Is an old fashioned always your drink of choice?
This is my drink of choice when someone else is buying me a drink [laughs]. I usually just drink straight whiskey. It settles me, oddly. If I’m trying to have a longer night, I’ll do a few rum and Cokes. But truthfully, I’m not a big drinker, though. When you’re on the road and you’re traveling all the time, it kills you.
Do you sip on it when you’re recording or is that not your style?
I like to keep a clear head whenever I’m writing. Whenever I’m out with people, I’ll have a drink to unwind.
Where in Michigan are you from?
I was born in the city. I grew up off of 8 Mile and Kelly, and then about halfway through my childhood my family jumped over the 8 Mile border into Harper Woods. I spent the rest of the time in that area.
At what point did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I think there was something in the back of my mind that always wanted to be an artist. I come from a very musical family. My mom’s side is very rooted in gospel church, gospel choir, gospel bands and things like that. I always joke that I come from a family of pastors so there’s a lot of gospel roots. My dad is one of ten kids who all sing and play guitar. It was in my blood. My oldest brother was in punk bands growing up so I would always go to The Wired Frog and be, like, 12. The Wired Frog is this old venue off Gratiot. My brothers were always involved in it and I kind of just learned through them. There was always this thought in the back of my mind like, “Man, that would be so awesome to be able to be a musician and to help people the way music has helped me and to be a role model the way that artists were always a role model to me.” Growing up I was a a black sheep in my family and music was always my escape, so I’ve always had that vision of being an artist. It wasn’t until I kind of moved around and decided to truly to commit to it that everything [fell in place.]
I read that you said your song “Push” was about committing to music and the anxieties that come along with it, jumping in 100 percent, committing to all of your dreams and giving up on a plan b. When was that moment?
I’m part of this studio in the city called Assemble Sound. I’m one of the co-founders over there along with Garret Koehler and my brother Seth Anderson, and then Nicole Churchill soon came after the genesis of the vision. I think as soon as that came into play, realizing, “Oh, I can be involved in other artists’ careers and I can help people and other people can help me and this is something that’s an actual thing that can happen.” There are so many bands out there and you hear so many stories of people making it regionally and then kind of fizzling out, whether it’s because they’re just burned out or couldn’t afford it. It just clicked in my mind and I thought, “Okay, this is what I want to do and I am going to stop at nothing to make it happen.”
I love that. That’s what you have to do.
Yeah, music has to be a lifestyle. It can’t be something that you write a song once or twice a month. Literally before this podcast I was in the studio from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and we wrote two songs. You always have to be writing, you always have to be creating.
In your song, “Push,” you sing, “I’m in love with the feeling.” What feeling are you talking about?
I think there’s a certain feeling that artists get, specifically any kind of performing artist, whether that be a gallery show or for me it’s playing the songs live. It’s that feeling of just creating something that is a little addicting to artists. It’s that feeling of, “Something is in front of me that I have created,” and I think that’s the feeling that kind of keeps me going because honestly being a musician is hard. It’s really long days, it’s a lot of travel, it’s very tiring emotionally and physically, but there’s just this indescribable feeling that comes along with all of it.
I’d imagine performing gives you a high and you can’t get more present than performing live.
Yeah, and the feeling of just like helping people. To me that’s the whole reason why I do art… is to just help people. I don’t care about any of the glam or any of that. I think it’s all bullshit; I think it’s all a waste of time. The most gratifying thing to me… we were in Montreal the other day and this girl came up to me and she was so excited to talk to me because I’m blind in my left eye and my eye is a little lazy and so she came up to me and said, “I’ve always been insecure about my eye and I always have my bangs over it, but I saw you on stage and I saw your photos and stuff, and it just gave me a little more confidence to be comfortable with who I am.” Stuff like that is what really makes me enjoy what I do … It’s so weird, when you’re performing I feel like I simultaneously feel the most and nothing at all. You just kind of go blank and go numb in your mind and you go straight up by instinct. There are songs that we wrote for a record and we’ve practiced so many times and it is this muscle that we have, and so it’s very interesting to be able to have that be a daily thing. The idea of performance just kind of blows my mind. It’s a strange concept.
You left Detroit at one point, came back, almost left again but stayed. What made you stay?
I think the second time that I wanted to go I was feeling a little burned out on the community I was in. I was feeling a little burned out creatively, I was feeling very much in a rut. My brother and I write all of the songs for Flint Eastwood and this rap duo named Passalacqua approached us. They said, “Yo, we’re doing all of these projects, we’re teaming up with these random bands to do a joint EP,” and so we created this joint EP with Passalacqua. They wanted to do this release show and from the energy of that release show it just kind of opened these doors of a new community that we had never experienced. Passalacqua is so much about community and they’re so much about being genuine and looking out for people, and making sure that gaps are filled in the city. They’re just really, really, really, good dudes. Being able to be a part of something that was extremely well done and just amazing opened my eyes to what I was doing myself which was closing my eyes and being like, “No, I grew up here. I know that Detroit is bad. I know that I’m not supposed to be here.” Everyone does it in every single city. It kind of just opened my eyes to this brand new community and since then I’ve tried to really branch out a lot more and reach out to other artists and anybody in any kind of field that I respect what they do. I like to just give them a call and say, “Hey, do you want to get some coffee? Let’s hang out.”
Is that a Detroit thing?
I think so. Everyone is extremely accessible here, which I like … There’s a lack of expectation for people in Detroit. Sometimes it can feel like a business transaction and I don’t feel that way with my relationships in Detroit … What I really appreciate about the Detroit creative community is that they’re very intentional about keeping the neighborhoods involved and going in to the people who have been there their entire lives. Passalacqua specifically is really good at that. Brent Smith from Passalacqua was involved for a long time in this school called The James and Grace Lee Boggs School that was just like a beacon of light; it was a beautiful place.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
I would probably want to sit down with Janis Joplin. She just had so much feeling and so much sadness, too. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person through their eyes. Whenever I see somebody with sad eyes I just want to have a drink with them. I just want to say, “Yo, just tell me. What’s going on bud?” I think living I would really like to have a drink with Patti Smith. She’s somebody that’s always really been an inspiration for me as an artist just because she’s always done what she’s wanted to do and has always given this side of vulnerability to her art that I think is really hard to replicate. Yeah. Those are my people.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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