The Independent Musician

People ask me, sometimes, how I keep going.  I’ve never had a big break.  I have waded in obscurity, as a musician, essentially, forever.  I’ve locked myself away to work on sounds that I hoped would somehow change the world.  And with each day and each month spent on that music, my hope would grow; I’d become so sure that whatever project I was involved with would bring me to a broader audience, I could so vividly imagine it – that I felt as though I was almost there.  Then I would release the project, and find that those feelings were mirages, stuff of my imagination.  The music just wouldn’t grab on like I’d hoped; then, subsequently, I’d make the plunge into disappointment.  I’d question myself as a creator, as a musician, as a writer, as a human being.  I’d feel like a fraud.  I’d stare at the ceiling and wonder why I spent so much time on something that gave me so little.  Then a week or so would pass, and the cycle would begin again; the fire of hope would start to fester.  And like this, a metronome, for years, I have been rocking back and forth between hope and discouragement, between chasing the dream and hating it.  And that is the plight of the artist who reaches for success.  It is an exhausting emotional rollercoaster.  It is a torturous and constant plucking and tearing of the heartstrings.  It is chasing shadows in a dark room with a blindfold and a stick.  And sometimes, here and there, someone will grab me by the shoulder and ask and say,  “Why are you doing this?  You don’t have to do this anymore.” 

And to them, I always say – yes – yes, in fact, I do.  There is an uncontrollable firestorm of want that is always churning within me; a want for success, a want for a larger audience, a want to affect more people, a want for a life earned by and lived through creativity, and, of course, a want to, simply, create.  It is a disease of dissatisfaction; a drive that is more compulsive than noble.  So when someone asks how I keep going, an image is brought to mind of a man tied to a raging bull by his ankle, and how funny it would be to ask him, the dragging man, the same question. 

Ambition can be such an ugly thing, I know, and want can be such an ugly thing.  But, I believe, if you aim them in the right direction, they could reach, together, immeasurable heights and solve and achieve the impossible.  So, if you are, too, being dragged by that bull of ambition - be thankful.  Some people are tied to stones and swaying on the bottom of an ocean of indifference, in a stasis of lethargy, dreading the boredom of their tomorrows, and regretting the sameness of their yesterdays.

If you have a fire within you, stoke it.  And if you don’t have one, explore until you find your spark.  Humans can be fantastically inventive, passionate things if only they find their right direction.

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this:  What are you passionate about?  What dreams pull you through life?  What sets your soul on fire?

If you missed last week's blog.  Read it here.

Drowning In Melted Starbursts

I do not at all feel like writing this blog right now, but I have to.  I would rather headbutt a unicorn, impale myself through the forehead, and flail wildly as it gallops across the universe and delivers rainbows to trolls or whatever it is that they do.  Why?  I’m tired.  I don’t feel like slamming my forehead against these keys (that’s how I type) while at the same time try to find meaning in my own rambling.  I would rather drown in a pool of melted starbursts while someone sitting at the edge of the pool reads the most recent draft of my novel and gives me his unsolicited opinion, “You should just stick with music!  Unsubscribed!”  And I’m all in there, sticky, and drowning, but I yell back, “That’s just like, you’re opinion, man!”  And he yells back, “That’s the improper usage of you’re; it should be your!”  And I’m like, “How can you tell!?  We’re speaking!”  And then he replies, “I just know!  We’re actually inside of your blog!  We don’t exist!  We’re made up characters!”  And then, as I die, inhaling that pink glop of strawberry flavored starburst, as I'm both enjoying its sweetness and choking to death, I realize that I am a fictional character within my own blog, and in that knowing I find peace, and I don’t die, I turn into a donut, and then I turn into a unicorn, and then I impale myself in the past.

I don’t know.  It’s Sunday.  I feel like lying back and eating forty-seven bowls of Peanut Butter M&Ms, but sometimes doing what you feel like doing isn't good for you.  Sometimes you have to do what you don't want to do in order to get to where you want to go.  It's discipline.  And this writing, here, for me, is a practice of discipline.  If I didn't do it, it'd carry over into tomorrow, and I'd be little lazier, cut a few more corners, and that'd bleed into my music, into my writing, into my other projects.  Nothing is given to you.  Everything is earned.  On the road to success, for anyone, in any field, there are tasks that suck.  Doing those sucky things makes you strong.  So do 'em.  Have willpower.  Check yourself.  Humans have lazy little bodies that want huge awards for minor successes.  Rise above that.

