Cheers Queers: Chit-chatting with Mercedes Benzover

“The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world a side of you that you’re not usually able to show.”

Not everyone can say they went to college with a fabulous drag queen, but I am lucky enough to say I have that experience. I met Dylan, also known by his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover, at my university’s pride club this past year. Not only is he extremely funny and animated, but he also has a kind heart and a loving personality that I immediately admired. I knew I wanted to interview him when I saw him perform live at a campus event, which absolutely blew me away. Some people are just born with strong stage energy and charisma, and trust me when I say Dylan has it. He describes himself the same way many other people describe him: outgoing, fun, and independent. “And crazy,” he adds.

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Like many young people, Dylan started getting into the art of drag after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in high school. From there, he began getting into makeup and the intricate craft of drag culture, which ultimately led him to create his drag persona, Mercedes Benzover. “I came up with this name by putting two of my favorite cars together, Mercedes Benz and Range Rover,” Dylan says in regards to how he crafted the name. And, of course, it offers quite the laugh when spoken aloud.

The turning point for Dylan came during his senior year of high school, during which he decided to show up to the Thanksgiving Rally in drag attire. “I decided to not care about what people were going to think about me, and I put on a pair of heels from Savers and a grey wig,” Dylan says about that day, “I walked into the gym and felt so powerful. People ended up coming up to me and letting me know how proud they were of me.”

From there, Dylan’s confidence in his abilities as a drag queen only flourished. This past September, he performed in his very first drag show and sang “Sorry Not Sorry” as his first number. He recalls how beautiful it felt to perform in front of many people, even despite a potential mishap. “I remember my wig almost falling off when I tried whipping it around,” he says with a laugh.

However, things haven’t always been easy for Dylan, especially in the face of unsupportive parents. Dylan hid his interest in drag for the first two years of practicing it and resorted to watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in his basement. When his parents finally discovered his passion, he says that they treated it with disgust.

“They didn’t find out I was doing drag until about 2-3 years ago through a photo on my social media,” Dylan says, “My mom is kinda on the fence that she doesn’t care, but she does. The big thing is that she wants me to have a ‘real job’.”

Sadly, Dylan’s story of rejection from his parents isn’t uncommon for LGBT+ youth. Gay, bisexual, and transgender children have been shown to have significantly higher rates of mental illness and depression, usually as a result of disapproval and shame from their families (NCBI). However, Dylan tries his best to stay positive in the face of prejudice and hate and instead focuses on all the wonderful aspects of his craft. “The best thing about being a drag performer is being able to show the world/your audience a side of you that you’re not usually able to show,” Dylan says in regards to the best aspects of drag. If he had to pick the worst aspect, he says it would be the lack of acceptance around the art.

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Over the past few years, Dylan has built up a unique and stunning drag image for himself. He cites bougie girls, Sasha Velour, Chanel, and really “anything rich” as his inspiration for his hair, makeup, and fashion. Beyond that, however, Dylan says he can draw inspiration from almost anything. Besides performing drag arts, his other hobbies include watching YouTube videos, hanging out with his friends, and playing around with makeup and fashion. As a fashion design major, a large majority of Dylan’s time is spent in the sewing room designing new, exciting looks. “I believe college has opened my mind to so many things- personally and professionally,” Dylan says about his college experience thus far, “Ever since starting college, I’ve felt more open about many things and have become more independent. I truly think I’m living a meaningful life.”

In the future, Dylan aspires to continue his drag career and hopefully build a bigger name for himself. He wants to start his own fashion company, for which he would craft both special occasion dresses and custom drag pieces. Ultimately, Dylan wants to be happy, content, and continue to live his life to the fullest. Before we end the interview, Dylan has a piece of advice for other LGBT+ youth trying to make a name for themselves in the world: “There will be hard times and people might not respect you, but don’t care what other people think about you, and live life the way YOU want to live it. It’s your life, nobody else’s. I’ve learned that sometimes in your life there will be hard obstacles, but you’ll get through it, do better things, and help others.”

It’s always such an honor to sit down and interview artists for Analog, but Dylan is especially such a treat. His energy and his humor is so vibrant and inviting, it’s hard not to be immediately drawn to him. If you’d like to learn more about Dylan “Mercedes Benzover,” you can find him on Instagram @dylan_alves123. All the best in the future, Dylan!

