganda and dogma. We’re becoming smart enough to catch the truth in an ocean of lies, and yet we’re open minded enough still to eat every catch with a grain of salt. We want peace and equality, so why would we serve a government that wants the opposite?”

 

There was another pause. He gave me a subtle smile with a look of “you’re not finished yet.”

 

I continued, “The problem is that we are supporting this system. We don’t know how not to. We are aware but inactive, just a mob of confused individuals, connected but not united. You’re right, we’re too concerned with ourselves, preoccupied using social media to showcase our lives and express our individuality. But there is so much potential. I believe we can be more than the disillusioned generation. I believe we can be the generation that fought for our freedom, that united our voices into a single battle cry for change. I don’t know how though…”

 

He put his hand on my shoulder and with a fatherly touch he squeezed my arm, shook my hand and said, “Keep goin’ kid.”

 

We talked a little longer. Two hours had gone by since we started. I invited him to come outside and catch the show with me. He said he would meet me there. He never came. We never got each other’s names or numbers and it didn’t matter. I think he was an angel.

 

 

 

—Aug, 11, 2016

Joshua Tree

 

 

A month ago I left Los Angeles and moved to a desert town called Joshua Tree. The house I’m living in is on the border of the national park and I have endless hiking trails, mountains to climb, I share my land with like a hundred different animals (I’ve already seen 3 rattle snakes), I have a sweet new motorcycle that I can ride anywhere, and I brought all my instruments and recording gear. For four months I will be alone, and I’m using this time to grow closer to myself as I create my 2nd album.

This is not an escape. I am here because I realize that Los Angeles is a distraction from the only thing that will ever bring me fulfillment: loving myself. Everything else is just breadcrumbs, and no matter how much I eat I’ll never be satisfied.

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

-Loneliness isn’t the state of being alone; it’s the desire for distraction that comes when we are scared of ourselves. I don’t feel lonely anymore, I feel free when I’m alone.

-Loving yourself is the most unselfish thing you can do, because the more you love yourself the more you feel connected to everything and everyone and the more you genuinely care for it all.

-My personality and identity was influenced greatly by the validation and attention of my friends. Being alone, the only person validating me is myself, and it has been so fun to discover who I am when there’s no one around to tell me who I am.

-Cooking is not easy, but it’s more fun than cleaning

-Riding a motorcycle and performing at electric forest have been the two greatest thrills of my life thus far

-Life is better with no clothes on

-Creating and expressing anything, whether it’s music or ideas or thoughts, are the second greatest gifts we have as human beings. The first is love.

So unfortunately I don’t have skilled photographers around taking cool pictures of me, so I won’t have many pictures for the next few months, but I finally started using Snapchat, and you can follow my journey on there (@ithinkimcrashin).

 

 

—July 28, 2016

You Can’t Fix The World, But You Can Use All You Have To Make It Better

 

 

I am sitting here in the recording studio of my California home watching my childhood dreams unfold, as if those origami fortunetellers were all true. Two and a half years after dropping out of college, moving to Los Angeles and working really fucking hard, my music career is taking off. I probably deserve a trophy for never giving up, but I can’t take credit for much more; life has humbled me with so much serendipity.

 

Cared for by the most loving and passionate parents, I was free to explore life – to discover the world and myself. They enabled me to follow my heart. After expressing my interest for piano at a very early age, they paid for lessons. When I wanted to play the drums, they bought me a drum set. Once my dad saw how serious I was – or maybe it was because my band was so damn loud – he turned our unfinished basement into a soundproof studio and filled it with recording gear and instruments. He later paid for me to go to the Frost school of music at the University of Miami and then allowed me to drop out and move to LA after one of my songs began generating some passive income. Long story short, I chose to make the most out of countless opportunities that presented me – a choice a lot of people don’t get to make.

 

Despite all of my good fortune, a feeling of discomfort overwhelms me. In recognizing my luck, I have become deeply aware of others’ misfortune. How can I enjoy my life when I know others can’t? This question crippled me for years, but today it is the fuel that drives me to be great. I have an opportunity – a responsibility – to live a life bigger than myself and to act on more than just my own well-being.

