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Photographs by Jaquelyn Cruz



May 10, 2022


This interview contains sensitive material discussing, sexual assault, abuse and self-harm which some readers may find difficult. 

Kicking off 2022 with the new acoustic single 'Tough' from his EP Beautiful Trouble (December 2021), musician Nahko sings "Sometimes the only kind of love I got is tough, sometimes no matter what you do it's not enough - that shit is tough”. With headlined shows throughout the United States, United Kingdom including performances at numerous festivals around the world and four studio albums, Nahko and his band; Nahko And Medicine For The People were set to continue their world takeover. 

However the past two years of Nahko's life have consisted of facing the aftermath of being 'cancelled', after allegations of misconduct were made against him in 2020. These speculations resulted in Nahko And Medicine For The People being removed from festivals and cancelling their 2021 tour. This cancellation caused discourse around cancel culture; dividing many of the band’s fans - some supporting Nahko and some condemning him. In August 2020, Nahko issued a written apology to anyone who had been hurt by his behaviour. 

Whilst cancel culture is an effective yet controversial method of exposing and unveiling the wrongdoings of many, how do the accused and remorseful grow or rehabilitate once ostracised by society?  Today, Nahko is ready to share his journey for the first time. 


"Coming to terms with the me I've been missing"

Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from and where you grew up?


Kia ora and thank you for this opportunity to talk story!  I’m so honored to be a part of this new publication. 

My name is Nahko and I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon on Clackamas Indian territory, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  Family history is always a little tough for me, as my own is complex and the stories run deep, but I’ll share a few notable pieces.  My biological mother was exploited and trafficked at a very young age by my grandmother.  My father, a young Filipino medic in the Navy, came to the U.S. and bought my mother for a few weeks in San Diego, where I was then conceived.  My mom ran away to Portland, gave birth to me there, and despite her age, she made the most mature and rational decision she could by putting me up for adoption.  I don’t have any memories prior to that. 


My parents that adopted me felt called by God to raise children in need, as they were not able to have their own.  I was lucky enough to be one of three that ended up becoming the Bell children.  My siblings and parents were white, we lived in a primarily white neighborhood, went to a primarily white church, and most of my schooling was done from the comfort of our home in the suburbs.  My parents weren’t rich or come from money, they worked very hard to attain a middle-class dream.  Over the years of my success as an international artist, the narrative around my parents in the press seemed to demonize them for their race, religion, and choices.  It didn’t help that I re-enforced that story with songs that lacked the support and praise that they deserved and instead framed them as problematic.  It was all too black and white, or in my case, brown and white.  I now have a lot of compassion for what my parents went through listening to those songs, reading about ‘Nahko’s white parents that raised him Christian’, and what that did to their mental health.

In my youth, I perpetuated a narrative in my songs that reinforced the pain I was very much still living in.  My identity was in a real crisis, and I wouldn’t have access to the right tools, resources, and support until years later to help navigate it in a healthy way.  Being homeschooled didn’t do much for this quadruple Aquarian’s insatiable desire for attention, either.  My brother and I were closer in age than our older sister who was enrolled in a private school.  It was just he and I at home for many years.  We had a handful of friends in the neighborhood and within our homeschooling groups but lacked the social integration that came with other more traditional forms of schooling most kids in the U.S. have access to.  I started community college when I was 16 and barely graduated high school through their homeschooler program. 


Things at home were rapidly falling apart and about a year later I left the comfort and familiarity of my parent’s roof.  Like most teens, I had an incredible amount of angst and my lucky parents got to be the punching bag for all my projections.  All in all, being raised white, religious, and middle class in the suburbs provided my brown skin a lot of privileges I would not have had if I’d been raised by my biological mother or father.  Those privileges I both celebrate and curse because it’s the context that enabled me to both build a career and destroy it in the course of a decade.  In 2017, I finally migrated back to the Pacific Northwest and settled further out in the country, a few counties over from where I grew up.  In the years to follow, I would learn how important that move really was for myself, my family, and my career. 


What drew you into making music and when was the first instance you knew this is what you wanted to do?


I can still remember my Aunty Dot’s contagious smile, tears welling with pride in her eyes, as I played ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ in front of our family that had gathered to celebrate her 90th birthday.  I must have been about 14 years old.  Aunty Dot and Grandma Phyllis were responsible for us kids getting a piano in the house.  All three of us took lessons, but my siblings slowly fell away from the practice.  It took me some time, but eventually it felt less like homework and more like my favorite pastime.  Playing piano was an escape for me.  My academic training was primarily classical.  My father and I connected on jazz, ragtime, blues, and the occasional oldie cover.  Those were the moments I felt closest to him.  There was a part of me that desperately wanted his approval.  Like most young boys, I loved to play hard.  The competitive spirit got drilled into me through sports by coaches and other boys.  I remember when my attitude started to shift, when the disapproval by my father of my performance in the game lacked the compassion and support I needed to feel compelled to keep going.


In fact, the first memory I have of shame was when I told him I didn’t want to play sports anymore and he called me a quitter.  “You can’t just keep quitting when it gets hard.  You don’t want to be a failure, do you?” he said to me.  I continued to seek his approval, even in music.  He’d show up when I accompanied local high school choir performances and turn my pages for me.  We’d have sessions at home where he’d pull out his trumpet and play along.  We found a stride, however short lived, that was impactful to our connection.  It wasn’t long before I began to push against the structure of traditional academic training.  A friend gave me an electric guitar and amp when I was 14 and I slowly began to teach myself chords.  My mother, as much as she loathed it, was supportive as long as I got my two hours of piano practice in a day.  In church, I’d write full songs whilst taking notes on the sermon, knowing there would be a quiz on the way home.  My homeschool group writing classes taught me essential writing components and in my extracurricular piano time I naturally gravitated towards songwriting.  It just started happening.  There was a voice yearning to come out of me.

Both my parents struggled to understand how to support this expression and to be fair, it wasn’t clear yet that I was any good at it.  It just looked like I didn’t want to follow anyone’s rules or pursue a career that could be established through proper schooling channels. 

They would have preferred I enroll at a conservatory and at one point my father was encouraging me to pursue a performance career in retirement homes; some of the homes had deep pockets and my warm, welcoming character was an easy sell.  But by the time I was 17, it was clear that the moral and religious compass that guided my parents could no longer point them in a direction that could support me.  I was crossing too many boundaries they had set for me under their roof.

