A monumentous day for my Chicago squad. This project began what feels like a lifetime ago, with the first notes being captured May 2015. I think it’s fair to say it began two lifetimes ago, in 2012, when I began to work with ProbCause who soon introduced me to his frequent collaborators The Palmer Squares. I arrived in Chicago that year with no connections and less than a handful of relationships. “Junkyard Samurai” embodies for me a life that grew from that seed, nurished through music. It’s features my top 4 most frequent vocal collaborators over an array of my production that showcases what I’ve learned since I landed on Plymouth Rock. And I made sure to get some contribution from my family in the old country, STL, in Charlie Cerpa’s sax and Nick Savage’s drums. JS is the final exam to my master’s degree (“master” really should be the title for the highest degree, shouldn’t it? Anyway…). Now my doctorate studies begin.
An encapsulation of my musical journey to date. From listening to “I Had the Time of My Life” on repeat on cassette to going to my first incubus concert and getting my first guitar. Discovering Bone Thugs, Tupac and Dre through my older cousins and friends’ older siblings. From mixing Rock and Funk in the basement to combining Pop/Soul/Funk on stage as a singer and bandleader. Jazz Studies and studio engineering in college. Resting my vocals while collaborating with choreographers and becoming a producer. Moving to Chicago in 2012 and beginning to work with the vocalists on this track ProbCause & The Palmer Squares . Term especially caught my vibe with his singing here on “Paralyzed.” Last year I reengaged as a singer starting The Belief Cycle which showcases a sound like this on every track (tries to at least). I also began singing with a wedding band, which is the only reason I’ve come to own the clothes worn in this video. It feels like every part of me is in this piece of art and so are the parts of many others, through their direct involvement or their presence in me. Now that it’s out in the world, I feel like a blank canvas. I hope I can use it to make a lot more music like this and I hope you’ll be there to share it with.
As long as no one else has to live with your choices (spouse, kids, business partner, etc.) then you have zero reason to care what anyone else thinks about what you’re doing.
“I'm the one that has to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to.” - Jimi Hendrix
Ask the “why?” behind your choices. If you ask why enough times you just might find that the answer is to impress someone else.
“Integrating the shadow.” I’ve written a lot about positivity. I’ve called myself an optimist. I am that. But that’s not all I am. We all have a dark layer beneath.
“The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Evil is a bit of a strong term for what I’m talking about here. But the darkness I speak of is the seed for evil if nurtured too much. We’re all born with this seed preplanted and it can’t be removed.
I think my dark roots extend a little deeper and further than most peoples’. I sought to defeat the darkness by learning to yield the light. Bad move. My focus on positivity wasn’t a cure for pain. I became a splintered person, with distance growing between the parts of me. By judging parts of myself I upset the balance. I’m now living in balance. In ACCEPTANCE of who I am. The light and the dark.
Three years ago I found myself a few years settled into a comfortable lifestyle of paying my bills with music. I was in a good relationship and spent all my time in the studio or chilling with my girlfriend at our apartment by Lake Michigan. Before that point what I was used to was struggling to get by month to month, eviction, debt, minimum wage work, depression. Here I was, having achieved my goal of finding a city to call home and not worrying about the bills while I made music. One year later I was living the exact same life. And I was miserable. I became out of shape, constantly sick, more depressed than ever. My income started to drop, I left home as little as possible. My girlfriend left me, forcing a change in my living situation and a few days later the studio job I had no plans of ever leaving got shut down over some bullshit. I was in such shock by that point I couldn't even focus on being in pain. I had to discover what it was going to take to turn my life around. Now, two years later, I finally feel like a new person that has not only survived shitty circumstances but learned what it takes to be satisfied in this life. I want to share the lesson with you as simply as possible:
YOU HAVE DREAMS. CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS TO SUPPORT YOUR DREAMS OF WHAT LIFE CAN BE. CHANGE YOUR ACTIONS TO REFLECT YOUR BELIEFS. HAVE PATIENCE IN THE PROCESS OF TAKING DAILY ACTION FORWARD.
That's pretty much it. Have I magically manifested everything I want in life in the last two years? No! Another flaw in the system that left me so down and out before was I thought I had arrived. I thought achieving a general, low-expectation-ass goal of "make a living off a music" meant it was time to kick my feet up, get comfortable and ride this life out. There is no arrival! I'll arrive at my destination when I die. Until then it's a process of knowing life's awesome, I'm awesome and putting in the action towards specific, lofty and numerable goals to make it all more awesome all the time.
