Interview: Paola

Today we’re joined by Paola. Paola is a phenomenal musician from Sweden who has recently joined a new punk band called Psykonauterna. The band formed last September and doesn’t have an album out yet, but have recorded and played covers of punk and grunge songs. They’re planning on playing some gigs in the summer. Paola is incredibly dedicated and excited about music. She obviously loves music, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am the guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter in a recently formed punk band called Psykonauterna (Swedish for “the Psychonauts”).  We formed in September 2018 and so far, have been playing covers of punk and grunge songs in small gigs, though we hopefully will soon begin working on our first songs and album.  My inspirations, specifically, come primarily from the Manchester music scene of the 70s/80s/90s—things like the Smiths, Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, etc. — but I also endeavor to find my own path when I consider the kind of songs I want to write. I have been playing guitar for less than two years and spend most of my time learning songs written by musicians I admire.

What inspires you?

What inspires me the most, musically, is the punk movement and attitude.  Nearly every punk musician, especially during the early punk years of the late ‘70s, came from poor and/or inexperienced backgrounds. After being inspired by their contemporaries, people would just pick up a guitar or bass for the first time, gather some friends, and weeks later they would be playing gigs together and eventually writing songs.  As someone who has been playing guitar less than two years at this point, this “anyone can do it” attitude of punk is alluring to me and helps me to realize that I do not have to be Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page or any of the legendary guitarists of the past 100 years to make it as a musician.  If Peter Hook [bassist to my favorite band] can go from hardly knowing what a bass guitar is to writing amazing songs within a couple years, then I think I may not be in such a bad position.  I feel captivated by learning the stories of these musicians because they make me think, “Hey, this could work!”.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Yes and no.  Perhaps everyone has experienced this, but I have always been fascinated by the guitar.  As a child I would daydream about playing the songs on the radio or my iPod that had cool riffs, and from the age of about 15 I remember telling people that I wanted to someday learn guitar (I specifically remember saying I would learn Stairway to Heaven first, which I have yet to do, shame on me).  However, it was not until the past year or so that I seriously decided that I wanted to write my own songs, be in a band, and have a career within music.

As for what got me interested in my field, the short answer is all the music that I love.  I’ve always been passionate about listening to music—everything from punk to new wave to synthpop to grunge—and learning about the musicians behind the music that means so much to me.  I connect better to music than I do to novels and films, despite also being a hungry consumer of those types of media.  When I listen to a song, I often pay attention to every part: the lyrics, the bassline, the guitar, etc., and how they fit together, often getting moved by more than just the lyrics of the song. The right bassline or guitar riff or synth sound can energize me and make me feel things just as well as a well-written lyric. Shortly after picking up my first guitar and learning some of the simpler songs that I enjoy I began to hunger for more. It probably wasn’t a specific moment that this happened, but I eventually began to think, “you know, I want to do this. I want to be like all the musicians I love and admire, going up there on stage and both playing and singing my heart out.” So, I began to write lyrics.  Simple things inspired by my favorite lyricists, Ian Curtis and Morrissey, as well as my own experiences.  By September 2018, this dream started to become a reality when I grouped with several people as a band and prepared for my first gig.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I haven’t finished any of my self-written songs yet, but when writing lyrics, I keep in mind the thought of writing songs that can touch a variety of audiences.  Of course, I endeavor to “write from my heart”, as in lyrics that mean something to me since good lyrics often come from the author’s experiences and feelings.  However, most of my songs so far have been neutral in that they talk more about the feelings aspect and don’t focus specifically on a certain gender in either the perspective or the subject of the song.  Most are not even explicitly or implicitly about romantic relationships. I have these half-written song lyrics that are about different painful experiences I have gone through—mental illness, losing friends—that have nothing to do with going through a breakup, which is contrary to what many songs of varying genres are about.  Like the late Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks said, “I enjoy writing songs that do not exclude anyone.  The only people they exclude are people who don’t know anything about love.” In my case, I consider the broad definition of the word love.  Though it may not be as direct a signature as other artists include, it is my way to let my identity shine through and to include people of varying genders and sexualities, much in the way Pete Shelley did.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice? Dare to try. I know it is cliché, but I never would have made it half this far if I didn’t just dare to try.  Emphasis on the dare.  If I didn’t for example dare to attend that club for musicians who wanted to be in a band, instead of listening to the voice in my head saying that the others would be much better than me, then I would still be playing chords by myself in my bedroom. Not only were we all at a similar level, but we also developed and learned so much together—things I never would have learned and experienced if I didn’t take that step.  I think this applies to any artistic field.  Maybe you want to be a cartoonist but don’t feel good enough at drawing to do the pieces in a local newsletter. Well, you never know until you ask.  Or maybe you want to a publish a novel but feel insignificant, unskilled compared to the authors on the bestseller lists.  Sure, they may have experiences, skills, and techniques that you feel you lack, but their skills do not take away from yours.  Dare to send in that art portfolio.  Dare to contact that publisher.  Dare to answer that “band members needed ad”.  I can’t promise you would achieve everything directly, but I also won’t suggest you would “fail”.  When you ignore that nagging voice in your head that says you are not as good as everyone you admire and that you therefore won’t succeed, impressive things can happen.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

