In the Beginning...
This is me at roughly 20-years old in one of my first studio setups. No audio interface, no reference monitors, no condenser mic, no acoustic treatment, no music lessons, no theory knowledge, no technical knowhow; just a basic keyboard, a no-name guitar, a Radio Shack mic, cheap headphones, blank CDs, a computer from the Jurassic period, Fruity Loops, Cool Edit Pro, and a devout Christian Faith.
Yep, those were the good 'ol days of homemade jewel case albums, terrible freestyles, and panning everything to the center (*cringe*).
I grew up a devout Christian, so when I started making music at 18, there was always a blatant Christian message to it. The overlap of making music while being a Christian spanned about 5 years for me (age 18-23); during that time I made hundreds of songs and produced for my own Christian clients. I had my favourite Christian artists back then like The Cross Movement, Relient K, Steven Curtis Chapman, KJ-52, Grits, Superchick, Out of Eden, and others. I had just obtained my Diploma of Biblical Studies from Kawartha Lakes Bible College so I was abstaining from all kinds of secular influences and had tons to write about. I also performed some of my Christian Raps in front of small religious audiences. Below is one of my old Christian raps from 2005 - not long before everything started to change for me.
A page from one of my old lyric books
My 2018 EP
Fast forward to today. I'm 35 years old and have recently released my latest EP titled "Foibles & Fiction" - two of the five songs are about my de-conversion into Atheism: "Odd One Out" and "Proud". "Odd One Out" is about being the black sheep (which I now experience as the only Atheist in my family), and "Proud" is my farewell to the pride once had in believing in a god, and being the brother of my religious siblings. When I was sitting in that old studio chair I felt like I had a hundred more Christian songs to make, and now as I sit in my current studio chair, I feel like I have a hundred more Atheist songs to make. So, what the hell happened?
No Personal Identity
At age 23 (2006) I had a crippling epiphany that religion raised me to have no personal identity. Soon after I started on a very painful, very lonely journey to step back from it all and start over. From 2006-2007, I didn't make any music, which was a long time for someone who normally couldn't go a couple days without creating something.
I had spent years making Christian songs of hip-hop, pop, R&B, and even praise music, but I had become so confused about who I was supposed to be that I simply had no idea what to create anymore. Leering at my neglected equipment I simply had no motivation. I remember moving out on my own to get away from all the judgemental religious noise of everyone I knew and I couldn't even bring myself to setup my studio gear - such was unheard of for me. Setting up my creative workspace was always the best part about moving somewhere. The arrangement of my living space would always revolve around my studio, even if it meant not having a proper sleeping space.
It's no small thing to shape your entire identity around an ideology that later becomes your downfall, especially when that ideology fuels your deepest passion. But it all started to finally change when one of the few real things left in me started to surface - the pain of my mom's death.
Screenshot from the "Proud" music video (below)
My mom and I
Life from Death
In 1993, on Mother's Day, my mom died from breast cancer. Days beforehand, I had just turned 10 and that birthday was the last time I saw her alive. Shortly after, we moved and I had to endure a step-family merger that did not go well for many years. With so much drama and so many changes, I was not able to properly mourn my mom's death for 13 years.
In 2007, amidst my year-long musical drought, starting over finally provided the opportunity to let my pain surface. At a time when I didn't know who I was or what was real anymore, I knew at least one thing for sure; I really missed my mom. So, I started to write a song about her. Through hours of tears I never cared so much about choosing the right words, the right chords, and the right vocal melody. They needed to mirror exactly how I felt - how I always felt. Crudely recorded because I just didn't care at the time, but here it is in all that realness...
There was a genuineness in that song I had never experienced beforehand - not even with my Christian music. There's the realness of a story you didn't actually live, and then there's the realness of a story you really did live. I think centuries-old religious claims can only be so real to a person; we can own those, believe them, and even die for them, but they can never be as real as the things we actually experience. My life changed because my religious beliefs no longer corresponded to the things I was actually experiencing. The song about my mom helped me identify something that was real again at a time when religion left me unable to distinguish between things I really knew and things I just really believed.
And So It Begins
Since becoming free to search for and develop the identity I always should have had, my songs have been changing with me. I've been able to create so many therapeutic pieces and it's helped to take real pain, real experiences, and reality itself, and put them into an art form where they can safely exist outside of me - far enough to be free from any burden, yet close enough to validate me when I need it.
I feel compelled to refute every Christian song I've ever written because I just don't agree with the way I used to see the world. I now cringe over my old Christian lyrics; not just because I see it as harmful, unsubstantiated thinking, but also because my world used to be filled with people who agreed with every word, and that is truly bothersome.
Writing "Yearn & Bleed" from my "Foibles & Fiction" EP
My de-conversion song, "Proud"
I'm sharing this because I want people to know where I've been and that they're not alone if they've gone through anything similar. Nothing of the paths I've taken ever turned out the way I expected. Even now, I am happy with the direction I'm heading in, but there is nothing about my life that I could have possibly seen coming. I thought I was going to die a believing Christian, and for 18 years I didn't have the slightest desire to be a music-maker. Go figure...