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Category Archives: Artist Blog

Art vs. Money

I write this from a café in Los Angeles this morning.  It’s a grey, chilly and beautiful January morning.  I’m out here seeing friends and family and taking some business meetings.  Seeing the power of the entertainment industry all around and the good stuff money can buy brings up a lot of desires, feelings, ambitions, questions, etc.

I myself, like so many artists, musicians, writers and the like have fought to reconcile the gravitational pull of a need to express oneself artistically with the realities of the world and financial pressures.  I’ve been in music, moved away, come back, moved away and am now back again. This time, I come with greater desire, urgency and realization that it is now or never.

I do have the good fortune of knowing with confidence that my talents and potential are significant enough that the pursuit of an artistic dream isn’t equal to a life sentence of poverty.  I’m also seasoned enough to understand that I have to power to make great things happen.  No great career in art, business or anything else ever happens without that knowledge and firm belief.Even still, I have to fight myself everyday and inner voices of doubt about the odds of making it happen.  I have to consider strategy, the long, hard road ahead and the realities of this path without allowing it to undermine my determination or complete confidence in my ability to break down the barriers to a successful career in music.

No one wants to be broke…at least not anyone I know.  On the flipside, if you are a creative person, a truly creative person who has been gifted with a talent from the Creator, there is a deep and inherent need to express one’s creativity and share it with others.  It is a blessing and a curse.  I have, in the past, decided it was time to focus on a career in business, to be a family man, to make a living and be a provider at the expense of my music.  Somehow, someway, the need to express my creative nature is too strong to suppress and begins to cry out with a voice too powerful to ignore.

Right now I’ve got a business that I began a few years ago and it is starting to gain a bit of traction.  I know that my pursuit of music is going to slow the growth of the business and, at least in the short term, hurt me financially.  And it is.  Still, I’m so driven to express myself and share my voice with the world that it just doesn’t matter.

I know the joy and fulfillment I get from making music and the pain that comes from feeling that you have been blessed with a gift and are not using it to enrich others, and it doesn’t sit well.  I am not willing to one day look back at my life and say I had this special gift and didn’t give everything I could to share it with the world.  It’s not gonna happen.I also know that the world is full of “successful” people with money who have incredibly unfulfilling lives and are simply not happy.  There’s a ton of social pressure to do well financially and there’s really no way to not feel on some level that without more money you are missing out on something good.  I love great food, I love nice things, I want a beautiful home, I want to travel more.  I’m human, I want these things.  But more than that, I want these things on my terms doing what I love to do and doing it in a way that brings joy, hope and value to other people.

One last thought that I want to share.  I had a very dear friend that I met as teenager who I really looked up to.  His uncle was my next door neighbor growing up and we met one day when he was up in San Francisco visiting from L.A.  I was just getting heavy into reggae and here’s comes this guy with long dreads who has this vibe and aura about him that was undeniable.  He was about 15 years older than me.  As I got to know him I learned he was a photographer by trade and was doing his thing making a decent living in L.A. in the entertainment business.  I moved to L.A. several years later to finish college and he became a great friend and like a big brother to me.

He had been best friends with Peter Tosh, had known Bob Marley well and as we became friends I saw so much in this guy that inspired me about the possibilities in life and power of the human spirit.  He possessed a truly magnetic personality.  To this day he may be the most self-confident human being I’ve ever known.  He moved on to become a videographer and although he was terribly ambitious, he never really broke through to the success I know he desired to have.

But he never quit on his dream.  There were times he was dead broke and struggling, but he never waved the white flag or decided he was going to get a job to make steady money in favor of his art.  I find this really admirable.  At one point many years ago, after I’d sent him several of my songs to hear via email, he told me point blank that “If you don’t pursue your music you will be wasting the gift God has given you”.  That hit me hard.

I tried to reach out him via Facebook once or twice in the past 10 years or so but never got much of a response.  I didn’t know if he was busy or maybe wasn’t doing well and didn’t want me to see him in that position.  I know there were times when I wasn’t reaching out to him for that very reason.  This past year, as I got back in the music game and started to gain traction on my project, I felt compelled to reach out to him to reconnect and share with him what I was doing.  I really missed him and thought he’d be proud of me for fighting my way back in after all these years.  I was super excited to talk to him.