It is all a bit hazy for me, but I have been calling myself demisexual/romantic because I’ve only felt those kinds of attractions toward one person (a friend), though since it has been over a year and seems unlikely I will experience it for a blue moon or several, I sometimes consider myself more on the aro/ace side of the spectrum. This doesn’t much have to do with the ace spectrum, but I also like to think I could be pan.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Fortunately, not, though that could be in part to the fact that I am not completely out to the “real world”.  Only a few close friends and some LGBT+ friends/peers that I have met in real life know my identity, and with my friends/peers/contemporaries/etc in the music industry the topic of dating or sex has never come up, so I haven’t had the opportunity or necessity to share. However, the people I associate with seem welcoming to LBGT+ people and I would expect them to be understanding of me.

I will perhaps face more difficulties as I gain more experience in this field, considering how sex is typically seen as an essential part of music industry.  It is almost expected that musicians would have sex with their “groupies” and indeed I jest about wanting a “rock n roll” life first when faced with questions from friends I am out to about marriage/dating.  But so far, most ignorance has come from coworkers pressuring me about having a boyfriend and have had nothing to do with the music industry.  I will just continue being unapologetically myself no matter what prejudice or ignorance I may someday face.  In a way, it will feel truly punk, standing up to the stereotype of musicians being male and getting with their groupies, solely by being myself.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Gosh I come across so many all the time I scroll through the internet, more so when it comes to being demi specifically, but I think by far the most common is that asexual is a label used by people who want to feel special for being celibate and/or for not being interested in having sex.  It frustrates me to no end! We are not just people who are celibates, or prudes, or uninterested in sex who want to be “holier than thou” because of that.  We do not feel sexual attraction or feel it rarely in some cases.  Some aces are even the opposite of those labels and have sex with their partners as an act of intimacy, even if they do not feel attraction.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Take your time and don’t be afraid to try different labels that may or may not fit.  It is okay to not be sure of your exact identity and to change from different labels if you realize one does not fit anymore. It is also okay to not have a label or not want one and to just consider yourself aspec, because that is a catchall term that will always be there for you. Remember also that you are not lesser or immature for not feeling sexual attraction or for feeling it less than your peers, no matter what they say to the contrary.  You are a loved and precious individual.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My band does not have an Instagram account or anything yet, but if you want mini updates you are welcome to follow either of my personal Tumblr blogs, at winterknightdragon and at thequeenisstilldead where I sometimes post my cover songs and will eventually share the link to our band Instagram.  You are also welcome to dm me if you want a link to something. My work is all over the place now so that is the easiest way.  You don’t have to be shy! I’m not scary just because I am in a band.

