could be (part 2)

This post is part two of a four-part series on my song, “could be,” from my album my anxious age. You can read part one here, where I describe how verse one, which relays the lifelong impact of my childhood experience with bullying, and how it is essential to know the stories of the ones we love in order to know them fully.

Continue reading

could be (part 1)

After breaking down my song “lately” a few weeks ago, I wanted to share some thoughts on another song, “could be,” from my latest album my anxious age. This song is the thesis statement of the album and, in my opinion, is the best song I have ever written, as it captures most of what I have ever tried to say on record. In its four verses, I try to capture the complexity of life by zooming in on my own personal history before zooming out to reflect on where I am now and where I am headed. My hope, in telling my story, is that the listener or reader might hear something of their own story, or at least find the courage to start telling their own. Below, I break the first verse down. Continue reading

Lately

“Lately,” from my latest album my anxious age, is now available for listening on Soundcloud. The album is available for purchase here, and now features two additional songs along with a 24-page full color zine with lyrics, personal stories, and poetry. The lyric page for “Lately” is shown above.

my anxious age tells the story of a season of depression I went through in the fall of 2016 after I left the classroom to pursue my graduate studies. Continue reading

Sleepy Heaven (Pt. 1)

The third song on Wake Up Sleepy Heaven, the new album from my rap duo Holy Smokes, is Sleepy Heaven (Pt. 1). The two parts of Sleepy Heaven are meant to act as interludes but still push the concept of Sleepy Heaven further.

Part 1 comes from the perspective of a disillusioned sinner. He is waging a war against his demons, but when he turns to the religious for guidance, they are busy hiding their sins and putting on a nice face for the public. The religious person is described with the characteristics of a politician, someone who “tries to build the public’s trust” but who, at the end of his life, “might tell you what he covered up.”

The sinner, upon seeing the way religious people hide their own sins, is left with even more questions than answers. He cannot help himself, fake Christians cannot help him, and he begins to question whether even God can help him.

I have seen this, and felt this, a lot in my life. So many of us Christians keep our sins to ourselves so that we can look like good people instead of real people, and we end up leaving more people lonely. We deny that we struggle time and again, causing a chain reaction of private suffering. We wear masks and forget that caring for people means sharing our trials with others so that we can share in our triumphs together. It’s hard to be found when we can’t admit that we’re lost.

Charles Bukowski once wrote in a poem, “the thing about church–you can’t change a mask.” Unfortunately, too often we think that the term ‘Christian’ is synonymous with saint rather than sinner. In part I blame this on the society we live in, where the American culture tells us not to wear our emotions too prominently for fear of looking vulnerable. At the end of the song, the narrator wonders when Christians started worshiping America over God. In a country that subscribes to survival of the fittest, there isn’t much room for admitting weakness. (The idea of America being a hindrance to true faith will come back throughout the album.)

At some point in our lives, we all experience hell on earth. Our stories are filled with suffering, and we all willingly accept that hell happens here. But how many of us acknowledge that heaven might be here too? As I said before, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God wouldn’t come with our careful observation because the kingdom of God is inside us (Luke 17:20-21). What if we removed our masks and showed people our scars? Wouldn’t we be closer to heaven knowing that others are suffering too? You can’t make it through hell if you don’t admit that you’re in it. If we want to bring heaven to people, we need to let them know we have been through our own personal hells, and are still fighting our demons despite our beliefs. No one relates to the person without blemish. Waking up heaven inside of us and inside of others is going to require a lot more vulnerability and honesty than we’ve been willing to give.

Wake up sleepyhead, sleepyhead, sleepy heaven
I try to stay awake but my eyes are feeling heavy
and this life is unsteady
and my friends, they all forget me
My demons grip my neck
I’m just trying to get a grip on me
I feel your hand slip on me
I find my sin and its whole army
line up at attention
state your name
and state your business
Are you all here to kill me?
Is this the real me?
Can you feel me?
I was screaming at the sky to take me
but lately I’ve been thinking
if God makes us from up above
does he drop us just to shake us?
Or if we spend our days in search of love
do most of just find more lust?
We crave a touch
I’ve said too much
No good man ever states his sins
He keeps them in
he locks them up
he tries to build the public’s trust
and at the end
(after some good luck)
he might tell you what he covered up
while the rest of us are shamed to say
that our mistakes they smother us
I’m trying to say that I –ed up
I wonder if God still loves us
us stutterers and vagabonds
We wander through youth then wander on
with nothing new under the sun
We’d bow to the Son
but he’s better than us
In God We Trust
but Dear God,
we must insist that you trust us
with trust funds
and some hot blondes
and these big homes
just like pop songs
Will Pop and Mom be proud of me
if trials are of what I sing?
If they sing “My Country Tis of Thee”
and I sing, “that don’t mean much to me”?
Excuse me, please
Apologies
for cursing the land of too much blessing
too much dressing on Thanksgiving
thankful for our gluttony
thankful for the greed on Wall Street
thankful for the sluts on TV
thankful for this country:
red, white, and blue
but mostly green
Smoke clouds around
What could this mean?
We got trapped inside our screens
The earth fast asleep
falling deeper
don’t wake me
steeper into this stupor
Sleepy in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting
Sleep in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting

