Before I go into depth about my new release, I want to take a moment and discuss the movement going on in the world. We’re currently living in a system that was never meant for Black people to succeed in the United States and the fractures of this system can no longer be tolerated.
The protests that have been arising globally are a direct result of injustice against my community. Constant years of upfront racism, backhanded racism, and ruthless police brutality only scratch the surface of the inequalities Black people face every day.
Seeing my peers use their voices and platforms against racism is inspiring and reminds me that we have a long road ahead until we’re in the place we need to be, but we’re still moving.
As a member of the queer community, the celebration of Pride is also something that’s extremely important to me.
It’s important to remember that we wouldn’t have Pride without key trailblazers from the Black community. Without Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Bayard Rustin, Alvin Ailey, Willi Ninja, and so many more legends, Pride wouldn’t look the way it does today.
We should be honoring their legacy by fighting the fight their efforts paved the way for. Resistance is not a one-lane highway — we need every lane full.
This year, I set a goal to write 50 songs. A mountain for some, a pebble for others. For me, it was a rock I needed to climb to break through a two-year-long creative rut. But as time passed, I found an endless stream of excuses.
“I can produce songs myself, but that usually takes forever, and I’m not as good as XYZ, so what’s the point?”
“There’s no inspiration if I’m not going out and experiencing the world.”
“Whenever I do have free time, I’m never able to come up with anything good because there’s too much pressure.”
I tried to justify my inertia, but I knew deep down that I was holding myself back.
Putting my happiness in the hands of other people, I was going through a rough emotional patch and ended up writing 15 songs in two weeks. The last one was “Only You”: a much-needed love letter to myself. It’s about being the only person in my life who can bring me constant joy and inspiration.
Usually, I can spend months planning my releases, but everything about this song felt immediate. After showing it to friends, I knew I wanted it out ASAP. It needed a visual right away and it needed to have come out yesterday.
But while I was ramping up, the world was coming to a halt. Covid-19’s impact is still being determined and has taken its own toll across every facet of life. For me, this included how to approach and adjust how I shared “Only You,” which could no longer be contained.
Both the song and video took two days to complete. It definitely wouldn’t have happened or have been thought of unless I was in quarantine.
My creative process revolves around an extremely small team and limited budgetary resources as is, so I knew I’d be up for the challenge in creating a video for “Only You” under current circumstances. I obviously had to stay at home which meant making something within the 700 ft.² space that I live in.
I asked myself, “What’s something I’ve been dying to showcase but haven’t gotten the chance to yet?” For me, it was design and dance, which helped me focus on a concept. I played around the idea of a green screen visual similar to Gracey’s “Different Things” but I couldn’t make it unique to myself. I pivoted to projections and decided on a one take because it felt more engaging and would require the least amount of time in post.
From song to video, the process took a total of two days. I wanted to challenge myself to see how fast I could get everything done and was fueled by my passion for the song. I had made this song without any breaks, which is usually a sign it’s a keeper.
My listeners are highly visual and I was able to lean on my design experience to put together a video journey with motion graphics. After the song was finished, I worked on the graphics in Final Cut Pro and Photoshop. I didn’t really plan out what I wanted to happen, I kind of just followed what I thought made sense for the song.
I’ve always been really drawn to rainbows and prisms. I think colors can really help accentuate and describe intangible moods and feelings which is why I visually resonate with them so closely. Below is a mood board I had in mind going into the design phase.
Luckily, I’m quarantined with photographer and art director Justin Gilbert, who’s worked with me on most of my projects. This shoot is a great example of how we flex into whatever roles are needed and don’t take titles too seriously. We were shooting from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. We shot it on a Canon Mark IV and used the Nebula Mars II projector. The choreography was probably the most fun and challenging part of the shoot. It was largely spontaneous with the flow becoming more finalized towards the end of our 20 takes.
I followed my instincts closely while writing “Only You” and never second-guessed a lyric or melody. I think that’s a big part of why everything came together so fast. It’s a reminder that it’s always about the big idea and the smaller details can sometimes cloud the overall vision. I remember saying to Justin, “This is probably how we would’ve shot this anyway.” Even in the middle of unprecedented challenges, nothing can stand in the way of creating — only you.