And a quick continuation:

If you’re scared for an artist, know—

"People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road does not mean they are lost." 

-Dalai Lama

A Letter To The Artist

On one of my worst days, I had stayed home the entire day. I missed school along with a lot of things, just because I couldn’t get myself out of bed. The struggle between thinking what I’m doing is what I have to do, and thinking what I’m doing is too hard was eating away at me. It was a little more dramatic than this, but I’ll just keep you at arms-length for comfort. 

My mother, now a calm and collected, beautifully wise human being had faced this too once. She had been an artist her whole life; a pianist, writer, and an avid bookworm. She’d noticed on that day I’d been doing nothing but writing, sulking, unable to pull myself out of this. This does happen more often than not—I happen to be my own worst enemy rather than a supportive friend. 

My mom solidified my frustration of being inside of myself by saying, “You can’t stay inside of yourself. It destroys you.” 

The funny thing is, most of the time my songwriting is centered around self. Self-awareness, sensitivity, connection, and the humbling fact that I am alive and capable of emotion. Capable of being hurt. 

One of my songwriting teachers at McNally once told me that a study had been done, putting poem after poem into a database, scanning the database and found the word, “I”, most frequently. What my teacher failed to tell us in the beginning was those poems were written by artists who had committed suicide. 

After hearing that, my world crumbled. My roots pulled from the ground and I tipped, world sideways. I rushed home and frantically scanned my nearly self-centered notebooks. I found that I had started most entries with “I”. The most frightened I’d been in my life, I put the pen down and tucked away the notebooks for months, waiting for new connections and things to write about. 

The thing I never realized until very recently was that getting to know yourself is a very important step in your journey  of being an artist. Once you know how you personally view the world, it’s easier for you to empathize with others and connect. Maybe depression is a very big factor in the need for creation—it certainly is with my need—and that is not necessarily a bad thing. It creates more room for growth, certainly, but it’s not entirely bad for my art. 

I believe most artists struggle with the idea that what they are doing is wrong. A lot of artists do not get the attention and help they crave to gain the confidence to believe that what they are doing is right. 

You’ve got to know, though, people often are scared for the artist. “It’s not a real job.” “How do you expect to make a living off of that?” “You have a degree in ART? Isn’t that everything art related?”

This is a huge struggle. How are you supposed to believe in yourself, if you’re not sure people believe in you? I have experienced it personally; but this is where a lot of things factor in. Confidence in yourself, expression, creativity, something new and the hugely needed will to learn. You are not perfect on the first try, and, I’m sorry, but you never will be perfect. Neither will I. People will be better than you. But you are among the selected few extremely empathic and sensitive human beings that are bold enough to know themselves, others, and are willing create something extra out of it. Know that you are extremely lucky, and you have a gift you must handle carefully and let it blossom. You are unstoppable. 

What I’ve learned to remember constantly is that art and life go hand in hand. The bloodied and awful battles that were fought by brave, incredible people, are remembered through the darkest, most dangerous prose, photography, poetry and paintings. 

The hardest part of it all is that many artists have the “elusive muse”. Life happens all day, every day—but we don’t necessarily know how to channel that into something we are proud of. It’s probably the most frustrating thing to attempt to reign in your muse and have her sit near you to help you explain what you witnessed or how you felt today in an eloquent, honest way. 

We are all doing what we’re meant to be doing. If it feels wrong, it isn’t right. That’s the simplest way to put it. But if you are confident already, that’s a huge step. You have the capability to be a force for change, a voice that people will, and want to, listen to. What you don’t know, is the people that seem closed, and angry, are really, really hurt. And sometimes, all it takes is a voice, a piece of art, to move them until they open again. Art is in the veins of every human, it has been since the first people were painting on walls and making masks out of skulls, suits of armor, clothing, anything. It is a need that you have been given the gift to feed. The struggle is huge and the frustration is massive, but once you make yourself proud, you are truly, truly unstoppable.

So work it, kid. Grow. Don’t ever close your ears to something someone can tell you. Listen to wisdom, criticism, let it shape you in a positive way. But don’t stray from yourself. Spend time with other artists, go to poetry slams, a damn concert and crack open an art book. You’re surrounded. You are part of something. Don’t feel alone in this, because trust me—you are not. 

And remember, if you don’t create physical or sonic art, you, too, are the artist. Sculpt your life how it fits you. You don’t need a 9-5 and a white picket fence—save yourself the trouble of paying for things you can’t afford. Living life alone is one huge painting we all create together. It is immeasurable. Give a good piece to the fucking quilt of life and make yourself proud of you. 

