blog

How a bag of Cheetos changed my life

Today I want to get personal. I want to talk about how a bag of Cheetos changed my life forever.

The year is 2010. I’m working at Walgreens as a stock boy. I’ve been working there for 4 years and have enjoyed my time working there. This job puts some money in my pocket, let’s me buy things, and I liked the people I work with, then things changed.

Long story short management switched up on me. I went from the golden boy to the whipping boy. Suddenly, everything was my fault, I could do no right. Everyday people were looking for reasons to blame me for whatever was going wrong.

I remember things got to the point where every day I left work mad and frustrated. I’d be sitting in my car just thinking about how pissed off I was about that shift. How angry it made me to have a day like that. I felt like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. Every day wasn’t my saddest, but every day was my angriest.

In general me working a retail job was always a square peg in a round hole. I’ve always been a person who struggles with authority. Well, what I really struggle with is having an idiot in charge. I’m okay learning and working with people who know more or can help me grow, but to listen to someone just cause you say I have to and still go along with that them when I know this is not the best way to operate this job, yeah I can’t respect or listen to someone like that. So in this retail/ corporate environment I was always going to struggle cause I can’t “play the game” enough.

Still things went well for so long that even though I knew this about myself I figured I was in a situation where there would never be a problem. I worked and was managed by smart people. But that’s only true until it’s not. And once the morons came to town the conflict began and it felt like things got to the point where even the management I liked turned their back on me. They didn’t disagree with my complaints, but at the end of the day they sided with management over me cause they to were playing the game. So now I was alone and frustrated.

Things came to a head on a night shift I was working. I was doing the closing process which involves sweeping, mopping, filling up the chips, dairy, and soda sections of the store. I was filling up the chips when I realized my truth. I was fucked.

I was 22 and totally lost. This job was leading me nowhere and I was going nowhere fast. This was no longer a place where I could move up in the ranks. This was no longer I place where I could build good relationships. And, if things got real bad here, this may not even be a place I could put down as a reference. And if I can’t put this place down as a reference then I’ve really messed up cause then I’m 22, 23 years old with no college degree and no job on a resume! I was freaking out so I stopped filling up the chips and just stared at them.

While I was staring into the dark abyss that was my life, a manager named Bob walked by. Bob was his actual name, and he was one of the managers I was still cool with. He understood my situation, empathized with me, and he and I were cool and able to talk about life beyond retail. Because of this I felt comfortable talking with him. So when he walked by and said “What’s up?” The way people always do in the corporate world like 10,000 times a day, I actually answered. I said something like “Not good. Like what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Naturally Bob was taken a back for a moment. He was shocked I spilled my guts out just like that, but he quickly adjusted and was able to have a conversation with me. He turned to me and said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else. What is it that you want to do for a living?” My answer was quick and immediate. “Music. I just want to do music.” “Then you should focus on doing just that” he said that to me and walked away. After he said that I regained my composure and finished filling up the chips, but after that conversation my life changed.

Things didn’t go back to normal for me the next day. I was changed forever. The next day I was googling how to go back to school. Figuring out what I wanted to do in the music industry, and how I could accomplish that. It took me many years, but that moment led to me going to college, being a professional pianist, teaching, composing, and now working on sound design. Everything changed for me that day when I filled the chip aisle. And that’s how a box of chips changed my life.

,

blog

20 Questions

So much has been so serious on my blog so I decided to keep things light today and just answer 20 random questions. Let’s begin.

Q1. Have You Ever Dined and Dashed At A Restaurant?

A1. No, never.

Q2. Would You Rather Have Endless Love or Endless Money?

A2. This one is a close one for me. I think I’ll go endless money and hope I can find enough love to make it by.

Q3. Have You Ever Been In A Car Accident – And It Was Your Fault?

A3. No. I’ve been in accidents as a passenger and a driver, but it was never my fault.

Q4. If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be?

A4. Not sure if this question wants a current movie/ a movie that’s already come out or something new. I’ll answer with something new. I’d like to Star in a Disney Movie. Ideally something from Pixar. Something where I’d be the main character and the main protagonist.

Q5. What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji?

A5. 😂

Q6. What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?

A6. I worked retail back in the day therefore I’m not a fan of stealing. As a kid I’m sure I took a candy bar or something from a store, but I can’t recall honestly.