 

Almost half of the world’s population – 3 billion people – lives on less than $2.50 a day. Step outside our comfortable homes and college educations and you’ll find slums, ghettos and refugee camps crowded with disease and violence – children without proper shelter, nutrition and education.  We are witnessing a mass genocide in the Middle East, the persecution of free speech in Saudi Arabia, a North-Korean government that tortures innocent civilians and countless mass shootings across the world.  Maybe your life hasn’t been as fortunate as mine, but count your blessings and you’ll see that you are pretty damn lucky. Realize that even our most mundane routines would be paradise for billions of people.

 

Yet we’re still scared to live. We’re scared of failing because we’re scared of the shame and the loss of control, so we stop taking chances. We chose safe lives over passionate ones; we chose the comfort of knowing exactly what’s going to happen next over the thrill of following our hearts. I’d rather be a fervent vagabond than be led through a maze with some money in my pocket and the false promise of happiness at the end. The only thing we’re promised in life is that it is temporary, so I’m not going to waste this precious time and this wildly unique and fortunate circumstance hindering to fear.

 

I feel an obligation to help those that can’t help themselves; I feel a responsibility to make the conditions of life a little bit better while I’m here. I certainly can’t do it alone, but through my music I’m building a platform that will hopefully inspire impassioned and intelligent individuals to put there efforts towards making the world a better place.

 

You should be grateful for all that you have, but that doesn’t mean you should be complacent – you have been given an opportunity to make a difference too. I’m not telling you to change the world, I’m challenging you to take a chance on yourself and create a life worth living. Give yourself the freedom to find what you love so you can spend your life following your heart.

 

 

—July 20, 2016

My Invitation

 

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure it out.

 

I figured out how to tie my shoes, I figured out how to do algebra, I figured out how to kiss a girl, I figured out how to sing……

 

And somewhere in the midst of all this figuring out, I convinced myself that one day I’d have it all figured out.

 

I wanted to know who I was, why I was here and what I was supposed to do, but I couldn’t and it drove me crazy. My confusion turned into paranoia, which turned into panic attacks, which triggered delusions. I tried so hard to find my way that I became more lost. I tried so hard to find the answers that I became more confused. I tried so desperately to hold on that I collapsed under all the weight.

 

And for a while I couldn’t breathe.

 

But this conflict in my head gave me the opportunity to listen to my heart, and when I did, my heart told me that I didn’t need answers. It told me that there’s a thousand ways to tie a knot and a million ways to sing and a billion ways to kiss a girl. My heart told me that there’s nothing to figure out, just everything to try.

 

My album is a story of triumph, of letting go of all the uncertainty in my head and learning to walk the path of my own heart. “Sincerely” is about realizing how much better this world would be if we all loved ourselves, if we weren’t afraid of being vulnerable and honest. It doesn’t matter who’s president or what technology we invent or what extremists we destroy, the only thing I know is this:

 

There will never be peace if we do not all love ourselves.

 

And so I believe my generation needs a revolution. We don’t love ourselves. We are trapped in our heads because we were told to figure it all out and in our failed attempts we stopped having fun. We abandoned everything we loved doing because we thought it was slowing us down. We thought growing up was the process of holding on instead of letting go, and now we’re all collapsing under the weight. We don’t know what to do anymore.

 

But we can do so much. We can change the world. We have to stop complying with the doubts in our heads and start following our hearts. We have to stop judging each other and start accepting ourselves. We have to stop living selfishly and start giving back. We have to have the courage to take a chance. My generation has all the power if we work together. This is my invitation to the ones who love.

 

 

—May 16, 2016

Crossfire

 

He’d trade his guns for love,

But he’s caught in the crossfire,

And he keeps wakin’ up,

But its not to the sound of birds,

The tyranny, the violent streets,

Deprived of all that we’re blessed with,

And we can’t get enough,

Heaven if you sent us down,

So we could build a playground,

For the sinners, to play as saints,

You’d be so proud of what we made

I hope you got some beds around,

Cuz you’re the only refuge now,

For every mother, every child, every brother,

That’s caught in the Crossfire,

 

I’d trade my luck to know,

Why hes caught in the crossfire,

And I’m here wakin up,

To the sun and the sound of birds,

Society’s, Anxiety,

Deprives of all that we’re blessed with,

We just cant get enough,

 

Heaven if you sent us down,

So we could build a playground,

For the sinners, to play as saints,

You’d be so proud of what we made

I hope you got some beds around,

Cuz you’re the only refuge now,

For every mother, every child, every brother,

Who’s caught in the Crossfire,

Can I trust what I’m given?