Celebrate

This past Saturday Parker played his last show with the Holy Smokes for some time, as he is taking off for Australia in a few weeks. We did it big for our last time together (for now), and 40 people showed up to party with us. There were lots of feelings being felt.

It is fitting, then, that the next song I explain is Celebrate. This is the second song on our new album, Wake Up Sleepy Heaven, which you can download for free here.

I met a lot of endings at the close of 2012. After three and a half years, Parker and I graduated from TCU in December. We started our time at school together, along with his girlfriend and our honorary third member Jade, and we ended the same way. It was super special.

Two days before graduation, I finished an internship at the nonprofit foundation Lena Pope Home, which provides counseling and education for children and families in Fort Worth. The good people there taught me a lot about helping others.

In between finishing my internship and graduating, I celebrated 22 years on Earth. Yet despite the feeling of accomplishment in all of these things, I was saying goodbye to a lot of people. I was experiencing a big life change, and though people were congratulating me and asking me how exciting it felt to finish school, it was hard to part with the people and places that had meant so much to me. I had not come out of these past few years unchanged, and the celebration was mixed with the funeral of leaving things behind.

The song Celebrate is about happy and sad and conflicted and resolved and so on and so forth happening all at once. In the moments where you are asked to put a smile on, you might be on the verge of crying. In the moments where you know you are losing someone very important, sometimes you can’t help but smile at the memories shared.

One of Wake Up Sleepy Heaven’s themes is that the world isn’t black and white; neither are emotions. No one can control how a moment unfolds for you; not even you. You can only control how you move on from an ending, not how it affects you in that moment of impact.

This is a song about letting go. Appreciating what has happened, and appreciating that they are over. Mourning the end of relationships and experiences, but holding your head up when it’s time to say goodbye. Thinking you had more chances, more time, but understanding that ends beget beginnings. You don’t always get to turn the page in a story; sometimes you have to start a new one. So celebrate and be sad.

Celebrate

I said goodbye so much this year
I hope hellos are almost here
Nearer to the end of most of what I started
With nowhere to go, do you feel brokenhearted?
Do you feel farther from the truth that you knew
when you said “I love you” and it sounded like a truce?
The people that you held became feelings that you knew
You outgrew the past and couldn’t retrace the roots/routes
So your truth became lies
Your proof, alibis
You say bye but feel like you never say hi
Goodnight, go home, turn the lights on, I’m gone
If I wanna know right, I’mma have to do wrong
Right?
I find myself more found when I’m lost
I find the benefits outweighing the costs
of how much it pays to make too many mistakes
Then make it out alive, that’s more cause to celebrate

Here’s to all the good times and here’s to the bad
For all the missed chances and all the times we had
I can’t help thinking there were more to have
But if we have to let go, let’s celebrate and be sad
Let’s celebrate and be sad

Celebrate and be sad, I’m so glad that it happened
and when it fell apart I couldn’t help but be saddened
Imagine if nothing you started had to end
Would you feel any better?
I guess it all depends
Sometimes you let go and the loss is a win
Sometimes you let go and the pain sets in
I let a girl go, too hard to hold her hand
but I let her know how I felt when I had the chance
I finished school to do my grownup dance
then found myself looking back for one more glance
I guess there’s some things we don’t get to understand
I guess there’s no sense in making concrete plans
There’s a reason hourglasses tell time with sand:
It slips through our hands, we lose everything
Find peace, please, we’re all bound to leave
In the meantime, we’re bound to each living thing
We’re bound like books with no cover sleeves
‘cause a life well-written has no summary
Summer, spring, we fall through the seasons
When winter gets cold, we remember the reasons
for warm welcomes when we come back home
We never expect to go through anything alone
but found ourselves facing trials on our own
and longed for the triumph of love still unknown

Here’s to all the good times and here’s to the bad
For all the missed chances and all the times we had
I can’t help thinking there were more to have
But if we have to let go, let’s celebrate and be sad
Let’s celebrate and be sad