just a dude

“Quantity over quality man, quantity over quality…” my friend Jonathan said, distracting me from my writing. It’s a bad idea to invite your friends to the coffee shop with you when you plan on trying to finish a blog post. It’s a bad idea for the same reason that “study groups” in high school were a bad idea. You don’t make a “study group” because you really think it will help you pass the test, you do it because you want to hang out with your friends and still convince yourself that you’re being productive. Sometimes you really did convince yourself— you get your World History test back with a fat D+ on top and say “what!? but we studied for like five hours last night!” Maaaaaaaan, you didn’t study for five hours— you ate Doritos and quoted the movie Half Baked for five hours.

But Jonathan is right. He was reminding me of a creative strategy that I hold dear to my heart. My goal for this blog isn’t necessarily to knock it out of the park every week with a transcendent essay. It’s simply to be consistent in writing. For one of my major motivations for having a blog (aside from being able to exercise my narcissism) is that I just want to become a better writer. And If I write something every week, then I’ll become a better writer. Right?

Well, let’s hope so. I can say that I was really trying to knock it out of the park with my blog post last week, and that it proved to be crippling. I wanted to articulate everything that feels wrong, or dark, or scary to me about the world right now— i.e. Trump, climate change, the threat of nuclear war, diminishing natural resources, prejudice, rampant misinformation, and people’s complacency in the face of all these things. I wanted to offer some small silver linings, and some advice in the face of all of this darkness (oddly my advice was essentially the moral of the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “be excellent to each other”). However, I didn’t post it last week because it felt incomplete and somehow untrue. I returned to it this week, but I found it felt even more false.

In that unpublished post I was trying to preach some high-minded and somewhat self-righteous stuff. All of the things I was going to say were good, but until I start actually living up to those standards, I don’t think I have any right to prescribe anything to anyone else. The truth of the matter is, I am, like most people, majorly self-interested. I’m not anywhere near Trumpian levels of psychopathic egotism, however, when I’m laying in bed at night, typically I’m not dreaming about working to end climate change or lifting up my fellow human; I’m dreaming about becoming a successful film composer and meeting Penelope Cruz. I’m not proud, but it is true.

I do sincerely want the world to be a friendlier, more equitable place. I want us all to work to mitigate climate change. I want everyone to do the inner work of transforming our prejudices into openness, and I want everybody to be excellent to each other. I know that I can do much more in my life to work towards these goals. However, I do not think that we can all make some magical leap towards altruism. We’ve got to acknowledge where we are and what we are before we can hope to progress in any way.

Personally, I’m just a dude trying to come up with enough words to fill out a Sunday blog post. And on the weekdays, I’m just a dude trying to come up with enough notes to fill out a three minute song. I do want the world to turn towards the light, but until I elevate my own activism, I’ll refrain from telling you how to live your life. In the meantime, here are two songs I wrote and recorded last week. Y’all listen in for the sound of the electric saw. See you next week.

 

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The Legacy Project— Eric Smith in Five Songs

TheLegacyProjectFor the second straight week, I have the honor of contributing to Big Piph’s The Legacy Project. For those who haven’t heard about it, go check out the first paragraph of my blog post last week (I don’t have time to be repeating myself). Piph has already released the album portion (it’s great, go get a copy), yet the truly unprecedented part of this project will be released later this month in app form. Suffice it to say, that there is a whole world of characters in this project, and just like you or me, they each have a rich web of personal history, personality traits, and influences that make them unique. Today I’m giving you a special sneak peak into the world of one such character. Meet Eric Smith.

boom2Eric Smith lead something of a charmed life. He was an orphan before he could even crawl, yet he was quickly adopted by a wealthy, loving couple, who nurtured, guided, and bonded with Eric as much as any biological parent ever could. Growing up, he went to the finest schools, was treated to European vacations in the summer, and was never lacking in emotional or material support from his parents. Athletic, intelligent, light-hearted, and friendly, Eric was well liked and had many friends. By the time he was a teenager, it was apparent that Eric had a world of opportunities before him; he could have been a professional athlete, a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, or anything else he set his mind to. Yet Eric’s singular flaw was that he did not set his mind to anything. Indeed from Eric’s perspective, he could not set his mind to anything. For despite having all the comfort and security a young man could hope for, he always had a restless sense that there was something missing and a higher path that he needed to discover for himself.

