BLOG.006 | #TakeFlightDocumentary

Power Of Words

We often don’t realize how much power the words we speak have. Something you say can have a big impact on someone else’s life. It took me a while to realize this. A few years ago back in 2011 to 2012, I was going through a depression. I had trouble finding my way and getting myself through those dark moments. You can say I was paralyzed. On the other extreme, I didn’t have the courage to make an end to it. So the only other option left was for me to free my-self and overcome it. Little did I know, the opportunity for change came knocking on my door in the form of a very rare booking request; my first gig on Aruba, and at the same time my very first solo performance.

I received an invitation to perform at an event on the island but was asked to do it solo. The promoters did not have the funds to fly in my whole band and crew from Holland so I was confronted with a difficult decision. I didn’t see myself as a guitarist, but a drummer that didn’t make it. So I have always harbored this fear of performing just me and my guitar in front of any audience. I often make mistakes even when I’m playing with the band, so I couldn’t imagine me standing there by myself. I have avoided solo performances as much as I could for as long as I can remember. When the offer came in, it was a tough decision to make, but I decided to try it anyway.

Aruba 2012

The last time I had been on Aruba was over a decade before so I didn’t have much recollection of the island but they treated me very well. At the time, ‘Djis Mi Mes’ (pron.: /gs’me’miss/) had been out for two years, but I never kept track or had any insight on how the track was received on the island. So you can imagine my shock when I learned that I was the show’s headliner. Now, when I hear headliner in my mind that translates into me closing the event and people are coming out to see me! All this, and here I am without the support of my band! “Thanks, but no thanks baby Jesus”.

My suspicions were confirmed when I saw a poster for the event. I saw lots of big band names and yup, there I was closing the event all by myself! So then I told myself “Levi don’t stress, maybe it’s a reasonable sized venue” but BOY WAS I WRONG. It was held on a huge parking lot, and when I saw the magnitude of it, I started to freak out. I tend to usually have very strict rules when I’m performing but this time around for some reason, I let go, letting things develop organically. And there I was having to rise up to something that was way more than what I signed up for.

Taking the stage

I flew my father in to support me. It has been a while since we’ve spent time together. It was a blessing having him around in such an intense moment in my life and career. I was very tense before hitting that stage. Not only was the stage huge, but I kept getting updates that there weren’t many people visiting at the event, which made me freak out even more. “Am I here, all the way from Holland to perform on another island at a poorly visited event?” I couldn’t help but wonder if I even had any fans at all on Aruba. Or maybe I was just getting Punk’d, hoping that Ashton Kutcher would jump in my backstage area and dismantle this dreadful moment.

Not Punk’d

When it was finally my turn to hit the stage, I could hear the crowd cheering from the backstage as I was tuning my guitar. I felt confused since I was expecting a huge empty parking lot, but when I hit that stage, people were gathering in to see me perform. They came out of nowhere! It was as if they were waiting on the sidelines, in their cars, or out on the street. I had no idea it could even carry that many people.

Words that made me change my ways

The road to that very moment was the scariest but yet exciting. When I finally took the stage and started my performance, it felt as if I’ve done this many times before; like I was built for it. By the time I was singing the second song, which happened to be ‘Djis Mi Mes’, the venue was jam-packed. The audience was singing passionately; hard and loud! For someone who was hitting rock bottom just weeks before; this was an incredible feeling and turning point for me. I felt flooded with the love and energy of the crowd. It’s probably all in my head, but it felt like that was the very first time I heard people singing the song, not because it was a hit song, but because it meant something to them. I will never forget this moment. It was at that time I felt slapped in the face and woken up by my own words sung by the audience, back to me. ► Read ‘Djis Mi Mes’ lyrics here on genius.

Minutes after stepping on stage, captured by a fan.

With all respect to every other performance, festival or event I attended before this one; but I consider that day the official start of my career. Not just because of the greatest accomplishments; facing my fear of performing solo, but because that’s the moment I decided to accept reality and embrace who I am, the creator of my own reality. That moment on that Aruban stage was when I realized that what I’m doing is bigger than myself and that I have to be mindful of my influence.

Performing and playing guitar has been the most painful part for a very long time. Not only due to the pain in my hands and fingers, but mostly because I couldn’t stand the idea of having to struggle to be able to make music. Drumming came pretty naturally to me, so I always looked back and compared my drumming to my new ability to play the guitar. Too caught up in my ungrateful ways, I totally lost sight of the blessing that was in my hands. The ability to still make music — what I love.

I feel blessed to have the career that I have up to this point. All the credits go to the music and you: the people connecting to it. Words can carry the power to transform someone’s life. I could see the conviction in their eyes while they sing my songs that night, and I realized that it made an impact in their lives. I was thought to practice what I preach and preach what I practice, but up to that moment, it was something I’ve failed to do. All this time it was all there right in front of me. Everything I needed, I already had, through my own songs.

So that night, I took flight.

Thanks for being here and taking the time to read this blog post; it’s a real motivation. I look forward to taking you on this journey, and I’m excited to share the ups and downs with you, on my daily Instagram stories, weekly #voicenote releases on SoundCloud, the vlogs on my YouTube Channel and my blogs here on Medium. Don’t be shy to say “Hi” — I encourage you to share your thoughts, subscribe, leave a comment and pass it on… this content is for everyone.

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