2016 Blog: Grammys, Vegas, Et Al

First blog of 2016. 

Wow this is more than 365 days in the making! Talk about taking procrastination to an entirely new level!

I was trying to figure out what happened in 2015 that got me away from blogging. Then I realized Facebook and Twitter happened. It was easier to post 140 character (or thereabouts on FB) realtime updates and pictures on these social media platforms than to find a quiet place while having a shot or two of espresso and just being alone with my thoughts and writing about them.

I guess that’s what I miss the most this past year – being alone with my thoughts in an age of virtual connectivity to almost everything that’s happening around us. I miss the silence in my head, and allowing the universe to dictate where it can, or should go.

Suffice to say that’s how most, if not all, of the songs on the album STRONGER THAN BEFORE (STB) came about. And it’s no wonder a followup to it has been stalled from quite some time now.

But I feel a personal renaissance is brewing on the horizon. And maybe one way to concretize that foreboding is through a simple blog.

The journey STB has taken since its release in November 2013 has truly been a fulfilling one, especially from the perspective of a songwriter. Despite the fact that there was no coordinated effort resembling anything close to a professional marketing and publicity plan for the album, STB has garnered multiple nominations and awards for many of the songs therein, including the title track Stronger Than BeforeThe Me I Found In You, I’ve Been Searching, and Shine On.

Attending our first GRAMMY event in January 2014 was the impetus to Stronger Than Before being part of the first round balloting in the Vocal R&B Performance category for the 57th GRAMMY Awards. We tried as hard as we could to push the song to as many voting NARAS members. At the time it felt like we put in a tremendous amount of effort in having our song heard. On hindsight, that “effort” barely scratched the surface in the world of NARAS membership.

That deer in the headlight look? That was me in every networking event our team managed to attend back in 2014. Socially inept, I found it difficult approaching people to tell them about our album, or to simply say hello. The irony was I avoided doing the very thing these events were meant for – to network, to build relationships, and to share my music. The CDs and the business cards were always neatly tucked away in my backpack – untouched and never having seen the light of day.

Yup – I definitely have issues.

But despite my innate social dysfunctions, I could feel a sense of genuine camaraderie from the other side of the wall I had unwittingly built around myself. It was definitely calling out, with persistent echoes that seemed to plead “lower your defenses, dare to step out of your comfort zone, and put your trust in a spirit that’s genuine inside you, and in your music.” 

One thing of note too was the fact that outside of the CD release party back in November 2013, we never actively performed STB, nor any of my previous originals, to a live audience. I don’t really know why that was the case. For some reason, live performance opportunities were focused on the cover band I belonged to – the Brown Oasis. After our first taste of participating in a GRAMMY campaign during the latter part of 2014, most of 2015 was spent pushing and establishing the Brown Oasis brand – finding gigs and learning to play keyboards while also serving as one of 3 lead vocalists for the band.

It was a personal challenge I felt I needed to take. I hate the feeling of being artistically stale, and I’m constantly looking for the next challenge in my music journey. And this actually led to my first gig as musical director for Kirby Asunto’s concert last November 2015. I definitely consider that a personal highlight thus far in my career.

But something inside me wondered – is this a fork on the road where I’m supposed to choose between playing and performing with a cover band, or is there more inside me that’s waiting to be shared as a songwriter and singer?

A choice between feeding a CHALLENGE or being INSPIRED?

On a whim, we decided to enter a cut from STB – the song I’VE BEEN SEARCHING – in the 58th GRAMMYs. Once again, I wish decisions like these were not acted upon on impulse, but more as a result of careful planning with a strategic intent.  (An important lesson for another day.)

But acting on that “whim” has led me to a door, where once opened, has put DSYMusic back on track on what we believe to be its manifest destiny – creating music and writing songs that we hope would make a difference in this world filled with limitless possibilities.

All it took was for someone else to BELIEVE in me. And someone did! (You know who are you!)

And that belief led to a partnership and mentorship that would result in a total shift in attitude – the realization that the voice inside my head as concretized in the lyrics of my songs DO MATTER; that the feelings and thoughts conveyed in those songs can resonate deeply with the listener; and that opening myself to a whole new universe of “indie” talents and their music can be one of the most rewarding and inspiring moments in my artistic life.

I was a “sheltered” artist, engulfed in my own world where I thought I needed to reside to be in touch with the source of creativity and inspiration that had fed my art. Little did I know that by daring to leave the cradle that has sustained me for so long, one can benefit tremendously and grow exponentially simply by pushing against one’s comfort zone and focusing outward to other people’s experiences, their thoughts and their art.

From that decision onwards, the GRAMMY experience this time around had become more fulfilling and rewarding. No longer was I attached to any particular outcome, but instead I was focused on the process – of sharing my work, and at the same time, listening to and enjoying the works of so many wonderful artists.

The different genres didn’t matter. I found myself fully immersed and engrossed in the artistry of everything that I had heard. From the words sung to the notes played, or the arrangement of how all these musical elements were put together to convey the author’s intent, the outcome was alway the same – MUSIC NIRVANA.

And in discovering “Nirvana”, I also stumbled across something that has been missing in my career as a performer of other people’s songs – PRIDE and excitement in sharing and performing MY songs.

That’s why there was something different with my last 2 gigs – in Vegas at the Truffles N Bacon Valentines and Anniversary show, and at David Longoria’s pre-GRAMMY artists showcase event at Molly Malone’s in LA – it was my originals that took centerstage. 

I don’t know how to explain it, except to refer to it as I did earlier in my blog – as a “personal renaissance”. A rebirth and a reconnection to something that is wholly ME – in words and in expression.  And it felt really good!

And this I owe to the NARAS community that has been so generous in sharing their art, and at the same time has been so accepting of me as a fellow artist and as part of the family.

I met a lot of my “heroes” in many of the pre-GRAMMY events leading up to the MAIN EVENT – wonderful artists who have astounded me not just with their artistry, talent, passion, and dedication, but more so with their humility and their generous hearts, and the vision that they have for their music.

And I consider myself extremely blessed to have experienced this at this stage in my career.  

In the end, the “main event” was the culmination of a 5-month journey and a celebration of friendships both new and old, and a celebration of music. It was a discovery that a community could exist consisting of kindred souls – passionate in their art, and generous in how they interact with those that they meet.

It also presented a road that’s yet to be traversed; to music yet to be written; to friendships yet to be formed; to inspired thought yet to be formed and shared.

And that to me is the exciting part – WHAT’S NEXT!



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