PSYCH OUT: Chris Kittrell
Psych Out is an ongoing series on the topic of fear & creativity.
In response to many of our readers expressing that fear often blocked their creative flow, Seymour asked a variety of entrepreneurs and artists to share their experience in their own words. Discover how they get over anxiety and self-doubt and find the strength to move forward with their projects.
CHRIS KITTRELL is a singer/songwriter. He is the front man of the Brooklyn band Baby Alpaca. Their eponymous debut EP featuring an enticing blend of “psychedelic dream-folk” was an instant hit when it was released earlier this year. Their hypnotizing music is made all the more seductive with a visual assist from their innovative and artistic videos.
To hear the music, see the sights, and to learn more about Chris and Baby Alpaca, please visit: www.babyalpa.ca/
The Love Song
by Chris Kittrell
I’ve always been interested in the power of language. The words that you use daily and the choices in pairing have a great effect on you. Are you “tired”? Or are you just “sleepy?” In need of “A good night’s dream?” “Tired” has so many negative connotations and it’s such a common thing that people say. Where “A good night’s dream” is hopefully what you would more accurately like to have. And if you are putting words like “fear” and “creativity” into the same room you are definitely going to psych yourself out.
It takes a while to unlearn our bad language! And to be unafraid to fall. It took “work” on my part to remove the words I don’t like from my life, and focus on the ones that make me a happier productive creative person. Constantly reminding myself that “stuck” is a bad word unless it’s in the mud with a friend, and that flow is a beautiful thing in most circumstances. Definitely creative flow.
Recently a fashion designer friend of mine left his job to start his own collection. He has worked for some of the most prestigious fashion brands in the world and is so well-versed on fashion it makes my head spin. Of course when a friend so brilliant is about to do their own thing (this is also someone that has encouraged me to pursue music as a career) your eyes are peeled on their every move.
He was doing all of the pre work, except sketching the collection… This is one of the hardest parts: The blank piece of paper. Even though you are well versed in the subject, have done it for years, and no one is watching … It must be harder than putting on running shoes.
I myself was in the middle of writing a love song, my mind a swarm of clichés. There are so many love songs and it’s difficult to get all your favorite lines and images from them out of your head. I found myself working through this song, and I began to share the process with my friend in the hope that it would get him to use similar thoughts and techniques to get to sketching. Problem solving is problem solving. And part of the problem is thinking you have a problem (I like the word hurdle. It’s like a challenge instead of referring to it as a problem): Look how far we’ve come since the cave painting days.
Writing The Love Song:
I had an event in mind when I began to write this love song. An event and a person. It was all quite fresh and emotionally loaded. The recipe for a disastrous cliché. But, if there is something/someone I feel like writing about I am of course going to write it, and well. Because I plan on playing it for people to enjoy, including the person who inspired me. It’s okay to write a song for the mall radio, but this is a historical moment in my life that I’d like to display on the Parisian runways. You can see how I have built up the importance of this song in my mind. Oh it’s so hard to write the first line. Instead of writing the first line of a song I begin to pine by the pages about this person and event. This is a great way to clear the head. And visually see all of the words that describe the happening out on paper. No one is going to read it. I may not use any of it. It’s purely a cleansing exercise.
This was something that happened over a course of two weeks. I wrote 10 pages of prose, 9 poems – 1 in French. I started singing some of the poems to my bandmate while he played the piano. Boy, did I feel like a cheese ball then. That’s a whole other thing – being able to make creative material with a partner. It’s much harder, and it takes a great level of comfort with yourself and the other person. You know people say “everybody’s weird”. I just always keep saying that to myself. I do think it’s true.
After writing all of those poems and prose stories, then come the questions: Are you really in love? What makes this different from the ones before? Are you sure this is that important an event? Why are people going to be interested in your story? Is this actually entertaining?
Self-doubt is not a good thing. I actually started questioning if it was a good idea that I liked someone so much. And the song started to change in my mind. To another kind of song. My insecurities were squelching out my love and pure feelings. My thoughts were getting the best of me. This is when I turned to the music. It’s often a way I comfort myself. I started to play the guitar. Then I realized this isn’t what I meant to say. This is the opposite of how I really felt. It’s easy to doubt love. Some of the questions from before still exist, but in the morning light I can see that I mean to write a love song. Because I’m not going to let a moment of doubt get in the way of celebrating this amazing experience I shared with another human being. It truly was a life changing event for me and made me realize a bit more about why I am alive.
Truth is something I abide by. It is 100 per cent pure and clean to wear. And it never steers you wrong. I recorded my jaded verse and sent it to my friend so he could at least see I was working on the love song I was writing. And of course prefaced the verse with being a bit under the influence and feeling insecure when I wrote it. And it’s not going to make the cut of this song… But it got me moving and thinking.
It’s good to try everything out because it makes the truth and the right things stand out when you can compare them to things that aren’t so right. I started to look back over the love poems and long languid prose and immediately was back into that dream. Reading it made me feel in love again, like reliving the moment. I could see it all in my head.
And then it comes out, the pure truth, “I remember the first time I fell in love on an island.” It was true. And I knew then what I wanted to do next: Describe why I fell in love, the exact moment, and what was happening on this Island while I was falling in love. It wasn’t any different than all the things I had been writing about the past two weeks. It was just finally arranged into a rhyming pattern with melody. I was excited to have a solid start to the song, a product to all the footwork I’d done.
Then I do myself a huge favor. I take 2 days away from the song and go do other things. Like answer emails. Catch up with old friends. Tell them the story I have gotten so good a telling verbally. I didn’t take 2 days on purpose. It’s just what it took before the 2nd verse came. Taking time away from your art is great. If you feel you have to be making art all the time, then make other kinds of art. You bet I drew portraits of the object of my affection in my sketch book and fancied them in watercolors while I was taking time off.
I think one of the most important things in making art is sitting back, enjoying it and celebrating it. Also meditating on something may make you notice little changes that you may want to make at the end. Like adding that little white dab of paint in the eye to make it spark. Classic Renaissance painters were definitely not in a rush to finish.
Editing is also such an important thing. It’s great to have people you trust and respect to look at your creative work and critique it. Also being able to do it yourself is super important. If you are reading something or singing or looking at a picture and something seems a little off. Take note of it. These slight feelings are relevant. I wonder if there is correlation between sensitivity and success in creative fields? And don’t give up on editing something until it’s perfect. You will always feel like a lazy phony if you don’t give it your all. You should feel good about your art as much as the person experiencing it. And nowadays how many more half asses do we need?
I hope that me explaining my writing process of this song (they all happen so differently) has helped. I love to write music and it takes so much time and patience. As do most things of quality. Take your time and just let it happen. Don’t be afraid of trial and error. And be active in getting over hurdles. You can’t do the same routine every day and expect the hurdle to get any easier. You have to push yourself and do the legwork to become stronger. A runner eats better, does other exercises, and strengthens their body, mind, and endurance. Pushing the extra mile is a great saying.
Published: October 1st, 2013