I looked for him on Facebook but nothing.  I started doing an online search and came to find out that he’d died of complications from cancer a couple years earlier.  There were some news stories from entertainment industry sources in L.A. about him, his life and death.  I was heartbroken.  He was young and I’m sure he felt that some of his hopes for his life were left unresolved, but he had lived a rich and full life of adventure and had touched a lot of people deeply with his personality and spirit.  D.A. was well loved.

The words he shared with me that day have never left me and I know they never will.  I hope he is seeing me and what I’m up to these days and approves.  I’ve been in and out of music a couple times now and do not intend to disappoint myself, God or D.A. by not giving everything I can and going all out until the end. 

Why Not Love?

I had a very deep and examining talk with a good friend yesterday over coffee.  He is very honest and not afraid to call me out on my flaws, weaknesses and areas of my character that are stuck or need growth.  He is older than me and a man who possesses a lot of wisdom.  He’s a man of faith and his values are properly situated, not of this world but of spirit.

At once it is very uncomfortable to hear things about yourself that ring true and aren’t all favorable.  On the other hand, his point of view is never one of judgment or criticism, but comes from a place of genuine care and love for me as a brother and friend.  I would be foolish to not listen, to not reflect and to not consider the truth in his observations.  We often get so lost inside our small worlds and our own point of view that it is easy to lose clarity.  It hurts to hear things that about yourself that are deeply rooted traits that are flawed.

I recently watched a Tony Robbins video from one of his seminars in which he spent the better part of 2 hours dissecting the psychology of a woman in her late 60’s to uncover all her deepest character traits and subconscious belief systems that had framed her entire life and kept her stifled, limited and unhappy.  All this as she stood in front of 5,000 people and had the most intimate details of her life, heart and mind nakedly exposed in front of the crowd.  Granted, she was there for transformation and the crowd was extremely empathetic and supportive, but that’s still a really scary thing to do.

While I know myself to be a really loving and open person, I know that deep down I have some very deep-seated insecurities and fears that hold me back from opening up and being as connected as I should be with God, myself and others.  That saddens me.  Some of it is from things that were cemented into my psyche as a child, some of it from difficult experiences I’ve had in life and some of it comes from what I know as an adult to be the reality of the world we live in that often does not appreciate, accept or feel comfortable with vulnerability or the matters of the heart.

One of the things that frustrates me about the world and mankind in general is that most people just aren’t willing to be honest with themselves or those around them.  People try so hard to pretend that they have it together.  It is as though there’s an unwritten rule that if you aren’t happy or upbeat it is your responsibility to hide it from the world and pretend that everything is good.  Most people certainly do not welcome honesty in these areas–even when they are around the people they consider to be close friends.  Pain, insecurities and personal struggles are to be discussed either not at all or within the confines of counseling or therapy.  

Rather than our all being honest with the fact that WE ALL have lots of weaknesses and insecurities that plague us, we just hide them and ask others not to bring us down with their problems or issues.  The end result of this is usually that the issues become more pronounced, deeper seated and they end up both defining and limiting our lives until we die.  How much healthier and happier would we be if we acknowledged our weaknesses and welcomed others to open up about them as well?

This of course would require that we welcome people around us to be open and honest instead of making them feel as though those are 3rd rail topics.  Regretfully, I’ve shied away from a few situations in life where I could have been a better friend to some of the people I’ve been friends with who have gone through some difficult struggles, particularly with addiction.  We don’t want the problem to become ours and the burden of having to spend our precious time and energy helping others with things we find to be unsavory.  

On the other hand, who wouldn’t want the love and support of their own friends, family or even strangers when they themselves are going through a crisis?  In the Bible there are countless verses that speak to the value of loving each other selflessly.  Here are a few that in my mind are particularly noteworthy and powerful:

 

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:

 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

-Matthew 22:36-40

 

 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

-John 15:13

 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

-1 Peter 4:8

 

As I’ve grown over the years in heart, wisdom and maturity I’ve tried to be a better friend to those around me to exhibit this type of love.  My heart yearns for it in return and I find that either due to the walls that I build around myself so that I won’t be judged or hurt or the walls others build around themselves that there is a deep divide between the hearts of men–one that we create ourselves to protect ourselves from judgment and rejection.  Really, it is a shame and I wish it were otherwise.  In the end, all we do is deny ourselves the honesty, love and acceptance that we all so deeply desire.