Goodnight.  And good luck.

#drowninginmeltedstarbusts

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this:  Is there something you did last week that you didn't feel like doing, but you did anyway?  Is there something coming up this week that you really don't feel like doing, but have to?  Are you nervous?  Scared?  Or just being lazy?  Let me know.  Your lives are interesting.  I loved your comments last time around.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

'You Have Cancer' + Brownies

I’m sitting inside of my parents’ house in Fairfield.  It’s mother's day.  I have a ‘soft corn’ between my pinky toe and the next because I tie my chucks too tight and walk a lot - it’s a sore, kind of like a blister.  I woke up this last Tuesday to find that my left ear had started to bleed.  This morning, my left eyelid was swollen.  The older I get, the more it feels like my body isn’t mine.  It’s a vehicle - a fleshy car.  The paint oxidizes.  The transmission goes.  The power steering fluid leaks.  The breaks squeal.  And I can’t trade it in to buy another.  I may be able to exchange a part or two here or there, but, the trend is most definitively downward until, unavoidably, I finally have to give it back.  One day, your doctor tells you, “It’s cancer.”  You sit there, in shock, because you figured you were immune somehow, like cancer was reserved for Grey’s Anatomy and daytime soaps.  It was supposed to be a ‘did you hear about so-and-so’ thing and not a ‘how do I spend these next six months’ thing.  And you walk away feeling like you’re in a dream, like your life is a movie, and you wish you could fire the writers, hire some new ones and tell them to rewrite the ending.  But we can’t do that.  Fate doesn’t seem to care too much for character arcs.  Like a cold slap in the face from a Starbuck’s barista, death can come unexpected and without reason.

So, where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  I just bang these keys.  Maybe I’m saying that life can end at any moment, so appreciate it.  Maybe I’m telling you to appreciate your loved ones because they won’t be around forever.  That sounds corny, yeah, I know.  It’s tired.  You can read this stuff on cereal boxes.  But for some reason it doesn’t sink in for me.  I forget.  It’s so easy to shrug your shoulders at everything, to let every day bleed together until its this indiscernible mass of goop, until you’re stuck in one long Tuesday afternoon.

My sister just walked into the kitchen.  I’m sitting here in the living room.  She’s playing a song over her iPhone – ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ by Ella Fitzgerald. 

You feel those vibes?  I’m pretty sure she’s about to make brownies.  I can hear the birds singing outside.  I’ve got to say, it’s pretty serene.  I can’t complain.  Life is good right now.  I’m sure if you viewed whatever moment you’re in from the right angle, you could feel the same.  Life is fascinating.  Let it be fascinating.  I respect positive people.  They're balancing on a razor blade, when everyone is trying to push them off.

Anyway.  Until next week.  Live good.  Really.  It all ends in a blink.  Happy Mother's Day.  Goodnight, and good luck.

#hugyourmothers

- Kai

In a comment below, answer this:  Where are you and what’s going on around you right now?  I’ve let you peer into my life; I’d love to peer into yours.  Because I’m weird.  What’s the temperature?  What can you smell?  What colors can you see?  Who are you with?

Pop-Tarts

I want to keep these blogs as casual as possible, not overthought or calculated.  I’d rather they be more like vomit than the sixteen martinis and cookie dough ice-cream cake that came before it, because there is something so honest about vomit; it automatically gives any onlooker a potentially embarrassing snapshot of ones life.  All of the sudden, everyone at the party knows that I ate cheerios for dinner and may deduce that I’m single, and, from their perspective, maybe, I have yet to reach true adulthood which, possibly, in their opinion, should consist of pot pies and crock pots and wine and, ya know, anything that is anti Pop-Tart.

But, and I think I’ve stumbled upon a point here – I am firmly pro Pop-Tart.  I’ve always resented the concept of maturity.  These rules that, once we reach a certain age, we must adopt.  “I don’t watch cartoons, I’m an adult.” – “I don’t eat gummy worms, I’m an adult.” – “I don’t wear Batman onsies and watch The Dark Knight trilogy with my sister every few months, I’m an adult.” – etc. 