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Thank you, Paola, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Faith

Today we’re joined by Faith. Faith is a wonderful artist who does a bit of everything. She paints, writes, sings, plays instruments, and draws. She’s most passionate about dancing. Faith loves to dance. It’s clear she’s a passionate and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do a large variety of different art forms such as dance, singing, acting, instruments, drawing, painting, and more. I think the one that I’ve focused on the most would be dance. Dance has been one of those things that I started super young, 5 years old, and I have continued to do for so many years. It is like a safe haven for me. It is a way for me to let go of the world around me and just let my emotions out. I honestly can’t imagine my life without it.

What inspires you?

Nature and emotions inspire me mostly. I guess some combination of the two. I always feel so at peace outside in nature, as cheesy as it sounds, watching a cloud roll by or the rays of the sun through the trees. A lot of my movement comes from watching a river flow or a leaf caught in the wind. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly rain and puddles are where I find some of my most interesting ideas. Nature is never stagnate, and there is a lot to be found in the ever changing world.

As for emotions, there are such hidden depths to every single person out there. The raw emotions people don’t normally see are such an interesting thing to experience or choreograph with. Music choice works extremely well with this too, as music is supposed to evoke feelings. A slow dramatic piece could work with feelings of longing or sorrow while an uplifting song could focus on joy or peace.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Kind of embarrassing but the Barbie movie the Nutcracker is what got me started dancing. I realize now that the dancing on there is very bad but hey, I was 5. At the time I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen and I have been hooked on art ever since. This obviously snowballed into so many different types of arts like music, visual, performing, to the point of I can’t imagine my life without art. It is so integral to who I am that I have never imagined being anything other than an artist.

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Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t have one specific thing that occurs in all of my dances. I guess one of the most common things that occurs would be using music from movie, TV, or video game soundtracks but I wouldn’t really call that a unique signature. I’m just a huge geek!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t let anyone bring you down. You don’t become a prima ballerina overnight and you will fall down. Nobody is perfect and we have to accept that. One of the biggest things I see when people start dancing is being constantly being discouraged by corrections or criticism. The best thing you can do is take the corrections and learn from them. You will grow as a dancer, an artist, and a person. You have to remember that everyone started where you are now, and they used hard work and dedication to achieve their dreams. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I believe I am asexual and heteroromantic. I’m not entirely sure about the romantic side of me, I may be demiromantic, but I am definitely positive that I am asexual. I haven’t been in many situations where I can explore my sexuality further but that may just be because I generally avoid situations where people can give me romantic interest.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t really found that much prejudice is my field mainly because it is rarely talked about. That and most people I talk to don’t really know that much about asexuality. The main issue I have found is just the heteronormality and hypersexualized nature in the world. There are many dances that I have been in where the dance is fun until the choreographer decides to add in a sexualized section in order to draw the crowd in. It makes me uncomfortable to watch or perform and it is normally unnecessary.

I will say that where I perform, homosexual relationships are represented and choreographed which is quite refreshing. But there is no asexual representation.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That either we don’t exist or that people automatically assume that asexual people are all sex repulsed. I know that many of us don’t want sex, don’t like sex, or are even repulsed by it but there is a large amount of us who don’t mind sex. I don’t know where I fall on the whole sex spectrum but I do have an asexual friend who rants to me about the topic. She says that she enjoys the act of sex even if she isn’t sexually attracted to someone.

I guess another misconception that I have seen is that people would think that asexuality is just a low sex drive. An imbalance in chemicals. That it can be “fixed.” Asexuality is an orientation just like any other sexuality. There is nothing wrong with it nor is there anything wrong with an asexual person.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Have a good support system. One of the things that has helped me the most with my sexuality would be having people who understand and respect me. It has helped cure my insecurities and accept who I am.

Just remember that you are not alone. There are so many of us out there in the world who have been exactly where you are now. You are not broken. You are not weird or wrong or even a freak. There are people out there that can support you and that do accept you. There is more love for asexuals than hate. Focus on that.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I don’t post a lot of my work online but I do have some on my Instagram account. It is a private account so if you want to see anything just DM me and tell me you saw this post and I’ll let you follow me! At kitten0981.