Redditor posted the most accurate top 100 beautiful songs suggested by fellow redditors; now I study to this. 

You can find it…here.

Enjoy. 

This alone makes me feel alright.

“Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”

-paraphrase of David Ackert, LA Times

Feature #2: Monica Randazzo (Visual Artist)

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Monica Randazzo has a face you can’t forget. Not because it’s ugly—it’s not in the least—but because it is so painfully wise and understanding that you’re struck immediately. I remember the first time I met her, I was so completely intimidated, and then we became absolutely inseparable. 

The first thing I ever noticed about Monica was her intrigue. Her absolute interest and curiosity about everything. Her observational skill, and then her wise, yet innocent laugh. So—it sounds like I’m in love with Monica Randazzo. But really, she is just an incredible human being who makes art that reflects the human pain and emotion we all experience. I think that’s why I appreciate her appearance so much. It’s honest. And so is her art. Raw. Gritty. You can tell this girl has been through some shit, and that art is the perfect way for her to show it. You can also see that she sees the beauty in everything. And that also reflects, even in the saddest of paintings or the happiest of paintings. Monica has a way of balance, but also understanding and acceptance, that many don’t come to find for years. 

Monica’s honesty and willingness to feel shows through her art so purely it’s hard to look away. Verging on absolute realism but still shying away from that style a bit and delving into a more playful approach, Monica creates characters that can be completely identified with on a human level. 

It’s spooky, almost, how accurately Monica depicts the human struggle. I think that’s what makes people harmonize with her work so well. Sometimes it’s goofy, and other times it’s so real and hits home. 

After getting some questions about her adorable dog, Harvey, out of the way, I asked Monica some more personal questions about her quest through art. What I found was incredibly insightful answers that were inspiring to hear. 

Me: do you ever paint your dog?

Monica: I have painted on my lovely Harvey a few times, and I have also painted depictions of him a few times on paper, canvas, and my walls.

Me: I hear you like your dog, have you drawn it?

Monica: I really like my dog, and I have drawn him. I like to draw him when he sleeps, because he is so still and perfect.

Me: do you draw dogs?

Monica: Only Harvey. 

Me: how many dogs have you drawn?

Monica:  lied on the previous answer, I have drawn hundreds of dogs. But that was before I met Harv. Now I only draw him.

Me: ok lets get real. what inspired you into art? did you just fall into it?

Monica: I guess you could say I just sort of fell into it, I spent a lot of time alone when I was little, and that time was either spent on stuffed animals proms, or drawing/painting. I did other crafty stuff, too. But I’ve always liked painting over everything else. It just stuck.

Me:  do you feel like you live that artistic struggle I always complain about? (no inspiration, the elusive muse, life being oh so hard) are you worried?

Monica: I don’t, really, because I don’t mind the elusive muse. I like having time to think about and do other things. When I am not painting or doing ceramics or what not, I am just doing something else. Although life can be oh so hard, but I think that may be applicable to people who aren’t artists. And I am very worried about many, many things. Not my art, though.

Me: Would you ever pursue art as a career or keep it to yourself?

Monica: I have considered it as a possibility, and I think if the opportunity presented itself, under certain circumstances I would pursue art as a career. I am so driven by so many other things, though, I can’t really imagine deciding at this moment to start a career in art. 

Me: Would you ever consider selling art?

Monica: I have before, and I am not opposed to selling art, but I feel sort of awkward about it. Most things I have ever painted have been for specific people or purposes. When I sell things that personal, I am always a little weirded out that someone without that personal connection would want it, though I do understand they have made their own connection. I don’t know. It is weird for me.

Me: How do you feel about museums? I think they are cool. What about you.

Monica: I really do love museums. I get bored, though. I am not a huge fan of over stimulation. I like going to museums by myself, though. Then I decide how much to take in, and how fast. Or long. You know. 

Me: Is it hard to paint toenails?

Monica: No, actually, but leg hair is a fucking bitch.

Me: What inspires you?

Monica: Just mere existence. Everything I see. Nature is really moving to me, but so are most things if I just think about them a little while longer. People in my life have a huge part in what inspires me, too. I am really motivated by my quiet love for people.

Me: As you got more into art, did you see yourself viewing the world differently?

Monica: No, actually. Maybe I am just blind to my own changing self, but I feel like I have always had the same basic view of the world. It has just sort of expanded over time. The more I know, the more I have to view. I’m not sure how much sense that makes.

