By Kevin Alan Lamb
“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” – Von Goethe
A friend once gifted me a transforming mantra comprised of three words, “Stay on path.”
Each of us is called to do something special with our time here, but to receive this vision we must listen to our hearts and trust our precognitive intuition. That is to say—when something feels meaningful and destined, it probably is—so get out of your head and lead with your heart.
In 2007 Brian Ernst got “the best promotion” he’d ever receive when he got fired from his warehouse job, and pursued music full time. Originally from Ohio, Brian and Katie Ernst are a full time touring, music and non profit duo. It was the summer of 2006 when they met while Brian was working a nine-to-five job and Katie was finishing up university. They both volunteered in New Orleans (post Katrina) and dreamed of the day when they could travel the world together, helping and volunteering.
While most of us don’t wake up in the morning hoping we’ll get fired to bring us one step closer to realizing our dreams, it happens a lot more than you think. Sometimes loss helps us get out of our own way, and grow vulnerable enough for spirit to take hold and guide, allowing us to consider that which previously felt out of reach.
Brian is a live looping multi-instrumentalist. He uses open tuned and lap guitars with didgeridoo’s, beat-boxing and a bunch of small percussion instruments to create up beat acoustic, soul roots music – with passion and purpose.
In the last decade, they have spent over a year of their lives in Africa, which inspired Katie to found their charity, Journey4YOUth – an officially registered 501c3 non-profit organization. Every year, Journey4YOUth is able to provide over 100 education sponsorships for students. They also provide rain water harvesting tanks and education for women and elders in the village where they lived in – Kaswanga Village, Kenya.
Since 2010, their fan base has donated over $160,000 to these initiatives and other causes. Twice they volunteered during the refugee crisis (at Moria Refugee Camp in Greece and with an NGO serving displaced Syrians in Turkey). They also went to Standing Rock in 2016.
“You are – what you is, and what you is, is what you leave behind.”
In the same day I was guided to write about musicians with a strong sense of faith and spirituality, I found Brian and Katie, out there, kicking ass in the world in the name of serving others, giving all of us a little more faith in humanity, and hopefully ourselves, because what are we doing here if we don’t believe in something?
The word is changed by extraordinary people like you, who were given life – and with it, a calling. I can’t tell you what your purpose is, and for that matter, neither should anyone else. What I can tell you however, somewhere inside you already know, and isn’t today a good day to start listening?
Would you say you’re guided more by faith, or spirituality? Or do you perceive them as one and the same?
I am guided by faith and spirituality. Faith being the deep belief in That which I cannot indisputably prove and my spirituality is the avenue in which I connect to Creator and Creation.
Do you have daily/weekly practices that help you stay connected with your guide?
It is hard to find structure and routine when you are on the road. That is where practice and disciple come in. Ideally, we start our days by giving thanks and either writing in a journal or reading.
Who in your life helps you stay on the right spiritual path?
My wife is the strongest, most tangible accountability partner I have in my life. Our newborn child (expected Feb. 2019) will be a great source of inspiration as well.
The other person is an old Southern Baptist Preacher from Atlanta, Georgia – Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. At some point, every year, cynicism and despair make a hard case for my attention and belief (which in turn negatively affects my spiritual path). When things get really dark for me I usually start binge reading MLK for a month straight or however long it takes me to get back to where I need to be, spiritually and emotionally.
What do you find most often disrupts or gets in the way of your spiritual journey?
When I don’t take the time to invest in the mind, body and soul is when I get “distracted.’ The human factor, both within myself and humanity in general. Also, a lot of disruption comes from pain and/or trauma that I haven’t dealt with in a healthy way.
Have you ever experienced a significant catharsis or “aha” moment as a result of your faith/spirituality?
There was a time earlier in my spiritual walk, when I was a younger man especially, when I would have an “aha” moment. It was when I was first discovering the depth of this new found faith. I believe some of those moments happened so that I would put my faith in That which I believe. Now the “aha” moments come when I see how I was wrong with certain thoughts and/or programming I once put belief in.
Does making music help you honor and connect with your greater sense of self, and purpose?
Absolutely. I believe that I was created to see what I have seen, hear what I hear and sing and play what I feel with my heart. And through sacrifice, service and by doing our best to try and love, we put into practice our so called “greater sense of self” by using those gifts to help sow and/or water the seeds. Traveling around the world playing music and doing all the activism work (alongside the music) I hope is a testimony to others who seek to do something similar.
In what ways does the industry of music challenge your spirituality or faith?
My first full year in the music industry was 2008 – the year of the economic recession. The industry squeezed a lot out of us then, but it made us strong and pushed us to learn how to stand in difficult times. The music industry challenged me to really double down on my Faith. Because, like anything, faith and spirituality (and music) can be a commodity, a fashion, a networking tool and all these things that are shallow. Things that are essentially human (and ego) pretending to be “spirit.” I think Spirituality and Faith should be stronger than any industry.
Are there any musicians whose spirituality/faith you admire, and feel empowered as a result of?
Some of the musicians who really inspire me on a spiritual level are Stevie Ray Vaughan (his song “Life Without You” —someone tell me he wasn’t playing like his days were numbered), Joe Cocker, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Martin Sexton, Amos Lee, Bob Marley and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Also, when I was younger and just started playing music, I’ll usually have a Sunday or two where I will really get into southern gospel music.
Do you have the tendency to use the word God or Universe? Do you have different perspectives of the two?
I don’t really use either word too much. God and/or Universe is a big thing for a human like me to be boxing in right about now.
Just in case you listening for one, This Is A Good Sound.
Learn more about Brian and Katie Ernst.