 

What do we gain from the facade that we place before the world and others?   For myself, I can only change this attitude for myself and hopefully shine a light on others to inspire them to do the same.   But do I have the heart and the courage to do so?  If the choice is love with the risk of some judgment and rejection vs. hiding in a shell with the certainty of unfulfilled hopes, lingering pain and a longing heart, what do we do?  The question I ask myself, the question I ask you and the question for everyone in this world is…why not love???

 

 

Life or Death:The Ultimate Choice

There are certain immutable truths about life that no one can escape.  You can’t have love if you do not give love.  You can not succeed without effort or a plan. And you cannot have joy if you are focused on yourself at the expense of others.  I’m often pained by the reality that I encounter so many people that violate these and many other basic “laws of nature”.  I’m not talking about the laws of nature that apply to the animal kingdom…kill or be killed, survival of the fittest, etc.  I’m talking about the things that make us higher beings than mere animals, the things that define our higher selves and elevate us to the status of children of God.

The reality is that we are only children of God.  We are not God, but rather made in his likeness.  We’re all flawed, deeply flawed.  Our ability to exhibit a God-like nature is very much dependent upon the choices that we make on a day to day basis.  We choose to be selfish or to be selfless.  We choose to follow through on our promises and commitments or to abandon them.  We choose to face our faults and problems and work on ourselves or we choose to run from them and pretend we’re not the problem.These crucial choices not only define our lives here and now but the direction of our souls in the life to come.  There is no question that dealing with our problems and weaknesses is a painful and difficult task.  But what is the alternative?  I think one of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to at some point decide, consciously or subconsciously, to not face life’s realities because they are too hard, too difficult or too painful.

I sometimes see postings on social media with statements about “haters” or people who are supposedly creating drama or problems for the person posting.  They are generalized statements that intend to paint the picture that they are simply constant victims of others jealousies or negativity.  Every time I see this I know that there is something not only very wrong with the person making these statements but that they’re digging an even deeper hole by blaming others for the problems they continually find themselves in the middle of. The only thing to do if this keeps happening to you is either stop hanging out with the wrong people or change yourself.  The truth is that if you’re hanging out or keep running into the the type of people who cause you strife, maybe there’s something about you that is attracting the wrong people or perhaps simply you’re forced to deal with good people (i.e. family, co-workers) who are calling you out on your issues.  

Solid people with strong character don’t have these problems–unless they are fighting for justice against the unjust.  They sense the character of others and associate with people that have good hearts.  The other point is that when people of high character encounter people who create problems they are more likely to either simply rid themselves of those people quickly or extend a hand to help them–not defend themselves, get angry or point fingers.Personal growth and overcoming not only life’s struggles but our own inner demons begins with self-reflection.  The minute you begin examining yourself and looking in the mirror rather than looking outward to solve your problems is the minute you begin to grow and overcome.  And the minute you become honest with yourself about your own shortcomings is the minute you can begin to have empathy towards the shortcomings of others and start developing real connections with other human beings.The only thing to do if this keeps happening to you is either stop hanging out with the wrong people or change yourself.  The truth is that if you’re hanging out or keep running into the the type of people who cause you strife, maybe there’s something about you that is attracting the wrong people or perhaps simply you’re forced to deal with good people (i.e. family, co-workers) who are calling you out on your issues.  

Solid people with strong character don’t have these problems–unless they are fighting for justice against the unjust.  They sense the character of others and associate with people that have good hearts.  The other point is that when people of high character encounter people who create problems they are more likely to either simply rid themselves of those people quickly or extend a hand to help them–not defend themselves, get angry or point fingers.Personal growth and overcoming not only life’s struggles but our own inner demons begins with self-reflection.  The minute you begin examining yourself and looking in the mirror rather than looking outward to solve your problems is the minute you begin to grow and overcome.  And the minute you become honest with yourself about your own shortcomings is the minute you can begin to have empathy towards the shortcomings of others and start developing real connections with other human beings.Yes this requires not only humbling yourself and accepting blame but also an ongoing concerted effort of self-reflection, a retraining of the mind, self-discipline in changing behaviors and tremendous patience.  But, again, what is the alternative?  The answer is misery, discontent and spiritual death.  And consider this…every time a person refuses to accept fault for their own problems they disempower themselves and give greater life to those problems, making them increasingly more difficult to face and overcome.

