What I’ve Learned by Going from College Student to Class B Celebrity to Nobody to Kinda Sorta Getting Famous Again…
WHERE I AM: British Airways Flight 269 London to Los Angeles
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO: Jack Garratt — Worry
It’s been too long since I’ve written you…this I know. The last time I wrote you I was parading across America in an RV on the Ninja Tour with a gargantuan beard:
I’ve since gotten a hair cut:
Now I look like this :
(photo by @danielhjorth)
But the point of this note is not to show you pictures of myself all day (though if you gave my vain ass the chance to do so I probably wouldn’t let the opportunity pass). There’s more..
ACT I — Chop Wood, Carry Water
The past five years of my life, my music, and my relationships have been about figuring out who I was post-“Cooler Than Me” fame. In 2010, my song “Cooler Than Me,” became a hit on US radio and abroad, thrusting me into the American spotlight. Suddenly I was young, rich, sort of famous, naive, and taking it all for granted.
Then a funny thing happened. My subsequent singles failed to replicate the success of “Cooler Than Me,” my record label shelved my next two albums, and slowly but surely my fame waned as I failed to release new music.
During the roller coaster ride of my short-lived fame, my self-identity became all tied up in being young, rich, and sort of famous. But five years after this period, I was forced to redefine how I viewed myself. The last few years of my life have been about choosing sturdier adjectives and nouns to replace “young,” “rich,” and “sort of famous.”
The new words I’ve picked to define myself include: “artist,” “human,” “writer,” “musician,” “poet,” and “learner.” Too often we box ourselves in with a self-definition that our parents, friends, or the TV gave us. We forget that we can change these nouns and adjectives at will. We get to choose our self-identity. We can open up new doors, and close old ones anytime we want.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy or failure, like my fall from fame, for us to do so. But I also think it’s possible for us to evolve at will, just because we want to. As Abraham says, a belief is simply a thought repeated over time. So I ask you…yes YOU…as you read this:
What are the words you use to define yourself?
Where did they come from?
Did you pick them for yourself or did someone thrust them upon you?
Do you want to change them?
If so, to what?
In my “down period,” after my initial “success,” I had the space to become a better writer, musician, poet, and human. I wrote songs for others to pay the bills (Justin Bieber — Boyfriend, Maroon 5 — Sugar and more), but mostly focused on learning piano from my mentor Norman Henry Mamey. I also learned to play the guitar (though I’m still a novice). I improved my vocals with the help of Dave Stroud and Valerie Morehouse. I enrolled in some online music classes at Berklee School of Music, where most of the students were more talented I was (ego check anyone?). I even bought a van, donated all my clothes and Jordans, and vagabonded around the US for five months.
I grew a beard and went to Burning Man where I rediscovered my love for music and freestyle performance:
I’m just a singer, who already blew his shot
I get along with old timers, cuz my name is a reminder
Of a pop song people forgot.
What’s ironic is, honest lyrics like these have reverberated with my audience and given me another shot (funny how that works). I got a new record deal with Island Records. And if I’m being honest, I always dreamed of going back into the spotlight. As I became more secure as a human (though I definitely still have my moments), I started to think that it would be a great test to be “sort of famous” again :)…to see if I could maintain a sense of presence, gratitude, and freedom in the middle of the whirlwind. As the proverb goes,
“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”
In essence, it’s not the activity that matters, it’s the mindfulness and love with which one carries out the activity that matters. It’s possible to be depressed in an ashram, just as it’s possible to be enlightened at the Grammy’s. Hiding from “success” behind my beard could have become just as much of a trap as believing my own hype did in 2010.
ACT II — CHOPPING WITH A NEW ENERGY
So I’m going for it! I’m learning you can’t hold on to things too tightly and you can’t plan everything. Sometimes two men you’ve never meet from Norway remix your song and that remix blows up (I Took a Pill in Ibiza SeeB Remix has 60 Million + plays…crazy)! You can’t plan things like that!
The last two weeks have been my first experiences back in the saddle, or in “beast mode,” as I like to call it. Last week’s schedule was filled with fittings (I donated all my clothes remember…i needed new ones), haircuts, and lengthy band rehearsals. This week, I flew from Los Angeles to Copenhagen, Denmark where I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix) has become a hit. This “promo trip,” as it’s known in the music industry, was designed to fit a year’s worth of press into a week (because we usually only are in these countries for a few days per year). Most artists dread the demanding “promo trips.”
My schedule looked like this:
5:30am Wakeup and workout and meditate
7am — 3pm Interviews with Radio and Press with some acoustic performances sprinkled in.
4pm Steve Rowen (Island) and I went to the airport and flew to Oslo, Norway.
10:30 pm SLEEP
Next day in Norway
6am — 4:30pm Morning TV performances, acoustic radio performances, and radio interviews
4:30pm ate 3 burgers (no buns:) with SeeB
6pm Fly to Stockholm, Sweden
11pm Get to Hotel in Sweden…SLEEP
Next day in Sweden
8am-11am radio performances and interviews
12pm fly to Amsterdam
5pm Sound check at The Voice — Holland
10:30pm play IBIZA live on The Voice — Holland (which moved Ibiza to number 1 on Spotify in the Netherlands….DOPE!)