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Thank you, Faith, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Leo

Today we’re joined by Leo. Leo is a phenomenal photographer, singer, and guitarist from Mexico. He is the lead singer and guitarist in an emo band. He also makes music on his own. When he’s not creating music, Leo also enjoys doing photography. It’s clear he’s a driven and passionate artist who loves to explore the world through art, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Well my work might be seen as intermedia, I like to use photography, video and music. I have a kinda emo band and a solo folkish project, I also work as a photographer in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico. It all started as a way to get through things in life, then I realized that other people experiment the same things and that we are all in this experience called life together and that is important to share it with the world so we don’t feel alone.

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What inspires you?

The people most of all, I think that there’s beauty in every heart but sometimes you have to seek for it. I also love music, movies, and love and childhood stories from others.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I wanted to be an astronaut or an engineer but in middle school I got some troubles because I used to fight a lot with other kids so my physiologist told my parents that I should try something more artistic and started to play guitar, then I wanted to make music for films so I started working on some short films and finally an ex-girlfriend has an online bazar and I started taking pictures of her with the clothes and the photography just made the way through my art.

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Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Emotions and films, my work such as music or films or photography always have the style of some 90’s 00’s movies.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Never give up, always give your best to yourself and be honest. Help others to get better and you’ll get better too.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Demisexual close to asexual, biromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

My friends still think that I’ll “get better” and stop of being asexual. It’s also so boring to explain to others what asexuality is and that is valid.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That’s for being a man I have to seek sexual intercourse with every person I meet.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

It only matters what you think of yourself, you are valid and you are not alone. It is ok if you don’t feel that you don’t fit quite well on any label. There are more people like us than you think, you are not alone.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have two Instagram accounts at poortraitsphotography and at tinaparados and a YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/Leokitee

My band is called Sylvia. For Sylvia Plath and here’s a song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TVAWCvbxrY

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Thank you, Leo, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Leah

Today we’re joined by Leah. Leah is a wonderful and talented artist who does a bit of everything. She does visual art and works with a variety of mediums. When she’s not doing visual art, she also plays a number of musical instruments. The main instrument she plays is the clarinet and she’s started learning the mandolin. As if that weren’t impressive enough, she also writes poetry. It’s clear Leah is a dedicated and enthusiastic artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a visual artist, as well as a musician and a poet. For my visual art I tend to work with whatever medium seems to fit my topic the best, and I enjoy creating things intuitively. Music wise, my main instrument is the clarinet, but I also know how to play the piano, flute, tenor saxophone, and ukulele, and I am learning the mandolin. My poetry is more random and for myself. I like writing whatever comes to mind and using poetry as a way to funnel my emotions.

What inspires you?

What inspires me is nature and other works of art. A lot of times I’ll see something in nature and my first thought is “I’d love to paint that” so I like doing a lot of nature based pieces. The work of other artists is also inspiring to me because it gives me the inspiration to work more on honing my own craft so I can someday reach the level of skill and expertise I see in the works of others. Musically I am inspired by my friends who are also musicians. Watching them and their love of music, and passion for their instruments inspires me to spend more time with my own instrument.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

What got me interested in my field was probably my grandmother. She was an elementary school art teacher, so when I was little she always did lots of crafts and art projects with me. She would also take me to art museums and show me famous works of art which really helped me fall in love with art. When I was little I really wanted to be an artist, but then I got older and realized I was not good enough to be able to make a living off of my artwork, and I’m always too attached to my pieces to give them away to someone else. Now I want to be an art teacher, so hopefully that’s where my life will take me. My mom was the one who helped encourage my interest in music. She played the clarinet in middle school and high school, which is what inspired me to play the clarinet. And she has always supported me and my musical talents.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t think I really have a specific thing included in all my works. Because I love exploring different mediums, I don’t really have something specific that’s included in all my works.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep practicing your art. The more you do it, the better at it you’ll become. It’s okay if art is just something you do for fun, you need things to enjoy in life so don’t worry about trying to make a career out of your art if you don’t want to. If you do want to make a career out of your art, I know you might hit some low points, but don’t give up and keep creating things, inspiration will come and you will be successful.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a panromantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t really encountered much prejudice or ignorance in my field just because that’s not really anything that’s come up yet, but I’ve experienced plenty of it in general everyday life. Mostly I handle it by either ignoring it, or trying to explain my sexuality, it depends on the situation.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common misconception I’ve heard is that we’re emotionless, or that we just don’t feel anything.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Don’t worry about feeling out of place or broken. I thought for the longest time that I was perfectly normal and that there was no way the rest of the world just thought about sex all the time, and that’s still a really strange concept to me. If you’re struggling to figure out your sexuality, don’t discredit that you might be ace, because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being ace and there are people who will have no problem accepting you for who you are.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I don’t really have a specific place where I post all my work, but I will sometimes sporadically post on my Instagram at hpandthegobletofsass or on my Tumblr at wxtchmxbxrn.tumblr.com or if you want to find any of my Harry Potter fanart whenever I feel like getting around to it you can find it at hpandthegobletofsass.tumblr.com.

