By Kevin Alan Lamb
Before I interviewed musicians (Stevie Wonder was my first) I covered professional sports, making conversations about what music they liked, places they enjoyed traveling, and what they enjoyed off the field. I was initially drawn to sports because I spent ages five to twenty as an athlete, playing mostly baseball and basketball, practicing baseball year round because I believed I had a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues.
Professional sports are too often reduced to entertainment and a distraction, but athletics teach discipline, sacrifice, endurance of pain, and the ability to lose self in pursuit of a greater goal. I would not be the man I am today without the time I spent practicing and playing a game I love. Lately, I’ve been dreaming about playing baseball more and I’m exploring why that is. After waking and meditating this morning, I believe it has something to do with baseball being my first love, and the consistency which I practiced it.
Practice is a concept most commonly embraced within athletics and spirituality, because they both require commitment of the mind, body, and spirit. Diet, exercise, and learning fundamentals which can be grown into expertise. Devotion is a prerequisite for growth in any direction, but seems to be misplaced or absent within the day-to-lives of many. Who are we serving and with what intent comes our service?
Each one of you has great gifts and is immensely capable, but like a garden needs water, gifts need practice and space to grow. Whether it is your health, spirituality, or a talent you possess, acknowledging the desire to grow is the first step, while practice is every other.
Space, time, and circumstance take us from our devotion, and as a result, are the very things which can bring us back to it. Phoenix Wright saw something he loved slip from his practice, but another path delivered him right back where he was supposed to be. The Universe speaks – are you listening?
Phoenix embraced a sacred and mighty message delivered to him at Burning Man, and has made the commitment to making music and the life required to support it. A forty hour work week to support doing what he loves—does that sound similar to anyone you know? I hope, or else, what are you working for if it’s not something you love?
In addition to playing in Fire Flower, Phoenix plays with Y-Not, a five-piece-ensemble designed to inspire, uplift, and empower. The music asks a simple question: Why not do the thing we are most afraid to do? Why not step up and be the most authentic version of ourselves? Why not dare to leap into the unknown? With trumpet, guitars, and an array of drums, Y-Not’s Funk, Upbeat, Jam style invites listeners on a journey of self discovery, while dancing the night away in community.
Catch Phoenix in action with Fire Flower who opens up for Dixon’s Violin in a special Sunday show at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply on January 27.
Would you say you’re guided more by faith, or spirituality? Or do you perceive them as one and the same?
Although both are very important facets of the path I walk, spirituality ultimately guides the way. Spirituality infuses every aspect of my experience here on Earth. Every note I play, every thought and feeling, every decision, and the connections I make and keep all have an element of spirituality infused in them. Developing that connection is what I’m here to do. To grow through the process, and rise to meet the challenges of life with grace. Faith on the other hand, rules my devotion to the path and the trust I have in myself and that process. They are both important aspects of my belief system.
Do you have daily/weekly practices that help you stay connected with your guide?
Maintaining the rituals of daily meditation, body movement, healthy food and substance choices and even just finding the time to relax every day is a constant balancing act for any active performer with a day job who is also dedicated to a higher purpose. I am a Reiki Master/Teacher however, so I constantly check in with my mind and body throughout the day to monitor how close I feel to Spirit. Reiki, along with other forms of energy and body healing modalities are my salvation on days filled with full schedules, the need to wear many hats, and interact with lots of different kinds of humans. Often times throughout the chaos of such days, I check in to find myself rather anxious, or at times unfocused on the task at hand. Deep breathing, dancing, singing, or playing music is usually just what the doctor ordered in those moments. Music is ultimately my main saving grace, and the easiest doorway to Spirit for me.
Who in your life helps you stay on the right spiritual path?
Truly every person I encounter or interact with in some way is my most important spiritual teacher in that moment. I try to use the world around me as a mirror of my own hopes, dreams, happiness, fear, anxiety, and unconsciousness. Some people or experiences do this more effectively than others, sure. But I am always watching and anticipating the chance to notice something I value embodying myself, and make decisions that support that to the best of my ability. Inversely, I do find myself noticing traits that I do not value embodying in myself. This is a good opportunity to dissolve judgmental thoughts (although this is not often enough the outcome!) and to attempt to love those ways of being too, because I wish the very best for the person or event reflecting them back at me.
Those people that most accurately reflect these traits typically become my best friends, and chosen partners along this crazy path called life. My family remains a Light at the end of the tunnel as well. They were the original source of unconditional love that has inspired and fueled my journey. They are a major source of the support I feel, which allows me to reach ever higher knowing they are there to catch me if I ever were to fall.
But ultimately my faith rests upon my own wings. That is inspired by one of my favorite quotes: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on it’s own wings. Always believe in yourself”
My experiences have lead me to where I am, and that alone gives me the strength to progress no matter the odds.
What do you find most often disrupts or gets in the way of your spiritual journey?