Over the next 5 or 6 years, I’d return home from my travels to catch up and share the latest songs I’d written.  Like most young people, I was constantly striving to change my parents’ minds about everything.  I still sought my father’s approval, but as I got older it became more that I wanted him to be proud of me, or even happy for me.  To my parent’s credit, they showed up to many an open mic, listening to songs like 7 Feathers where I mention the struggle to understand each other.  My father was diagnosed with cancer during that time, and he survived many years longer than the doctors said he would. He was a tough guy with a brilliant mind. We watched him slowly degrade from walking on his own, to using a walker, to rolling around in a wheelchair, to being bedridden at home. I remember when he called me the day he could barely talk anymore. I was on my way back from Seattle to their place in Oregon and I told him to hold on, I’d be there soon with a song I wanted to sing for him.

That song was called ‘I Mua’ and it’s on my album ‘Dark as Night’ (2013).  Even though he couldn’t speak, his face said a lot to me after I sang the lyrics “Initiate my father, God, let him die, let him move on”.  Something inside me shifted that day.  Like, I finally got the approval I’d been looking for all those years, in that moment, holding his hand after sharing a song I felt so proud of, and I could feel he was proud of me, too.  When I look back on it now, I see that in the beginning of my passion for music I was driven by my need for approval and on that day I realized he was telling me that my gift as a composer had value and worth.  In some way, I think we both finally felt seen, bringing peace to us both, a feeling that resonates with me to this day.    


What has been the biggest highlight of your career as a musician?

That’s a tough one, as there’s been a few.  There’s two that stand out right away.  The first time both my biological and adopted mothers came to one of my shows is still a shimmering highlight.  This must have been around 2014 in Eugene, Oregon.  I had found my birth mother in 2007, just before my 21st birthday, totally by chance, on the internet.  It was a ‘closed’ adoption, meaning there was intentionally no way either my birth mother or I could contact each other unless through a social worker, but by the time I was old enough to seek her out there wasn’t much information to go on.  However, miracles do happen, and I managed to find her.  It would be 7 years later when we all came together for that show.  I’m skipping a lot of the integration struggles that had gone on in that timeframe because it’s a novel in and of itself, but the point is that the evening was incredibly special. 


I asked my mom that raised me, Dianne, if she felt compelled to share anything on stage in honor of the night, half joking, honestly not expecting her to say yes.  But, when it came time, she walked right up on that stage, alongside my biological mom, Lisa, and channeled a speech that had the whole room wet in the eyes.  She spoke with conviction on the uniqueness of our families, the hardships of adoption, and how the 'music really was his medicine’ and ‘there were some difficult days, as all adopted children face’.  She went on to say, ‘the trials and inner turmoil he went through, he’s worked through in his music so that you, too, can arrive there.’  Her wisdom shines so bright in that memory; it still moves me to tears to this day.  As I reflect on it now, I imagine how hard it was for my adoptive mom to support me in discovering my roots.  When you adopt children, you’re taking on the risk that one day they may seek to reconnect with their families, but I doubt there’s anything that can really prepare you for if and when it happens.


My mother Dianne was incredibly graceful, I must say, in holding space for my decision to get to know those other families and be a part of their lives.  I can also imagine how difficult it was for my biological mother to welcome me back after all those years.  I would learn later how much trauma came up for her upon my return.  Never thinking she’d see me again, reliving the horrific conception story just by having me around, it was a lot for her to hold, having me back in her life as an adult. 


After we met and spent some time, I’d leave for months, returning with songs about my creation story, having worked through some of my own trauma in the music, but lacking the awareness to ask either of my mothers how it made them feel to be revolving mentions within the lyrics.  I’m still working through some shame around being responsible for having the world know only a small piece of the outstanding mothers that they truly are.  I know what it’s like to be underrepresented which is why that shame is even more burdensome. 


So, I share that now in a good way, to speak it out of existence.  The years went by and we had to deal with unhealthy public interest, media narratives focusing on the trauma, and fans all up in our personal space, crossing boundaries, thinking they knew us because of what we’d been through.  Fame sucks, especially when it’s built off family history.  Throw race and religion in there and you’ve got a casual Sunday brunch conversation.  If I hadn’t moved home in 2017 and had my career stunted by 2020, who knows how long, if ever, it would have taken for me to be mature enough to unpack and change that narrative, in part by just creating a home life and being a present son, brother, uncle, and father.  Thank the Creators for 2020.  That gratitude has been hard earned.   

The second biggest highlight of my career was Red Rocks 2019.

If anyone reading this has ever met my Uncle Dave, you’ll know he talks about that show to the point of conviction his eyes fill with tears of pride.  This is coming from the guy that sold acid to Jimmy Hendrix, sold Jon and Yoko glasses during his stint working at Lens Crafters, and dated one of the lead singers of Jefferson Airplane.  He’s seen some music in his time.  I try not to make a big deal out of things, but he’s not wrong because this was certainly an accomplishment to be celebrated.  It’s a bittersweet memory, because exactly a year later I would seemingly lose everything. 

But today as I answer these questions, I accept the gravity of that performance, with a meaningful smile.  I wish you could see it.  There are hidden dimples underneath my beard.  I digress, Red Rocks 2019 was a culmination of dreams coming true. 

The thespian in me had been waiting for the moment I could block a show this massive, build our own lighting rig and stage layout, design a unique run of show fit for an amphitheater, and bring my favorite performers together to create the show of a lifetime.  And on Father’s Day, during Pride month, under a Sagittarius Full Moon we did just that.  Even the weather seemed to be ecstatic and reactive to the energy, responding with high winds, lightning, and thunder between sets, and a double rainbow preparing us for lift off.

It felt like a reunion of sorts, so many old and new friends traveled from near and far to join in the revelry, like a commemoration of nearly a decade of hard, persistent work.  We debuted new songs off our album that would drop the following year amidst a pandemic, Hawaiians danced Hula, Lakotas fancy danced, and I gave a speech testifying that 2020 would be magical.

That evening I closed with ‘That’s what Medicine Tribe’s all about, that’s what this music is all about.  It’s a reminder that we are not alone, that there is a future we can believe in, and where we’re going, we’ve never been before, but we can go there together.’  I still believe that.  The band and team had worked so hard to get to that point, we were finally feeling like young professionals. There was a maturity within our musicality, a sense of knowing, like we were leveling up. Our team was vast at that point.  We’d really built a lot in 7 years. 


I remember running off stage that night after the encore, ducking my way through the crowd of friends and family side of stage cheering, reaching for embraces, holding onto my tour manager Mel’s hand as she guided me downstairs to a bottle of champagne and a bathroom where I could pour a glass and sit alone for 5 minutes.  I took a sip and cheered myself in the mirror, thinking ‘Well, you did it.  I knew you would. 