Statistic source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127283/

Pretty Wings: A Word with GB2UNO

“They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.”

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Photo from Instagram

In 2020, more independent artists than ever are popping up on streaming sites such as Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud. On Spotify alone, Billboard estimates that there are more than 1.2 million artists currently listed on the platform. Each one, of course, brings a distinctly unique flavor to the realm of music and artistry. So what sets rapper GB2UNO, based in the Boston area, apart from the rest?

“I’m kind of all over the place,” GB2UNO, who goes by GB, says in regards to his themes. “So really whatever fits my mood at that exact moment of making a song, or just something I thought of incorporating into it.”

I was curious about the stage name, which admittedly took me a few takes to memorize. “I was inspired by basketball star Kevin Durant, because he was my favorite player,” he tells me. “At one point in my life his twitter name was @KDTreyCinco, and it inspired me to use that because my basketball number was #21. And then I made a rap song and the whole school was calling me ‘GB2UNO.’ So I ran with it.”

GB, whose real name is Gregory, has been making music for his entire life. It’s easy to see his passion and drive for the art, as his eyes light up when he speaks about his shows, his networks, and of course, his music. However, life isn’t always perfect for this turbulent musician. GB was born and raised in Urbana, Illinois, just outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. “I wouldn’t say I had a rough upbringing, but I did have flaws, like every kid finding a purpose,” says GB. “My family was an average family, except for my parents splitting up constantly throughout my life and me having to be the big brother and the man of the house at times. Just having to grow up at an early age built me into the person I am today. I love my family though, through all the bumps and bruises.”

After spending his childhood and adolescence in Urbana, GB moved to the Boston area after one of his college friends did the same. He explains with enthusiasm the culture-shock he experienced here, from the people and the parties to even the weather. Nonetheless, GB fell in love with the Boston scene, and from there he started to meet other inspiring dream-chasers. In March of 2018, he began to take his budding music career seriously, releasing singles such as “Brotherz” and “Mrs. GB2UNO.” GB is clearly hardworking and driven in his career, and owns a lot of his inspiration to artists such as Swooli and Jake Lewis. “I met Swooli, and Jake Lewis once, and a couple older individuals who had a passion for music, who wanted to see others succeed as bad as they wanted too- no matter what field of interests,” GB says. He also cites EDM music, pop, trap, and “the songs they play in Forever 21” as being inspirations for his own artistry. “I don’t limit myself to one sound,” he continues.

Listening to his music, it’s clear that GB’s inspiration does indeed come from a wide variety of sources and backgrounds. His music is not only enjoyable for fans of trap and hip-hop, but also listeners who love intricate beats, high-energy and melodies, and thoughtful lyrics. As someone who usually sticks with John Denver and the Eagles, even I enjoyed this young musician’s electric and fast-paced records. 

Throughout his turbulent music career, GB has endured his own ups and downs since he’s settled down in the Boston area. He cites performing in shows and growing his network as the highlights of his year, along with cutting the toxic people out of his life. He also notes that it’s difficult “having to deal with other people who aren’t officially self-aware or in dreamland like us,” when I ask him to elaborate on his negative experiences. 

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Photo from Instagram

Beyond his music, it doesn’t take long to respect GB’s kind, easygoing personality as I continue with our interview. He’s also extremely insightful, and wishes that more people recognized him as a “living person.” When I ask him what he thinks peoples’ first impressions of him are, he says with a laugh, “They probably think I’m just a black dude, until they see deep into my soul and listen to my music. They see my energy, and they give credit where credit is due.” Although it’s a seemingly simple answer, GB’s response sparked insight and reflection for me as an observer of humanity. It’s true, we tend to stereotype artists based on what we see, and GB is a stunning example of breaking down those barriers.

One particular motif fans and listeners will notice in GB’s image is the use of the butterfly emoji in most of his posts and titles. He explains that the butterfly has significance to him because it symbolizes freedom and being comfortable in your own bubble. He says that he’s definitely more of an introvert, so he only tends to “pop out when necessary.” GB also describes that the butterfly symbolizes good energy and positivity- two virtues that I’ve noticed seem to radiate off of him.