1am get to hotel, SLEEP
11am Fly Back to Stockholm
1:30pm Land in Stockholm and drive to Eskiltuna
10:15pm Play dope 5 song set for Baauer Media Group in a Castle
Stay up all night with pretty girl in Stockholm to get back on LA time
12pm Fly to London to LA
In the Stockholm airport I took my guitar (1954 Gibson Country Western Model) to practice. We were in an airport lounge and a nice woman asked me to sing her a song. I did, and a small crowd formed, and I got a little ninja applause. I realized after this crazy demanding schedule and sleeping much less than normal, that I was still HAPPY, I was still GRATEFUL, and I actually was NOT TIRED. How was this possible? Here were a couple tools I used. Maybe some of these will be applicable to your life. I hope so.
Morning Routine, this prepared me physically and mentally for the stressful days:
- Wakeup 1.5 hours before you need to be in the lobby.
- Drink a thousand bottles of water. :)
- Defecate/Urinate — Put gym clothes on
- Brush Teeth
- Wash Face (I always wash face after I brush teeth. If I brush after washing my face, I have to re-wash my face to get the leftover toothpaste off)
- Meditate 20 minutes
- Use Personal Humidifer for 5 minutes. These things are GREAT for singers.
- Go to the gym and execute a HIIT workout.
- End workout 20 min before lobby call.
- COLD SHOWER — this is my favorite feeling in the world after a workout…gives a natural high…I also know that if I can calm my breathing in a cold shower, I can be calm anywhere.
- Comb hair and dress.
- Go to lobby and don’t be late. If you want everyone that works for you to be on time, you sure as hell better be on time yourself. We at “Team Pose” pride ourselves in our punctuality…that all goes to hell if I start showing up late for stuff….so I don’t.
- Do vocal warmups in the car.
- Have fun.
Before the trip I wrote myself these intentions and I would occasionally re-read them before interviews. It’s amazing how much a little gratitude can REALLY change your day.
Intentions for Promo:
- Love people. You are so incredibly adored and beloved. Share that love with the people you meet today.
- Enjoy traveling to exotic places for free! Let new things into your experience which will make you a better musician. Learn a few words.
- Tell as many people as you can about the music you made. Stand behind your project. There will be a very small percentage of the people listening or watching your promo today whose lives will change because of the music you made with your friends. If you don’t do the promo, they will not know the music exists. The art comes before the artist.
- At some point in the past, you wished you were right here. You wanted the challenge of staying present and grateful while doing promo! Here goes!
- Be grateful. No one has to be talking to you or playing your song.
- None of this shit really matters buddy. :). Just enjoy the ride.
More Things I Learned on My Scandinavian Promo Trip:
- My voice is way stronger than I thought it was. 8 hours of sleep and I’m a machine. I could do 9–10 interviews with several performances and a flight and hit the next day at 100%.
- I should smile and have more fun when I sing the remix version of Ibiza :). I was a little stiff on the Voice — Holland. Can’t wait to do more TV’s and shake them nerves off.
- The Universal Music Group team all over the world is excellent and I’m truly blessed they are supporting my music right now.
- You can say “FUCK” on TV and the radio in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
- On long promo days, I like to skip breakfast and lunch and just eat carrots until dinner…and then FEAST. Meditation for lunch :).
- I probably don’t need my laptop/rollie bag for trips like this. It would be awesome just have just one carry-on and guitar so I can leave without waiting for checked bags each day.
- Working out before the day starts, writing 10 things I’m grateful for each day, and meditating is like the greatest shit in the world.
- A 4 minute Tabata workout an hour before a gig, with a cold shower is pretty amazing takes me from asleep to AWAKE…REAL QUICK (drake voice)
- Each city, I asked people what they were listening to and built a rad Spotify playlist..this is fun and I should keep doing it. I learned about new music and made memories with it. Here’s the playlist I made:
- They have Texas-style BBQ in Copenhagen at a place called WAR PIGS- the brisket is out of control. i had gas the next day.
- Everyone rides bikes in Copenhagen….dope.
- The people in Denmark leave their babies outside in strollers when they go to eat at restaurants. The city is so safe that this is no problem whatsoever. Also, apparently, it’s good for the babies to be outside. IS THAT AWESOME OR WHAT?!?!
- Actually PLAYING music for people GIVES me energy, doesn’t take it away.
- Bringing the Ab rollers on long promo days is a win. Make sure u get the kind where there is one ab roller for each hand.
- KLM Flight statuses include: Royal Blue Elite, Sky Priority, Royal Blue Petroleum? — special for Oil industry employees
- Super Matt Chatigny occasionally folds shirts so well that they need no steaming after Trans-Atlantic flights. You can wear em right on TV.
- Our new steamer is the shit.
- I’m really good at promo.
- Steven Rowen is a very sweet, patient, and stamina filled person.
- 99% of artists in the world would KILL to be doing promo, none of the outlets HAVE to be talking to me, and it’s really cool that anyone knows who the fuck I am out here. Don’t forget that
- At some point in the past, this is exactly what I wished for in the future, and now it’s present. Celebrate that.
- Celebrate the little wins. — Bags coming out first, flights departing from the gates closest to the security checkpoints, breaking bread with homies in foreign countries = WINNING
So, I’m off to a good start. There will be a points where I lose mindfulness, where I’ll feel overwhelmed, where I’ll forget that this is all just fun. I’ll need your help in those moments. Give me your compassion, give me your kindness, give me your hugs, give me the space to grow. Give me your love and I promise I will give as much of mine back as I possibly can. I can’t thank you enough,
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