When faith still needs a gun,

Whose ammunition,

Justifies the wrong?

And I can’t see, from the backseat,

So I’m asking from above,

Can I trust what I’m given,

Even when it cuts?

 

So Heaven if you sent us down,

So we could build a playground,

For the sinners, to play as saints,

You’d be so proud of what we made

I hope you got some beds around,

Cuz you’re the only refuge now,

For every mother, every child, every brother,

Who’s caught in the crossfire,

Who’s caught in the crossfire,

Who’s caught in the crossfire,

Who’s caught on the cross

 

 

—December 7, 2015

Sincerely

 

My generation has been mislead. We were told to fit in, pass our classes, go to college and prematurely select careers that we don’t love so we can work the rest of our lives to pay back the debt. Our curriculums smothered our creativity and evaluated our worth through standardized testing and our willingness to accept indentured servitude. We were promised independence, but all that our efforts have earned us is the illusion of freedom.

 

And we live in the illusion of democracy. In exchange for the continued support of a financial system that is structured to benefit the rich and entrap the average working adult, the majority of today’s presidential candidates rely heavily on large donations from billion dollar corporations. These elected politicians are not fulfilling their promises for equality, sustainability and progress; they are confined by the selfish agendas of the ultra-elite that they are indebted to – many of whom profit off of war, disease, fear and resources that destroy our environment.

 

I’m only twenty-four years old. I’m no expert in politics, but I know that this isn’t right. Music was the crane that pulled me out of the machine, and now that I can see what’s happening, I want to pull you out too. “Sincerely” is my invitation to the ones who are ready for change, both within themselves and within their country.

 

 

—February 24, 2016

I Wandered Into The Hills

 

I was at a barbeque yesterday at my manager’s house in the hills, when after a few drinks I decided to grab my friend Max and climb to the roof. After ignoring the unrelenting demands of his father to get down (sorry Byron <3), we successfully made it to the top where he couldn’t see us. The sun had almost fully set, and the magic of the city lights turning on to the east and the red-orange glow to the west put Max and I in a very reflective and thoughtful state of mind. He asked me, “How did we end up here?”

 

There was a long silence. I felt like it was all a dream. Here I am, twenty-three years old, surrounded by a team of successful and passionate people who not only believe in me but also are willing to dedicate their time to making my vision, my voice and my music heard. I just felt like I was breaking the rules. I always had it in my head that this life and these neighborhoods were reserved for the doctors and lawyers; no one ever told me I could get here doing what I love.

 

The silence continued and so did my thoughts. Too often I see young people being forced to map out there lives before they have even the slightest idea as to where they want to go. Pressured by our families and teachers, financial stress and social expectations, we neglect our risky passions for an education that yields safe careers we dislike. And once the decision has been made, it’s not easy to take it back. Even at an undergraduate level, college education has become so expensive that we drive guilt into any student who tries to change their minds halfway in. I remember the feeling I felt when I told my dad I wanted to drop out after three years of paying full-tuition at University of Miami.

 

So how did I end up here? The most rewarding moments in my life are the consequence of taking risks. You don’t have to know where you are going to get on the train. I’ve never had a destination in mind, just a direction. I was crazy enough to take that first step with no idea where it would lead me, guided only by my passions and curiosity. If I sat down and planned it all out, I would have given up before even trying.

 

I’m here by accident, like a man lost in the desert wandering into an oasis. The only thing I can truly take credit for is that I kept walking; I never gave up.

 

 

—November 2, 2015

PELL

 

I had a session with an artist named Pell last Friday. I’ve only had five or six collaborative sessions since I’ve been here in LA and all of them were with friends, so I was pretty nervous going into this.

It had been an hour and a half since we were scheduled to start and he still hadn’t shown up. I’ve never met Pell, but his lateness made me assume he was just like the rappers I worked with in high-school: arriving late with a big posse, even bigger blunts, and just not really caring at all.