I wonder what this means. I wonder what’s next.’ 


I knew a deeper meaning was settling in for how important these fans, these humans had become to me.  For their own reasons, they’d been drawn to the music and helped co-create a community where our differences and imperfections were celebrated.  Miracles made up of particles, right?


At that moment, I had no idea what massive, life changing transformations lay ahead, but I knew that in some capacity we’d be doing it together. 


When you’re not making music, what do you get up to?

So many things.  Making music is a small fraction of my daily life, interests, and responsibilities. I’m a father and even though my daughter and I don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to with her living out of the country currently, it’s still a deep part of how I navigate my life with our relationship, her well-being, and future in mind.  It’s coming up on two and a half years now that I’ve been living and working from home. I haven’t stayed in one place for this long in 15 years.  The longer I stay here the more I dread having to leave.  Each day and with each season that passes, this land and these waters teach me and provide a sense of peace I don’t get anywhere else. In 2020, shortly after my ‘liberation’ (what I’m calling my public fallout and shaming of that summer), we suffered a climate catastrophe with unprecedented fires here in the Pacific Northwest.  My county was devastated by those fires, and we suffered great losses both to our homes and to our national forests. If it hadn’t been for my neighbors and surrounding community, my house, amidst countless others, wouldn’t be standing.  I’m still in an ongoing clean-up process to this day because of it.  If it’s nice outside, it’s hard for me to be inside.  Luckily, it’s spring right now and the rain has kept me mostly indoors, which is good because I have a lot of ongoing projects that need to get done before summer’s here.

As a truly independent, unrepresented artist I’m also the acting manager, the booking agent, the publicist, crisis management, the mental health department, HR, and so much more.  I stick to myself a lot, am manic and obsessed with fine tuning my productivity, and the friends that really know me have learned to come find me when I disappear into the cave for weeks, sometimes months at a time.  I have a very small, close network of beloved people I go to for feedback, second opinions, and advice.  I steward the acreage I own by growing food, hosting beehives kept by a wonderful Moldavian beekeeper, and am focused on co-creating a space with the natural components around me to encourage playfulness, meditative processes, and growth.  My neighbors and I spend a lot of time together sharing food, equipment, and helping with projects.  I really lucked out, landing in an area with such wonderful people.   I spend a lot of time with my families, as well.  Out of the 9 siblings I have, I’m the second oldest, and 4 of them live locally with their kids. 


My two horses mean a lot to me. They live off property at a neighboring barn. They’re in good hands where they live, but I can’t help but wish I had more time to just hang out with them.  It’s an art in and of itself to live life this fully.  When someone asks me what I’ve been up to, I’m like, what have I not been up to.  I’ve been up to the whole thing, like, this whole time.  I’m providing myself a lot of space for patience, knowing it could take a long time to get past the integration of what has changed since 2020 and arrive at what’s next for me. So, lately I’ve been filling my days with healthy self-care that feeds my heart and always am seeking the place in the day where I can tell myself, y’know what man, you’ve done enough today. 


What has fatherhood been like for you? 

One of the great, if not greatest, gifts thus far.  I realize now that no matter what the situation is between parents, when a child is conceived, born, and begins to walk and talk, witnessing the co-creation of two people’s DNA is a miracle in and of itself.  Life is a miracle and if I can bestow one gift upon my daughter it is to help her retain her childlike wonder into adulthood.  I’m a big kid and I love to play in the wild beauty of our planet.  That playfulness comes from a spirit of curiosity built into my genes, captured by the vastness of our planet, and my insatiable desire to experience all that this world has to offer.  I want her to know and believe that she belongs, that with her mother and I, her relatives and our communities, she is home. 


Normal is overrated. But I do want to normalize alternative family structures.  She’s already a deeply intuitive little person and I seek to teach her how to utilize and listen to that inner knowing so that she feels safe, stays safe, and can hold her own out in the world.  She will be a natural leader, her magnetism is in her bloodline, and the prayer I sit with the most lately is that she knows she has the support and resources she needs from her mother and I to work through whatever generational trauma she’ll be bound to, but also that she remembers and calls on the generational strength her ancestors have gifted her with.  Her lineages are many, she is of this world, and will likely find home nestled within little slices of heaven across this great planet, much like her father has.  When I think back to how I was living in my twenties, like I had nothing to lose, I’m so glad I’ve outgrown him and have matured into who I am now.

Little did he know how much he stood to lose, how close he’d come to the edge of total loss, and how those experiences and having a daughter would instate new values, purpose, and meaning into his life.  Fatherhood to a daughter is different than to a son and to me it’s a part of my karmic work within my relationship to women and as a student of gender equality, feminism, intersectionality, and abolition.  My sweet girl is such a gift, I’m incredibly blessed to be hers.  As a parent, I know I’m not perfect, I’m young, and I’m still unlearning and figuring a lot of this stuff out.  The best example I can be for her is to be openly perfectly imperfect. 


I have to be real about where I’m at in my growth, to be honest about my flaws, and to instill in her the knowing that she can always trust me to be there for her, to teach her what I know from my own experiences, and to share this beautiful life I’ve created around me.  Having a daughter catalyzed the universe’s ongoing efforts to soften my outward shell and helped me drop a lot of the toxic energetic toughness I was projecting.  It didn’t happen overnight and I’m nowhere near finished in that process, but I am fully aware and filled with grace for myself as a work in progress. I have my daughter to thank for choosing us, right now at this specific time in our lives, and giving me a reason to keep going.         

"And no one can change me, only I can do that"

 As a multicultural and Indigenous artist of Filipino, Native American and Puerto Rican heritage, were you always connected to your heritage? 

No.  As mentioned before, being raised white had its pros and cons, but the long journey to embracing and celebrating my differences would be nearly two decades in the making.  As I left home at 17 and set out to discover myself across this continent’s great wonders and the true history of its original people’s, I had no idea how deep my crisis of identity was or how my need to be seen as brown enough would, over the years, result in coping mechanisms, carelessness of other’s feelings, and toxic, egoic displays of masculinity.  The Big Island of Hawaii and, oddly enough, Minnesota were the two places that I grew and developed a core fanbase.  By 2012, I was five years into playing on the streets at farmer’s markets, burning demo songs on CDs and selling them out of my guitar case, and had created a buzz about myself on the island and in the Midwest where I’d found love, friends, and family.  Around the same time, I was introduced to an Anishinaabe elder who would go on to become my grandmother spider of sorts, casting her webs, connecting me with Indigenous movements across the globe.  She was the first Indigenous woman to really ‘see’ me.  She saw my identity struggle, my heart, and she saw my gifts.  You’d think that finding my mother and father’s families would have been where I first began to reconnect to my heritage, but it was the opposite.  I felt like a black sheep in the middle of a highly unusual family triangle. 


