LIFE ON PURPOSE
Music, Fire and Water...
How did you get started in the industry?
I suppose my real first dip, I played lead guitar in a rock band called “Steve Robinson and the Foundation” just as I was finishing up college. I learned a lot from Steve and that iteration of the band that I was in, there was a lot of camaraderie despite there being a few lineup changes of the bassist.
That was the first time I’d gone on a short tour, learned someone else’s original songs that I hadn’t written, learned a lot about a genre I wasn’t inherently familiar with, etc. Steve was really kind. He may not think of it this way, but he kind of took me under his wing. I was proud of that band and was grateful to be a part of it. I departed anticipating graduating and moving to Minneapolis.
After a few false starts I did finally make it to the Twin Cities. That band was a prelude to how I would grow and learn about the industry for the 8 years I was in the cities. It was there that I answered a lot of questions about what kind of musician I was and wanted to be.
A few years back, the Foundation’s drummer, Chad “Swiggs", passed away suddenly. I miss him and think about him a lot. My wife and I began our relationship while she was renting a room from him.
Where are you located and where are you originally from?
I live in Long Beach, California. People outside of SoCal would call it “LA”, people in LA think you live on another planet! I like it there a lot. We’re about 10 blocks from the beach, a little more space than the spot we had in Koreatown (when we first moved to LA), and I’m able to make a little noise in my building, so I have no regrets.
I grew up all over the midwest, but spent the most time in a tiny college town called Ames, Iowa. I just went back there a few weeks back and played their first “Black Arts and Music Festival” put on by the library. It didn’t pay much, but it was important for me to get to be a part of it because growing up in that town was really rough and traumatic. I still have family there and still consider it my hometown and it’s important to me that I go back to give back.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Career-wise, Bill Withers. He got into music relatively late, made a few big changes and took things relatively slow. His catalogue of music can still be sung and known by small children and old folks. He left his career and his label when people sought to control how he ought to sound as a black artist. His is a career to be proud of.
Musically, I’m big into Anderson .Paak right now. That man has such a large amount of soul and cool to spare. His grooves, his style, his execution, his love for what he does is palpable. I want to move and shake a crowd like he does.
Spiritually, Richie Havens. The ferocity and earnestness with which he performed and spread his message and his music is… frankly, intimidating. But something about him makes me keep coming back to him. Like a moth to a flame burned in the glory that is Mr. Havens.
What is your greatest accomplishment yet?
This is going to sound lame, but I’m just glad I’m here. I could say something like “opening for the Wailers” or “winning an award for my songwriting”, but frankly, the fact that I’m still here, and I’m still humble and I’m still just as hungry despite having worked so long and hard: I’m proud of that.
Even in LA, creative pursuits are a gamble. Nothing is guaranteed and your break may never come so there are constant internal questions: if the world never validates my love for this, will I still be proud of what I’ve done and accomplished? And my answer is ‘absolutely’.
So much of the magic contained in Reverend Doctor is unveiled when people see me live. Now, that’s a hard uphill climb earning fans because there’s only so many people you can fit in a room and only so many rooms will let you in having never performed for them before. So as a performer there’s a lot of blowing on embers hoping they’ll catch fire. But every show I light a whole new group of people aflame and their gratitude is evident.
What is your biggest motivation?
I probably answered part of this above, but people come up to me in tears after a show, or with joy, or with a story to share. I have messages of self-love that a lot of people need to hear. And people tell me that I’ve become a part of their story. If music can access peoples emotions and I’m leveraging music, what better way to change the world than to be part of teaching people to love themselves and to love each other?
What do you love most about your work?
Music is this elemental thing like fire or water. I was listening to a report on this conservative order that had taken control of an African country and the first thing they did was execute its pop stars and outlaw music. That’s a regime that understands the powerful rebellion inherent to art and particularly, music. You better believe that music that espouses self-worth and love for building and creating a community is absolutely seen as a threat. We’ve appealed to each others intellectualism in trying to heal the hurts that is driving us further apart in our own country. It’s time we try a different strategy and I’m trying to make that happen.
What is something you have struggled with in your career?
Growing up no one in my community or family was really very supportive of my musical interests and when I finally made it overt that I wanted to perform and write music full-time, it was a bit of a haul to get friends and family on board. Not everyone is still on board, but I feel like every artist early in their career has to tune out the noise and focus on their vision. That means that a lot of my path has been really lonely and I have yet to meet people that I can relate to as a musician that share a similar vision for their own lives.
What are you looking forward to this year?
March 20th, my new single “Better Together” drops. I’m proud of its musical vision and execution. I’ve got a few surprises up my sleeve for the EP I have yet to name out later this year.
Aside from that, I love being on the road and meeting new people. The more I do that, the bigger platform I’m granted each time and the greater my ability to show each other love.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I want to be opening for other artists on nation-wide and overseas tours as well as co-writing or ghostwriting for other pop artists. I’d love it if I’ve built enough of a following to be able to begin to tour bigger venues solo. I feel like it’s only a matter of time, particularly as I release more music and my message becomes more evident to onlookers.