This past September, I spent a week alone in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While I consider myself an educated young man, the journey shocked my perspective completely. There was no escaping that my experience growing up in the United States was vastly different than that of a man raised in Cambodia.
Every day I was flooded with new information about their expansive culture: from the celebration of the Buddhist holiday Pchum Ben to their recent history of a genocide completely overlooked in the U.S. From the polarization of the upper & lower classes to their intense focus on family life. From their ancient temples in the forests to the spicy noodle soup many eat for breakfast. After a week of observing the undeniable differences, I spent a Sunday afternoon with local artists of Phnom Penh discussing the LGBT community in a roundtable discussion. What I stepped away with was the fact that while our cultures do seem so different, we are all united by similar personal experiences. For instance, some gay men in Phnom Penh have supportive parents while others struggle with coming out. Some same-sex couples want to be labeled as such and some would rather they be "label-free".
My experience in Cambodia inspired me to record the songs on "4S", my new EP.
I felt it imperative to express my recent struggles in order to connect the personal with the communal, i.e. the micro with the macro. "Stained" and "Start Over" are two songs from my personal life, both reflections on relationships I've had and the struggles I've faced about them. They were written gradually over the past year, often born amidst the experiences themselves and then refined at a more objective juncture down the road. "Spectrum" was inspired by a line Piper said in Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black. When challenged about her sexuality, she responds matter-of-factly with "No, it's a spectrum.
I felt that the message of my song "Define Me" got a bit lost amidst its supportive momentum. The idea is not that I am a gay man, but that I am a self-defining man, and have the creative power to choose my own definitions. I find sexual diversity lives on a scale that includes all of the possible choices one could make, much like a "spectrum" would reflect a diverse array of colors on the color wheel. As I began writing the song, it became clear to me that nothing in nature is black & white; the planet's survival is dependent on a natural diversity amongst us all. Alas "Spectrum" was born.
The final song I wrote for the EP is "Save Her" which I wrote completely in Cambodia. Dan (my producer) had emailed me a bit of instrumental he had created based off of an old melody I had and I started toy with it. Walking the city streets, I was swept away by the scope of Planet Earth and its capacity to hold an array of vastly different cultures in its many lands, but that the unifying fact is that right now mankind is bound to Planet Earth. And this Earth is really quite beautiful, a perfect system that continues to provide human beings with oxygen, water, food, and captivating natural beauty every day. In "Save Her" I beg listeners to take notice of this eternal truth and find ways to love and respect the earth before its too late.
Upon arriving back in the states, Dan and I experimented with a quick deadline, and in a little over 2 weeks produced, recorded, mixed, & mastered "4S" for its initial Bandcamp release on October 9th. There were many a night in the studio until 5am, but in the end it felt like we had really given our all to a project we are extremely proud of.
4S is now available on all major online music services.