I get asked these days how I've changed. I have a simple and clear answer:
I've learned to believe with zero doubt there's nothing life can put in front of me that I can't handle.
Great new opportunity I'm unprepared for? "Yes, I'm in."
Devastating blow that sets me back. "I don't know how yet, but I'm going to figure this out."
2017 wass the year were my efforts have begun to feel like they're paying off on a consistent basis. 16 years of effort in the same industry, that is. I'm not one of these whiz kids that had the magic swag and an old soul in their teens and early twenties. Our culture loves that story but most of us aren't that. That's one-in-a-million. What I am is the one out of every maybe ten thousand that refused to quit year after year after year that I still hadn't "made it."
It would've been nice to figure it out sooner, but I had to climb the ladder out of the darkness of my own mind before I could gain traction climbing the ladder of the industry. That's just part of my story that I'm here to share. We all have a story to share that if we do so authentically we can help others on their paths.
I'm here to show you that overcoming depression and mental illness is possible and needed by way more people than our society cares to admit. I'm here to show you that never giving up pays off and it's not too late for you even if you haven't started yet (but today remains your best opportunity). I'm here to show you your excuses are bullshit so either get to making your dreams happen or sit back and support those of us who do.
I was this way when I was young, so I get it but can we please stop with the "I don't like this artist's work so they suck and have no talent."
I guarantee an artist that has worked enough to get their work into your senses is in fact more talented and hardworking than you could ever be.
Do some real dream chasing with your life and your empathy in all areas of life will grow.
Your body can go days without food. it's designed to do that, that's why we store fat because when an animal eats it may be days before it acquires food again. We just happen to be a species that has the cognition to yield an unlimited supply of food available at all times. The businesses that create and sell that abundance have advertised to you constantly since before you were born how and when to eat that food based on commerce and comfort over science.
I'm saving Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, West World, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, Dare Devil, Punisher, Luke Cage, Black Mirror, etc for the nursing home.
I'll binge watch Better Call Saul after it ends because Breaking Bad is the GOAT.
So who's down for a TV binge party in 60 years?
Smile and be kind to strangers. Be a positive force for to those around you. Before you go about your day everyday remind yourself you're creating a ripple effect into the world that's carrying your vibes way further than you think.
We can't directly change our laws but we can change our world. When enough tiny pieces of the whole change, the whole has changed. Spreading love needs to be the first call to duty in all of our lives.
Ask yourself right now "How do I want to feel today? How do I want to make others feel?"
Wake up, set the intention to spread love, remind yourself to keep it up throughout the day.
PS I'm not claiming I'm perfectly amazing to be around all day everyday. I've simply been awoken to how desperately we need more love and I'm trying to see you putting in the effort too. Indifference is easier, but look where that's getting us.
1. from the head of the music department "Never turn down a free meal."
2. from the head of the audio department "Never buy what you can borrow."
When you turn off the news, the evidence that people actually suck in day-to-day life is pretty thin.
I’ve completed my first 3 day water fast (plus a 1 day cellphone and internet fast) and I’m gonna share what I’ve learned and experienced:
-parts of myself presumed dead were resurrected. This took me on a spiritual journey. Makes sense some religions think it brings you closer to god
-I’ve never felt happier, more content, more peaceful, more focused, less lonely. Something biological was happening that put me into a euphoric state that so far remains (starting on the 2nd day of fast and even more so the 3rd, part of me wanted to keep going to see if these benefits could go deeper and deeper)
-hunger was not once an issue, at no point did eating feel dire or even necessary
-my short term memory was better
-meditation was easier to do for longer and my lung capacity was at least 1.5X bigger
-My mental energy was at new heights, my threshold for physical activity was low (duh)
-anxiety and negative voices in my head were completely muted and still are
-clarity, focus and certainty were heightened
-I don’t track my weight but I’ve definitely lost most of the fat gained on tour for a month and appear to have retained all my muscle
-my confidence is increased. I’ve gotten more in tune with myself than ever after spending much of the past year (and most of my life) feeling lost and i know there are things in life I’ve conquered that most others will never even attempt
-🙈I’ve never been so horny🙊
-sleeping was easy and always through the night without interruption
-judgements of myself and others decreased dramatically
-3 days for me was not long enough to break sugar addiction. I’ve read a fast of this length could reset your taste buds but not my experience this time