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Thank you, Leah, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Schi-Lee A. Smith

Today we’re joined by Schi-Lee A. Smith. Schi-Lee is a phenomenal artist who is incredibly versatile. She does a lot of visual art and even teaches painting classes. When she’s not doing visual art, Schi-Lee enjoys writing and writes both original work and fanfiction. Schi-Lee also has a passion for singing and even has some karaoke fans. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist with an impressive amount of passion, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Well, I paint quite often, I actually teach painting classes sometimes.  I sing, a lot; I have some fans at karaoke.  I draw with pen or pencil, too, and I write, both fanfiction and original works.  My writing is usually like what I read, sci-fi ish, and I pride myself on making realistic dialogue.  I like to paint and draw realistically, haven’t quite gotten abstract down.  My singing can be just about anything, I can sing Creep by Postmodern Jukebox and Highway to Hell just as easily.

What inspires you?

When I was a child, it was my Dad.  I still have his drawings and poems around my house, and when I was very young, he would record us singing on a giant cassette tape recorder thing and let me do skits in between songs.  He was very artistic, and just about all my artistic tendencies stem from him.  Now, it’s still that in a way, but also I just want to see the beauty in the world, and add to it if I can.  Lots of people love hearing me sing, and love my writing, and love my artwork.  If I can make someone else happy, then I’ve succeeded.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Technically my field is Biology, that’s what I’m majoring in in University, but I’ll always consider myself a musician, artist, and writer.  My Dad never put me down for any art I did, so I was never afraid to get into something I wanted to do, and it’s always been with me since childhood so even if I never get any recognition for any of it, I’ll always be an artist. Therefore it’s not as much something I want to do, as something I’m doing, even if I stay obscure.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I do, actually.  My Dad’s signature was a heart with ‘LAB’, his initials, in the center, all interconnected, it’s really neat.  I made one for myself when my initials were still SAB, but it looked really weird, so when I got married, I changed it to a kind of horns, or something, to match SAS.  It’s hard to draw with a mouse, but it’s basically this.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t worry about what others say is art, art is what you want it to be.  I have friend who play metal that people say isn’t music, but it is to them, and it makes them happy.  Draw/sing/write/do whatever to make you happy, or to get it out of your head, don’t do it for others.

And don’t be put down if it sucks at first, most everyone’s first drawing of a person is a stick figure, just practice, and practice a lot.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a biromantic asexual.  I suppose if one goes for this part, I’m sex-positive.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I have encountered some people that didn’t really know what it was, but my friends were very supportive and defended me before I could.  I have awesome friends.  Thankfully I have yet to encounter any prejudice or ignorance that scared me like I know plenty have, so I thank God every day for where I am in life.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That we hate sex, or we never have sex.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You aren’t alone, that feeling that you don’t understand what all the fuss is about?  Other people feel it.  It’s not weird to think that a ‘hot’ person isn’t hot, according to your body. You don’t have to pretend.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Well, I have a YouTube channel, youtube.com/schihigh, where I’m attempting to post my singing and music videos I make on.  I also have a Tumblr and a specific tag with my art on it.  You can just search ‘schi’s art’ on schi-walker-locked.tumblr.com.  If someone were to want commissions, they could message me on Tumblr, or email me at schihigh@yahoo.com.  Just put commission in the subject.