Q7. Are Platonic Relationships Or Romantic Relationships More Important To You?

A7. Both are very important and as I have aged both are close, but right now I’ll choose love and go with the romantic relationship being more important to me than platonic.

Q8. Even Though The World Has It’s Problems, Was Any Time Period Better Than This One?

A8. I feel this is always impossible to answer so I won’t try to. Every generation is so different and it has its challenges and advantages. So is this the best? Idk maybe? Were other times better? Idk maybe.

Q9. What Was Your Favorite Dinosaur As a Child?

A9. T- Rex hands down.

Q10. If You Had To Choose To Never Use Twitter, Instagram, Or YouTube Again, Which One Would You Let Go?

A10. Tough One! I like to use and consume YouTube content so I can’t let that go. Twitter and Instagram I also like, but I feel like Twitter is more for conversations and I love to communicate on there the most so I’d have to go with keeping Twitter and saying goodbye to Instagram.

Q11. Would You Rather Someone Always Tell The Truth Or Protect Your Feelings?

A11. Tell me the truth, tell me my flaws, help me get better. Stroking my ego helps no one.

Q12. Who Do You Miss More: Ziggy Stardust or Prince?

A12. Prince easily. Never really listened to Ziggy.

Q13. If You Had To Be Trapped On A Desert Island With One Friend, Who Would You Choose?

A13. Albert. My best friend since high school

Q14. If You Could Find Out How You Were Going To Die, Would You Want To Know?

A14. No way. That’s just way too dark for me to want to know.

Q15. If You Could Only Email Or Text People For The Rest Of Your Life, Which One Would You Choose?

A15. Text. I like email for business but I’d much rather text forever than email forever.

Q16. Would You Prefer To Work The Overnight Shift Or Work Alone For Eternity?

A16. I’d much rather work alone for eternity. Overnight shift is tough and having someone talking to me while I try to work from 11pm-7am sounds miserable. Give me working by myself during more humane hours.

Q17. Would You Rather Have a Beyoncé Song Or A Rihanna Song Stuck In Your Head For 24 Hours?

A17. Tough one. I like both, but I think I’ll go with Beyoncé.

Q18. If You Could Start College All Over Again What Would You Do Differently?

A18. If I could start college all over again I’m not sure if I’d even go. Yeah, that’s my answer. Id strongly consider skipping it altogether. I’m not one of those bitter graduates whose not using their degree. Even as a person who uses their degree every day, I wonder if it was really worth it now that I see what it really takes to succeed. It feels like the skills I need to actually be successful as an artist, a lot of that was cultivated by myself after school was done. So if most of what is needed to be successful is based on my self teaching what was the point of paying for college and spending those years there? I’m happy with how my life turned out, but I wonder if it would’ve been better if I skipped the college experience altogether.

Q19. Would You Rather Have Been In The Marching Band Or On The Debate Team in High School?

Marching band.

Q20. What’s One Secret You Are Still Keeping From Your Mom?

A20. We don’t talk right now so nothing really.

blog

Five ways to help musicians during this pandemic

This global pandemic is hurting all of us in a myriad of ways. Today I want to talk about what you can do to help your favorite musicians get through this situation.

Some of the ways will be financial, but many will be free and take little time for you to do. So while money always helps I understand you might be hurting just as much as your favorite artist. So, by all means don’t feel bad if you can’t support people financially. There are plenty of ways you can show support without spending a dime. Some of them might even be more beneficial than spending money

Buy Their Stuff

The first one is also the most obvious. If you want to help musicians buy their stuff. Support their work. Go to your favorite artists’ website and buy their music, buy their merch, join their Patreon, etc. Different musicians have different revenue streams. So see what they have to offer and purchase what you feel comfortable paying for.

Retweet, Share, and Promote their work

This is a great, free way to help the musicians you love. By sharing their social media posts you are not only spreading the word, but endorsing the artist. You’re saying “I like this artist. I like what they do. And if you like me and my tastes, you should give this a listen.” That’s a lot more genuine and has potential for a bigger impact on the person who reads it than if the artist says it. When the artist shares their stream, album release, or latest video, it feels like an ad. When a friend shares it, it feels like a recommendation from a trusted source. So sharing your favorite artists latest work/social media post might be the most impactful thing you can do.

Follow Them!