-I’ve intermittent fasted daily for almost 2 years (16-23 hours of fasting per 24) and worked my way up to the 3 days while taking in books, YouTube and podcasts on the subject FYI . I’m highly recommending you do this but probably not without plenty of preparation. Although it is safe enough to do without prep
-our food habits are advertising and addiction, not science. You don’t need 3 meals a day or a snack every 3 hours. Our bodies retain fat for the purpose of having energy when food is scarce for days, we were built for fasting. But we were also built to consume as much food as possible when it is available which is why we’re easy prey for the myths and addictive garbage the food industry has made omnipresent. What you think is hunger or “hangry” is addiction to processed foods
-I’ve heard about skin improvements from longer fasts but did not experience that. My skin was certainly no worse than normal but probably not better either. Maybe a little softer
-being on my third day of fasting and disconnecting from the internet made my world small - in the best way. The past was nonexistent, the future not a concern. No FOMO. Life was this space in my immediate vicinity and it was peaceful, it was enough
-I’ve read it’s the best anti-cancer, anti-aging tool humans have found. It definitely felt nothing less than completely healthy and refreshing
-This will definitely be a recurring thing for me, several of the people that inspired me do this do it once a month plus a 5-7 day fast once a year. I’m probably not going to get into longer fasts because that’s recommended to do under doctor supervision but 3 days a month I’d like to try. Probably will start fasting one full day each week as well as staying with my daily intermittent fast indefinitely
"That's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love."
It was cheesy and flat out incorrect in context of the "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" film it was said in, but this quote is what we need in real life for 2018.
I've blacked out his name and profile picture. Here is the otherwise unedited conversation. . .
Grow the love inside yourself by fostering an attitude and self-talk that is forgiving, compassionate and kind. Grow that well of love so big that you can pour it into those around you and onto strangers in need of it
Follow your heart. Whether it's the chase of a lofty dream your heart desires or you simply want to find stability and ride out this short life close to your friends and family. Maybe some shade between. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, make sure your drive to be there is from inside and not to satisfy what you think others will accept or expect of you.
In the meantime, stop complaining. You're in the top 1% of easiest living beings on this planet. Chill out and have some fun along the way.
Results of another life "experiment" (I'm not using the scientific method, just trying things and seeing how they feel):
For the past 6 months I went from eating meat 1 meal a day to 2-3 servings a week. I thought the difference was negligible, until I tried eating meat everyday again. . . here's what went down
-my energy slowly deteriorated over the months of reduced meat. I thought I was getting old and reduced the number of days per week I worked out because I was dead tired all the time. It was hard to see in the moment but now I see that energy struggle lead to compromised focus and mood. I was sick twice in that period and hadn't been sick since fall 2015.
-since reintroducing more meat (beef) my energy is back, I'm going harder than ever in the gym and recovering faster. I instantly feel younger. My skin is looking the best it's looked since this winter hit. My muscles feel like they're made of stone and my physique is tighter and bigger. I feel like a beast.
-I'm eating cuts of beef baked or grilled with light seasoning. No sauce, no bread, no fried foods on the side. I eat a reasonable sized portion with a plate full of broccoli. It's just not the same health risks as including meat in a diet heavy in grains, sugar and dairy.
-You can definitely argue that my near-veganism would've gone better if I supplemented what I was missing from the correct foods through plant sources and supplements. But that's complicated, that's not what I'm looking for. I want to feel good with the least amount of effort and I take zero supplements other than fish oil (because I won't touch seafood).
-I don't like the environmental impact of eating meat, which is why I tried slowing down. But the way I feel now, I hope to eat more and higher quality meat in the future when I can focus more financial resources that way.
-There's just no way I'm going to be convinced that our bodies aren't meant to eat meat. The effects I described above, the bodily stimulation of the look, smell and taste of meat that is so innately satisfying and the satiation of having it in your stomach.
A good friend told me last night that he always thought my positivity was a bullshit cover up for my anger and cynicism but, as of the last couple months, he now believes me. haha this is the honest feedback you get when you put yourself on blast. And he's pretty right. I told myself and everyone around me that I was going to be peaceful, grateful and generous while I learned to make it real.
Fake it 'til you make it.
There is no bad positivity, even fake positivity improves yourself and the world around you. Put that smile on this week no matter how you feel inside and it'll lead you towards the light.