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Thank you, Schi-Lee, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Laura Welch

Today we’re joined by Laura Welch. Laura is a phenomenal musician who makes a living as a pianist. She mostly performs for musical theater and she also plays at the local dance studio for the ballet classes. Laura plays a wide variety of musical styles and has even performed as part of a symphony orchestra on occasion. It’s a clear she’s an incredibly passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a musician – a pianist, specifically. I am classically trained, though nowadays I am highly experienced in playing a multitude of genres, from your typical “classical” fare to jazz to modern-day pop. I make a living primarily through playing piano – something I try not to take for granted as not everyone can say they live off doing something they love and don’t really consider “work.” I play for a church service (sometimes two) every Sunday morning, and I currently accompany ballet classes at a dance studio. In the past I have accompanied voice classes held at various schools in the area, and at one point I was part of a thirteen-piece jazz orchestra as well as a ragtime band. Occasionally I am given the opportunity to play in the local symphony orchestra, but it does not happen too often.

Currently one of the biggest presences in my life where my talent is concerned is the theatre community where I live. I played my first musical back in 2007 – I was freshly nineteen, I recall – and after that I was quickly absorbed into the world of musical theatre. Since then I’ve played for a plethora of shows (I stopped counting about three years ago), and I’ve even gotten to music direct a small handful of them! I can’t see myself stopping any time soon, so long as I am available and can be put to use.

What inspires you?

I find much of my inspiration comes from the people I get to work with in whatever environment I happen to be playing in. In theatre, it’s the actors, crew, and musicians I get to perform alongside. In the dance studio, it’s the teachers and students whose movements are supported by my playing. In both of those cases there’s a feeling of collaboration for me; we are creating something together by combining our respective talents, whether it’s for an audience or for ourselves in that moment. The challenges that come with playing alongside other people – be it other musicians, dancers, vocalists, or whoever – push me to do better, to be worthy of working with these other performers who have dedicated themselves to their own crafts and are working just as hard to do well by them.

I also get inspired by particularly moving pieces of music, especially ones that are adept at conveying an emotional story. I am a huge instrumental score/soundtrack junkie, whether it’s from films or video games or what have you, and it’s not uncommon for me to shut myself away in my bedroom with my phone and a pair of earbuds and just sit and listen for an hour or three. Doing so when I have the time is relaxing for me, but it also reminds me why I do what I do and why I love it so much. Having a story told to me through music alone reminds me that I’m capable of doing the same, and what a pleasure and privilege it is to be able to reach someone else’s mind and heart through something that I can create.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always held a fascination with music, even when I was a very young age. At this point I really don’t remember always wanting to be a musician, but when I was seven my parents asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons and I recall taking to them immediately. My parents got me this tiny little keyboard to practice on, and once it was apparent that I was getting better and better – and fast, at that – my teacher urged them to buy me an actual piano. (Spoiler alert: they chose to make the investment, and I bet they’re glad it paid off!) As time went on I got more and more invested in being able to play the piano, so much so that I left other hobbies and commitments behind (including playing softball and learning to play the trumpet). It got to the point where it followed me to school, so to speak: I got my first real shot at accompanying in sixth grade, when I learned to play a song we were singing in choir and was then allowed to accompany the group at a concert. More opportunities arose in middle school when I joined the orchestra and jazz band, and by high school I was both singing and playing piano in the choirs I had joined. By the time I was nearly a legal adult I had clearly decided that yes, this was definitely the path I wanted to continue taking.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I’m not sure if calling it a unique feature is correct or not, but I’ve developed this one tendency that pops up when I’m involved in musical theatre that people have come to associate with me: I have to see to it that the production’s band/orchestra gets a name. I just do. Every musical has a band, and every band needs a name. It’s silly, but I’ve found it can be a bit of a bonding experience among the musicians (and even the cast and crew) when it comes to deciding upon one.