This may seems small but it’s what all musicians want. We just want you to us, to know you’re out there, and you love what we do. Follow your favorite artist. Subscribe to the their YouTube channel, like their FB page, follow them on twitter. Wherever you are on the internet following your favorite musician there means the world to them. Sometimes it’s what they want even more than money. I know that’s the case for me. The biggest thing I want is for people to read these blogs and subscribe to my YouTube channel. For me that’s the best way you can show love and support. Being an artist is hard and just knowing people are out there following, watching, and supporting goes a long way in keeping us motivated, energized, and loved.

Watch Their Streams

With no concerts or events happening for the rest of the summer and perhaps the rest of the year, live streaming has seen a huge uptick amongst musicians. Watching these streams is a huge help. It encourages artists to keep doing some form of live performance, it gives them a bigger audience, and, if they set it up, you can donate money during their stream and help them continue performing for a living. So be on the lookout for your favorite musicians stream and watch when you can.

Donate to State and National Emergency Funds

Maybe you want to help music in general and don’t have a specific artist in mind. Maybe you want t to help the entire community at large be it local or national. State and National orgs are doing great work setting up funds for musicians during these difficult times. Obviously depending on where you live the orgs that help your community will vary, but here are a few I like.

Jazz Foundation has a Covid-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund you can donate to. While New Music USA has a Solidarity Fund geared towards new/creative/improvised music freelancers. You may also want to think about your favorite music venues and record stores. Lots of them have GoFundMe campaigns or have online deals to encourage buying merchandise online. Think of how you like to consume music, how this pandemic has effected that, and what you can do to help,

Closing Thoughts

We are all in this together this is a terrible and traumatizing situation we are all in. Some of have lost loved ones, some of us have lost our jobs, and the rest of us have to continue forward and work in these extreme circumstances. Despite everything that’s happened in 2020 I remain an optimist. We will come out stronger and we will do this together. So support your favorite musicians however you can, support your local business however you can, and don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the funds to do so. That’s why I made sure to add so many ways to help that cost nothing. Do whatever you can and if you have any additional ideas on how we can help each other leave a comment below.

blog

Covid-19 Relief For Musicians

As everyone knows this pandemic has altered all of our lives as musicians and artists. Lots of our work has come to a complete stop, future gigs have been canceled, and there is no end to this pandemic in sight. As of right now my state of Illinois is on a Stay at Home order until April 30th, but we were on the same order until April 7th and that got pushed back so I’m skeptical things will reopen May 1st.

So with at least a few months of financial distress (and probably much more given most summer events are already cancelled) how can we as musicians keep ourselves financially afloat? It’s going to be difficult, but I’ve complied of list of actions and programs that can be useful.

Couple of things I want to address before we get into my list of ideas. One, I live in the United States so while most of the info is universal how effective/ relevant this will be for you may vary if you live in another country. Two, this is an ever changing situation and news is happening so fast that it’s possible some of these programs or solutions I have written down are no longer relevant whenever you read this. So whenever taking action do your due diligence to make sure these programs are still running/ available in your area.

MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund

MusiCares has set up a relief fund for music creators that have been impacted by Covid-19. You can apply for assistance on Grammy.com and I believe you can apply from anywhere. The application seems simple enough you just need your general info and on the final page you explain how you were impacted by Covid-19. Right now grants go up to $1,000 dollars so I 100% recommend applying if you’ve been hurt financially due to this pandemic.

Apply For Unemployment

This one is a bit difficult for most musicians. Most musicians work in places where they are not considered employees they are independent contractors and in the USA that means you haven’t put money into unemployment so it makes getting those benefits impossible. But maybe you’re a musician that works at a school and maybe you do get taxed in the traditional way. Or maybe you have a side job at a bar or restaurant and can get some unemployment benefits from those jobs. So while it may not be useful for all musicians everyone should be evaluating their ability to collect unemployment at this time. It seems the federal government is working on some solutions for gig economy workers on these issues, but right now that’s still being worked on so keep an eye out for that on the federal and state level.

Stimulus Package Money

In America a 2.2 trillion economic relief package was passed. In this package every individual will receive $1,200 if they make under $75,00 dollars. Couples will be receiving up to $2,400 and $500 per child. So chances are this money will be available to musicians and very helpful in this time of financial distress. As long as you have filed your taxes for either 2018 or 2019 and you make under $75,000 you will be receiving this money in the coming weeks. While this money is better than nothing it’s unlikely that this will solve all your money issues so hopefully this along with some other relief ideas will be enough to keep you afloat.

