What I Learned From 101 People, Storytelling, and Music

There are 100 people here, I will be linking up with the 101st person soon and will reupload this photo. 

There are 100 people here, I will be linking up with the 101st person soon and will reupload this photo. 

This is a long blog post on what I have learned from my first full-length album cycle and why I decided to tell stories about other people to promote it. So bear with me.

In 2015 I wrote a record called Solace which was about finding comfort in my own pain. I lost my first well paying job that was going to allow me to move out of my house and get myself a car to tour in. I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer in my arms. I gave up alcohol and confronted my experiences with major depression. I weighed 290 lbs and did not know how to make a difference in my weight loss. I lost many friends as a result of my life changes and I wanted to kill myself There are many other problems I have and had gone through during this time that I am not quite ready to vocalize or articulate, but this is a brief summary of what I was going through.

My struggles may sound familiar to some readers, but it may fall on deaf ears because I am not famous or white. My experiences are very similar to the story of Jake and Brendan from Modern Baseball, but I am not famous, I am a black man who needed to make a change for myself so my experience may not be as appealing to others or at least to the “taste maker media( Noisey, Pitchfork, Fader, and the like).”

I wrote a book ( working on editing and publishing it now) and album to rediscover my self-worth and wanted to share my experiences in the best way I was able to with my resources and make a story about it and by the end of 2016 I went from 290 lbs to 245 ( I am currently in the lower 230s and am working on losing 25 more lbs for another record on male body positivity).

In early 2016 right before recording my record I met someone named Rob Lawless who may be known as Robs10kfriends. He spoke to me about his journey to master the art of meeting people by meeting 10,000 people. I was number 10. He wanted to use Gladwell’s principle of 10,000 hours of practice to master the art of meeting people. I was inspired and thought it was interesting that he wanted to master something that is done in a physical space ( meeting people) and bring it to a digital world.

Meeting Rob gave me the idea of telling stories about other people in a digital space while having interactions with them. I knew it was not possible for me to sell 10,000 CDs given my small brand and lack of resources, but I did know it was possible to meet 100 people for the first pressing of my record.

So that’s when I came up with “Albums and Friends.” A project centered around telling stories about the people who have supported my story and showed me that they want to hear me. I had three goals with this project.

  1. I wanted to show that the people who listen to my music come from different backgrounds. I don’t want to advocate exclusively to a punk community(aka just the scene). I don’t want my music to be considered hipster, music, I want to tell my stories so that I am a musician who is accessible by all people and so that my story is more relatable. I don’t want a fan base that is all white people, all black people, all LGTBQIA people, or any level of homogeneity, I want real objective diversity and I think this collage shares and shows that. Music is for all people and granted I write about some experiences that may be reflected on my marginalization it doesnt discount that I want to sing for an audience of all, not just an audience of some in a exclusive and secluded scene. 
  2. I wanted to show gratitude. Often I think musicians say that they are thankful to their fans, but don’t do much to show that appreciation other than writing that they are thankful and continue to release music. Music can be selfless and selfish at the same time and I thought sharing other people’s stories would be an act of gratitude.
  3. I wanted to connect the digital world to the physical world by making art out of music. I think as the music industry continues to change, it is becoming more difficult to sell physical records for new musicians. It is also hard to drive physical copies of music when the mediums for listening to music are usually digital. So I thought by bringing stories about other people via Instagram would be a good way of collecting real life experiences in a digital realm where people experience music digitally.

There is a lot I learned from this experience from releasing my first pressing of my first record. I started to believe in myself. For the past two or three years, I thought I was not succeeding because I was not like other local Philly bands. Until I realized that my goal as a musician should not be to be like others in a local scene but to find myself and hone my ability to share my story musically. Doing this project helped me do that. I was able to expand my reach in various states from touring, people ordered my record online and I found peace in realizing that Philadelphia helped me develop a foundation, but this record helped me expand myself and continue to take myself to other places. Which gave me a confidence boost. It made me see the bigger picture that no matter what articles you have posted online about your album, most artists are all in the same spot trying to share their story. I felt more connected with people and felt more supported than I ever did. I am starting to feel positive and I am thankful to everyone for that.

More importantly doing this project helped me become thankful for the small moments and see the value in my work and I learned to not drown myself in self-doubt. I know there is a long road ahead of me and in some ways industry heads may say 102 records is a far cry from an accomplishment, but I think the experience of taking time out of my day to talk to the people and share their stories is a lot more powerful than working by industry standards. I learned how to value myself and more importantly, I learned how to value people and take this experience of valuing the human condition. As a musician who writes about the struggle of the human condition, I became more aligned with my goals and my purpose as a songwriter. Overall the experience of touring has been challenging, humbling and motivating and I am inspired to do more.