Being in the center of three different families was really confusing and it pushed me away for years, because I didn’t know how to accept it, manage all the roles I held, and how to hold space for so many that needed me when I could hardly do that for myself.  Finding my birth mother was triggering for my adoptive parents because not only did they feel they had failed and lost me from a religious standpoint, they also were grieving the loss of their son, thinking now their roles didn’t matter, that it was time to pass the baton, and in some way believed I didn’t need them anymore.  That wasn’t true for me, however.  In this alternative family structure, I needed everyone to just be who they were, not make me choose sides, and try to unlearn from the traditional family model together.  But this was all new, for everyone.  My birth mother and I spent years pushing and pulling around our new relationship, eventually finding our stride.  She’d naturally seek to mother me, I’d push back, muttering under my breath ‘you weren’t there for 21 years, you don’t get to mother me now.’  When we met and she shared what my father had done to her, all I wanted was revenge in her name.  I was put in an awkward position by the Universe when I found my Uncle a few years later and was informed of my father’s murder in 1994.  Letting go of the rage was really hard.  The anger and unaddressed father wounds would fester in the years to come and I can thank miracle working therapists and a supportive family for helping me unpack and greet it head on.  Over the years, I would develop a beautiful relationship and fall in love with my siblings and relatives.  Establishing our connection was vital in rewriting an unhealthy narrative about my father, forgiving him, and finding compassion for a man I’d never know.  

Underneath my often positive and playful energy was a little boy torn between worlds, unsure of his place, and harboring deeply unsettling anger from feeling abandoned.  Grappling with a traumatic conception story, grieving the loss of a father I never knew, and trying to figure out who I was amidst this very new family dynamic … if it hadn’t been for music and my resilient spirit, I don’t think I would have lasted this long.  We’ve all since found a stride together and I’m very proud of each and every one of them.  I consider myself incredibly blessed to have them all in my life. I suppose not feeling brown enough began when I found my biological family.  I didn’t grow up brown, I didn’t speak our traditional languages or know our traditional dishes and spices, and most of my friends were white hippie kids.  We were worlds apart.  It wasn’t like they shamed me for any of this, but as I matured and began to travel abroad, you can hear my struggle to be enough of something, of anything, to fit in somewhere, at the heart of so many songs.  “I am an Indian, I’m Puerto Rican, I’m Filipino, I lived in Hilo.”  The songs were affirmations.  They were my prayers, my mantras, and my reminders to myself that even though it didn’t always feel like it, I had purpose.  It was my medicine.

The Native side of my mom’s family seemingly stopped at us.  After my grandmother died, we knew no relatives or ways to trace them.  With the help of genealogists, we were able to find our family in the registry.  We discovered some of the efforts our great grandmother had made to cover up our bloodline and family tree.  I don’t know all the reasons why, but I can assume the cultural brainwashing and fearing for her life had a little to do with it.  I remember years later, standing in front of a Native American crowd, accepting a Native American Music Award for our album ‘HOKA’ which had won album of the year, and feeling like a total fraud. 


As I looked out across the room at legendary voices and artists from Indigenous communities across Native America, I thought to myself ‘No one thinks I should be here. 'No one here thinks I’m Native enough to deserve this award.’ and simultaneously I remember thinking ‘the fact that I’ve just won means the tide is shifting and more mixed artists like myself could win awards in the future.’  Both of those thoughts had merit. 


The profound words from one of my elders still strikes a chord in me to this day when she made the supportive argument that ‘You don’t have to prove your Indigeneity to anyone, Nahko.  It’s in the color of your skin.’  More recently, in the past three or four years, I’ve been learning to drop the youthful shield that was trying so desperately to fit in and have relaxed into who I am outside of it, outside this traumatic narrative I so valiantly carried like some kind of cross on my back.  It’s been an ongoing process and I assume it will continue to be.  I approach my multi-cultural ancestry as a new student, every day, and with that humbled approach I can finally show up ready to learn, rather than trying to prove something. 


I am enough, just as I am. 


How did you handle being seen as a public representation of Indigenous culture? 

It’s a mixed bag.  I certainly didn’t set out to carry any type of flag.  However, the more I played in primarily white spaces and the deeper I got pigeonholed as a ‘spiritual’ or ‘hippie’ artist, the more I felt I had to prove myself and represent my heritage, even if out in the field and underneath my brown skin I felt like I hardly fit in anywhere.  It was becoming really lonely not seeing my culture or skin color represented in the growing sea of faces before me every night.  So, to be totally transparent, up until the last 4 years, I don’t think I handled the onslaught of increased attention and fame well at all.  It was all too much for me to unpack, so I avoided it.  I was receiving all the approval I had so desperately been seeking as a child at home.  To counter the godlike image some folks were creating around me in the press, on social media, and to my face; I’d show up full of playfulness and ego, with my shirt off and a bottle of whiskey ready to party.  This image was nothing like what folks in the communities I was performing for thought I was going to be like in person.  And to be honest, that’s what I was going for.  There was something so performative within some of these spaces that disgusted me, it felt disingenuous at times, like I was watching bad actors in costumes.  I would come storming in with this strong, mischievous energy, seeking to dismantle the spiritual warrior image that was being created in my likeness and piss on its tires.  I was suffering and no one seemed to know.  I was so caught up in my own performative act of painful rebellion that in many places I just came across like an entitled asshole.  I had no idea I was part of the problem.  That being said, I have so much compassion for that younger version of me.  I was born to be a star and with the growth and maturity that comes with age and surrender, I will shine brighter than before.  May that shine soften even the hardest of hearts and forgive me for the behaviors of a troubled youth.       

One thing I regret not speaking out against, as I was too young and without resources to know better, were the titles I never wanted to take on or live up to:  I am not a guru, I am not a prophet, and I am not a medicine man.  Full stop.  As humans, we love to label things and, even for my inflated ego, those titles always felt over the top, uncomfortable, and pinned me as a competitive force with other artists in the field.  Most of all, it damaged my already sinking mental health to try and live up to an unrealistic standard of being.  I know many Native relatives were put off by white fans calling me a medicine man, regardless of the fact I never claimed that publicly and denounced it in private.  “The medicine’s in the music and the music is right now.” (On the Verge, 2013)  It was enough already for many to process the idea of music as medicine, as something that heals and transforms, coming from my little corner of the industrial music world.  The distaste for how I have been idolized and labeled has existed for years, but I realize it just comes with the territory.  Every single time I took that stage I was fetishized, sexualized, and objectified.  I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s just part of the game I signed up for and I played into it, because the attention, however fleeting, made the loneliness a little less painful.  Being on a stage looking down at people as they look up to you doesn’t just give you a false sense of power, it’s also how the system is built and maintained to keep that dynamic illusive.       

