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behind the music: Look Away // 3.24.22

welcome to the second installment of my Behind The Music series. let’s talk about the second track on the album, Look Away. while this song isn’t the “oldest” song on the album, it was definitely the doozy of the Crystal Eyes babies. in the early planning stages of the album, I knew that I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try some new things. rapping on a track was at the top of that list. if you’ve followed my music/poetry journey for a long time, you may recall a little weekly ritual I used to have called Fast Rap Fridays. I would try my hand at some of the most challenging rap verses I could find and document my executions of them via posts to my Snapchat story. not only did this help me practice good elocution for poetry performances, it was also super fun and made me feel like a major badass. I haven’t done a Fast Rap Friday in a long time (maybe I should start those up again), but my appreciation and respect for rap music has not dwindled. rap combines poetry, music, and storytelling in a way that’s different from other genres. you communicate your message as much through your cadence, speed, patterns, and inflections as you do through the music or beat, and those things are very uniquely emphasized in rap as opposed to singing along to a melody. I think that’s why I’ve always been drawn to it, but I also think that’s why I’d been so hesitant to go anywhere near creating an original rap for a song: it seemed way outside my capabilities and, quite frankly, my lane.

in fact, Look Away did not originally have the rap in it at all, I wrote the rap in after the track started coming together in the studio. my original vision (“auditory vision” might be a better term?) for this song was to create something dark and heavy, a slightly disconcerting, yet intriguing, sound; like if you were to get hopelessly lost in a very familiar place. after hours and hours of experimenting with different sounds and effects, I finally heard the vibe I'd been trying to create. except there was a modestly sick breakdown that lead to… nothing. there was gap in the lyrics and I hadn't the slightest clue what would fit in it. I started getting flustered, so I tabled the track and focused on another one. and then another. and then possibly another. Look Away became the bane of my time in the studio and anytime I sat down with my midi and mic I felt the unfinished demo piercing into my soul.

around this same time, I had been working on pulling myself up out of a slight dip in my mental health. (I’m talking about a depressive episode, folks. they happen to some of us.) one of the things that still baffles me about mental health challenges is how much they can dull you, without you even realizing it. when you’ve gone through a cycle enough times it starts to feel familiar. typical. don’t get me wrong, I’ve been walking with an ill brain for a long time, and I like to think I’ve mostly got it figured out. but there are still times when I don’t realize how much I’ve been struggling, or don’t want to admit it, until a loved one calls me out. in this particular instance, I was asked if I was feeling okay because this person (who I knew cared about me very much) noticed I hadn’t been my “bubbly self” for a few days. that comment really shocked me to the point that I forced myself to do some self-reflection and processing. I think sometimes we can be afraid to say things like that to the people we care about because we don’t want to hurt them or make things uncomfortable. but when genuine concerns are expressed without sarcasm or judgment, it can be a major wake up call. for me, it’s like a sort of signal: “hey, you think you’re managing this really well, but it’s starting to impact your day to day life, and the people closest to you are noticing it. time to pause and figure out what’s going on.”

it can be pretty scary to dive in and examine the darker parts of yourself. and ultimately, that’s what inspired the rap in Look Away. this odd sense of normalcy that forms alongside a chronic struggle. how easy it can be to slip into a place you don’t want to be, how comfortable it can feel. how difficult it can be to find your way out of it. how much destruction can happen before you’ve realized something needs to change. how daunting it is to assess all the damage and try to figure out where to start, especially when you’ve been there before and know you’ll likely be there again. it’s one thing to say that you’re okay, or that you’re going to start working on making changes (even if you feel very certain that you’re going to actually do it). once you get down into the murky depths of yourself and see what’s lurking around down there, even the best intentions can crumble.

when the state of my emotions came into question that day, when I was informed by someone near and dear to me that my “bubbliness” had split, I became frustrated. I was supposed to be getting better. I thought I had a handle on this. when I finally sat down to process that frustration, I found a pen and a notebook, and when I read the words that leapt out of my soul and onto that page, I knew that the missing piece of Look Away had finally manifested itself. so, I grabbed my mic and spit it into existence. since I’ve started performing Look Away, I often get told that I should rap more. don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with that sentiment. I suppose I just don’t see it as much of a challenge at this moment in time. I’ve rapped pretty fast and I’ve been wrestling with a lot of mental health struggles, and I can tell you with certainty that slaughtering a verse (no matter the intricacy of the lyrics) is way easier than slaughtering your own mind.


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