I won’t be pressing any more copies of Solace with Sounds and Tones Records for now, but I will have a second edition in the distant future if I get on a bigger tour. In the mean time I will be going on one more tour (see dates at the end of the post) and I have five more songs to write for my next LP Diary. In the mean time, you can download my record via Sounds and Tones RecordsADWL BandcampAmazonItunes, or stream on Spotify.

I feel very thankful and I feel like I opened my mind about my future as a musician, my ability to perform and my ability to share stories and to show gratitude. Between the 90 covers in 90 days and doing this project, I think I might be able to achieve more of my higher level goals to becoming a successful musician. I think I finally got out of the local Philly bubble and I am only beginning to find my potential.

I think the most important lesson I learned from Solace is that I should never underestimate the value of human connections because you will never know where they can take you. I wish my late grandfather was able to see this, but I am still thankful for being in the present to Thank you Sounds and Tones Records, Thank you Karaamat Abdullah, Thank you to those involved in the production of this record, Thank You God and thank you for the Friends who supported this record in a physical or digital space.

You can download my record here :

Sounds and Tones Records

Bandcamp

Itunes

Amazon

Spotify

My upcoming tour dates are :

8/31 Grape Room, Philadelphia,PA
9/1 Studio Luloo Oaklyn,NJ
9/2 The Yacht Club New Paltz,NY 
9/3 Darkside Records Poughkeepsie,NY
9/4 Starlite Southbridge,MA
9/5 RVD Providence,RI

Day 10: College Park,MD

I didn't have much of lighting or phone power to take photos in College Park, MD. But I never met a group of such happy people in my life. Whytestone Creative Outcrop is a Burning Man themed house with a diverse group of people. At first I was not sure if I would fit in because of the music being played, but once I started playing I felt at home. Unfortunately I don't have photos, but I want to say thank you to everyone who got a record :) <3. 

Day 9: Washington DC

Came back to Commune 1605 for my 150th ADWL show and I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster of awesome. I love the Commune, what it does for the people of Washington DC and their affiliation with Food Not Bombs and Bryan Moore is a kind and awesome soul. Here are some pics of the evening. Ill be updating again when I get the better photos. ( There was a photographer on site)> Also special shout out to all the cool people who invited me to play out at their colleges and Robin and Michelle :) . 

The Meer started the evening off with a super tight set, they reminded me of The Smashing Pumpkins. 

Izzy basically stole hearts and created new fashion trends with his stickers all tour and this is just another photo of that happening . Proud of you buddy. 

Ryan Gibson reminded me of Pedro the Lion and Dave Matthews, good jams indeed. 

Here is a picture of me by Ron Akins on my 150th show rocking a Carytown Cupcakes shirt. I won't ever forget this day, and I am greatful for all the beautiful people who listened and got my records. 

Fruits and vegetables that were sorted for Food Not Bombs, I helped out a little bit but did more talking than helping, I won't lie but one day I want to do a concert and help out in Philadelphia. 

Day 7 and 8 : Virginia Beach and Richmond,VA

After an 11 hour drive from Nashville to Virginia Beach, my phone was dead for most of the day which kept me from taking photos of the show at Java Surf Cafe. We played an afternoon show to most of the staff and ate a great breakfast. Fortunately Wayne from Java Surf welcomed us back so we can probably set a show up for sometime in the summer during a weekend which is pretty cool! 

Java Surf's Sante Fe Bagel, I asked for no sourcream or avocado. I don't like creamy thick sauces especially white ones because of the cream and lactose bases so I couldn't do it. The bagel was good though :) 

This is Wayne the guy who booked me a show out in Richmond,VA. He talked about failure, owning a business and learning to have resilience while on tour which was pretty motivational. Thank you for getting my record. 

The next day we played at Crossroads RVA with Abby Rasheed. ( http://abbyrasheed.bandcamp.com/) Abby is great and you should check her out. This photo was taken by Emma Sue a lifestyle blogger ( @A_writers_earth , food reviews @down2dish via twitter). Thank you for taking the photos :) . 

We went to Belle's Isle and looked at the turtles, historical signs, and other things it was chill, and then we had lunch at Carytown. 

I got a new tshirt for free from Carytown Cupcakes, if you ever play in Richmond get yourself some cupcakes and cold brew. Also I got some anime from Bits and Bytes and excellent tacos from Don't Look Back. 

