I create music for myself and I present it to the people to digest it however they want.AF: Do you sing? DE: Ha! You don’t want to hear me sing! [laughter] AF: Well, you never know! As musicians, we have all sorts of gifts! Just checking! (laughter) DE: I can hold a good note and some people say I can sing really well. But I’m the type of cat that if I’m not really good at it … LOL! But I am really good at the violin so I stick to that! (laughter) AF: Do you play any other instruments? DE: I do. I play piano, viola, cello, bass, a lot of string instruments. AF: Do you ever see yourself branching out and focusing any of those instruments on future music or recordings? DE: I think so. On this tour, I really wanted to branch out and play a different instrument, but life comes at you fast, and my last tour finished in January and I turned around and planned another one in May, which is really aggressive. So, I really didn’t have time to, so I decided to focus on the violin. But I have a summer break in June before coming back in the fall, and during that time, I will push it to the limit and see where things take me. AF: Let’s talk about the album! You released your single, “Get Up and Dance” for the new album “Boundless”. Tell me about the album and what you were thinking going through that process and writing it. DE: Boundless was a two-year process. It’s interesting when I listen back to the music and some of the pieces of music that I wrote early on in the creative process compared to some of the songs that I finished with – I did “Mood Swings” early on, that’s more up-tempo. And towards the end of the album, I did “Reflections.” So, when I listen to the album, it’s such a nostalgic moment for me because I remember where I was mentally and the maturation process I went through during those periods. I think through this entire process I went through every emotion you can go through. And that’s a part of the evolution process. So, it was a growing process and a lot of fun and super creative. The songs are true to the vibe that you hear. A lot of emotion, love, heart and soul and that’s what people can hear on the record. I think it is a really good body of music and the response has been overwhelming. I am happy about it. AF: We agree! It is a great body of music! I was looking at your Instagram and saw a post where you mentioned being in about 4 cities in 5 days! How do you prep for that? How do you rejuvenate yourself and continue to push through so that you can maintain your energy and give it every night? DE: I got to be honest, last year I got my ass kicked! It was a lot. Touring is really difficult on your body. You have to love what you do. It’s not easy, and it’s grueling. People only see when the lights comes on and show time and don’t see the preparation that it takes to get on that stage every night. I am an artist that performs with a lot of energy. But I take care of myself and have a good team around me. I do yoga in every city I go to and get massages every other show to keep my muscles loose, and I try to eat well. Even with all that it is pretty exhausting, but it is part of it, and this is what I signed up for and I love it; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m gonna do it till I fall down! LOL! Hopefully, I last a long a long time and continue to inspire people!
When I don’t feel like doing something or I feel discouraged … I just keep hearing, “Get up.”AF: I hear that! It is definitely important that you take care of yourself. You have had an amazing journey from graduating from Juliard at 12 years old, third place at Americas Got Talent and having two Emmys … but before you launched your solo career you were homeless for a bit …. DE: Yeah, I was homeless for a bit in 2012. I was in a group with my brother for 10 years and we were really successful together, but just like a majority of African American entertainers, athletes, public figures, etc. we didn’t have financial literacy. We didn’t understand money and we didn’t come from money, and the first thing you do when you get money is you go crazy with it. I never thought that my brother and I would ever disband so I didn’t have to plan for tomorrow because I thought we would do this forever together. When we did disband, I had nothing saved and I lost it all. My condo went into foreclosure and about 5 month after that I was sleeping on the train. But sleeping on the train was a choice of mine. I didn’t want to burden people and tell them I fell off. I thought I had to keep up a facade. I tell people that being homeless was the worst but ended up being the best moment of my life. AF: Wow…that’s deep. Through that experience what do you use as a mantra for your life now? DE: The words that I kept hearing were, “get up”. That stuck with me, and I kept hearing that in my head no matter what it was. I took that with me and I applied that to my life, and even to this day when I don’t feel like doing something or I feel discouraged … I just keep hearing, “Get up.” Those are the two words that have stuck with me and pretty much made up who I am today. And I tell people that all the time; if you are down, get up. Others can give you advice but no one is going to do the dirty work for you ,and you gotta get up! That’s one thing that I live by. AF: I love that … so inspirational. I know that one of your goals is to create awareness about the importance of music programs in public schools and encourage people to live out their dreams. What are some of your endeavors to do that? DE: My nonprofit is called M.A.D.E. and that stands for Music and Arts with Damien Escobar and the mission behind M.A.D.E is to get arts programs back in the inner cities schools. Early in my career I partnered with VH1’s Save The Music and we used to go around presenting $25,000 checks to schools for musical instruments, and I felt fulfilled in that moment, but then I learned that a lot schools weren’t using the money for arts programs but for everything else. So, I said, if I do jump back in to the nonprofit sector let’s take it a step further and take the excuses away from the schools, so we developed programs that go beyond just giving a check. I developed a line of violins that we will donate to schools. Every child deserves the chance to be exposed to musical instruments and the arts. Parents will also have to so the part but we are targeting the place where students spend most of their time. AF: That is awesome! Thank you for giving back and congratulations on all your endeavors. Looking forward to Sunday!
There are still a few tickets left for the 8:30 show at One World Theatre this Sunday.