Before we close our interview, I still have a couple of burning questions for GB2UNO. I ask him if he feels like he’s living a meaningful life, to which he replies, “Being on my own and so far from home can be devastating sometimes, but it’s the life I signed up for. You can’t really worry about having a lot on your plate when the goal was to eat, to begin with. I believe every day should be meaningful because when we will never get that time back once we are gone. So live every day to the fullest.”

Lastly, GB offers up some valuable advice for other budding musicians. He wants other artists to know that they should never give up, no matter how hard it gets. “I love leading by example,” he says, “I love showing younger artists that you don’t have to be afraid to be yourself. I want to be that good soul that bleeds positivity on every person. My passion is music and I’m set on that. My passion is love and beliefs.” 


You can listen to GB’s music on all of the following streaming platforms:

YouTube

Spotify

Google Play

Deezer

iHeart Radio

What We’re Listening to Right Now

New Year, New Beats. From the Analog team to you, this what we’re bopping to so far in 2020:


Fear Not Ourselves Alone

Punk/Alternative

Top tracks: “Void”, “Token”, “Transreal”

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“FNOA is the self-proclaimed ‘last punk band from Queens, NY.’ I found them through a Spotify autoplay fluke and fell in love with their sound. They very blatantly discuss topics such as being trans and how living in a body is hard, mental health, immigration/culture, etc. The personal subject matter is addressed head-on through the lyrics, and complemented by the sound and aesthetic. They perform live as either a group or in solo sets of just their lead vocalist/lyricist, Jorge Velez (both of which are a magical experience). They have two LPs; a self-titled album and ‘Gay Shame White Feelings,’ and just released a spoken poetry EP called ‘They Don’t Tell You To Think,’ which EVERYONE needs to go listen to.”  -MJ, Head Design Consultant & Staff Writer


Mumford and Sons

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Photo: New York Post

Folk Rock

Top tracks: “Little Lion Man”, “Guiding Light”, “I Will Wait”

“When I write or edit, I always listen to Mumford & Sons. They’re my favorite to listen to because of the slow beginnings of the songs, which usually reflect my motivation to write my own pieces. Then, as the songs go, the beat gets quicker and it reflects how my motivation rises as I work.” -Colleen, Head Editor


Kim Petras

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Photo: Dummy Mag

Dance-pop 

Top tracks: “Do Me” “I Don’t Want It At All”, “Icy”

“Oh my god, Lily has gotten me so into Kim Petras this season. I love that she’s so unapologetically herself and that she combines elements of sexuality and female power in her music. On top of that, her melodies are incredibly catchy. I’ve definitely been belting her songs in the shower these past few weeks. I have no shame.” -Sarah, Editor-in-Chief


Young M.A

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Photo: Billboard

Hip-hop

Top tracks: “Bleed”, “BIG”, “OOOUUU”

“Three years following her biggest hit “OOOUUU”, M.A has finally released her debut album. Twenty-one tracks reveal her experiences growing up in Brooklyn, relationships, acquiring wealth, and sexuality. Her identity and values are at the forefront of her lyricism. From the album name to the final track “PettyWap 2”, her wordplay is sharp and her beats are reminiscent of hip hop classics.” -Lily, Assistant Manager & Digital Content Manager


Tame Impala

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Photo: NME

Psychedelic Rock 

Top tracks: “Let it Happen”, “It Might Be Time”, “Borderline”

“I am really looking forward to Tame Impala’s new album ‘The Slow Rush’ dropping February 2020, so until then I’ve been listening to the pre-released singles that are only making me more excited for the big reveal. Tame Impala has always been a go-to for me; I am never not in the mood to listen to the unique psychedelic pop grooves. The singles “Borderline” and “It Might Be Time” have been on replay for me at the moment, as they’re somehow upbeat and mood-boosting yet relaxing at the same time. In my personal opinion, Tame Impala’s music is fantastic for me in times of anxiety for that reason. It’s calming without having a sad vibe.” -Alanis, staff writer


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Photo: The Irish Times

“At the moment I’ve been going through artists that I love but haven’t gotten the chance to listen to thoroughly. Lately, I’ve been going through Radiohead, Orville Peck, and The Car Seat Headrest from their oldest albums to newest. I love their content because each album is so unique and special to each artist in their own poetic way. They also produce amazing music videos, which I always appreciate.” -Abi, staff writer

Black Histories, Black Futures: What’s New at the MFA?