Often times the names will be inspired by something from the musical in question; sometimes it’s a line of dialogue, sometimes a lyric, and sometimes even a tempo marking in our music. Two years ago when I music directed a production of The Rocky Horror Show, we named our band The Satanic Mechanics (inspired by a lyric taken from “Sweet Transvestite”). Last year in a production of Little Shop of Horrors, inspired by the brief gore featured at the end of the first act, we called ourselves Gut Buckets (but you can’t just say it; you have to sing it to the tune of the Hot Pockets jingle). And recently for a production of Chicago, we had two drummers splitting the five-week run between them, which essentially meant we had two different bands, so we needed names for both of them! We ended up alternating between The Spread Eagles and The Dirty Bums (both names having been pulled from one of the show’s most famous numbers, “The Cell Block Tango”).

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It’s easier said than done, but try not to let your mistakes and insecurities discourage you from practicing your craft. Growing up, I was very much a perfectionist concerning just about everything I did, and I practically crippled myself with doubt whenever I hit too many walls when it came to practicing piano. I could be very impatient with myself, and it took me years to allow myself the courtesy of making mistakes without beating myself up afterwards. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still occasionally have bad days where I get frustrated with myself. If it does happen, though, I do allow myself some distance from whatever hurdle it is I’m trying to overcome before I attempt it again. Practicing in anger does me no good at all, and brief time away can help refresh my mood.

One other thing I try and make sure I do when practicing is give my weaknesses twice the time that I give my strengths. Sure, it’s fun playing the passages I’m good at over and over again, but that intimidating section I’m still struggling with will continue to be difficult if I never actually practice it. Yes, it will be tedious and slow-going and I may not enjoy it at first, but before I know it a week will have gone by and suddenly it’s that much less intimidating! Why was I ever afraid of that section in the first place? It’s so easy now! Because I gave it time. Slowly and in small increments, yes, but time nonetheless.

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Photo by the Humboldt Light Opera Company (https://www.hloc.org/)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am gray-romantic asexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve never encountered prejudice in my field. I was never really worried about judgment from within the theatre community, considering the vast diversity of orientations and identities I’ve seen among the people in it. Though I publically came out as asexual about four years ago, I’m sure there are still plenty of people I work with at places like the dance studio and the church I play for who have no idea I’m ace. The topic of my orientation is not one I feel comfortable just diving into without good reason, though if it happened to come up I think I’d be fine with divulging the information. The majority of people I work with outside the theatre community are pretty broad-minded, so I’d like to think I wouldn’t encounter any prejudice from them either.

I’ve only personally experienced a couple of moments of ignorance, and outside my field at that, but it was never anything hurtful. One instance was a person not knowing of the existence of the asexual spectrum (who listened intently when I offered to explain it to them), and the other was a person making a (mostly) harmless generalizing assumption about asexuality in an offhanded comment while in conversation with me.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The idea that because a person is asexual, it means that they don’t desire – or even understand – relationships at all is one that I’ve encountered enough that it’s starting to give me a headache. I’ve seen it perpetuated in various forms of media, from fanfiction to comics and then some. It feels like too many people zero in on the misconception that asexuality = NO SEX, and then too many of those people continue on and assume that without sex there can be no relationship, which is utter bullshit.

People can be asexual and enjoy and desire sex, just as they can be asexual and not enjoy or desire sex. People can be asexual and feel and desire romantic love, just as they can be asexual and not feel or desire romantic love.

The lack of sexual attraction towards others does NOT automatically disqualify the possible desire for romance and/or intimacy.

The sooner the general populace starts to understand this, the less headachy future me will be.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You do not have to figure yourself out right now. You have time. Some days it will feel like you needed to figure shit out weeks ago but the answer is nowhere in sight. Some days it won’t bother you at all. Just know that solving the puzzle that is you often takes more than a day. Sometimes it takes months, or even years. It’s possible you may never figure it out completely. But know that in the end, regardless of everything, your feelings are still valid. It sounds cheesy, but listen to your heart and your body. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you think it feels right and you feel safe, maybe give that something a shot.

