It’s been a year of tests, tribulations, lessons and growth for so many of us.
The details of our journeys are always going to be different, but there are so many threads that we share as spirits having our human experience. I just wanted to share this particular story in the hope that we can find another moment of commonality, and really touch on what makes us relate to one another.
A few weeks ago, I stood and watched the ocean and let my thoughts pour out; a favored routine of mine. It centers me, it gives me moments of pause, and a lot of times looking out on that vastness helps me remember who I am (and we are) in the scale of our moments here. What was different about this time, in particular, was that after these moments of reflection, I turned around and the usual lush and abundant backdrop of Malibu was a wall of fire. Complete chaos. It was such a stark contrast; the beauty and stillness of the ocean to my left, and the horrific scene of natural destruction to my right. I immediately went into action-mode and reached out to as many neighbors and people in the area as I could to offer any assistance, and to be there in any capacity. It was of course, mostly for them, and a little for me as well. A moment of community in a trying time that is out of one’s control. It’s always a bittersweet scenario when people who don’t necessarily connect regularly come together during something of that nature. It shows the inherent kindness of the human spirit, and also highlights how
by being “SO-BUSY”, how many opportunities to connect that we miss in this day and age.
Being evacuated is pretty scary but was made easy by the fact I was about to embark on a lifetime dream of mine. Steereo (my new venture) had put together a version of a master-class and writing camp at Capitol records for a group of truly special, and truly talented people. The motivation behind it was to interconnect people that may not have an opportunity to meet otherwise, share their experiences as an artist, and hopefully learn and grow from each other. This was a huge moment for Steereo as well. Something that has been nurtured and been the receptor of so much time, energy, and out-of-pocket support was now in a position of hosting an artistic forum at one of the highest esteemed record labels in the world. A dear friend of my family and collaborator, Bob Cutarella, was gracious enough to lead the discussion with the artists I’d chosen to be a part of it, and shed some light and share stories of his 40+ years in this ever-changing and complex industry. My gratitude and excitement were enormous as the Saturday that this was to take place approached, but that bittersweet feeling I had mentioned before was also present and for a set of different reasons.
As I lay safe in my bed that same night of evacuation, I didn’t know if it was guilt I was feeling, guilt for wanting to enjoy something and be there for the many artists involved, or even just guilt that there wasn’t more I could do for those in need at this time. Regardless of those initial thoughts that permeated the weekend, it was also time to step up and be present in something that was and would be so important to a group of people. Saturday came, and the artists arrived, and we began the day sitting in a circle getting to know one another and set a platform for dialogue and education. This was the part I knew would be successful, but what was not anticipated was just HOW impactful and beautiful the next couple of days would turn out to be. It’s always a shot in the dark assembling that many different people together in the name of collaboration, there are energy levels, and personalities, and points of view that could go either way. Beautiful synergy, or possible disaster. The one thing that was apparent from moment one at Capitol, was the talent. So much different, complex and gorgeous talented people vibrating off of one another in that room. Some artists I’ve known for a moment but got to see them in their active element as songwriters, and some artists I was spending time with for the first time. Both are things I wouldn’t give back for all the money in the world.
The first day they split everyone off into groups of four or five, and it was so awe-inspiring to see people from different musical universes sitting together and bouncing ideas off of one another. An exchange of energy, and a creative intimacy that few people get to experience in this life. I got to meet an artist named China Fox, someone who had such a fluid ability as a pianist and singer. Something inside me as a songwriter drew me to her because there was a directness to her approach that was impressive and also refreshing. Nothing about her abilities seemed strictly performative, it was someone wielding a talent that came from within and she was a pathway. It was like meeting a kindred spirit, a feeling that was not unlike the feeling when meeting so many of the people that weekend. I had the pleasure of witnessing new friends Jameson Tabor and Glass Battles apply their perspectives and abilities in such different with their respective partners; one is somewhere between Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder, the other is the self-proclaimed ‘purveyor of spook pop’. Seeing the differences in style was exciting, but seeing the similarities after all of the ego and presentation is stripped away was stunning. Capitol gave the artists free rein of the multitude of instruments and studio equipment to assemble whatever they were inspired to assemble. I thought that it would be more of an experiment of getting people out of their comfort zones together that day, allowing people to become acquainted with one another and find their footing. I did not anticipate it to be a fully moving machine of artistry with all the groups involved. At the end of a long Saturday, we all got together and played the songs we had written and recorded.
It was as if these people had known each other for years; comfortably sharing, pitching ideas, agreeing and disagreeing. There was so much respect in those studios, not a single person was trying to compete with one another, it was as if everyone was so confident in their own lane that they could share the road together. To be honest, it was an overwhelming feeling to witness and experience. It’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to music, and miles away from the social media-driven ‘likes/followers/repost’ world, and back to the basics of what it means to express yourself as an artist.
The second day they had split us off into a set of different groups with a series of challenges specific to each group geared at the song we would write together. I joined a group with Derek Long from Saticoy (a beyond talented pop producer and vocalist), Will Maker (a powerhouse vocalist and songwriter), Glass Battles and Kazumi, a practical savant that seemed to come out of nowhere. Kazumi is the type of person that is perfectly pleasant, definitely a listener, and then the moment came for him to contribute and it was like a genius switch had been turned on. A multi-instrumentalist, he rolled through the piano and tracked guitar, mixed, engineered, produced, all while maintaining a cool and collected approach that let you know this was not his first time at the rodeo. The second day came to a close, and once again, this group of mere strangers to one another were presenting another four original tracks nearly completed in ONE day. Two days at Capitol, and as a group, we had written, produced and recorded EIGHT songs. The funny part is, though we were all versions of tired from the long days, not a single person seemed to be burnt out. It felt as if we could’ve stayed another week and written albums together. Watching everyone in the main recording studio listen to each other’s work made me tear up a bit, everyone was so accepting, and so proud of themselves and of each other. It was just… such an unexpected bonding experience. It was meant to be informative and fun, but there was no way to guess that we would build a little family in two days.
through our inherent differences and shared similarities we have the power to uplift and strengthen one another.
Waking up on Monday was a surreal experience. At this point I was downtown with Anne Kavanaugh, one of my dearest friends and cofounders of Steereo. It was unsafe to be near the coast at that point, and the magical weekend at Capitol had come to a close. My perspective leading up to the weekend was still there, but in a different way. Instead of feeling pulled into two conflicting worlds and working through selflessness vs. perceived selfishness and general anxiety, there was a sense of stillness. Pacific Ocean stillness. Even though I was miles away from the water, its affect on me was still so strong. Life is a series of balancing acts. I know full well the extent of unexpected difficulties on this journey, and have been blessed to experience some amazing gifts as well. In so many ways, being surrounded by a community in Malibu, and the community at Capitol showed me that through our inherent differences and shared similarities we have the power to uplift and strengthen one another. Regardless of the circumstances.
Sometimes we will need to pick each other up when we fall, and other times we will be able raise each other up to our full potential in the name of celebration. Through all of life’s chaos, there are lessons in humility and support. And through all of life’s treasures, there are moments of clarity, gratitude, and spiritual coexistence that help us all shed the parts that are afraid of so many things. The fear to reach out, the fear to survive, the fear in concrete and ethereal expression. The good moments will sometimes be paired with the bad. The ocean will sometimes be at the crossroads with the fire. However, throughout our heavenly and hellish experiences on this earth, there is one constant.
We are all here for a reason, and we all have the capacity to connect and love one another.
Regardless of the circumstances, no one can take that way from any of us.