What I Learned From 101 People, Storytelling, and Music
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Records, ADWL Bandcamp, Amazon, Itunes, 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 :
My upcoming tour dates are :