 

When he finally arrives, I’m shocked – not because he actually showed up, but because my assumptions about him were so wrong. Pell’s energy is insane. His spirit is so uplifting; his attitude so positive – he’s excited about the session, and even more excited about life. This energy was instantly contagious and it took some pressure off of me. He apologizes for being late, and the only person he brought was his girl.

 

We talk for about five minutes before heading downstairs to my studio. I play him a few of my songs and a few beats, he plays me some stuff he’s been working on, and after about twenty minutes of breaking the ice we get started.

Without hesitation I said, “Yo Pell, start snapping.” He starts snapping and we’re just dancing to the snaps and getting settled on the tempo. I sit down behind the drums and play a beat to the snaps. I stop and he starts beat boxing something a little different. We go back and forth, each time modifying the beat just a little. No words really, just little affirmations like “ooooh yeah” and “mmhmm.” We’re both dancing the whole time.

 

We quickly settle on a groove we’re both feeling, so I tell him to hit record and I start playing the drums. We don’t even have a metronome on at this point which is really rare in the crafting of modern music and something I’ve never done. He’s also hollering over the recording, which is normally not desired, but when we listened back it felt so right. What came out of the speakers felt exactly how we were feeling: free, careless and alive.

 

Without saying much, we start adding more percussion – more of that exciting feeling: shakers, claps, toms, rims, beat boxing, drumming on our bodies, chanting and anything else we could think of. The groove became sloppy in the most graceful way. I do a little engineering and mixing, and voila, we have this amazing drum track and a crazy energy in the room. I hadn’t made music like this in years. I was quickly recalling the feelings that got me into this industry in the first place; the excitement that had been buried under all the pressure I put on myself.

 

I walk over to my Rhodes to play some emotional chords over our bangin’ drum track when Pell looks at me like “are you sad or something? It’s Friday and we’re feeling this way and you’re playing those sad chords?” He didn’t even have to say it – I felt it. I walked over to the guitar, turned on the amp, started dancing with Pell again and played this two-chord progression that was simple and fun. We look at each other like, “yo, this is dope as fuck” and he immediately starts rapping and writing.

 

The rest of the session continued in this manner. By the end, we had a fire song, a new friendship, and one hell of a time. These five hours opened me up to so much light.

 

For most of my life, music has been this intimate, sheltered process that I don’t like other people being involved in. I’m timid and insecure when expressing myself in the studio, so I do it alone. I’m always afraid that I’m not good enough. I receive constant praise for my work, so I’m scared that someone will realize I’m just a poser, that I actually have no idea what I’m doing. I’m winging it every single time and I’m done pretending that it’s any other way.

It’s a reflection of my life; I take it so seriously. When I dance, I’m thinking about how I look instead of just letting go. When I meet a girl I’m attracted to, I’m scared she’s going to realize I don’t know what I’m doing, so I don’t even enjoy it. Fear has become my motivator for life. I don’t want to look like a fool so I work hard to hide it. I’ve traded in a good time for the illusion that I’m perfect.

Pell showed me that perfection is not the goal. He showed me how wonderful life can be when you let go of the outcome and simply enjoy the process. I have my aspirations and dreams, but I don’t want fear to take me there. Life is not a game that we’re trying to win, but a dance we can enjoy.

 

 

—October 21, 2015

Fly Down

 

Don’t tell me that you love me,

I won’t tell you that I love you,

We’re too high to see the runway,

Too far to know the right way,

But the truth is,

I’m freakin’ out about this whole,

Man I’m supposed to be,

I’m nervous now ’cause she can’t know,

I’m desperately in need,

‘Cause up here’s hard to reach,

Fly down,

Fly down,

We were starin’ down the valley,

When she put her arm around me,

She said the reason you’ve been hurt is,

So you look beyond the surface,

But the truth is,

I’m freakin’ out about this whole,

Man I’m supposed to be,

I’m nervous now ’cause she can’t know,

I’m desperately in need,

‘Cause up here’s hard to reach,

Fly down,

Fly down,

Fly down,

Don’t tell me that you love me,

I won’t tell you that I love you…

 

 

—October 8, 2015

Questions

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about things I’ll never understand. Fueled by curiosity and my insatiable desire to find answers, I ask myself the same questions over and over again.