Me: How do you view it now, if it did change at all?

Monica: I sort of view it as a big arbitrary mess of beautiful and twisted things. It is hard to really put into words. 

Me: Does literature ever inspire paintings for you?

Monica: It does, I read a lot, and I get really attached to stories and characters. I paint things that won’t leave my mind, and often things I have read sort of haunt me.

Me: Do you ever paint things that have happened to you?

Monica: Yes. For a while I got really into recreating photos I had taken on these disposable cameras I used to carry around all of the time. It can be really sad and lovely all at once to put so much focus into one moment that has already passed. 

Me: Do you ever paint dreams?

Monica: Yes. I used to have really twisted dreams. Now I dream about shit like the grocery store when I was little and could fit in the cart, but my dreams used to be really demented. I had to do something with them, so i would paint them out of my head.

Me: Who inspired you the most?

Monica: Oh, god. That is hard to say. It depends on what part of my life you are looking at. Those who I am close to are usually the ones who have the most influence on whatever I do. But I must admit that I do get rather infatuated with people I hardly know, or never will, and I sort of make up friendships with my mind and my drawings. Mm, that sounds so creepy. I have a wild imagination.

Me: Who told you to keep going when the going got real tough?

Monica: I think you have told me that before… 

Me: Who is your favorite artist? (or a few, i understand the struggle in pegging one down)

Monica: Oh god, I really don’t know. I go through a lot of phases. I actually am not even going to try to peg one down, it is 3:30 in the morning and I want to be asleep within the next hour.

Me: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Monica: I have no idea. I guess I’ll probably be just out of school or something. Oh god, I don’t know. I never know. 

Me: Do you ever get artists block?

Monica: Yeah, all of the time. It can be frustrating, but I just let myself take a step back. It is never really as important as I think it is in the moment. 

Me: Do you ever want to give up? How do you kick yourself out of that if it does happen?

Monica: All of the time. Not just with art, but in general. I want to give up on most things, all of the time. But I just do exactly what I do with any sort of block, I just remind myself to step back. Even for like ten minutes. And then I am ok. Most of the time. If I am really upset then I have to take a longer break.

Me: Where do you plan to go with art?

Monica: I don’t really have a lot of plans. I just figure if I continue pursuing what interests me I’ll find what it is I want to do. And if I don’t, then fuck it. I’ll find some other interests. 

Me: Do you think you’ll ever want to be a recognized artist?

Monica: No. I don’t really care about that at all. I just want to do things that I find valuable, and that I think contribute to the world. 

Me: Squirrels and Harvey, right?

Monica: They are both so perfect and amazing. I was just going on a rant about this earlier tonight. I love squirrels, Harvey loves squirrels, I love Harvey, Harvey loves me, squirrels don’t really like Harvey or me. Perfection. 

Me: Do you paint squirrels a lot?

Monica: I do, actually. A weird amount. I add them to most things subtly. Or not so subtly. I really fucking like squirrels. And eagles! Don’t forget how much I like eagles. 

Me: Thanks Mon ur the best

Monica: You’re the best, Lydia.


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along with this, one of monica’s favorite songs.

Feature #1: Erik Antioch Astle

Erik Antioch Astle, (Antioch), the lovechild of all the Rhymesayers Entertainment rappers voices, is a brilliant up-and-coming hip hopper, closely tied into the RapFam game. This kid has some sick rhymes and really beautiful ideas, a lot of pain under his belt and, luckily, he’s found the perfect outlet to deal with all of that. His will to learn is very apparent with each new song, trying new rhythms, new ideas and also producing his own beats. His creativity is unbridled, and his growth is constant. Antioch is always adapting and changing and learning new ways to get his ideas across.

His newest project, “Silknote”—done with Wolphe and Eloda (both of Lifted Mindz—shows that Antioch is not only hilarious, but can shed light on really dark moments. Or, he’s capable of just telling you how it really is, straight to the point. Or, Antioch will tell you how it is very cryptically, letting you take it as you will with your own interpretation. It also shows Erik’s insightful view of things, along with Wolphe and Eloda—the three of them make a great team, production, mixing, and everything wise. The lyrics are wonderful and you see them grow throughout the album, almost as if working on the album taught them a lot about themselves. Erik especially stands out in this record, his voice contrasting perfectly against Wolphe and Eloda’s silky, smooth vocals. Erik comes in strong and heavy like he has points to prove, things he’s saying to the world and to himself. 

