This post is a bit out of place from my usual postings about pastoral theology, hermeneutics, poetry, or nerdy grammatical stuff, but I think it is possibly one of my favorite posts to date. I want to introduce folks to a great guy who also is an incredibly talented musician. Below is an email exchange (he is one of the most accessible artists!) from earlier in the month. Please make sure to take the time to visit his bandcamp page, his Spotify profile, like/ follow his Facebook Page and his YouTube channel, and or download some songs and albums from iTunes.
Here are a few questions for the first interview. Since the majority of my blog readers are not familiar with you, I figure a multi part interview would be best.
In this first question, I want to preface with the fact that I am one of the least qualified people to do an interview with a musician. I took one semester of choir in High School (shout out to Sturgis Public Schools), still cannot read music, and I do not play any instrument. With that out of the way, do you define yourself as an artist who does music, or as a musician?
I’ve probably always been hesitant to use the label of “artist” to describe myself. I don’t think it’s a pretentious title. But I feel like it would be pretentious to me. As deep as I think some of my stuff is, I still did a mixtape about video games and Wu Tang Clan. I think I just enjoy having fun with art. Even when I’m writing deeper, more introspective stuff. That makes me happy.
You have been “in the game” for a while. In 2011 you put out Straight Outta Consul: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape — Which your bandcamp gives the wonderful tagline/ description “A freakin ridiculous mixtape using Nintendo samples, pop culture references, a shoestring budget, anabolic steroids, and a lot of love.” If someone were to listen to your latest album Be Clean Again, they might be surprised at the differences. To be fair, your next 2 after SOC were deep works: Thrift Store Jesus and The Weight of Glory: Songs Inspired by the Works of CS Lewis. What made you make the switch from light-hearted hip hop mixtape to doing work that makes people pause and contemplate?
I think that was always the goal. I think that for most people they might view it as a switch in content stylistically as if it were an artistic choice. I always wanted to make serious records. But I make my money on the road performing for people who don’t know me most of the time. So my music needed to be energetic and upbeat and adaptable. That’s why I always freestyle so much during shows. If the songs aren’t connecting because the sound is bad or the context for the venue/show is off, freestyling always opens people up. You can’t get the party started when you’re singing sad songs. They need to be engaged and there for that. So I needed to make fans that were willing to come back and see me live. Then I’d have their attention. And the context would exist.
I’ll save a lot of questions about Be Clean Again for a post after people are more familiar with you. As noted above, you have a large swing in the music you have put out. “Nintendo Thumb”, “Yasss!!!“, and “Rapper” are vastly different songs than “Till we have Faces“, “https://embed.music.apple.com/us/album/under-her-pillow-warm-gun-feat-krum/1200297536?i=1200297769“>Under Her Pillow (Warm Gun) w/ Playdough”, and “Believe (feat.) JGivens and Propaganda.”
I was trying to think of how to label your musical genre, and as you pointed out in a recent Facebook post, you are one of the few artists that people wonder “will he put out an acoustic or a rap album now?” I like to think of you as a one person DC Talk. What group or artist would you consider yourself similar to?
I think my singer/songwriter stuff is quite easy to explain. I have a guitar and a piano and I’m singing. I feel the rap stuff is the same. I’m rapping over beats like everyone else. The fact that I competently do both and live in two completely different worlds with sometimes virtually no crossover is the tough thing to explain. And in that regard I don’t know of anyone I could compare it too. Lauryn Hill would probably be the closest. But even that isn’t exactly right because sonically we don’t sound alike at all. And that inability to make easy comparisons has been the biggest hindrance in my career. But it has also been why some people have connected so deeply with what I do.
We first met in the summer of 2012 when you were the musician at a summer camp for Youth for Christ International. When you signed my copy of Thrift Store Jesus, you gave me one of the most encouraging compliments I received that year. I want to thank you for that. You said that I “truly love the kids.” That compliment and that album helped me a lot through the next year and a half. I know that isn’t a question, I just want you to know that.
Aww man that’s cool. Those summer/winter camps and retreats are exhausting. Everybody gets worked to the bone. I appreciate what you guys do, because I don’t think you’d do it if you didn’t have a heart for helping kids have a better life.
Final Question for the first interview (the next ones will talk more about inspiration behind songs you have done). What is the most difficult part of being a professional musician?
Touring. Driving 13 hours to play for an hour. And doing it again and again. Every day. Nobody could possibly understand it if they haven’t lived it. It’s all isolation until you show up and pretend that you’re not exhausted and sad. It is really hard.
There you go, everyone! Please make sure to share this so that Heath can get all the publicity he deserves.