It’s also important to mention that it takes more than just listening to my music, donating to causes I’ve championed, and being a member of my fanclub ‘The Medicine Tribe’ to be an ally of BIPOC voices.  It’s just not that simple and I don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed fans allude to this fact.  It takes sacrifice, a willingness to be in the trenches, and a commitment to being in uncomfortable spaces to learn.  I know it’s possible because I have met, witnessed, and been in good relation with countless white allies who have shown up in these ways.  I’m very proud of them and I have a lot of faith in humanity in general as we navigate our way through these sensitive and complex times, seeking to arrive at a place of equity and peace.  


I remember one street performance night, earlier on in my days busking on Big Island, where I was playing my songs in front of a Kava bar and a cute little group of about 10 or 15 white hippie kids had gathered to dance and sing with me.  I was elated to play, let alone have anyone listen.  As with many nights to come on that block and as I would soon witness across the world, my audience grew and remained predominantly white.  On that night, I have a vivid memory of glancing down the block at a group of local boys and local girls. Some were Kanaka Maoli, Indigenous Hawaiian, and many were of mixed heritage, born brown and raised on island. 

As I caught their gaze, I recall thinking ‘Why don’t they come join us?  This is for everyone, after all.’  In my youthful innocence, I had no grasp of the vast differences that stood between them and who was dancing in front of me.  I imagine they were thinking, what is this little brown guy doing playing for these haole’s?  What I was creating was clearly a vibe that caught their attention, but the cultural gaps were too wide for most to cross.  That’s not to say that no one did, because there were many and in fact by 2019, just over a decade later, my audience in America was beginning to look a lot more diverse, albeit in specific markets.  It was enough for me to at that time celebrate even a small win for the rainbow I was reaching for.


I dedicated years of work as an advocate and activist for Indigenous causes, fulfilling a need within me to feel at home somewhere, to belong.  With time, I was welcomed as a relative within many spaces, because the more that I showed up authentically as myself to offer my gifts, the easier it became to disarm any preconceived notion or initial judgment.  I began to see and accept that a part of my gift was finding common ground with most people, honing in on that, and creating a safe place to break bread.  I think that began as a kid, but as I got older it transformed into realizing that I wasn’t the only one seeking community, kinship, and family.  So, when I say it was a mixed bag, it really was.  It took time to break out of those unsettled feelings, not at peace with who I was, wondering where I belonged, and just trying to fit in somewhere.  I don’t think I’m anywhere near complete peace, but I’ve settled into who I am and where I belong enough to feel the softness when I write about it now. 

Were there times you felt exploitative or exploited as an Indigenous musician?

Absolutely.  There’s something to be said for the more recognition I got, the more it went to my head.  When you spend your twenties into your thirties vying for position in cultural and political spaces and harboring feelings about being misunderstood, you tend to just accept the occasional exploitation of what you represent even when it’s embedded with absentminded racism.  I was thoughtful most of the time, but I let some things slide.  Ancestral oppression is in my bloodline and as much as I hated the system, I knew playing the game was my best bet at survival.  But, when you play that game, you take on the risk of being far more than just a singer on a stage.  You become a target for clout. 


As an artist, I was always on the lookout for my next breakout opportunity.  I was dead set on hitting a mainstream market, because in my mind that would create the visual diversification I wanted so badly.  It wouldn’t be until our last band album ‘Take Your Power Back’ in 2020 that I’d realize that the key would be the maturity in my sound and songwriting.  I had artists wanting to collaborate with me, which was exciting, but when I got into the studio they’d ask me to ‘do your Native voice, y’know the chanting stuff.’  Total let down, eye roll material right there.  To be fair, there were folks who asked in a respectful way, but it still made me feel a little weird, ironic after having wanted to have a niche for so long.  I wanted that niche to be in the smartness of my lyrics and the versatility of my songwriting. 


Certain Native folks were demanding I stop using branding that would perpetuate appropriation, to which I worked my best to keep it subtle, but refused to stop all together, because why should I?  At that stage, I had come too far to stop expressing myself and my heritage for the sake of something that at the time felt ultimately out of my control.  I had innocent white fans bringing me Eagle feathers and inviting me to their sweat lodges, asking what it meant if a hawk was in their dream or wanting to know my spiritual practices, looking for some example to live by.  My life is a mess, I’d think to myself.  You don’t want to copy this.  As with most things that I realize now, it wouldn’t have required more from me than to simply talk about it as part of how I showed up.  Teachable moments.  But it was too much for me at the time.  Everybody wanted me to be something more or less than I was.  Rich, coming from the worlds that also told me I wasn’t enough.   

It wasn’t until the last few years of being home and unpacking my career that I’ve begun to realize the ways in which my sometimes brash or predictable Indigenized branding may have harmed Native communities, inadvertently.  The artist in me worked tirelessly to create branding that not only represented who I was and how I felt, but I tried my best to avoid stereotypical symbolisms and themes. 

It wasn’t easy and I certainly made mistakes.  The trickiest and most complex part was that some of my predominately white audience took that branding many levels past my merchandising, creating their own accoutrement.  Perhaps unconsciously and innocently, they felt they’d been given a hall pass to then appropriate our cultures. 


I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel like it was my place to correct anyone.  My Native relatives and I had long talks about this over the years.  There were certain things that were clearly not ok and many others where the line was more blurred.  Wearing headdresses was an absolute no, for obvious reasons, or not so obvious to certain oblivious fans.  An Ojibwe friend and I were watching an Indigenous group called A Tribe Called Red perform at a music festival one year.  He’d been walking through the crowd and spotted a girl wearing a headdress and walked up to her and ripped it off her head.  I can’t remember if he yelled at her or just walked away, but I remember saying to him something like ‘Don’t you think there could be a more compassionate way of doing that?  That seems like a perfect teachable moment.  Most these kids have no clue they’re offending anyone.’  We would later agree and I’m really inspired by his work over the years in shifting his approach.  It was also a truth I grappled with for a long time. 