 

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From January 20, 2020, to June 20, 2021, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA will be showcasing its “Black Histories, Black Futures” exhibit to the public. In the past, the MFA has displayed other historical art exhibitions, such as “The “Rococo World of Francois Boucher” in 2017, and the “Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics” presentation, from late 2017 to mid-2018. However, the “Black Histories, Black Futures” display is different from the other intricate exhibitions of the past. For one thing, while past displays were usually showcased in the Ann and William Elfers Gallery, this upcoming exhibition will be displayed in several galleries throughout the entire museum. Additionally, this exhibit is curated by teenagers as a part of the MFA’s new partnership with local youth empowerment organizations. These curators, who are members of the youth empowerment group Becoming a Man (BAM), have worked seasonably to put together all elements of this exhibit. From conception to execution, Boston’s youth played a substantial role in the making of this project, and it’s an achievement to be celebrated. 

“Black Histories, Black Futures,” which celebrates Black histories and experiences, proudly spotlights the works of several 20th-century artists of color. While many of these artists are well-known in art culture, such as Archibald Motley and Norman Lewis, there are also several fresh faces being brought to prominence in this exhibit. Visitors and guests will be delighted by the works of Loïs Mailou Jones, an SMFA graduate; and Allan Rohan Crite, a longtime Boston resident.

According to the MFA website, this upcoming exhibit will be divided into four sections, with each section representing a different theme. The first theme, “Ubuntu: I am Because You Are”, focuses on images of leisure activities and daily community life. “Welcome to the City” takes a more intimate approach to urban scenes through both paintings and photographs, capturing the gritty beauty of the city. “Normality Facing Adversity” and “Smile in the Dark” explore the concept of being oneself, and more importantly, what that means on an intrapersonal scale. 

With a wide variety of styles, textures, artists, and mediums, “Black Histories, Black Futures” promises to bring a fresh air of electricity to the Museum of Fine Arts. The inclusion of teen curators is an additional innovative element to the exhibit, and more importantly, sheds light on the representation of youth in the arts.

Further reading: https://www.mfa.org/exhibition/black-histories-black-futures?utm_source=press&utm_medium=press-materials&utm_campaign=ex-black-histories

(Photos courtesy of Mike Tom, Public Relations Associate for the MFA)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Anxiety

I vividly remember my feelings towards Christmas presents when I was a kid. I remember feeling simultaneously excited and uneasy, what I later began to realize is straight up anxiety. 

Someone once told me the difference between anxiety and nervousness is that “anxiety” is being nervous but feeling excited about the possibilities, and “nervousness” is being nervous but feeling frightened or scared of the consequences (I wish I could punch this person in the face for using the word they are defining in the definition).

I thought this was the truth for years, as kids are susceptible to believing anything they are told, much like I believed “gender” and “sex” were interchangable for years until I learned about queer theory, and how my child mother thought rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover did the same thing and told everyone she knew until she was 12 and someone told her otherwise.

I learned general “anxiety” can be excitement mixed with nervousness. However, instead of anxious at this point, I like to think “nervously chomping at the bit”. The way I thought about it was that I was “anxious” when I was behind the curtain at a childhood dance recital; uneasy in the moments leading up to the performance but just because I was pumped to absolutely kill my routine in my poofy red and black/white checkered tutu. The way I thought about “nervous” was the butterflies and worms in my stomach in the minutes before a test that I know I studied for but knew was still going to be hard. I remember for either of these stomach-churning feelings I would feel an immediate sense of relief when the event causing the feelings was over. I didn’t know there were adult definitions that I would have to relearn later, and that these feelings would sit around longer, and sometimes for no reason at all.

I remember feeling nervous about the expectations of Christmas present giving. Specifically because this was the one time of the year there was a double-sided anxiety sword. You weren’t just Giving, like on someone else’s birthday, or Receiving, like on your birthday, but now both. “Double the chances for doom,” as my tiny eyes saw it.

It’s as if we were groomed as children to learn how to dance through this odd ritual. You purchase, or make something for someone you love, and then open things your loved ones purchased for you based on what they assume you need, like, or would use.

However, if you receive something from someone that you are not happy with, you must put on your best show and pretend that you are elated to have received it. Simultaneously, you want the other people to enjoy the things you got for them “out of the kindness of your heart” (the necessity to reciprocate due to social norms and potential guilt), and it’s cool to see them enjoy the items they open.

