Travel size reflections: Interview with ‘West Side Winter’ singer Marcus Broderick on artistic identity
What good is “building your brand” if you lose your Self along the way?
As part of my recent indie pop release The Travel Size EP, I was privileged to sing a duet with my college friend Marcus Broderick. The song, “West Side Winter,” was written as a tribute to the city of Los Angeles, lamenting its culture of fame-sickness and reiterating my hope to bring light to the creative community.
Marcus was a perfect fit for the song both stylistically & philosophically. Since meeting him in August 2012 (in a conversation that started with, “You’re pretty. Is that a ukulele?”), his incredible voice & beautiful soul have blown me away. Marcus cares about all the right things, & it’s been an honor to grow alongside him. Grow with us by listening in on our conversation below!
Give us a little snapshot of who you are and what you value as an artist.
In this moment I identify as a Musical Memoirist and a Sentimental Soul. In other words, I write, sing, and make music. Furthermore, I indulge in personal narrative and the further development of philosophy as it pertains to the human spirit and condition.
I value Honesty, Vulnerability, Beauty, Love, and Truth.
Where do you find creative fulfillment and restoration?
I read this question a few days before sitting down to answer it at length, and the first and only thing to come to mind was, God.
I have this saying that “I am in the business of making people cry.”
When I was a sophomore in high school I wrote this song called “Fly” and I sang it (a capella) at Family Reading Night during the open mic portion of the evening. It was my best performance of that song, which was essentially about shedding the weight of insecurities and ascending into life. I received a very strong reaction that night, but what occurred the next day is what sticks with me still. I was walking in the hall to some class and ran into this teacher, a somewhat older black woman, and she told me that she had loved my song and that when I was singing and lifted my arms up she cried and wanted to lift her arms up too and fly with me… That’s when I realized further that this was my calling. That I was born to change lives with my voice, with my words.
When I can reach people, when I can bring them peace, encouragement, a sense of being understood or when I can “make them cry,” I know I’m doing just that.
Because I am nothing and have nothing without God, and God is what I return to in times of loss or being lost, and because I Believe my Self to be led by Him… My answer is God. I want to fulfill my calling; answering the call means listening for Him and acting in accordance.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your process of artistic self-discovery?
I think certainly that trying to do too much too soon has been a large part of my creative struggle so far. I’m very ambitious, which is good because it means I’m always working on and towards something, and — it’s bad because it means I spend more time theorizing than I do executing and thus I end up buried by my ambitions.
My ego has been a large challenge for me. Nurturing a healthy esteem without becoming or behaving in a braggadocious manner, which for me lately has been an ongoing tightrope walk. It’s rare that I self-deprecate, but I have my doubts like most people. Talking my self back up sometimes leads to talking myself up too far… You see where this goes.
But furthermore, having a need to prove something to others, be it my validity, or level of talent or insight or whatever, has come close to derailing me at least once recently.
There’s a saying by C.S. Lewis that goes,
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
I find that sentiment to be at the core of my intentions moving forward. Which is its own tightrope walk considering my work is so personal by nature. As you may have observed, I walk in circles a lot — or maybe squiggles, as I’d like to believe there’s a forward motion at play.
Ultimately, it’s about everyone walking away fulfilled in a meaningful and visceral way. Not in a way that feeds my ego, not in a way that makes the listener a disciple of my honesty. But about an exchange, a sharing between God, my Self, and the Audience that nourishes us all.
There’s also logistical issues like time, money, or skills I don’t have. However I find that gap closing with the passing of days. Make the time, invest the money, develop the skills. To some extent those three things are in my control, or at least I have a say.
Finally I’ll say this: Belief in my Self and my message has always been a point of contention for me. I will start off crafting something that I believe only to find it obsolete if only by my own opinion. Or I will find my Self entangled in a spat of impostor syndrome, which goes back to the tug and pull that is the maintenance of my esteem. Right now I am working on a body of work that scares me more with every lyric I finish, with every possibility that opens up for its completion. I have faith in the message this time, and I find this project to be of sacred significance. I’m in the middle of saving my own life with this one, and so I’m praying it will see the light of the world beyond my private experience.
What are some issues you see with the creative community at large?
Product over Process.
Money over Art.
Money over Experiences.
Money over People.
A lack of fair trade practices among the music community especially.
Looking at fellow artists as your competition instead of seeing them as your community.
A lack of education in regard to how one conducts business as an Artist.
A perceived need to feed into the “Big Machine.”
And what do you think is the solution?
We’ve got to stop prioritizing profit margins over the authentic expression of Self.
We’ve got to stop watering ourselves down, further perpetuating that our Audience is stupid.
We’ve got to stop operating out of scarcity theory.
Community is at the heart of what I feel are solutions to an ailing Artistic industry.
In regard to Artists and Community… We must stop being threatened by each other’s greatness. We must stop coveting the success of one another. What is meant to be had by an individual will be had if sought after. What is not won’t. We must stand together as Directors of Healing and Culture and work with a common goal towards the development of a fair industry where people are heard and supported. People must become more important than dollars. We must be willing to share influence and combine platforms for the sake of a greater good.
I spoke on this from a more personal place within a blog post on my website, and I’d like to share some of those sentiments here:
“Instead of being bound to the intersection of Art & Commerce, I’m hoping to find myself building on the meeting grounds of Art & Support.
I’m not interested in buying and selling.
I’m not interested in supply and demand.
I’m interested in Reciprocity.
I think the relationship we as Artists must have with our Audience is one that fosters offering and being supported in that offering.
I’d argue that they could not Live without us.
I’m more certainly aware we can’t even Survive without them.
At the intersection of Art & Support — everyone is human.
You can look each other in the eye.
You realize everyone involved is flesh and blood — with all the varying requirements implied by humanity and mortality.
This space implores that we have to be willing to support each other in ways that sustain everyone involved.
Artists provide the remedies to an ailing inner life.
Audiences support the sustainment of a fragile outer life.
Everyone wins if everyone plays together.
Amanda Palmer made one of the most poignant statements about this relationship I’ve ever heard.
In her TED Talk The Art of Asking she says:
“For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community. Connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the Internet and the content that we’re freely able to share on it, are taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”
While that excerpt speaks more specifically to how I intend to conduct MY business, I believe those sentiments, if adopted widely, could serve the “Artistic Middle Class” in such a way that sustains Art-making as a field of employment and not just a noble undertaking.
Where can we find your music & follow you on your journey as a musical memoirist?
My music can be found at:
For the most authentic experience I can provide, I’d love for you to visit my website periodically and see what’s new. Perhaps email me, as I’m always looking to converse.
You can find me on twitter @MarcusBroderick.