I don’t know how many times non-native women would come to me with their rawhide drum wanting to play me a ‘ceremony song I channeled’.  I ended up always being the token Indigenous guy in white spaces and I just didn’t have the bandwidth to unpack time after time.  Instead, I would often smile and say yes, of course, let’s hear it.  In fact, I remember being at Standing Rock where two young white men approached me and asked for my help.  They told me that some elders had asked them to leave, for what reason I don’t recall, and could I stand up for them and advocate for them to stay. 


I remember feeling shocked that they somehow thought that I could or would want to fix this for them, two strangers, two fans that saw me as their bridge to redemption.  I told them if they were asked to leave, they should respectfully follow those orders, and I walked away.  Somehow, being a fan of my music gave some folks the false belief that through me they would find a seat at the table.  A target for clout.  I’ve come to realize how much being a bridge took out of me, that I no longer have the capacity to lead that charge, and feel more like an island in this iteration.  For me, that’s what it looks like to move beyond surviving and arrive at the thriving part of life I’ve heard so much about.  This place is dope.  When you keep showing up for the work, the Universe turns on location.       


"You used my shame as a weapon"

What has been the most difficult experience you have dealt with as an artist?

I think being an artist is difficult in and of itself.  It takes a lot of courage to bare your soul for all to see.  Criticism, judgment, disapproval, haters; it’s all a part of what you sign up for.  People tend to forget there’s a human underneath it all, a human that has feelings, has insecurities, is flawed, and often simply wants to love and be loved in return.  You really develop thick skin rather quickly in this industry.  


I wish someone had told me that I was going to have to learn how to run a small business, back when I first started.  I wasn’t prepared for any of that.  When you’re young and hungry for opportunity it’s easy to miss the fine print, hand over the rights to your music, or have your vision misconstrued by your appointed guides.  It’s complex, figuring out where to fit in, let alone create a sustainable life as a career musician and songwriter.  The traditional touring model will break an artist if you’re not strong enough to withstand it or creative enough to keep it fun.     

How have you processed the last two years (in light of the allegations, cancel culture etc)?

It’s been one hell of a nightmarish roller coaster.  The first few weeks of July I was scrambling to understand what was even happening.  By August, I was in full defense mode, glued to my phone and computer screen, playing a sickening game of chess that was designed for me to lose.  By September, just prior to the devastating fires that swept through my state, I could hardly leave the house, paranoid from the death threats I was getting.  The people who were claiming they wanted to protect victims and survivors were the same people sliding into my DMs with threats to ‘kidnap and rape you like you rape women’ or ‘shoot you in the face if I ever see you again’ and ‘do that to your child so you know what it feels like’.    


I spent that summer wearing a hole in the floor, pacing back and forth for days and weeks, digging through the various allegations, just trying to understand who these people were and why this was happening to me.  It was a viral dog pile aiming to shame me out of my job and existence.  I’ve never shared my experience with what happened, but I’m ready to do that now with a clear mind and heart.  I’ve observed myself change and grow from this and I no longer hold any anger or resentment towards anyone, not even myself.  That’s how I know I’m ready to share, simply the facts that I know to be true, without the negative emotional attachment to it, from a place of humbled growth.  I’ve found peace in knowing what is true and what isn’t, in owning the parts that need owning so I can transform, and in having all my messiness out for all to see.  No more apologies, just changed behavior.  There were plenty of rocky moments, times when I wanted to give up, disappear, take my own life, or turn to violence … it was all there.  But, I didn’t.  I kept going, with the support of a few pillars, I walked through the literal and metaphorical fires, even when it seemed there was no end in sight.  

I always thought if only people had some context for what happened maybe there wouldn’t have been such a rush to throw me away.  So many had been called to my music for the positivity and prayerfulness birthed in trauma and courageously shared in song, but it felt like they had scraped off the top all the good things that served them and hadn’t been listening to the very real mental health struggles I was working through in my lyrics. 

The context was right there in the songs.  I mean, I literally wrote songs called ‘Twisted’ and ‘Part Problem’.   We pretend to love people in the public eye, but if anyone makes a mistake we are ready to tear them down in a heartbeat.  It’s really sickening.  We’re all just crabs in a barrel. 

It was about a month after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, the country was in turmoil, and there was a lot of pissed off people with too much time on their hands to create chaos.  Minnesota was going through a lot and, as I mentioned before, it’s where my roots following had originated, where my career began to spread its wings all those years ago.  My name got put on a ‘Cancel’ list of hippie bands and DJ’s, that list began to circulate on Facebook in community groups tied to a particular festival that had supported my growth as an artist over the years, and it wasn’t long before the first accusation landed on me. 


An unknown woman claimed she had seen me in 2014 at that festival making out at 3am around a fire with an alleged 16 year old girl.  She went on to claim that the girl’s parents were around and did nothing, in fact she claims she tried to bring it up to people the next day and no one seemed to care.  Thus, she surmised, it was time to cancel me.  Reading her claim, I scoffed.  She must have mistaken me for someone else, I thought. 

I rarely shared those kinds of public displays of affection and if I did it was with someone I had either brought with me or was dating.  I had so many questions for this woman regarding her claim that began to take traction on social media.  Like, where is this girl now?  Did I harm her?  Do you represent her?  Where are her parents?  Are they speaking out on this?  None of these questions would get answered.  In her statement she also mentioned she wouldn’t be naming names to protect their privacy.  I guess we’re just supposed to take anything she said on God.  When you’re getting canceled, there’s zero space held for questions, especially if they’re coming from the person being accused. 

It didn’t take long for the next accusation to start circulating on Facebook.  This one blew the top off, went viral, and to this day is what people point to as evidence.   A young woman claimed that in the same year, 2014, I had put her name on my guest list and gotten her into that same festival, claiming it was a 21 and over event.  She claimed I knew she was underage, got her in anyway, and when we met at the VIP meet and greet, I allegedly touched her breast.  She went on to say that she had to go into therapy because of what that did to her and was traumatized ever since.  From that post, in a matter of hours, I had the entire book thrown at me.  I was labeled a pedophile, a groomer of underage girls, a rapist, a predator … you name it, it hung like a bounty over my head.


One thing I knew for sure:  I hadn’t touched her breast.  It must be a misunderstanding.  Or maybe she was straight up lying, taking a real experience with one of the other lead singers she had countless photos of herself with online, saw an opportunity to apply that unresolved trauma to the ongoing press around me, and get some attention for it.  Did I get her into the festival?  God, I don’t know, at that time we’d been giving out free tickets to anyone who asked, building an audience, and stoking fans out.  Turns out, I never did.  We sourced the guest list, buried in our files, and her name wasn’t on it.  The festival was all ages, as well, so there were no rules being broken there either.  Those two facts alone should have been enough to dismantle the grooming and predatory allegations.    