At 7, I started thinking, “Wait… if I have to pretend that I like something…. Who’s to say that everyone else isn’t just making the same surprised and excited faces I’ve been trained to make? If I’m 7 and can act well enough, surely the ancient people around me must be pros because they’ve had eons of practice.”

I think that’s the first instance of having actual anxiety that I can remember.

Because, here’s the thing. Who cares if they are pretending? I understood (and still understand) the purpose of needing to save face for both you and the bad gift-giver by showing a couple white lie facial expressions and saying vague things like “Thank you so much! This was so thoughtful of you!” You know, things that aren’t specific enough to be falsehoods. Every time I’ve received a present I wasn’t fond of or didn’t use, my brain didn’t criticize or chastise the gift-giver. And to be honest, even if I did, it would have absolutely no bearing on their life, besides a couple bucks lost from their bank account and a little less gas in their car, which is really neither here nor there.

That’s what my logical brain tells me, and then my anxiety brain slowly turns around and pulls logical brain up to its face with its shirt gripped in its sweaty hand, red and flustered. “That’s what YOU think, but we don’t know what they think! They are probably thinking about you right now, and what a horrible gift you gave them. You should have known better than to have gotten them that! Because of this blunder they will think you don’t care and next time they are around you if they so much as don’t look at you right we’re going to not be able to breathe and need to go to the bathroom for several minutes too long for a piss or a shit; just enough to make you seem like a fucking weirdo. Enough to have someone say ‘boy, that was a long time, everything okay in there?’ Now not only are you ‘bad gift-giver’, you’re ‘takes too long in the bathroom person’. All that’s gonna be on that person’s mind for the next hour is going to be how weird you are for taking that long. That’s two people in this room who hate you, you wanna try for three?

 

It is so ridiculously exhausting to have the constant “ask your mom/ask your dad” cycle of your anxiety telling you everyone is always thinking about you, and your depression telling you that no one would ever actually take the time to do that because no one cares about you enough. A carousel of perceived narcissism and low self-worth, a ride I would love to but can’t dismount.

Then there comes the constant internal questioning of whether or not your acting passes the test of “believable”. I am not emmy-nominated by any means; I actually have had a hard time lying about anything since I was a baby, still do. I’m already exhausted just thinking about how exhausting it is to fake happiness for someone else, so much so that I’m either going to come back to it, or just not write this section. I may let you use your imagination or pull from your memory bank of experiences.

This paints the picture that I was an ungrateful or anxiety-ridden child. This is quite the opposite. I am incredibly grateful for everything I’ve ever received, good, bad, or in-between, because someone put in the effort to give it to me in the first place, and that is more than enough. I was truthfully mentally pretty unburdened, until around the age of 15. This was just something that I thought about now, as a concept, as an adult, with a hindsighted perspective. I never understood the intricacies of this specific social situation, truthfully I still don’t fully. But who can say that they fully understand anything? No one, not even the guy who invented it.

Regardless, I always thought of these states of unease as a temporary feeling. It’s crazy as an adult to reflect on those very clear, very definitive thoughts you had, and to realize that you wish you were still wrong. I wish I still thought they were temporary, I wish the excitement stayed past the nervousness of a great event, and I wish the fear would find its way to the exit, as the bugs in my tummy settled down, as my fight-or-flight instinct eased. Maybe that’s why I always have heartburn, because they’re trying to get out, and I just need to open my mouth.

I have felt in a constant state of fight-or-flight for years now. In a constant state of paranoia, fear, and anxiety. I have never been clinically diagnosed for anything but physical ailments. I always relished in the fact that I was obviously depressed but “did NOT have anxiety”.

I laugh at this now, because I am clearly the most anxious person, but just passively so. It’s not a great weighing presence on my mind, it’s like background static on a radio that gets out clear lines of dialogue at the strangest of times.

I’ll go to a concert by myself and suddenly the constant “chhhhhhhhhhhhhh” noise clearly says “They’re all looking at you because you’re alone” and then it goes fuzzy again. It’s when I’m asking for help on a project at work and another edit is asked to be made and the grey noise turns into a black and white “It’s you, they hate you and don’t just need a change made because of another reason” and back to grey. Fortunately, my logic brain works out a lot more and eats a bunch more spinach than my anxious brain, so he kicks the other’s ass most days.