Consult Your Union or Local Music Org

Many unions and local music organizations have financial relief available for members or are setting up programs to help those who are in need. If you are not affiliated with a union or a music org take a moment and really think about your local community. Maybe you’ve graduated from a college and they have funds available for alumni? Perhaps you’re part of a band and have an LLC set up that can get loans at a low interest rate? Maybe you have a band that can do a go fund me or Indiegogo campaign to raise funds?

Other Ways to Eliminate Bills

When we think of bills we usually think of the money needed to offset these costs, but remember, bills and money are two separate things. This is a time to contact your different services and negotiate a plan or solution until this pandemic is over. I believe all federal loans are on emergency forbearance. Meaning you have no payments for months (Again some situations are different so double check your situation). I have a personal loan, but I talked to them about the situation and was able to get forbearance for a few months. Same goes for car loans and other bills. Most companies are willing to work with you, but you have to call them and talk to them. If you don’t most will keep charging you like life hasn’t changed at all. So make an assessment of your bills and make some calls and see if you can arrange a better situation than the one you currently have.

This is a difficult time for all of us. I hope that this article has given you some good ideas and made you feel better about the current situation we are in. If you have any questions, comments, or additional tips you think others could benefit from, please leave them below. Let’s help each other and rise up from this.

blog

My Career Over The Years

A person’s career path is never a straight line and today I’d like to go in-depth on how my career has changed over the years.

When I think about my career in music it’s hard to pinpoint the start. Like many people, music has been a part of my life since the beginning. So when did I really take it seriously as a profession? I’d say that started for me when I was 17-18 years old in 2005-06. During that time hip hop music was my obsession. I was listening to the music 24/7, annoying my friends always talking about my favorite albums and my favorite rappers, and I even begin writing my own raps believe it or not!

The Hip Hop Years

So I actually started to make music and I had my friends helping me by making beats for me to rap over. They were primarily rock musicians but they were spectacular at their craft. So even though they were out of their wheelhouse they helped me tremendously. After a couple years though I realized they just weren’t as serious about making hip hop music as I was. I understood they were primarily rock musicians, but I was taking this music seriously and I needed to be around people who took it seriously. So I did some soul searching and decided to be a producer myself. I’d go back to school, learn how to make beats, and then work with other artists while also working on my own projects on the side. I started googling things like “How to be a producer” and asking people for advice on getting started. One thing that came up was the benefits of playing an instrument. It’s not a requirement but many said knowing how to play the piano would help me understand theory and harmony and make it easier to use a MIDI controller. So I used my sister’s piano and started playing. Than everything changed.

The Piano Years

I fell in love with the instrument. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t get enough. Suddenly the piano became my life and I went from wanting to do hip hop to wanting to play the piano for a living. So from 2010- 2017 piano was my main focus and specifically jazz music became my main focus. I went to college for it, graduated, and began playing gigs and teaching. By 2015 I was officially a professional musician! I had made it.

The Game Audio Years (Present Day)

In 2019 I started to search for other ways I could contribute to the world with my skillset. After thinking about it and trying different things I decided to work in game audio. I wanted to create compositions and use sound design to enhance the experience players have in these worlds. So I began creating a demo reel, working with an indie dev on an RPG, and learning all I can about audio implementation. Working in game audio has been one of the more challenging and thrilling things I’ve done in my life. There are so many new things for me to learn, but it’s so fulfilling when I figure out how to make the sounds work the way I want them to. I’m looking forward to where this next step in my career takes me and I’m so glad I’ll be able to document it all here on my website.

Conclusion

Throughout the years my career has changed so much. I went from rapper, to producer, to jazz pianist, to composer and sound designer. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to be willing to adapt and change as I adapt and change. To not put myself in a box and force myself to become who I said I was but to just be who I am. Some may see these different roles and think I’ve been all over the place, but I was really just progressing through my career, expressing myself through music, and finding out where I felt the most comfortable and where I could make the biggest impact in the world. I’m glad to say that the biggest way for me to impact the world through sound is in the game audio space.

What’s your career looked like? Did you always know what your calling was? Did that ever change? Would love to hear your story and your journey in the comments below.