There were a variety of other claims that came in afterwards, most of them outrageously fabricated or taken out of context, but this one took the cake.  There’s always fire stokers in these situations, people who have a small sliver of skin in the game and love the attention surrounding the drama.  One such young woman put her experience with me on the table and subsequently became a troll, like clickbait propaganda, carrying the torch online to keep the toxicity going around, and picking fights with anyone that questioned her.  Her experience with me was true, however.  I had cheated on my partner at the time with her while on tour, a repeat behavior I’d been ashamed of for years and been unpacking with my therapist and coach, getting to the root of the problem.  Certainly not something to be canceled over, but it was enough evidence of harmful behavior to lead many people to believe I probably was guilty of the other things I was being accused of. 

I know a lot of people were confused and upset with me for not standing up for myself, providing more contextual information, or publicly addressing my accusers.  When you’re in a public crisis of this magnitude, everyone thinks you should be doing more or doing it differently.  Everywhere I turned I was disappointing somebody else, not doing enough, not being enough.  It was exhausting and nowhere near as simple as some made it out to be. I was highly sensitive, hurt and disgusted at what was taking place, felt like I was being attacked, and torn between a knee jerk response and sitting back to listen.  This was all happening for a reason; I just didn’t know what yet.  My council and I decided that the smartest move was to honestly refute the allegations in a statement and hope there was something left resembling a career once the storm had passed.  I don’t regret that decision.  Even though I’m a fighter, part of the reason it became too much to push back was how quickly so many people just took what they were reading as truth and joined in the gossip.  It was like I was watching some social justice cage fight with everyone trying to be the most visible, outspoken opponent.  I was witnessing a very dangerous and damaging lack of critical thinking.  I soon realized it didn’t matter what was or wasn’t true, this had brought out the worst in people.  They were just picking fights to fight.     


I chose to try and repair with the individuals who were claiming I harmed them in private.  Part of the reason I didn’t come out publicly with the facts in my defense was because I knew my accusers would then be subject to bullying and harassment from my allies and the fighting would continue.  It was getting really ugly and I’d seen enough to know this virtual boxing match wasn’t going to stop unless I took the higher road.  That seemed to be the most mature decision and it was also the hardest.  I got to be the punching bag for some of the most disgusting behaviors I’ve ever seen, from my former fans at that.  It’s crazy how quickly people turn on you when their unrealistic idea of you is shattered.  There’s always more to the story.  I’ve come to have compassion for people who just regurgitate slander they’ve collected online with no idea how it originated or even think that repeating it as fact could be harmful or misleading.  The fact is, they just don’t know me.  But, thankfully, I do.


That week was total chaos.  I was working on a statement and getting slammed online for my silence.  People are viciously entitled.  That statement got picked apart, called a non-apology, and my critic’s just wanted me to admit guilt, as if it was that black and white.  The mob was coming after my band, family, artists I’d worked with, basically anyone who had ever been associated with me became a target: you either stand with women, survivors, and victims or you get canceled, too.  If you didn’t renounce your allegiance with me, you were subjected to further bullying, trolling, and shaming.

As mentioned, I did privately reach out to the women who’d claimed I harmed them.  I reached out, offering contact information to a woman who worked in transformational justice spaces that I’d been in communication with to help mediate, in hopes that healing and repair could be reached.  Those messages were screenshot, posted, and I was shamed for even trying to reconcile.  That only validated further my suspicion that this was more about the attention than anything else.  However, I’ve never closed that door, and it remains open to this day.  

That same door is still open to a former partner and friend, who 6 months after I had been cancelled, released a manicured statement on Instagram claiming I had drugged and raped her in 2015.  Out of everything that had been curated to assassinate my character, this one hurt the most, not only because it wasn’t true, but because it came from someone that I’d loved, had been in my inner circle, and a friend of my band and family.  I was shocked and hurt at how she took elements of a true story and wrote a new, fabricated narrative, joining the fray like so many others, looking for what appeared to be a moment of fame.  The night of the alleged incident was in 2015 at a little gathering in Hawaii.  We were in the midst of breaking up and she’d been unhinged, giving her intentions away in front of everyone, saying things on record like ‘I’m going to ruin him.’  It would be nearly a year later when we would make amends, reconnect intimately, create closure, and go our separate ways.  That whole period was well documented amongst friends, in emails, texts, and social media posts.  I was not without fault in that relationship and indeed caused harm, but I had properly shown up for accountability and been forgiven, which led me to believe we were on the road to healing. That’s why I was in shock when her story came out. 


Unfortunately, no one that saw her post was privy to that information and saw a very one sided story, again assuming with this addition to my ever growing list of harmful accolades that I must be guilty.  I never said anything publicly about it, and instead in an effort to repair the disharmony, I reached out with a lengthy email apologizing for any uncovered harm that had not found closure since our last meeting and offered mediation to help us repair this new terrain.  I never once threatened her or ostracized her, publicly or privately.  She never took her claim to the authorities or tried to take it any further than a post on social media.  It’s deeply troubling that in this day and age, as women fight for a seat at the table, there are those that take advantage of the movement, and therefore impede real change from happening.  It’s been over a year now and I still haven’t heard from her, but the door is still open, and I believe repair is possible.             


The signal from the universe that, to put it simply, things needed to change, didn’t go unnoticed.  To be clear, I’d been making those changes, however slowly, for years.  I went on to find a specialist who for the next year would act as a coach in the realms of consent culture, healthy masculinity, and so much more.  With his help, I had a safe place to put my relationship with women under a microscope and begin unpacking my dating life, identifying toxic traits that had developed in childhood and became problematic behaviors as an adult, learn and practice right relation, and look at ways I could support the women in my life right now and in the future.  I came to understand how important this work was not just for myself, but for our country and world on a systemic level.  Doing the uncomfortable work of reclaiming my male spirit brought to light my passion for feminist masculinity and, as a student of abolition, become a proponent of abolishing patriarchy.      


Even though repair seemed intangible with the specific individuals who publicly claimed harm, those efforts did not go without success in private.  I took the opportunity to find closure, come clean and ask forgiveness, open dialogue, and create space for healing with past and current lovers, friends, and family.  It was all too clear that part of the reason this was all happening was because I needed to stop and listen.  So, I did.  Deeply.  That process is far from over, but it’s been incredibly healing in its infancy.    


You experienced cancel culture at an extreme level, what do you think of it?