 

It’s in our human nature to want to understand; we’re clever, intelligent creatures, and we use our knowledge to navigate life and control where we go and what happens to us. We’re taught that if we have a desired goal, we should use our intelligence to figure out how to achieve it. Lets pretend you have the desire to run a marathon. You intend on training effectively, so you’re going to gather the knowledge to help you do that – work out regiments, shoes, stretches, a diet plan, coaching and whatever you can find that helps (most likely in the first two pages of search results on Google). You start training and a few months later you’re in the best shape of your life. These super smart monkeys are on to something.

 

But now lets say you have the desire to be happier. You look up “how to be happier,” and the first thing you see is a list of ten habits that will get you there. You skim through it, maybe write a few down and start using them. After a few weeks you feel a bit more chipper, but you want more. You keep searching and making changes to your life, but you’re still not satisfied. This letdown now makes you sad because you know you could be happier; you’ve been fooled by the pretense that intelligence alone can get you what you want.

Now lets say you have the desire to know what happens to you when you die. In your research you find that scientists don’t know the answer, that Catholics believe in an afterlife, that Nihilists think that life is meaningless, and that Buddha says unless you escape the endless cycle of life before you die you’ll be reincarnated into a porcupine – or at least someone or something else. You wish you could pick a religious belief to follow, but you can’t trust that it’s right. The conundrum is that you have a strong desire to know the answer to something that is unanswerable, and your intelligence and curiosity is going to plague you because of it.

 

I’ve been through all of this – the training, the desire to be happier, and the feedback loop of questions that can’t be answered – and the last one is the toughest. I want to know the answers to these big questions about life and creation so I can make the right choices; so I know that I’m safe and that I’m living my life the right way. I was going through an existential crisis for years – living in this constant state of anxiety and fear because I just didn’t understand – when I discovered the irony of it all.

 

When I stop trying to understand, it all makes sense. When I stop trying to figure life out, I get it. Give up trying to solve the puzzle and the pieces just fall into place. Quit controlling life and you’ll move through it effortlessly. Stop trying to predict life, you’ll go places you never expected. Instead of thinking about why or how you’re breathing, just breathe. It’s in those moments when I’m truly present – when I’m not thinking – that life becomes so beautiful and miraculous, when I trust it so much that I don’t need the answers to be at peace. Our intelligence makes us human, but let go of it, even for a moment, and we can feel that we are something so much more.

 

— September 29, 2015

Hits

 

There’s a word in the music industry that intrigues me: hits. Call it what you want – a smash, a banger – a potential hit song is judged on its ability to sell. Now, before I dig myself a grave, I want to say that there are many creatives that love the process of crafting hits. It is an art form and it is really difficult to do; I have a lot of respect for them. With that said, the intention of creating music that is accessible and profitable makes me want to orally purge last night’s Chipotle. I’m not saying its wrong, I’m not judging anyone, I’m simply saying that if someone ever told me I need a hit song I’d involuntarily puke on them. Thankfully it hasn’t happened.

 

Now, although no one has asked me to, that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried. It’s hard as an artist in today’s industry. We want to make a living doing what we love, and for a lot of us, what we hear on the radio is far from anything we’d ever create. We become jaded into thinking that in order to make it, we have to conform to that sound. There was a time when I felt that way, and in my desperate and failed attempts to write a hit, I learned why I’d never create music with that intention again.

 

Writings a hit is like creating in a box. There’s this whole world of expression outside the box, but it’s too experimental and the labels and teams who invest in the promotion of these songs, as well as some of the established artists who rely on them, don’t want to take that risk. Inside the box is the radio format – the simple and short arrangement, the watered down lyrics, the “safe” production, the imitation of yesterday’s hit and the room filled with writers trying to express themselves under such limitations. Don’t get me wrong; it can be fun, but music is my way of expressing myself with no limitations and expectations and I’d rather get my fun in playing flag football and laser tag. If I were trying to make a lot of money, I would have been an economics major. (I know almost nothing about Econ but I really do like it. I’m actually taking a free class on Coursera.com right now called “Sustainable Development.” This site is unbelievable, a great place to learn what you want for free.)