And if in the end using a label makes you feel that much more comfortable, use it. If the idea of using labels is uncomfortable, then don’t. You are no less valid regardless of what you do or don’t do. You are you. And you matter.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I don’t really have an online space dedicated to my craft. (I keep telling myself to make an artist page on Facebook or post recordings on Soundcloud, but so far no dice.) I do, however, occasionally post things on Instagram (at flamingo.hate.marshmallows) related to my adventures in musical theatre. I’ve got two shows in the works as we speak, so there should be some fresh musical-related content added soon!

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Thank you, Laura, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: thetruthhurts1

Today we’re joined by thetruthhurts1. thetruthhurts1 is a wonderful young poet and songwriter. She has written mostly poetry but has recently started work on a novel. When she’s not writing poetry or prose, thetruthhurts1 is writing ballads for the piano. It’s clear she’s a passionate artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

It started out with me writing short lines in the margins of my notebooks. Sometimes it was just funny phrases. Other times it was witty stanzas. Eventually, I bought a composition book and started writing out all the things I couldn’t seem to say out loud eloquently. Then one Christmas my mom bought me this cheap piano…and I felt all my thoughts and emotions slide down my brain to my fingertips and I can’t imagine going back to a time before piano.

What inspires you?

Well I would say that there are two stages currently in my inspiration department. The first stage was me trying to figure out who I was through words and songs (gave a try at drawing, painting, etc. and let’s just say if finger painting becomes vintage ever I may switch careers). After that I met someone who made me think about deeper things within me. I went from writing about philosophical things like “Why am I here?” to “Why do I get excited to just hold your hand?” My songs went from angst to love ballads.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have always wanted to help people. My favorite super person is Spidey, I hope to one day become a therapist, and I’m not one to shy away from volunteer work. I sadly can’t say I’ve always liked writing. In fact, I was more of a reader growing up. I think, that it was my love of reading that led me to become so enamored with words. I fell in love with fictional characters and felt what they felt and went where they went and one day I wanted to do that too. I wanted people to feel what I felt and go where I’ve been to. I grew up a minority and then slowly realized I was Ace so writing and music is where I found a lot of comfort

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

My friends that do get to see my work notice how I never target one specific group in my work. I use neutral pronouns, I speak to all socioeconomic groups, and when I’m disappointed in humanity it’s as a whole. The only other fun feature is that I try to slip the title into the work somewhere. It doesn’t always happen though because I’m not as crafty as I’d like to be lol.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t do what I did for the first 4 years of this. Don’t keep all of your writing in a torn Spidey folder you grabbed from Wal-Mart back in the day. Get your work out there. Your words might be what makes the difference in someone’s life.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am Ace or Asexual in the sense that I find the idea of having sex about as fun as sliding down a razor blade slide into a tub of alcohol.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve only had a few occurrences of more…abrasive?….harsh people. It was mostly of the sort where they told me that you can’t say being repulsed to sex is a sexuality and invalidating the identity. I am lucky enough to have found people in my life to love me so the hurt souls of the internet don’t phase me as much as they could in the past. I usually just report them and go on about my day.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

For some odd reason, people think Aces can’t enjoy sex jokes. I was an avid user of the phrase “that’s what she said” and as I matured I was able to gain a better arsenal to male my friends choke on their drinks. Aces can make sex jokes folks. We just don’t all partake in the action.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I went over half my life just calling myself an Alien (I’m 22yo to give some reference). Not everyone knows right out the gate how to identify. Everything is constantly flowing and moving like the ocean so when your water craft lands to shore there’s no guarantee you won’t get back out there and land somewhere else. Life’s supposed to be about something more. Don’t get anchored down trying to rush the process. Live and Love friends.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I post a lot of my poems on an App called Poet’s Corner under the name healthepain. I post poems, quotes, and just mind farts on Tumblr under thetruthhurts1. I haven’t posted my songs anywhere (mainly because I’m the noob that writes the lyrics and music separately and they never coordinate and it’s just a hot mess).

Thank you, thetruthhurts1, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.