When did you realize you couldn’t be tied down to a 9-5 routine to support your love of music?
Hours turn into months turning into years. My story is more about following my muse than chasing my dreams. Time spent creating and being present can move so quickly, like a natural form of meditation. I lived on St John, in the Caribbean, for a while when I was younger playing music at a Resort as a solo performer. I was 20 or so and around that time I realized then that this was the life for me.
Strange, but no matter how much we shape ourselves with our personal decisions, beliefs and endeavors I think the random almost arbitrary circumstantial stuff shapes us just as much and sometimes much more. The place you are raised, the parents you are given. That horrible accident you saw when you were only 7 years old etc… etc.… When examined, a life can seem so well designed in retrospect yet so arbitrary in the moment.
Life is a big journey like one long work day or one long holiday maybe. To a large extent, I like to think we get to decide what our personal journey is going to be, minus that X factor of circumstance.
One day, when I was quite young, I asked myself, “What do you want it to be about? Do you want it to be filled with doing what you love and making a living at that, or would you rather be going to work every day for something you have no passion for, nor vested interest?” Perhaps you make more money, but you despise the work and generally are an unhappy camper on life’s little journey. I was all about going deep and getting weird. That’s what life is about for me to this day.
Over the years I’ve mainly tried to keep it simple, follow the muse and remember what I told myself when I was 14 while riding my bike to the beach one day. “I need to somehow stay young, excited about life and for the most part be in love with what I do on a daily basis”. I was born fortunate, raised in Southern California by the beach and I had a lifestyle at the front door that allowed freedom and fostered creativity. I have to thank my parents for all of that though. In my late teenage years I was a young surfer who loved music. I was privileged to have found my passions, but still a bit aloof to my random fortune in the lottery of life. It didn’t take long however until it dawned on me just how lucky I was to have surfing and music available to me anytime with relatively no cost.
I was part of the last generation to grow up without a cell phone attached to their hands and screen glued to their eyes. We were always doing something active. I started getting in the ocean while my mom was dating a professional knee boarder. There was an immediate connection with the water. I have always loved bodies of water and the grounded feeling of peace they gave me. Once I started surfing I knew I had found my fountain of youth. The older people I knew who were doing what they loved were still young at heart and enthusiastic about life. There was no option... I was going to do what I loved for a living so that the enthusiastic giddy teenage feeling would last for my entire life.
That high that came with riding waves/being in the ocean, playing music, reading books, being around friends and expending my energy in creative directions. As I have gotten older it has come to also include being kind, humble, family-oriented, community minded and doing yoga/mediation. Basically just doing what I loved on a consistent basis. That’s like meditating all day long. Those things are basically free, with the exception of a few mostly one time minor expenses.
Who are the musicians you’ve loved and some surf music you’ve enjoyed?
In my early years, I was into all the music in the surf videos we would watch. Bands like T.S.O.L, Concrete Blonde and Marys Danish. That was back when surf music was really creative and vibey. In high school I enjoyed deep, artistic and rather troubled songwriters like Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain, Harry Neilson, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell. Jacksons Browne and Elliot Smith songs both just felt like home from the first note.
My step dad had a lot of vinyl and some great guitars and amps that he gave to me. I got pretty into the craft of the song around that time. I was 15 at the time. Of course, I also enjoyed bands like Zeppelin, Floyd, Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.
I just resonated on a personal level a bit more with the sparse and honest songwriter stuff. I got really into more artistic beats while living in San Francisco. Like Deerhoof, Blonde Redhead, Animal Collective, Mice Parade and Mum. Or others that come immediately to mind includes Roxy Music, Wilco, The Move (Jeff Lynn), J.J Cale, Arthur Russell, Bon Iver, Grant Lee Buffalo, Bowie, T Rex, The Shins, Daniel Laois.
I love anything that has soul, original creative expressions and an element of pop in the old sense of the word.
What are some of the struggles and misconceptions about your way of life?
There are all kinds of songs and various processes of writing. Sometimes you get lost in the song or entire albums emotional space or story and you aren’t very available to anyone because your emotions are tied up. This kind of writing can be both very rewarding and draining. Perhaps a bit like acting in the way that it consumes you, and may not be easy to re visit for many years. Then there are songs that almost write themselves quite quickly. Melodies, hooks, verses and the last 20% is the hard part. Those tend to be the fun and infectious ones. Being a passionate songwriter that is also super into surfing and a healthy lifestyle is a curious thing. As I got older and more dedicated to the art/craft of songwriting it was balancing the two that became a little tricky. Combining the creativity and night owl/dark element of being a writer with the rather upbeat healthy lifestyle of a surfer and the studious element of learning the craft was no small challenge. I love all of these things so that was the constant glue. It was just a matter of bouncing in and out of them either daily or yearly, as one of them would take precedence and vice versa. You can’t check out of songwriting. It is a mental open channel that has to flow and reality doesn’t have a lot of info flowing in that direction. When you are writing multiple songs at one time and have all this going on in your head, you are in your own space and it can’t just be flipped off. Then there is also the stereo type element of being a surfer and musician that people think you are some kind of lazy fat head, but who cares what people think. There is also the voice in your head saying, 'Can you do this for a living?'….That voice has to be monitored and put into check. They are both coming from the same place. A life in the arts is rarely an easy path.
You really have to believe in yourself and even more importantly you have to put the work in. You can’t fool yourself. Only you know if you are working as hard as you can towards your dreams. You have to hone your skill set, copy others, find a mentor, collaborate, study the greats and find your niche.