Anyways, to end this, I want to thank you guys so much for all your support so far. All the love and attention I’m getting from Remembering Myself – a song that came from such an unrestricted place – helps confirm that artists can be experimental and authentic and still connect with people. I’ve received some of the most beautiful messages from some of you, and for that, I give you my promise that I will always create music freely.

So much love.

 

—September 18, 2015

Play Wit It

 

I have this vivid memory that I will always replay: I’m sitting next to my grandfather, watching him play his baby grand piano when he asks if I would like to play. He joins my family on the couch and I excitedly start to press these mysterious buttons. I’m barely two years old and it obviously sounds terrible, but I don’t care. It’s not about sounding good or impressing anyone. I’m not thinking about the right notes or the proper technique; I’m not trying to imitate anyone. I’m simply “playing” the piano.

 

It’s funny – I’ve spent almost twenty years learning music, and although I sound better than ever before, I’ve gotten worse at playing it. I’m sitting here now, with all this skill and experience, wishing I could express myself as freely as I did the first time I sat down at my papa’s piano – with all that innocence, amusement, pleasure and carelessness.

 

I often find myself in a constant state of self-evaluation. Part of what I hear when I make music is what I’m not capable of doing – the lick I haven’t learned, the drum fill that’s too fast for me, the notes that I can’t sing yet – and it’s not just music, it’s everything. As I read this, I see my inexperience and lack of vocabulary; as I look at my accomplishments, I see the failures I’ve made in-between. As I stare out the window of this studio, I can see the life I don’t have yet, and when I look in the mirror, I can see the man that I’m chasing, the person I wish I could be. I see everything I’m not, and it’s blinding me from everything I am.

 

I traded in a playful child for a stern professional. I gave up my amateurism for expertise, but in the process I lost some of the fun. I forgot that I didn’t fall in love with music because I wanted to be the best; it was because I enjoyed playing it. I don’t perform a song so that I can get to the last note and hear the applause; I’m not alive so I can get to the end and look back on everything I accomplished.

It’s hard not to live like this. Having fun was always scolded in school; achievement was celebrated. There’s no mark on our report cards for joy, no reward for the happiest child. My teachers always told me to stop playing around and start working. We’re taught to abandon our inner-child and grow up, but they can coexist. You’re never too old to play on the playground.

 

I also think it’s really hard not to judge yourself when you start working towards something because you expect progress, inevitably putting you in that constant state of self-evaluation. Music became my way of making money – my work – so it makes sense that it started to feel more and more like work. I think it’s important to set goals and put in the hours to get there, but don’t let prudence numb the thrill; don’t let your goals keep you from being present. It’s ok to go from playful child to stern professional, but don’t stop there. I’m learning to be a playful professional!

 

My friend JT always tells me that the best dancer is the one who’s having the most fun. I’d rather have a good time looking like a fool than be worried that someone is watching. Whether life becomes beautiful or dark, filled with tears of joy or sorrow – wherever this road may take me –I’ma play wit it!

 

—September 17, 2015

Remember To Look Up

 

Wow. I wasn’t expecting this. You guys spread “Remembering Myself” like wildfire. It’s only been out for a week and the song already has a million plays across the Internet. Thank youuuuuuuuuuu with all my heart <3 <3 <3

This is so exciting for me but it’s also a bit stressful. I honestly wasn’t sure if you guys would like it.

 

So last night at around 9pm, three of my closest friends and I spontaneously decided to grab our sleeping bags, hit the road and drive north with no destination in mind – I think it was a way for us to remember we’re still free. After about an hour and half, we pulled off the highway and parked the car on a canyon overlooking the ocean. We were far from the city, and the sky was absolutely beautiful.

 

Looking at the stars always reminds me of how small I am, how wonderfully insignificant my life is. It’s a feeling of unimportance but in the most humbling and cool way. Last night, it helped me remember that whatever adventures are to come, I can’t forget to look up. It’s comforting to know that no matter what; those stars will always be there.

My friends and I ended up hiking down to the beach and sleeping on the sand.

 

—September 8, 2015

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