I dated someone who would often tell me that I was immature.  She'd usually say it after I'd do some kind of impression where I’d change my voice, or I’d willingly make myself look stupid, anything uppity and animated, anything silly.  And that’s when I realized that maturity, to her, was ones ability to maintain a disposition of unaffectedness and calm.  If you laugh too loud and for too long, you’re acting like child.  If you make an inappropriate joke, you’re acting like a child.  If you do anything colorful, you're acting like a child.  And I thought to myself, what sort of prison has our culture constructed for our future selves?  Why can’t we give in, completely, and publicly, to those nearly frowned upon fringes of the human experience – hilarity, passion, lightheartedness and the like.  It’s as if, when we grow old, we are given the weight of the world, and if we aren’t dragging our feet then we aren’t properly participating in the human experience.  It’s like we begin as helium balloons, as these constantly giggling morons, as babies, and then we grow old and we turn into bags of bricks - stale, heavy and immovable.

There’s this great quote from Ursula K. Le Guin – “The creative adult is the child who has survived.”  And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, because, it sometimes feels like my creativity is being accosted by the demands of our culture.  I find myself embarrassed to share with people that I make music, like an early teen might be embarrassed to be found playing with his old action figures.  And, I here declare, this writing is my defending myself.  I don’t want to become a bag of bricks.  I’d rather be a balloon.  But sometimes it feels like my feet are turning a rusty red, and societal expectations are their mortar, doing their best to hold me still.

Here is video of a baby laughing uncontrollably at the sight of seeds being blown from a dandelion.  If being immature is being like a child, then sign me up.

And that’s it this week, just some rambling.  About my projects – only a couple more songs left on the album, and I edited about 30 pages of my book today; it's my final read through.

I’ll be back next Sunday at 8PM.  Until then.  Protect your silliness.  Don't be scared to be lighthearted.  Cool kids become adults.  And cool kids are fuckin' stupid.

#iampoptart 

Goodnight, and good luck.

- Kai

The Monster, My Novel, The Music

Writing blogs has always made me nervous.  I think this is because, in my music, and in what I try to represent, I'm so idealistic, and in life, I'm such a relentless realist.  The disparity embarrasses me, and I don't want to disappoint you.  I want to inspire people to be hopeful, but I'm not hopeful.  I want to inspire people to be positive, but I'm not positive.  I fight to be these things, of course, but it is exactly that - a fight.  I force myself to be positive like a nine year old boy may force himself to believe in Santa Clause; my pessimism is like the growing truth that he pushes to the back of his mind, looming, threatening to strip him of his yuletide fantasy, though deep down he knows that it is only a matter of time before that truth grows too large to suppress.  Why does happiness have to be so fragile?  Rather, why does my happiness have to be so fragile?  And I feel selfish for even asking the question.  But I don't see the same struggle in other people.  It's as if there is a monster that follows me and no one else can see it, and each day it gets closer and closer until I have to confront it.  And this confrontation manifests as my wallowing in a pool of self-hatred, a pitch black world view, and a thick fog of hopelessness.  When it ends, the cycle begins again, but each time, the monster finds its way back to me faster and faster, and it stays longer and longer.  I then wonder about my future, and if, in five years or so, ten, someday, my life will be a constant confrontation with this monster; and when that time comes, how will I manage?

The truth is, I don't know.  Though I pride myself in my ability to solve problems, I don't know how to solve my own.  But that's not to say I'll never stop trying.

I know there are some people out there who feel the way that I feel, and that's partially why I've decided to write a blog, from this point on, weekly, posted every Sunday at 8PM.  If you're one of those people, whenever you're down, whenever you're confronting your monster, you can check and see that I'm still here.  And if I am, that means I'm fighting the good fight, and I'm winning, and that means you can win too. 

But I'm also writing this as a general log of my story.  A public journal.  A forever evolving piece of non-fiction, where neither you nor I will know the outcome.  My pursuit is one toward happiness, toward The American Dream, toward fulfillment, toward love, and if I arrive at any of these things, or if I don't, I will write about it, and we'll experience them together.

Concerning my creative projects, I finished the third draft of my novel.  Next up, I'm going to read it - likely make a change or two here and there - but once that's done, I'll be shopping it around to literary agents to hopefully get the thing published.  It will make its way to you somehow, I promise.

Musically, the album is almost finished.  It's a full collaboration between myself and Alex Fyock, aka James The Bear.  It will be released under a brand new moniker, not just my name - very much like CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse's collaboration Gnarls Barkley.  We both really hope you enjoy it.  And I'm excited to start releasing the singles and hear what you think.

And that's that.  I'll be back next Sunday.  Until then.  Goodnight, and good luck.

- Kai

Drawing by Tim Burton

Drawing by Tim Burton