As a senior in high school, his restlessness turned to despair. He became reclusive and uninterested in schoolwork, sports, or friends. Witnessing their son’s stagnation and desperate to help him, his parents decided to tell Eric about his adoption. Far from being shocked, sad, or confused, Eric was inspired by the news of his adoption. He felt he finally had a direction he could follow— he needed to find out who his real parents were. He hoped his past would hold the key to his future, his higher path.

It wasn’t difficult for him to find out the names of his biological parents— just a matter of contacting the orphanage. Unfortunately, once he started looking in the public records, he saw that the most recent appearances of his parents’ names were on death certificates. Yet Eric also discovered that before they died, both of his parents were registered members and proponents of The Class, a now defunct self-help organization that was notorious for pushing it’s members to the peak of intellectual achievement and beyond the limits of psychological and physical pain in an attempt to make them super-human. Eric wanted to take The Class. He knew that it’s practitioners must still be around somewhere and he vowed to find them. After a year long search, Eric finally found what he was looking for… within the walls of L.E.S. headquarters.

That was six years ago, and Eric has since proven the most distinguished member of The Class to date. Yet even an Übermensch has a soul. Eric Smith may have achieved supreme intellectual, physical, and psychological strength, but he still likes to kick back and listen to some tunes. Here’s a candid look into Eric’s musical life.

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Eric: My House— Flo Rida

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Eric: Started From The Bottom— Drake

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Eric: Outro— M83

4. You are an Olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Eric: BLKKK SKKKN HEAD— Kanye West

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Eric: The Pursuit of Happiness— Kid Cudi

Finally, you’ll remember from last week’s blog post (or you won’t because you didn’t read it) that another Legacy Project character is a recording artist in her spare time. For your listening pleasure, we have another dark masterpiece from Ellie V. Enjoy.

The Legacy Project— Ellie V in Five Songs

PiphpicThis week at Lucas Murray Music, I’m doing something a little bit different: I am entering into world of Big Piph (aka Epiphany Morrow). I’m not talking about just hanging out with him— I’ve had the pleasure of performing and hanging with Piph countless times. I’m talking about taking a step into the vast universe that he has created for The Legacy Project, the world’s first “living album,” which he is releasing tomorrow. This is Piph’s magnum opus, tying together an album of new music, enough videos to rival Beyonce, and an interactive app for your smart phone. For the past four years I’ve witnessed Piph grow this ambitious little pipe dream into a full blown reality. He has likened executing this project to trying to jump the grand canyon on a moped, and if that is the case, I’ve been a captive audience member eating popcorn on the sidelines, waiting to see either a miraculous landing or a terrible crash. Well everyone, it appears that he is going to make it, and because of that I get to give you a tip of the iceberg peak into the project. Today we are going to take a musical look at one of the characters in The Legacy Project. Enjoy.

Ellie V BackgroundEllie Evans was an extremely gifted student and athlete. In spring of 2006 she graduated salutatorian of historic Little Rock Central High School at age 16; that fall she began attending Princeton University and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during her stay; at the end of 2007 she qualified for the Beijing Olympics in gymnastics. Yet after a string of personal tragedies, Ellie inexplicably left school and Olympic glory behind, moved back to Little Rock, and began a transformation into the mysterious woman we see today. Ellie V (as she chooses to be called now) is a modern renaissance woman: one part martial artist, one part computer programmer (or hacker as some have claimed), and one part punk rock icon. She granted me this rare interview on the terms that it would only be about music. It seems she does not want to address the rumors that she has become a consultant for L.E.S. in their “special outreach” division. So, ok. on to the music. Here is Ellie V in five songs:

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Ellie: Let’s Get it On— Marvin Gaye

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Ellie: Nothing Compares 2 U— Prince

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Ellie: You’re With the Wrong One— Fried

4. You are an olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Ellie: Bring Your Whole Crew— DMX

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Ellie: Bull in the Heather— Sonic Youth

Finally, Ellie has also granted me the exclusive privilege of pre-releasing her brand new single “eat your heart.” You heard it here first kids. Thanks Ellie!