I held myself up in a room for years on a couple occasions actually. Either just writing for the entire day or studying my craft. At one point not too long ago I was living in Topanga Canyon studying music for 8-15 hours a day. My family and friends were worried about me. I was a social zombie. I did it because I knew it needed to be done. I had found a mentor and I was all in. Half of the time I would not play at all and just keep my eyes closed while seeing the neck of my guitar and every movement as it morphed into the next. I would even have to force myself to eat, go outside and even surf at times. That kind of stuff is not conducive to a “healthy” lifestyle however it is definitely needed for an in-depth knowledge of any craft. You get put what you put in.
My family, unlike many others I know, have always been supportive of my lifestyle. They have seen how hard I have worked and they support that. Like anyone else I have a handful of really good friends. As far as fans and supporters I really couldn't say to be honest. I do music because it is what I love. I have a bunch of friends in Laguna Beach, CA, who I adore and we all hang out at this cove in the summer. We chill, play music and just kind of melt in the sun for hours.
Going back in time, what are some of the best moments as part of the indie band, 60 Watt Kid?
60 Watt Kid was a crazy journey. Living in San Francisco was a big part of it. It was about trying to survive and putting that energy into our songs. First we moved to Oakland actually and it was gang warfare everywhere. Seriously, there were shootings at night and funeral walks in the day. So nuts!
Then we moved to SF and lived in just about every district subletting and looking for work. Finally we got grounded and the music started taking off with that frenetic energy injected into it. Getting signed by Absolutely Kosher Records off a show we did at Cafe Du Nord was super awesome. Playing shows with creative bands we loved like MUM and all our friends as well, was the jimmy jam too. Just exploring the art of sonics, dynamics and live improvisation was a big part of that whole experience for me with 60 Watt Kid. I had a lot of gear. I played guitars, keys, sang through a telephone and operated a roland 201 space echo with various gear running through it.
What is the most enlightening event you’ve lived through?
These things can be embarrassing if I am going to be honest. When I think of enlightening, I think of awakening moments, epiphanies etc… They are usually times I learned stuff about myself and how to live or not to live. You know rules to live by type stuff.
I guess I’d say it was enlightening to realize how wonderful and powerful reading is. The first book I ever read on my own volition was Hunter S Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. That’s when I fell in love with reading. I was about 15 and I became a voracious reader of all kinds of books from Spiritual/Metaphysical, autobiographies, psychology, from philosophy to novels and short stories.
What is the ultimate dream come true scenario you are looking forward to?
I have already achieved one of my personal dreams which was to feel comfortable working with any writer/player and to know I have something to offer/contribute that will enhance and ideally elevate the material. I was one of those people that just needed to understand the music. It was kind of a big deal to me. It’s the Bruce Lee way, study, learn, forget and create.
To do a soundtrack for a film and/or begin writing with or for other well-established writers is definitely part of the dream. Within the next 10 years I would like to be in the position to travel say 6 months out of every year and have two places I call home. I am looking forward to have one place in the city and another in a tropical location with great surfing at my backdoor. The dream is writing with various people, traveling, surfing and helping others achieve their dreams and realize their personal potential.
What are some of the most overrated and underrated things in life? How does music and surfing affect it all?
Opinions and judgment are overrated. Appreciation, time and self belief are highly underrated. Opinions are rather arbitrary, yet so fundamental. They often just tie us down and pigeon hole others. At times, opinions are good actually, it’s the judgment that brings pride and loathing which just contaminates the potential.
Self belief and persistence are for sure underrated. The understanding of the potential for individuals to make a change or achieve their dreams is vital to their well being. It’s one of the musts to achieving more than content existence. That happiness is infectious and spreads through one person to many others. That’s one of the things that can make a great world.
Appreciation of what we have is probably another underrated thing. We have so many modern conveniences that we take for granted as well as family, friends and opportunities.
What the average person has now only a king could have dreamed of not so long ago. It’s strange this relativity between progress, technology and discontent. The inventions never seem to solve the “problem” because we are always looking for more. Money gives freedom, but not happiness. It’s like a pill that has the power to expand the mind. It only allows opportunity for better results, but what you choose to accomplish is a whole other story. At the same time, no amount of money can buy time... nor can it turn back time. I feel like most people at the end of their lives (which for some is much sooner than their point of death) wish they would have followed their passions or taken a chance on something or other. You live life according to your passions and loves: chasing the ultimate waves, making music, performing, traveling. What does it take to make it happen? It takes a community, random part-time work, hustling, long days/nights, a strong sense of self and persistence to name a few. It’s like opening a start-up basically. You have to find your way around, believe in yourself, have the tools and be creative with them. You have to do it your way and do some thinking about how to approach stuff. Like anything it takes relationships and that’s what life is all about. It’s just a matter time until you figure all that shit out. Is there something you would you never change about your world regardless of…
I wouldn't change anything. Change one thing and everything changes. Everything is constantly changing anyhow. Life is always revolving and giving you another chance at the same thing you missed in the past. Life is like a cookie.
I would have been more open to love in my earlier years and less about myself and my music I suppose. As I have gotten older (though I am still young) I realize that relationships and the back and forth exchange of thoughtfulness for someone other than yourself is what life is really all about. It’s a bit of a trick because you get what you want by not wanting it too badly, and helping others get what it is they desire.