I have certain reasons I’m rightfully anxious about specific things, but most of them are easy enough to brush off and justify by thinking “Everyone just thinks like this. Everyone has these doubts or thoughts.” Other things, I inherently know are dumb. I know my mom loves every piece of art I make her for the holidays, it’s in her face. I know I showed that I loved the Ferris Bueller t-shirt my dad got me, it was in my tears that streamed on sight when I saw the logo emerge from beneath the crinkled paper. I know when one of my family members isn’t exactly delighted by something generic, like a candle or some candy or something. But I also know they will light it, and eat it, respectively, regardless, because they love me and aren’t thinking any of the things I think they are.

(Or are they…?)

 

 

On the Rise: New England’s Indie Scene with Antonio Gonzalez

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By Sarah Desroche

A Massachusetts native, Antonio Gonzalez, has been spending the last six years of his life developing a professional music career. This Spotify-verified artist prides himself on incorporating folk, indie, and alternative rock into his songs, in which he pens himself as a singer-songwriter. Now, he’s studying music at Monmouth University in New Jersey, with ambitions to further his prosperous career as a musical artist.

Q: How would you classify your specific musical genre?

A: “I’d probably say it’s a mix of a lot of different genres, honestly. It’s hard to pin down because I take inspiration from many musicians whose music spans a wide variety of styles.” 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal background, where you come from, what drives your inspiration, etc.

A: “I’m from northern Massachusetts, last town before New Hampshire. I spent a lot of time traveling through New England as a kid and taking in what the states had to offer. I think what drives me is a kind of pseudo expectation of myself. Sort of like, “This is what I can do today but I should be able to do better tomorrow.” it keeps me in check, almost. It’s about doing, not  saying.”

Q: Who were your favorite musicians growing up?

A: “I spent many days driving with my mom when I was young and she made mixtapes for these trips. Notably, I really loved Maroon 5, Pink, The Beatles, Sarah McLoughlin, and a bunch of others. My dad loved jazz and classical music, so I really got an eclectic mix of music to grow up with.”

Q: Did growing up in a small town have any substantial influence on your artistry?

A: “I don’t think so. I was always determined to do what I wanted and I’ve never really been a fan of outside influence when it comes to creative work. I love collaborative work, but when it comes to the initial creation of music, I think that’s an extremely personal thing. Even if someone’s music isn’t “successful”, I’d prefer that over some less personal offerings.”

Q: When was the turning point in your life that you decided to pursue music? Was it a sudden epiphany, or a growing ambition that developed over time?

A: “After my first concert, I really wanted to do something could unite people across different backgrounds, but I didn’t think music was what I wanted to do until much later. I don’t think it was an epiphany or a slow burn decision, either. When I started playing music and writing songs I kind of said, “Well I can do this pretty well, and it satisfies the need to bring people together,” so I started taking it more seriously.”

Q: Was there ever a moment that you doubted yourself and your dreams? If so, how did you deal with that adversity?

A: “Pretty much every day. I spend a lot of time listening to music and being surrounded by really high-quality musicians and inevitably I compare myself to them. I just have to remind myself that as artists: we all specialize in something different, so what one person excels at might not be my strong suit, while what I’m good at is where somebody else struggles.”

Q: What obstacles have you overcome along the way, personally and musically?

A: “It’s hard to balance life and education with the pursuit of a career in music. I typically have so much to do in a day that it becomes hard to schedule a little time every day to practice or write. I struggle with mental health issues, so there are days where I’m totally motivated like, “Yeah, let’s kick some ass today!” and then there are others like, “I’m getting my ass kicked today.” It’s tough to find time to take care of myself and everything else.” 

Q: What drives the inspiration behind your lyrics, your melodies, and your artistry?

A: “In terms of imagery, I write about what I see or feel. Sometimes I’ll write about how nice everything is, and other times I’ll write more about the chaos of the world. My goal is to write music that has “defined lyrical meaning”, yet anyone can listen to it and have an idea about what it means. I want to create something universal, not so much something with a single meaning.”

