Using creativity to transform musical arts into something meaningful, educational, and inspirational. Albert, a community member from Sydney combines social issue and poetry into narrative music.
A Bard's Tale - Stories in Music
Albert is musician, a community member whom was an attendee of the Soapbox Pizza Night. The evening re-sparked his passion for music, while creatively weaving social issues into the form of musical and poetic art. We decided to conduct a small interview with Albert to understand his process, and go behind the scenes of his progress since his attendances of the Soapbox Pizza Night.
Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a spoken-word poet, musician, guy with a day job, and I also graduated with a Commerce/Science double degree majoring in Taxation/Psychology from UNSW.
I’m a big nerd, and I love doing things and meeting people. Oh, and I’m allergic to shellfish and sunlight, which is a challenge when living in Australia.
I’m a bit of a goofball, and I definitely don’t take myself seriously. My personal philosophy revolves around happiness, kindness, growth, and love.
Would you tell us a little about the artistic projects you work on?
Well, I write a lot of poetry. I write a poem a day, in fact, and have done so since 2017. Poetry is one of my two major passions, and I write, perform, host, and do anything I can with poetry if I have the chance.
I also sing and record my own music, and I’ve recently started a band with some friends. Music has always been a part of my life. It grounds me and I just find so much enjoyment in it.
I also have a project I call musical poetry, where I perform my poems while playing a piano track in the background.
What do you believe to be a strong social issue that exists today in society (Sydney), and how does your artistic work help address it?
I think Covid especially has shone a light on how isolating and lonely modern life can be and, looking at how negative so much of the media we consume can be, I think we could all do with some more positivity and kindness towards ourselves. Poetry seems to have a bad reputation where it’s all politics and anger in the public’s eye, so hopefully my work helps show how poetry can be a lovely thing that brings happiness.
The way your project operates is quite unique, as there’s musical element to it, but not straightforwardly a song. Can you talk us through your ideas, and how you came up with this idea?
Well, I’m pretty good at multitasking and I play piano and I’ve performed my poetry. It became just a way to try to marry my different skills to do something interesting. So I started trying to play piano while also reading out poetry, and in a way that was sustainable for producing content for social media. Considering I write a poem a day, I had stuff I could use, and I could muck about on the piano enough to figure out accompaniment.
It uses a lot of my poetry experience (especially since I’m used to reading out my poems and not really memorizing any for performance), and also musical experience (piano and jazz and music theory and things like those), and also the recording/filming experience I’ve had recording stuff for social media on other projects.
Were there any barriers or obstacles that prevented you from starting?
The musical poetry project was pretty straightforward, but I’d previously recorded poetry for Instagram and found it difficult for several reasons — I was terrible at memorizing my poems and maintaining eye contact, and it would take me about half an hour a day for each poem, and even then I wasn’t thrilled. So this time, I just read it off a screen that was facing away from camera, and I batch-record so it takes up less of my time and is more efficient from a work-flow perspective.
How do you find time juggling between life commitments, and something you are passionate about?
To be fair, I’ve always been over-committed and multitasking. I could never sit still. So that lent itself to pursuing lots of projects. Frankly though, the biggest thing is my poetry habit became a practice and really helped me centre myself and do things in all areas of my life. Because I was so used to practicing not only putting time into creative pursuits, it taught me how to continue doing so when I was tired, and practicing consciously putting time aside for creative things. So, it helped establish a routine which has been a great basis for expanding that discipline outside of poetry.
I spend the rest of my time between doing things around the house, spending time with friends and family, and working at my day job. And admittedly, the job isn’t one of those that requires ridiculous hours, so I have leeway there.
I tend to multitask while practicing — somehow I’m able to run exercises, warmups, and stretch for piano and guitar, and just general exercise all while watching YouTube or listening to podcasts. So, I save time there (although I’m not listening/watching anything I need to focus on), and I don’t really watch movies or tv shows outside of doing so with friends.
In other words, I’ve always been like this, I’ve got a job that doesn’t take up too much of my life, I’m very efficient with how I use my time, and I don’t really watch much TV.
Do you believe that devoting some time to working on something in line with your value and passion is important? If so, why?
I do. Productivity is a really important part of the human experience, and I think it often becomes solely tied to work. So I think having that outlet outside of your workplace/job is really beneficial for a person, in having something to work on that’s not immediately tied to your living conditions/quality of life.
And to quote my mother, we work to live - we don’t live to work. You have to have something to look forward to, to unwind and do, to challenge yourself with, to enjoy and find happiness and meaning through.
What motivates you to keep creating art that also addresses a social issue?
I admittedly have a bit of an ego. I want to make my voice heard, and share my perspective and viewpoints on things. Get on my soapbox, if you will. But the major motivator?
People who’ve said to me that my work made them feel better, or look at the world differently, or those that I’ve made cry. Because I think being positive and kind to the world and yourself is something that we need more of. And I think I can be a voice to promote that.
What are some tips you can provide to others, to inspire them in starting a creative project like yours?
Have fun with it. That’s the most important thing. Also, just keep going. As long as you persevere, you’ll get there. And if you’re having fun and enjoying yourself, you’re there already.
Also, be realistic about what you can and cannot do. I really only managed to start my daily poetry practice because I was at university and had time, and even then there were lots of days where I would just write a very bad haiku just to say I’ve written poetry. No Zero Days is a philosophy I find really helpful in that sense.
Also, if you want to record/release a lot, you need to work smart. Like I mentioned before, I batch record the videos. So the video recording only takes an hour for a week’s worth at least, and then maybe an hour for the editing.
But yes, the most important tip is to have fun. Because if you have fun, even the boring parts are still enjoyable, and it’ll be easier to maintain and keep it up.
Since not all our readers are musicians or play an instrument, what are some things our readers can do from home that may help address this social issue?
Sing in the shower. Pull up a song on YouTube or Spotify and go at it. Drum on your lap on the train, look up beat-boxing tutorials. Read poetry online or write some yourself.
The important thing is to create, and have fun doing so. Do things that make you happy, or at least facilitate some enjoyment or interest. The rest is just window dressing.
Do you have any last comments you would like to add?
Life is hard and tiring sometimes. It is challenging and stressful. There’s injustice, there’s pain, there’ are lots of things to be justifiably outraged about. But just as you need to fight to make things right, you need support to make sure you’re not burning yourself out in the process. And fun, positive art is one way I’ve found in order to remind myself what I’m fighting for.
If you’re anything like me, don’t attach your self-worth to your art. It just eats you inside and makes critique (justified or not) sting all the much more. I’ve come to a point where I realise I would much rather die happy and in obscurity than to reach “greatness” and recognition, only for that to consume me and feel insecure and inferior.
In my opinion, the most important part of life is to do what makes you happy. Like, truly fulfilled and satisfied. Achievement, recognition, legacy, all come second to having a good time. Because what’s the point if you’re not happy?
If our readers would like to check out your work, how can they reach out to you?
You can find me on:
And Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/albertxylinartist)
The depth of this interview is featured in ISSUE ONE of the Soapbox Magazine - to be published in Summer 2021.