Day 6: Nashville,TN

I will be honest Nashville was not great. My tourmates would say otherwise, but I didn't like it. The show got canceled over hockey and the promoter lied to me. I ended up busking and got weird stares by old dudes with Make America Great Again Hats and I think I was just in the wrong neighborhood of Nashville at all times. It was not very racially diverse and I didn't feel like I belonged there. The only good thing about Nashville was the food I tried. There were many talented musicians that I could appreciate, but still it was too country and not my vibe. There may be a day I play Nashville again, but I will be sure that the show will be more organized and not with someone who is flaky like this past promoter. People who do not respond to text messages or communicate clearly really annoy me, especially when it comes to situations where it involves plans.  I also was mad because we canceled North Carolina when we didn't have to because Nashville got canceled. I don't want to be negative but being there just put me in a bad vibe. I ended up getting a hostel and crashing and meditating to restart. But here are some photos of some cool food that I ate which was enjoyable about the city. 

 Peg Leg Porker was recommended by my friend Miles which was a treat :) <3 . 

Hattie B's was recommended to me by my friend Sara, which was lit, it was so spicy I had to take an asthma inhaler and couldnt finish both pieces. 

 

Jack's BBQ on Broadway was lit, you know why? CUZ MASHED POTATOES. Not enough BBQ places serve mashed potatoes, and they should. No explanation needed, they just should. 

Day 5 : Chicago,IL

Okay so to be honest I think Chicago would be the perfect city if it never was windy or cold. But I guess that would mean it can't be the Windy City right? I did not take as many pics because a photographer was there, but more photos will be updated soon, but overall the show was a good time. I am very thankful for Stephen welcoming us at The Lilypad. Here are a few highlights from the evening. 

Here is a fuzzy photo of Stephen Gilphin starting the evening. My android was near to pooping out but overall the show was a chill time. I got to meet a lot of my old Philly friends in Chicago and when I get the updated photos I will be sure to share this blog again. 

My wonderful foodie friend Stefanie came through and she got the record, later on we got a lot of food such as grilled cheese and communist soda. Pictured below. I will reupdate this post again when I get more photos. 

Day 5: Davenport,Indiana- Daytrotter Session

The first part of Day 5, we drove overnight from Indiana to do a Daytrotter session. We passed out in a Walmart parking lot and Dan pulled an all nighter for us and we started the day with Steak and Shake because we are in the Midwest. Here are some highlights from the Daytrotter session. To be honest this session was a dream come true, I truly never thought my music would get me to play in Iowa and I also never thought I would be able to do a Daytrotter session. 

Pictured here is a photo of me at The Daytrotter studio, I can't say when the session will be out, but lets just say I felt very much in my own element when I played. Thank you Ian for hosting me and talking to me about Davenport,Daytrotter and many other things music related. Recording to analog in a live setting was a dream. 

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Why yes I did fanboy and take photos of the venue. 

Then we did the tour band tour thing, where you take a photo at the Daytrotter stage after you do a Daytrotter session. Maybe one day I will play at Daytrotter? Who knows, I will never know if I will join the cool kid hip kid club. I just wanna tell good stories to as many people as possible. 

Then Ian got a copy of my record and joined a part of my Friends and Albums collage, I felt honored :) Thanks Ian for getting a copy :) <3. 

Then we went to the Mississippi River, I got chills because I couldn't help but think of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. 

Then we went to the Mississippi River, I got chills because I couldn't help but think of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. 

Then we went to the Mississippi River, I got chills because I couldn't help but think of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. 

Day 4: Anderson, Indiana

Yesterday I played at The Nest in Anderson, Indiana. Not to be confused with The Nest from Philly. This place was a house of love, laughter and friendship. I'll never forget this town. A lot of acoustic acts played. I don't have the time to show all the acts but here are some highlights.  

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For starters the house is called the nest because there is a birds nest on the front door. Which is super cool, here is a dope flyer of the show.  

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I still don't know why the photos are sideways,  bur pictured here is Althea and Jeff. They are a married couple who hosted the house show and are rockstars. They were the kindest, got us a lot of pizza and I got to meet one of their friends who recorded a MoshpitTV session on YouTube. Stay tuned for that. I'll never forget Althea's words "stay real, make new friends, and don't stop singing." I wanted to cry but I didn't.  

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Ultimately there were a lot of great acts and I got a lot of support. Peep my instagram and facebook page for more updates. I am extremely thankful. I am doing a Daytrotter session today.