I’m gonna be very candid, at the risk of sounding like an ungrateful douche. When I got the call telling me that I was to join the cast of Hamilton in Chicago in September 2017, the feelings were bittersweet. I looked around my tiny New York apartment, and thought to myself, “WTF am I gonna do with all my gear!?” You see, I was in the middle of mastering my album Stay Gold…which had been my singular obsession for the past two years, at the time. I wasn’t about to let it all fall apart now! What made matters even more stressful was that I had about 5 days to pack my belongings and haul ass to Chicagoland.
In a panic, I opted to ship my clothes/miscellaneous crap just so I could valiantly escort my gear onto the plane – checking one bag containing my Adam monitors, M box, midi keyboard, and microphone cases – actually the mics, of course, where on my person. Also with me on the plane, was my trusty G and L Strat. She was the first guitar I ever bought for myself and the only guitar I owned. Many battles had been fought with her by side.. so it made complete sense that first thing I did in my lonely Chicago Airbnb was play. In fact, that was all I did for the first few days because the rest of my belongings arrived days late.
For a person like me, who has dedicated their adult lives to dodging strict schedules in order to be ever-readily available for that glimpse of inspiration that smiles upon you, Hamilton would require a bit of a learning curve. Rehearsals had begun and I had no choice but to dive in. I would rehearse day and night. When I could, I wrote half songs and made half beats, unaware that I was in a kind of mourning over Stay Gold. A strange thing happens when you finish a project – especially one you’ve been working on for years. Half of you feels so ready to move on to start creating new things and half you is fucked up from child birth, the child being…you know..the album. Anyway, it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed a break from writing.
Instead, I choose to ummm…connect to my new reality. Did I miss my hometown? Yea, but I was in a hit musical and now living in the same city that bred Chance the Rapper, Noname and EARTH WIND and friggin’ FIRE! It was the end of October, which made it a month of me living in Chicago. It was time to play a live show. The problem was, I didn’t have a band in Chicago nor did I know any local artists to play with. Thus began my journey into the Chicago music scene, a very rich scene – like triple layer chocolate cake.
Austin, a conductor at Hamilton Chicago, took me to one of my first live shows in Chicago, introducing me to a circle of Columbia kids that all played in each others bands. From this circle, my band would be formed. We’d rehearse on Mondays, our day off. I cannot explain how GOOD it felt to get back to Stay Gold, and not to mention to hear it played by new people. After all, I felt I owed something to the album, especially because I hadn’t released it yet. I had been so focused at work that I’d forgotten how vital the act of playing music was to me. To experience these songs that I had come to know almost too well, reinterpreted, improved mash, and mangled was reinvigorating!
It was April 2018 and I already had a few Chicago shows under my belt, made some great friends, and had finally reached a groove at Hamilton. I still didn’t have much time to devote to creating anything new but had managed to put whatever time I did have into some beautiful collaborations. Meanwhile, my personal life was coming undone, or rather, changing. As I was preparing to release my album at the end of the month, my fiancé and I split. Suddenly, the music and lyrics became all too real. I was back in New York for the release concert, back with my band all the while being utterly heartbroken. I’d fought for balance between career and music a long time, and in this instance, my music and my love were mirror images.
By the time September 2018 rolled along, Stay Gold had been out for a few months. I was still gigging around Chicago while acting in Hamilton. I decided a few months back that I would book my FIRST West Coast tour. That was how I spent my vacation time. It was a solo tour using a loop pedal with programmed beats and my trusty G and L. I was also packing my new Martin travel guitar, which has this really delicate FernGully type sound. This was particularly challenging because A, I was so used to a full band, and B, I had to come up with all new arrangements of this sonically thick music. Luckily, the guitar is capable of making a variety of percussive sounds and can have many sound qualities. One time on the road, I erased all my samples and ended up having to build full beats LIVE from here on out. Regardless, it was an exciting to finally have time dedicated to playing again.
These days, I’ve been out of Hamilton for a few months, and boy things have changed. I’m learning to follow my journey to get back to writing and for myself everyday. My relationship ended. I fell in love with my best friend and I’m starting to create music with her. Oh, and you can’t forget Stay Gold being released, my obsession and passion that pushed me to plan a tour.