Q: Where do you do most of your creating? (In a studio, your bedroom, etc)

A: “When it comes to the actual music, most of that comes from sitting at home and playing around on the guitar. Sometimes when I have an idea and I’m not home with an instrument, I open up voice memos and record a little melody to work on later. Most of my lyrics come from just observing what’s going on around me. Sometimes I’ll be watching the news and think of a lyric, or on a walk, or listening to a speech, or reading. I try to find inspiration everywhere I am to diversify the music I write.”

Q: Do you believe that New England’s folk/indie scene is unique compared to the rest of the world? Why or why not?

A: “I think the unique part of these genres is that they’re relatively niche. So if you fall into listening to a lot of them, your musical community isn’t restricted to your physical location. You can go from small-town Massachusetts to big-city California and still find people who like what you like and connect with music in the same vein.”

Q: What are your current projects, and what are your ambitions for the future?

A: “Recently I released an EP called ‘You’ll Be Fine’, which is available on all streaming services. It was a long time in the making and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came and helped turn an idea into a result. I’m also planning on recording two singles before the spring and releasing them everywhere as well. My hope is that I can really build a community of listeners and connect with them with more and more music.”

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to other budding musicians?

A: “Definitely just don’t stop. Whatever your instrument, style, lyricism may be, don’t stop working. You will get discouraged, you will find it hard to get better, you will lose motivation, but in the face of all that, just keep making music. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day, do it. Because eventually you’ll find your motivation again and you’ll take everything you’ve done and make it even better.”

You can stream Antonio Gonzalez’ newest EP release, “You’ll Be Fine”, on Spotify, or follow him on Instagram at @santiago_keyes.

She Wears Many Hats

Professor and independent artist Catherine Graffam discuss teaching, being an artist, and life advice. 

By Abi Brown


Catherine Graffam, a professor at Lasell University is very involved with the art community in and around Boston. She is also certified on Twitter as Girl Fieri.
*Not an original photograph

So what kind of involvement do you take part in on campus? 

I’d say my involvement is relatively minimal outside of like helping specific students who are in my classes. But,  I am becoming a faculty advisor for a club that I think is starting this semester for embroidery, and that’s really exciting so I’m super stoked to be on board with that. 

So is teaching your only job? 

No, it is not.

What else do you?

So I wear many hats… I have my own painting art career, I teach, and then also I am an exhibitions manager at a gallery, I’m an expressions manager at Gallery263 which is an art gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What do you like most about it, and what do you like most about being a professor here?

For me, having a professor or a teacher to really help me and inspire me and really take me under their wing during college was so instrumental and helpful for me to grow my own career and passion for art. I want to be that for the next generation because that is super important to me. 

What is something you maybe wish your students would get more involved with?

Everything! Extracurriculars, really utilizing your time here, going to the library, go to a club. You don’t appreciate how much resources you have access to while you’re in college until you’re gone. I definitely did not utilize so many resources and I regret it, hardcore. I guilt myself because I’m like why am I not taking advantage of like free yoga and there’s like a free gym and I don’t take advantage of that. That would be the thing. 

Do you have any advice on how a student could get more involved with the arts on and off-campus?

Yes, definitely. So there’s the gallery on campus that often has shows where they ask students to participate with their art and anybody can submit to those. So you can get into an exhibition and that’s a really great way to start. One of my former students is starting an embroidery club because she found passion in that and that was like a great way to continue on campus. Off-campus I would say Boston has so many great museums and art galleries. Just going to them is like super beneficial, even if you’re not going to be an artist, you won’t regret going to art museums. Also, you have free access to them, another great resource in college. Otherwise, I would say you can make art to heal yourself and nurture yourself. You should do the things that you’re passionate about and nurture you creatively and utilize social media, make a website, that’s where I got my start. Start branding yourself. That sounds terrible, so like getting your artwork out now before you’re out of college and you’re like shit, I could have been doing this for the past four years. 

Do you have anything else you want to add or talk about an interesting tidbit?

Advice would be… utilize your class time and make an assignment something for your personal career growth, and put the assignment somewhere else. For instance, at my art gallery, we have an art journal where anyone can submit reviews of any writing topic about art in Boston that they want to write about. So if you ever want to write something for the website for the gallery, like interviewing an artist or something you can literally do that and I will help you with that… Professors are here to help you, that’s why we’re here. We want to see each student succeed to their full potential.