Don’t you need those structures sometimes? Something tangible to aim for, or base things on?
No. I think it’s dangerous. These tangible identities are holding yards, cattle holding yards. Once you create these ideas of yourself, then so much energy has to go into maintaining them or breaking them down. I think what happened was, I got so caught up in what I thought I should be doing and what I thought it should look like. I even had this idea of what I thought it was to be a successful musician. And I was like, Cool, I can’t be that because it looks like that. And because I’m busy being and doing this particular identity, I can’t possibly merge that one as well—it looks too different. This case completely supported the fact that I was really, really scared of expressing myself. I was really, really scared of what that risk would mean for my own secret ideas of how shit I was. So those identities were doing a great job of protecting a space of fear, not a space of freedom. If these identities were giving me freedom, awesome. But they weren’t serving me.
So how did you bust out?
Slowly and with great tenderness and love from my community. I had to create an environment for creativity to exist. The only way I could create that environment, was to be creative. You know, it’s that fucking simple. To be the change you want to see in the world—you know, the ultimate email sign-off. And for me, it was the simple thing of starting to say Yes.
My first album, Beat and Holler—it’s a body of work that is really personal. In almost every song, although it might sound like I’m talking about a partner, I’m generally talking about a part of myself. A part of what was going on, a part of how I was slowly extrapolating a sense of how to be. The songs came from deep realisations. “On My Way” came from this realisation that there was this voice in my head that sounded eerily like my own, but it wasn’t interested in largeness, it wasn’t interested in expansiveness. It was very scared. And it was the voice that went, Oh no, don’t do that. That’s stupid. You’ll look like a dickhead if you do that. The problem was, I was investing in it.
So, really personal songs. I started going out and performing these songs, and having people come up at the end of these gigs, and going, ‘You could have written that song about me.’ And I was like, No, no, no. That’s the most dark, secret part of myself. How could that possibly be where we’re going to connect? I thought these were the parts I had to keep secret. It felt like the ultimate risk to be sharing them. But I started landing on my feet. Not just landing on my feet, but getting connectedness, and a sense of freedom and self-expression.
It’s kind of like that idea of solidarity through loneliness. Two people express loneliness and then the loneliness is banished by their connection. So, you express vulnerability into a crowded room and they respond with their own vulnerability—there’s a connection that’s created through that.
The songs that you wrote for Beat and Holler— that really personal album—was it writing them that got you through, or was the whole process of making and performing the album cathartic?
It’s still cathartic. I still perform those songs and remember those things. They’re my parables. They’re my stories. And I see my daughter singing these songs. She’s at the iPod age, where she’s listening to a lot of music all the time. Hearing her mouth these stories and say these things, it’s like, Maybe these are her stories too somehow? Maybe these are how we can connect? Anyway, it’s an ongoing process. I think a song is like that. I often think about visual artists and how they get an idea onto a canvas, and then they do all that work in the creating of it, but then they sell it.
Yeah. And it hangs in somebody else’s home.
Yeah! I couldn’t handle that.
But you do. Your give your songs over, your music plays in other people’s homes.
Yes. But I get to re-sing it. I write my songs, and they’re private, they’re quiet and sometimes they’re hard work, sometimes they come really easily, but they’re a process. Then I take that song and play it for my kids—there’s that first ring of it becoming not mine. And then, from there, maybe a friend will hear it or something. It starts moving out of me. It’s still mine, it’s still intimately mine, but it’s becoming other people’s as well. Then I take it to the band and say, ‘Okay, let’s paint the sentiment of it, let’s build the sentiment of it.’ The community’s getting involved, right?
So now it’s not only that you’re letting this thing go, but other people are adding to it.
We’re all adding to it, experiencing it, understanding it, having our own idea of it. Maybe we’ve talked about where it’s come from. But we’re all in this thing now. Okay, so we’re going to record it! And now we’re going to put it out and we’re going to perform it! Now we’re handing this stuff over to strangers.