With a lot of talent already, he can only grow and take the world by storm. I asked Antioch some questions to get a better idea of what he was all about. Even in reading his answers to the questions, I found a lot of inspiring optimism in Antioch. This only makes him stand out more as a very beautiful, insightful human being. 

Me: What got you started? 

My brother (Jayke Rhymes) actually got me started with rapping. I would watch how happy it made him to finish a song, and I wanted that. I enjoyed N.W.A, The Beastie Boys, Tupac, and started by writing songs like them. After a realization that I live in the suburbs, I took inspiration after some of our rhymesayers greats.

Me: How does music affect you? (Not your own). 

Antioch: When I hear a good song, that makes me think, gives me goosebumps, I can relate to, or goes buck-wild, It gets me through the day. Like most people, music is how I feel a lot of emotions, wether by listening to depressing songs, or sunshiny, strawberries and orgasms songs.

Me: How does your own music affect you? 

Antioch: My own music is how I get out of my own skin, and let all of my emotions fly out. I believe thats why most of my songs are depressing. I have issues I still need to work out I guess. 

Me: What would you think of yourself if you weren’t yourself and you were listening to your music? 

Antioch: I think I would feel like I was a depressed mother fucker, that has women problems. That’s a pretty good assumption, but i’m not always depressed haha.

Me: Have you ever written about something really personal and actually put it out there? 

Antioch: I put out an Ep titled 4A, and it was recorded throughout a breakup process that I had trouble coping with. The songs go through a tale of the pain I felt, the real issues behind me, and of course blames the girl for how I choose to react. The most personal song I put out was on the Ep called “Sirens”. I was told by a few people not to include it on the project due to the personal facts, but fuck them. haha

Me: How do you view creating music for you? An outlet? A hobby? 

Antioch: DONT YOU DARE PUT WHAT I DO INTO 2 CATEGORIES LYDIA.

Me: Sorry bro.

Antioch: Lol. It is an outlet I would have to say. I am not very good at most aspects of life, and this was the first thing I was proud of myself for.

Me: What was your favorite gig? 

Antioch: My favorite gig that I have had, was probably one that I wasn’t officially billed on. My good friends CMJ, and Ashley Seeler put together a suicide prevention show, where I was a special guest. I have tried to off myself many of times, so it was great seeing a hip hop show for something so dear to me.

Me: What is your dream gig? 

Antioch: Oddly enough, my dream gig would to perform with Outkast, N.W.A, and A Tribe Called Quest. Yo roses don’t smell like poop

Me: What do you want from music, or what does music want from you? 

Antioch: I want to be able to live off of music, without needing a 9-5 job. Fuck a desk.

Me: How long do you see yourself making music? 

Antioch: I hope I make music until my inevitable death, which is probably 38.

Me: Who would you like to work with? 

Antioch: I have a list of artists I would like to be with more in the future. The silknote cats, Dem Atlas, Kristoff Krane, Ecid, Andre 3000, Of course Lydia, and Ice Cube.

Me: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Antioch: I don’t look into the future doe. 24 hours at a time, I take what life hands to me, and learn from it.

Me: What’s your motto? 

Antioch: Motto: Don’t get too drunk off of pride and ego.

Me: What’s the best thing anyones ever told you? Advice wise, story wise?

Antioch: My brother constantly gives me the best advice on all aspects of my music. I was also told about an incident involving C.M.J clogging a toilet.

Me: What’s more important to you—lyrics or music? I see them going hand in hand. How about you? 

Antioch: I feel that music and lyrics do the same exact thing, project an emotion.

Me: Do you set goals for yourself, or do you let them come to you?

Antioch: I try to set goals, but end up getting drunk on pride and ego.

Me: What’s the worst thing you ever did as a child? 

Antioch: I broke into a house, and stole a bunch of shit. Got caught by the POLICE and all that fun stuff.

Me: What’s the best thing you ever did as a child? 

Antioch: Volunteering at a homeless shelter yo. Give back to the community.

Me: What’s the best thing you did recently? Write a 8 bar verse on it, go. 

Antioch: My moms told me to go pick her up some gum

So I grabbed a stack of cash and got up off my bum

Started up my car and drove to cub foods

Got 3 packs, and it was so hard to choose

Which flavors I wanted so I got the normal kind

Short on money so I scrounged around for dimes

Little did I know, that my wallet has a debit card

I paid for the gum, now was that so hard

Me: Write a haiku about toenails and sharks. 