The ever growing list of distractions that this modern world has to offer! With instant gratification at your fingertips, fighting the impulse to dive into every flashy interruption, becomes a constant struggle. Whether it’s the myriad of humans each with their own amazing narrative to share in, the growing world of exciting entertainment and other people’s creations, deliciously destructive food or habits, or the looming addiction of social media; all of these things threaten to drain one’s creativity if allowed the power to do so. It takes quite a bit of energy to constantly resist these aspects of the modern world when one’s artistry is dependent upon being a part of it! Signal boosting your own message, and appealing to the masses certainly takes a toll on my connection to Spirit. At times it can feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends, feeding a beast that you know in your heart can not be allowed to grow freely. It must be contained, and kept in check. It is a part of you, and therefore is not to be feared or hated. But it must not roam free, for that would spell disaster. It can come out to play at times, but then the leash must be brought back out, and it’s time to fetch water and chop wood once again. Balance. It is a constant theme.
Have you ever experienced a significant catharsis or “aha” moment as a result of your faith/spirituality?
So many throughout various points in my life, almost always during intense transitions, or “Phoenix moments”. One of the most prominent came during my first trip to Black Rock Desert in 2014 for the annual gathering known as “Burning Man”. I was driven by a force much larger than myself. I had left my fiancé the week prior. Moved out. Quit my job. I followed that feeling alone to the desert to volunteer in the healing center at a camp known as “Sacred Spaces Village”.
I wasn’t playing music at all at the time. I actually hadn’t even touched my trumpet in over three years. After college, my love for the art had been drilled out of me. That first trip out there broke me down to the very floorboards of my soul and showed me what was truly important to me. After the most intensely cathartic week of my life, the final event to bare witness to was the burning of the Temple of Grace; which is arguably the most holy place on Earth for that week. Droves of humans from around the world leave messages, trinkets, epitaphs, and apologies to lost loved ones, former relationships, deceased pets, and outdated versions of themselves upon the walls of the Temple, and on the final day of Burning Man it is burned as 70,000 souls sit in stunned silence. The experience shattered me. To say the very least. The truly cathartic moment happened after I turned my back to the flames however, and began to walk back to camp. A eerily familiar sound loomed over the crowd, and as it parted a lone figure stood in front of me playing a trumpet. The girl playing it had tears streaming down her face as she played a beautifully melancholy tune. I began to sob as well…As I mentioned it had been three years since I had touched my own horn, and her playing was so emotionally driven it evoked a powerful response in me. When she finished playing she informed me her father was a trumpet player and he used to play that song for her. He had passed away earlier that year, and she vowed to learn how to play the trumpet to honor him at that very moment. As soon as I returned home I picked my trumpet back up, and haven’t put it down since.
Does making music help you honor and connect with your greater sense of self, and purpose?
It certainly does. When I play music I feel so much larger than myself. I’m able to convey thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t even scratch the surface of with words alone. The force that expresses itself through you when you really get in the flow is unbelievably powerful. That feeling follows you off the stage and into your interactions with the world. For me, it fuels my purpose and strengthens every exchange. It changes you if you let it. It takes you places, you know? Both physically and energetically. Not many things in life can do that.
In what ways does the industry of music challenge your spirituality or faith?
For me, who I need to be (at least at this stage of life) to succeed in the music industry pulls and pushes me out of my spiritual center. Whether it’s the late nights, needing to work a 40 hour week to support my music, the vices available to those in the music industry, the constant need to be a part of social media which is a drug in its own right, and the stress of needing to be relevant to the world around you/appealing to the world outside of yourself. All of these things can drown you if you let your guard down even for a second. Maintaining daily ritual/routine, and investing in spiritual community are my biggest support structures. They keep me in check, and on track.
Are there any musicians whose spirituality/faith you admire, and feel empowered as a result of?
Nahko Bear was a huge inspiration at the start of this journey. He fueled my journey out west and enlightened me to the idea of “musical medicine”. His musical call to action, powerful voice, and authentic message awoke my heart and lit a fire in my soul.
Dixon’s Violin has also been a great colleague, friend, and role model. He has always landed on my internal compass’ true North, and served as a major inspiration for what’s possible when you take a risk and leap towards your dreams. His message followed me for years before it truly hit me when I most needed it and greatly accelerated my belief in myself and this path.
My good friend Zakery Winchester also never ceases to bring a smile to my face, and an intriguing message from Spirit to my mind. He has been quite an ally in my personal quest to bridge the worlds of Spirit and Sound. I have mad respect for that Turtle.
Do you have the tendency to use the word God or Universe? Do you have different perspectives of the two?
I typically refer to the fabric of the All around us as the Universe. Or Source. Or more often recently as “Spirit”. I do use the word God when relating to followers of a particular faith. There are some Gods that I also choose to honor. In my belief system, I would see them as specific aspects of the Universe embodying a humanoid form that serves to appeal to an individual’s highest good or desired traits. The words God or Universe can be easily exchanged in my mind though. I take no offense to how one chooses to view their reality, and support all perspectives!
Just in case you were listening for one, This Is A Good Sound. Get your ticket to see Dixon’s Violin wsg Fire Flower.