I felt compelled to brief you on my journey as we have become so connected recently through life and music. Through purpose.
This photo is special to me because it reminds me of life before I knew tragedy. I can't even remember what that naiveté was like, it must have been a soft, pillowy cloud. I was reminded of this time when I got to your house and was throwing passes in your front yard to Rivers. I remember the first cool nights when fall finally fell on Louisiana and we'd throw the brand new nerf ball and leave the plastic wrapper on.
But this little path of innocence was not to be mine for long. On this very street, I heard a loud screech of a motorcycle trying to stop and then it hit my mamere's car and the little kid on the back went flying in the air and plunged to his death right before my eyes. For years I thought of ways I could have saved him. Maybe if I were faster or bigger or stronger.
My cousin Joey used to teach me how to throw passes in the front yard. I could drop a ball in the smallest crevices. Float it real high and drop on a dime. He saw me play one time in high school before he passed away tragically. It was the most horrific thing I've ever been a part of when my Aunt Marie came barging into the house at 6:00 in the morning screaming. I vowed to myself outside of the house on this same corner to live an interesting life and to push myself into the unknown and find meaning and purpose and when I got a better understanding of it all, give it away and express it somehow.
In my high school years, sports played a huge roll for me. It gave me an outlet to express all the things I had been feeling and a way to push myself and give my all. Though I excelled in other sports, I was more drawn to football because I could continue to perfect the art form of passing and carry on in honor of my cousin Joey #11. The rage in my heart allowed me to play much bigger than I was. My coach told me I could throw further into the wind and tricked me into thinking I ran a 4.6 when it was more like 4.8. When I showed up to McNeese State for an official visit, my recruiter was shocked at how small I was after watching my films. Another coach saw me in the hallway and thought I was looking for the cheering squad. I stayed on the team for a year until I had the guts to make a change and go into the unknown. It was hard leaving sports behind, especially football because it was my form of expression and my identity.
I once heard a guy play piano while in college and I was overcome with desire to learn music. It quickly became a way for me to connect with some of the spiritual lessons I had been learning. It didn't matter to me that I was only a beginner at 19. I just thought nothing could be harder than stepping on a field where everyone was bigger and faster. Of course music was going to be hard and my fingers hurt trying to learn guitar but if I could learn how to sit in the pocket, I could learn this over time. I applied this "can do" attitude towards anything at this point because I was searching for my purpose. I even got a few acting rolls in commercials and film and that led me to faking my way into acting school in New York after reading Marlon Brando's bio. He was from a small town too, so I figured I could really do something with my life no matter if I was country or not.
It was amazing to be in New York. I learned so much in the school every day. Mostly that I was indeed an artist and I shouldn't be afraid. I bought some recording gear and made my first record "So Long". The first song I ever wrote is the song "Art". I was so scared in the vocal booth with all the engineers looking at me share my raw feelings. It wasn't cool to be so naked but I had come from a different place and from different experiences and my main talent was vulnerability. During this time my cousin Patti Ann, Joey's sister, came down with meningitis and lost all her limbs. It was crazy how the same family had to go through another wild tragedy. She gave me a lot of strength, especially when she learned to walk again and drive. She was a badass.
Atlantic Records bought my little record from me and put me on a poster and threw me up high on the wall to see if I'd stick. All the executives talked to my forehead and gave me the thumbs up and said "hip and cool" all the time because I came from the artist neighborhood of Brooklyn called Williamsburg. It was a hard path for me because something didn't feel right and I was disconnecting from my life path. It felt a little outside-in for me. I didn't feel I had the weight yet to stand up in what I was creating and I was afraid of becoming famous, losing my privacy and spiritual path. I was about to hit the road again, off into the unknown.
The record label dropped me after I didn't show up to a few concerts. I was left alone and most people in my life at that time disappeared. One month, two months, a year passed and no one called to sign me. It was a terrible feeling. I was getting weak. Thoughts of Joey and Patti Ann weren't giving me that courage anymore and was starting to doubt if I was a strong as I thought I was. When you guys were playing the Falcons that night, I was sitting in a bar alone thinking and trying to stay positive and find resilience and then you soared high with your arms stretched to the heavens. It was quite a moment. It breathed air into my spirit and gave me some lightness.
I tell you all these things because all these moments and life lessons are in my music. Today you asked me to send lyrics to you and it's almost like I'm singing your story. I'm glad we met and to call you friend. I'm feeling a sense of purpose these days. All the trials and experiences and meditations are giving me much clarity.
When I got home from New Orleans, I did some yoga and meditation and I thought of you and purpose and resilience was swimming in my mind and I began to happy cry and this ancient voice sang a song through my meat sack and I felt my unborn child and felt in touch with my ancient ancestors all at once. It was like I cut off a limb and was made new again. I had never had such a profound experience.
I know we're only scratching the surface here. I needed you to know I'm up for the challenge of the work we're doing. In college, I put our huge free safety on his ass. I'm not scared.