A letter to those who’ve come this far:
Hi. I’m Lev. And I’ve been scared of sharing music my whole life.
I guess I've been scared of sharing anything my whole life. Even this is scary. A lot of my hesitance probably comes from being so shy as a kid. Shy enough that my own parents had no idea I could sing until I was 16 or 17. The first time they heard me sing was the same night everyone else I knew did. My high school held an open mic every year after final exams, and that year (2013) I decided I'd join the ranks. My friends Sam, Christian, Chloe and I got a band together and rehearsed just enough to hack it, but when I got home I'd practice for hours. I sang that song over and over again in my room for weeks before the night of the open mic. I was so nervous that I had to do laps in the hallways around the theater for 20 minutes before I went on. They called me to the stage and my heart was in my throat right up until the moment we started the song. Something about taking that first breath to sing that first note calmed me entirely. I like beginnings. That was my beginning.
But somewhere in my years of camouflage I ended up developing this mentality that "the less I shared, the more valuable my sharing." I idolized artists who seemed to feel the same. Frank Ocean releasing albums every 4-5 years was fascinating to me. D’Angelo going off the grid for 14 years was even more. The projects they did release were so coveted by their audiences that I thought surely the same ought to apply to me. I probably chose to ignore the fact that they had successful careers poised toward releasing significant volumes of music in place already before becoming the “mysteries” I so valued them to be. And I ignored the reasons they detached themselves from the spotlight. But still I imagined myself much like the two of them, and when I didn’t share music cause I was scared or insecure or just didn’t have any written, I justified it with those artists in mind. I was the secretive one. I was deeply valued. I didn’t speak much, but when I did, I spoke volumes. I made strange choices, but artistic ones. I was the one people asked to perform; I never performed first. And I was convinced.
So over the course of many years the mentality solidified and, in time, challenged me. In high school, outside my few open mics, I almost didn’t perform at all. I got into my dream school, Berklee College of Music, but I took pride in my solitude. I wrote alone, I performed either alone or as the leader of my own band, and I wouldn’t under any circumstances perform unless I was asked. I was the late-adolescent male equivalent of that drunk mom at the party who waits to be begged before performing her old musical theater routine for everyone.
I never expressed any of it, but I could hear the voices in the back of my head tearing down the other kids at school. They were all too interested in “sharing” and “collaboration.” I jeered cause I knew I’d be successful and they’d never fulfill their dreams. This is what insecurity looks like. It is not timid, it is not unassuming, it is not quiet. It is brash and loud and narcissistic.
All this came to a head in the summer of 2017, when I was forced to reconcile two worlds that felt entirely alien to me. One was the plan I had for myself, the view I had of myself. The other was my reality. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t successful in the terms I’d defined for myself, I didn’t really even know what I wanted, I wasn’t writing, and on top of it all, I was alone. And I was alone because I’d chosen to be alone. Because alone, in my head, meant imminent success. And when being alone didn’t make me successful, my whole world crashed down on top of me. I was anxious and depressed and I’d fall into panicked spirals every night before I went to bed, or every morning when I woke up, or every time I went to practice, or every time I got home to my apartment. I suddenly had no faith in my being successful at all. For the first time in my life, I really didn’t think I could do it. After not knowing how to talk about it for months I finally told my girlfriend the panic attacks felt like I was spiraling toward a black void and I couldn’t stop the falling no matter what I did. I broke down on the phone with my mom after weeks of not talking to her or practically anyone else, and she told me to come home.
I went home.
Looking back, being depressed was a recalibration for me. The depression was my world view returning to equilibrium after a long time out of balance. It’s hard to say I’m thankful for it. I’m not sure I am. For a few years after that summer, every time the weather got warm I’d feel the feeling again. I think my brain associated the two. I hated it. After I came back from my trip home, I was better but the band-aid couldn’t quite cover the whole wound. I still didn’t have the skill set to deal with any of it and didn’t know how to make it go away. I’d have moments of clarity, but overall life was very blurry for a year or so. Days melted together but weeks and months disappeared in a flash. Every time I fell into bed at night it was like I had just done so a minute before.
Recovery, unsurprisingly, was in the one thing I was always too scared to do: share. Expose myself. Be vulnerable. I began to write with others, and I was humbled by their talent. I did co-writing camps and classes and I met the people that would stay in my life for years. I began to perform for others as a background singer or guitar player and helped realize someone else’s vision. I started singing in front of people like it was a normal thing to do, because it is a normal thing to do. I started writing for myself again and letting others write for me. I talked about how my day went and I told my roommates what I was angry about or scared of. I fell more in love and I got new friends. It was a slow climb, but an upward climb.
Despite all that unlearning, my initial vision for myself became reality this year. I didn’t release music for over 4 years. It all came true. The mythos, the lone wolf thing, all of it. I was the one who didn’t say much. I was the artist I'd always wanted to be. But it never quite felt like I'd hoped. It only ever felt like I’d lied to myself and to the people I loved.
So all this to say, this year ~ 2020 ~ I’m releasing music again for the first time. And this time, under just Lev. I’m releasing it for the kid who thinks he has to hide, and for the kid who feels like she can't share out of her own initiative without burdening others. I’m releasing it for the bits of insecurity that still live within me every day, telling me I’m not enough, or the music’s not enough, or this song needs another month of work, or another round of mixing. I’m releasing it knowing it doesn’t matter if it’s enough. Knowing there’s room for me in the world, and room for you too.
A Year Underwater EP, coming 2021.
I really hope you like it x