It’s abhorrent.  In my opinion, the practice has done more harm than good, because it lacks real life tools, resources, and support for those who have been harmed and those who harm.  Shame culture is a form of censorship and puts you in a prison, enabling repeat offense, and leaving no space for transformation.  That’s the punitive way here in America. Social media gives people the illusion of power, in a fake court of public opinion with no due process, to slander without repercussion or accountability.  If we really are amidst a great reset, I’m curious how within that we truly hold communities and individuals accountable for participating in harmful behaviors and then how we hold space for everyone to transform?  


Reading Bell Hooks ‘The Will to Change’ I came to realize how patriarchy is an umbrella and has enabled many of my ongoing issues and in reading Jon Ronson’s ‘So You Think You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’, I was fascinated with how long using shame as a weapon has been around.  I’m curious to learn, work, and support systems in communities that attain accountability when harm is committed without tearing lives apart and leaving them more broken then when we found them.  I’m invested in providing tools, support, and resources to anyone in crisis in my life.  I wish the same could be said for societies and the systems we live by.  Ultimately, cancel culture will never abolish harm, because the system itself is harmful.   


What has been the worst part of cancel culture for you?

I don’t think most people realize that it wasn’t just me that got canceled.  My band and their families, my production and touring teams, my families and relatives, and those closest to me took the fall, too.  They lost friends, work, opportunities, and respect.  That disgusting side of humanity they faced on the daily, right alongside me, and it had long lasting adverse effects on our mental health, economic disposition, and how we navigate in the world.  It’s been sickening to see how they’ve been treated, publicly and privately.  Mental health is something I’d always known about, but it wasn’t until this experience that I began to take it more seriously.  Better late than never. 


Another painfully bittersweet part about this whole process has been saying goodbye to people who I thought were my friends.  I don’t blame them for having made statements saying ‘we stand with women’ and ‘we hope anyone that Nahko has harmed finds healing’, I see that they never knew me after all and protecting their business was more important than protecting their friend.  It showed me how many of my public friendships were built on optics and clout.  That part broke my heart.  It took me a long time to let go of the hurt, create better boundaries, and love them from a distance.

The damage to my reputation has seemingly shut down my ability to perform live, pay my bills, and support my family.  The band and my production team disbanded, most having to look for opportunities outside of the industry.  A year ago, in June 2021, we tried to announce a nationwide tour only to have to pull it down after two days.  In hindsight, it was too much, too soon.  

Facebook is a dumpster fire and once the venues started posting announcements for their fall shows, the trolling mob swooped in, threatening to boycott their businesses if they allowed our band to perform.  With the background of a pandemic putting the survival of live music venues at high risk, I couldn’t blame promoters for bowing out.  Against all odds, by the end of that year we’d gone on a three week long road trip aptly titled ‘This Is Not a Tour’, performing in fans' beautiful homes and backyards, and successfully released an independent EP titled ‘beautiful trouble’. 


In January 2022, I celebrated these small wins, but had to really think deeply on whether or not I wanted to continue performing live, period.  I thought if I was to put myself out there again, my intentions were simple: to support my humble lifestyle at home, my daughter, and our future together.  There is no going back to where or who I was, to those stages, or to that traditional wheel.  I’d have to reinvent myself, again.  With the support from the same people that walked me through those literal and metaphorical fires in 2020, I’m setting out to do just that. 


I wear all the hats these days: manager, booking agent, artist, and more.  My close friends will tell you I work a 9-5 from home.  I’m often on the phone for hours, personally making calls to promoters who will give me a chance to share what is true and what isn’t in an effort to find spaces that will take a risk on me, allow me to perform for an ever growing fanbase hungry for live music and eager to support my return to a stage that, without question, I deserve to sing from.      

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"All of the shameful things we do, when we're afraid to speak our truth" 

Have you and your music changed over the last two years?

At its core, it hasn’t.  It’s always been me, using poetry and melody to tell stories.  Recently, I read some fans complaining that my new music wasn’t political or revolutionary enough or lamenting that I hadn’t addressed the vaccine issue etc.  I found that to be the most selfish, toxic, and quite frankly abusive demand on myself and my music.  Sorry, I’m not your song monkey.  It saddened me to observe how little some people had heard a recurring theme throughout my catalog: the change begins with me and I reflect it back to you.  Albums are like books, each chapter a song, building narrative around themes.  Each book I wrote reflected where I was at, developmentally. 


I often sought to ‘shock and awe’ my listeners by addressing topical, real life experiences through songwriting blanketed in sometimes catchy, positive melodies.  That method struggled to break through to a broader, mainstream audience until we released our last full length band album in 2020 called ‘Take Your Power Back’.  As an artist and band, developing a ‘sound’ is half the battle.  It wasn’t until that album that I felt we’d finally rounded a corner, musically, and sonically matured closer to a sound I’d been hearing in my head since the beginning. 


I can nod to the persistent desire for growth within each band member and the discovery of our incredible producers for that clear blossoming.  These things take time, we’re not on any traditional trajectory or timeline, and I look at mainstream success very differently now.  Looking back on the verticals and accolades, I celebrate the success of such a young band and have compassion for myself, a young man feeling stuck in a wheel, unable to stop for fear of survival, and reinvent it.  I’m grateful that I now know it has always been less the wheel and more myself that needed reinventing.  But also, fuck the wheel.      

What has been the resounding wisdom gained from this experience?

It’s ongoing, but learning to identify the root of harmful toxic traits and finding ways to let go of the shame and trauma that caused it to form has been incredibly impactful.  It’s been in the quiet moments, tucked between shedding the old skin and owning who I am now, where courage has led me to a kind of redemption.  To a place where I don’t get stuck in my trauma, a path forward.  I have a renewed sense of belief in my capacity to transform and am grateful that I’m loving myself enough to keep sharing it with the world. 

What is something you wish you could share with your younger self? 

You are enough, just as you are.

Do you have advice you could share with up and coming musicians?

It takes a strong person to share oneself with the world.  As you build your movement, keep watch over who truly has your best interests in mind, and remain open to what the universe has in store because it will often be different than what you’ve imagined.  Be specific in your prayers, ask who’s voice is speaking in your songwriting, and remember: it’s just a draft, there’s always room for improvement, keep going.  You’re already doing the most courageous part by listening enough to pull melody and narrative out from the emotional body and into a translatable realm where the real work begins.  Keep listening. 


What are your hopes as a musician for your future?

To put it simply: that there is a future where I can freely share my musical gifts with the world.  I believe in that future and in the good things that will come with it, because my willingness to unlearn and work with my shadows is all the proof I need to believe in my capacity to transform.  Many have been silenced, but I have come to sing.    

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