Antioch: What if sharks had nails

I would fucking piss my pants

Fuck wolverine sharks

Me: Just testing your ability, it’s okay if you didn’t do it. I couldn’t, I tried. 

What has made you a better writer? 

Antioch: Time is probably the biggest factor on what has made me a better writer, also listening to amazing rappers!

Me: What has made you a better listener? 

Antioch: The want to learn.

Me: What made  you a better observer?

Antioch: Once again, the want to learn.

Me: What’s next for you?

Antioch: I hope more people hear my music, relate to it, and try to be the best person I possibly can.

You can hear the very creative, and very silky, “Silknote” album here:

or more of Antioch’s stuff, here. 

Like most musicians, (or artists in general, really) I have a hard time sleeping. Maybe that’s because my peak hours of creation are the late night and the early morning. I trade between the two in respect to creating something new, staying up late for many nights to getting up really early some days just to write. To become a good artist, you have to pay attention, keep your eyes open and observe. I’ve found the best way to become a good writer is to non-stop, stream-of-consciousness write. The best way to become a good musician is to stop and listen. 

So, with that, I’m going to post some music from musicians I really respect and have learned a lot from. Lyrically, and melodically. Just to get this blog started, and so I don’t want to stop this. 

"way beyond the beat down houses in the ghetto
rises a new sunset lighting up the meadow
in a formal life i know we have met so,
why dont we all find this wild life together
we can lead the way, psychically connected
open to the rain, dissolving our projections
healing all our wounds between our religions
making our way through to make our resurrection”

- Wolphe from Lifted Mindz. www.liftedmindzlmz.bandcamp.com

Lifted Mindz:

The thing Wolphe, and everyone else from this group does so beautifully is get ideas across in a metaphorical and beautiful sense. Every time I see them live all I can do is really appreciate what they’re saying and study all the different meanings it all has. They’re very talented boys and they all have a lot of originality and a lot of growth that is completely unstoppable and undeniable. 

Zac HB & Dem Atlas:

This song confused me until I really thought about this song. I’ve been learning a lot, just from threading myself through the hip-hop scene of the Twin Cities, about lyricism and rhythm and metaphors. This song is so beautifully written and very unpredictable, it has a certain cadence to it that makes it extremely original. 

Christopher Michael Jensen, Eloda & Ackronem

Is it enough to say that this song just makes me feel hyphy as hell? This song was one of the very very beginning stages of my little RapFam obsession/career, a very good introductory to what was going to come from it. 

Bobby Raps

Of AudioPerm-dom, comes Bobby Raps. This is an old tune of his but this is really what got me into music and so focused on lyrics. I don’t think Bobby knows this, but he’s really what threw me into music so hard. Especially the hip-hop aspect. This kid, I will love him forever, is only growing and getting more and more talented every time I see him. He talks about so many things in such a creative, wonderful, playful way, I can’t help but really look up to him and respect him completely. 

Tony Williams & Guante

This group has only just started, but already Tony William’s adept ability to craft metaphorical, beautiful, lyrics with multiple meanings blows me away. This boys dance with the craft of songwriting is undeniable, he’s got it down. Every time he spits anything to me I am blown away, jealous, and longing for more. He leaves your jaw dropped, edging on pretentiousness but, somehow manages to pull it back with complete wonder and emotion that makes you really feel for him and he really feels for you. He completely connects with his audience, and they connect right back with him. I cannot even deny that this boy is going to go so, so far. His career has only just begun. This track is featuring Guante, another hero of mine—both of these two leave me awe-struck. 

Kristoff Krane

This song defines my existence. That’s all that needs to be said. 

Desdamona

I don’t know if Desdamona knows the impact she’s had on me. But she is one of my largest roll models—she has also taught me such important lessons on melody and lyricism I would be no where near where I am today without her. I love her with all of me and she blows me away every time I hear anything new or old that she’s done. She is a true songwriter who knows her craft, but still knows the struggle of inspiration and its elusive existence. 

Dessa

I don’t even know what to say about Dessa. She’s amazing. Nothing new can be said about her; she is that awe-inspiring. I’m wordless. I love this woman. 

I think that’s all for tonight, folks. But expect a whole lot more. 

Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the website that is, “Lydia Liza’s blog.” I feel weird about it, like I don’t know what to do, like this is a new journal I have to break in. This could be quite the release for me, though—I’ll feature lots of artists on here and talk about a lot of things. Maybe interview some friends. For my first post, here’s some DEM ATLAS!