Imagine me four floors up in an apartment a few blocks from Bourbon St. in New Orleans. It’s hot and humid. There are random thunderstorms so lightning bangs through the windows every twenty minutes; I’m lost in my headphones. Between takes I can hear street performers blowing tubas and trumpets and banging drums from The French Quarter. I’m standing at the kitchen bar because the apartment doesn’t have a desk – and I’m composing what would become ‘ASAP’; it’s 1AM. I’m making a new song in a new place with a new little traveling piano on the first self-motivated trip I’d ever taken in my life. When I told my parents about this traveling album, Made In / Place, they responded with what I’d describe as fear. There’s something about this – for me specifically – that is radically new.
I have largely been a creature of habit and discipline throughout my adult life. Anything outside of creating music and finding a means to promote or make a living from that music I viewed as my squandering minutes that could have been better allocated. And once I made it to some degree of creative success, any minute not spent in service of that creativity was my taking my eye off the ball. This – this, though – this I am doing to enrich my soul – because when you live with such tremendous focus on a single expression of yourself, you are bound to sacrifice branches of your tree that would have otherwise grown. This is me looking at an unexplored area of my own heart, and the unexplored map of this world, and seeing if maybe when I combine them both I’ll find pieces of myself hidden within experiences I would have never had – new branches that, had I not decided to do this, would’ve been left trimmed as “not me”. There’s a tendency to find a lane in life and stay there. We find our way to a comfortable version of ourselves and announce “this is me,” and anything outside of that version is not. I think to audit where you are on that spectrum, and then decide to live in a way opposite or different from what you consider to be “you” is an important part of self-discovery. My committing to this project is an expression of that idea.
Look at your lifestyle biases. If you’re a measurer, a list-maker, a sharp edge – I’d seek an avenue to express your softness. If you are laid back, an it’s-whatever-er, a round edge – I’d seek a tougher road. If I were a social person, I’d find quiet. If I were an active person, I’d find stillness. If I were a list-maker, I’d surrender to my whims. If I were a traveler, I’d stay home. Because if you’re a chronic expression of one idea of living, the probability that you are also an expression of fear is high – even if your behaviors might externally signal perfection. Sometimes the person who is chronically social is scared of being alone, for example. Sometimes the person who is chronically at the gym is deeply insecure. Sometimes the person who is obsessed with their health is intensely afraid of death. These resulting behaviors aren’t bad, but to be motivated by anxiety is to be imprisoned by it – regardless of what direction that anxiety moves you. My goal is to discover all fears that animate my actions because with that discovery the chains they have on me loosen; I can feel it happen; and then they unbind, and with them finally unbound I can truly live fearlessly, and decide fearlessly, and know myself fearlessly. Fear will make you love someone you’d never love, work where you’d never work, and be what you’d never be – for a lifetime. To unbuckle fear from your decision-making is to take the mud from your eyes and see your life and yourself for what they are.
I quit drinking over thirteen years ago, and that decision was similarly motivated. Anyone who knew me before then would’ve thought I’d never say no to a beer at party. And on the other side of that decision, a decision that didn’t “seem like Kai” to those who knew me at the time, was a level of peace and healing I’d have never achieved. To seize opportunity at the nightclub I once worked for and move beyond punching numbers into excel spreadsheets, I had to move from an ‘introverted’ expression of myself – to an ‘extroverted’ one – because the job required I introduce myself to and build rapport with hundreds of guests every weekend, sober. My doing that did not “seem like Kai”, yet on the other side of that were skills I would have never developed or known existed, and friends I would have never met. When I decided to write my first pop songs ‘Friction’ and ‘Hurricane’, that did not “seem like Kai” and yet they became two of the most popular songs in my discography – the latter of which climbing to #2 in the world on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart establishing a foundation for my music career. When I moved to San Francisco, it didn’t “seem like Kai”. When I started eating healthfully it didn’t “seem like Kai”. When I broke up with a girlfriend who treated me very poorly – her first words to me while I was breaking up with her were, “ – you don’t seem like yourself.” Good. “Man, Kai, this new song just doesn’t seem like you.” Good. “I just don’t get why you’d write something like this.” Good. “I just don’t get why you’re traveling alone.” Good. I hope the road of my life is strewn with the empty shells I’ve escaped from by choosing growth over sameness. From the knives I’ve pulled from my ribs I’ve built the ladders I've needed to reach some kind of higher self – a freer self – a self not beholden to whatever fears would’ve kept me passed out drunk in an alley in Fairfield as the sun came up, or fears that would've kept me in a nightclub accounting department, or fears that would've kept me within the prison of a self so underdeveloped that I can look back now and say, ah, that - that wasn't me; I was just on my way.
‘ASAP’ is a song I’d never written about a lifestyle I’d never lived made in a city I’d never been. It’s a celebration of newness – an ode to adventure. It’s a song about discovering and embracing the other side of your coin.
And it’s also about whatever you think it’s about, because that’s music.
About the song ‘ASAP’, 2024