People in this situation tend to look for things around them to compensate for their own lack of joy or peace, but it never works.  A new job, a shopping spree, different friends, a better relationship, moving to a new town… They will always find that the issues they failed to address and work on not only still exist but have become bigger and more deeply entrenched.  And when the thrill wears off from that temporary fix, the despair will return and with even greater force.

But here’s the thing…when a person decides to fight back against their inner demons and work on themselves, immediately a seed of life sprouts within their heart.  And if they continue to water that seed they have the joy of watching it grow and feeling that growth from the inside out.  Soon they begin to see the potential of what that seed might become as do those around them…a powerful tree with deep roots that provides oxygen, shade and shelter to all those who come near it.  

So let me ask you this: in your own life which path will you choose?

 

Moving Forward

Really excited about getting the music done soon here and getting it out to you and the world!  I just booked a show at the Margate Winter Fest today with a crowd of 7,000-8,000 which should be good exposure.

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Shout out to my buddy Pastor Keith who is a gospel rap artist and lined up the gig.

Today was also very productive in that I’ve had a great discussion with my friend Sergio Cavilieri, one of the guitarists on my album project and a great player, music and video producer and mixer, who will be partnering with me on the marketing and promotions side of things to help drive the fan base and get the ball rolling.  We’re going to collaborate as business partners and it looks like we’ve established a nice understanding so that we’ll be able to work together constructively moving forward.

There’s so much for an artist these days to do and consider. It’s not just about getting signed and having a label make you a star.  Those days have come and gone.  Today you have to be a writer, an artist, a performer, a marketing executive, a fundraiser, a PR person, a social media specialist and so much more in order to be successful–it’s a little daunting.  Having a partner to help me navigate the road ahead and help get stuff done is really going to be helpful–especially one who has owned a label, been in a band that has sold millions of records and is a man of God!  I’m blessed and it’s obvious that God is lighting my path on this project.

Next week we sit down to lay out the Phase 1 marketing strategy and kick it off!  Also, looking forward to laying trumpet at the studio on “To Be Alone With You”, my lovers bossa nova joint, with David Burgos.  And, kicking off “My Time Is Now” with guitarist Dwayne Hoilett (from Code Red, Yellowman, Sly & Robbie) and Code Red band leader Zimma Lewis on bass.  Will be posting video and photos on those sessions on Instagram, FB, Twitter and Snapchat.  Stay tuned….

Climbing Mountains

Like most great endeavors in life, if you look at the dream or the goal you are trying to accomplish from afar, it looks insurmountable.  There’s just too much to do, too many obstacles, too many challenges.  The interesting thing is that not everyone is trying to climb the same mountain as you and few are willing to believe that they can do it.With all great ventures, one needs three key and very simple ingredients for success… a plan, faith and desire.  One of the things that many of the most successful people have done in their lives to achieve success is simply to copy the formula that others have used to achieve success before them.  This is not rocket science, but it is hard work and one must be prepared to fight through failures and unplanned events to push forward on the dream. One of the things that I tell myself every day is that these stumbling blocks or detours on the road are not in fact failures but experiences that help to build knowledge, wisdom and if learned from and used properly will in fact only assist me in the achievement of the ultimate goal.  In perceiving the world this way, there is no wasted time (unless time is in fact wasted) or misfortune, but only ordained experiences designed to strengthen and help prepare me for the road ahead which is destined to end in success.This is not to say that there isn’t pain and struggle associated with a lot of the things that happen in life, but there is growth and greater understanding with all experiences in life if you are willing to reflect honestly upon them and make sense of how they can be used to better oneself moving forward.  

My road ahead is a long and arduous one and I’m well aware of that.  A lot of things are going to have to happen in order for me to get my music to the world on the level I want to.  But because of my dedication to self-improvement, my faith in God and my belief that all things are possible–I am sure of my future success.  I cannot say what exactly it will look like or how I will be able to quantify it, but I do have stated and written goals and as long as I am fighting for my dreams, being smart about it and moving the ball forward each and every day, I will be able to know I’ve poured myself out and fought for the prize.  In that alone there is great satisfaction.

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