The art of storytelling can take on many forms: poetry, music, film, oral traditions, photography all aid in telling a story. Brik.Liam, a singer, songwriter, and graphic designer based in Atlanta, GA, uses multiple [artistic] platforms to reach fans and listeners. Ahead of his performance at this weekend's A3C Festival, I caught up with the multi-faceted artist to discuss the art of storytelling, having a DJ's mentality as a singer, how artists can address issues of social justice, and more. Here's our conversation:
You once posted on your Instagram a picture of your name in braille, and the caption read, "I want to be felt...more than I wanna be heard..." That's powerful. What is your approach to storytelling; in making sure your felt more than you are heard?
Brik.Liam i am a firm believer that to get all there is out of life, one must be their authentic self. being completely authentic takes a vulnerability like no other, especially in art. cause you're putting it on display. and if you're being vulnerable in your authenticity and truth you'll find many who can relate and connect directly to those same thoughts, feelings and questions. and in my opinion that's what all forms of art is about. displaying and shedding light on your experience to help the next person help the next person and so on.
What role do visual aesthetics play in your music?
Brik.Liam everything lol. especially when my goal is to be a great storyteller. music should be able to give a visual. even if no words are involved. certain chords make you think of certain colors and images. when i use my lower register, it gives a certain imagery, same with my falsetto, when i'm belting etc. all those things give a certain visual in ones head. my goal is usually to write a song that i easily see a visual for. a story. it's usually easier for me cause i usually write from real experiences. so it's almost like the real-life visual inspires the music and then music inspires a dream-like visual.
"certain chords make you think of certain colors and images. when i use my lower register, it gives a certain imagery, same with my falsetto, when i'm belting etc. all those things give a certain visual in ones head."
Stanley That’s absolutely true. I remember watching a Jimi Hendrix documentary and he said something similar -- about how he saw colors when he played as opposed to chords shapes, notes, etc. I think that's really a gift to be able to visualize your music, and it helps the listener, too.
Can you talk a little about your graphic designing and music, and how they influence each other?
i don't think it's so much about them influencing each other, but more about them complimenting each other. - before my following started picking up i was attaching visuals [pictures/videos] to covers and music i had been doing. all on my own. just to do it. just cause it's what i saw in my head. looking back now, the quality wasn't great, but the concepts were what i wanted exactly, lol. but i very often sit back and listen and watch old performances and creative visuals that i've done, to appreciate the fact that i was brave enough to do exactly what i saw and heard in my head. most people are afraid of looking stupid or they make excuses but i am a firm believer that everything we need to accomplish our dreams is inside of us, we just gotta operate in it regardless of obstacles. - i've also witnessed how consistent visual builds branding ...and at this day in time ...people make branding almost more important than the music, so i've been fighting to find that balance while enjoying how simple branding [on accident, most times] works for me.
You started a hashtag campaign of sorts on social media -- #cre8daily -- what was the inspiration behind that?
it's means several things to me. but mainly to encourage others to LITERALLY create every time they get a chance. in doing so, one: you're guaranteed to grow in your gifts. two: it shifts your focus off of things you really don't need to be focused on.
i started spreading that because i began to see great results and responses from actually doing that. you accomplish so much making it a goal to really try to work out the visions that appear in your head. it doesn't always start off perfect but eventually it comes together. but it can't be great if it's never been bad sometimes. so you really have to be willing and unafraid to make those first, second, third... steps.
Stanley That's powerful, and I couldn't agree more. That's something I'm learning as well -- to create and to simply try no matter what.
I was listening to your project Still With Love, Brik where basically took the lyrics/melody of some familiar songs and rearranged the chord progressions. What was the inspiration for that project?
Brik.Liam my inspiration was cre8ing daily. i hadn't released any music in a while. and i wanted to save all my original work for my next project, which is coming later. - and i simply didn't want to simply be covering songs. i wanted to be creative in the process. so basically making covers sound like something new, so people will hear something fresh and nostalgic at the same time. plus one of favorite things to do in live shows is to mash-up songs or make medleys. kinda in comparison [but not as deep] as a dj knowing records to mix. i just love getting the that same reaction as dj’s do. people couldn't really see a black male singing a songs where he's merging britney spears, phill collins, bobby vinton, jeff buckley, journey with songs from stevie wonder, beyoncé, michael jackson, janet jackson... like it so much music in my head. lol and it's a great variety, so i just wanted to display that.
Stanley Man, that project is great, and its fresh spin on familiar songs. I hear something new each time I listen to it. You've got a pretty wide musical and artisticpalette.
Who are some of your influences? (Visually, vocally, musically)
Brik.Liam im influenced by soooo many people. my writing shifted kinda when I wasintroduced to frank ocean and jhene aiko. but other than my writing, musically i go thru stages. where im obsessed with an artist and then kinda form a new ear with all that's been embedded. so, over time it's heavily been brandy, her vocal approach, placement, control and the way she emotes. and if i mention brandy, whitney houston is added cause much of what she has was embedded by the grey whitney houston. musiq soulchild was a big turning point for me. i was raised strictly in gospel, but when i first got a sneak peek of his soulstar album, everything just changed. it introduced me and made me fall in love with soul music. he has range and his arrangements and ear is so amazing, people don't even recognize that. dangelo! he's king. beyoncé [really in her destiny’s child days] they heavily influenced my harmonizing skills, as well as brandy. i don't think beyoncé gets enough credit for her musicality. i listen to jazz a lot now. gretchen parlato and carolyn perteete [indie artist] i listen to them constantly. and will forever do that. and i am obsessed with everything that is emily king. the sound and the entertainer that she is just does it for me. - everything about marvin gaye. like everything. i've watched so many biographies and seen many similarities between him and myself. he even shares the same name as my biological father, who i've never met. i just feel a strong connection to him.
You've been pretty vocal about social justice, racism, and police brutality. As an artist, what role do you think art plays in addressing these issues, and hopefully coming to some solutions?
Brik.Liam i think the biggest issue we face is actually facing the issues. being able to get everyone on one accord and actually call these happenings issues. music and art plays an important part, because it presents the topic without shoving it down people's throat. it's not as threatening and sometimes it's very threatening. but art doesn't allow you to deny the issues, it helps you swallow the pill. - my prayer is that it all heals. i have a new project coming soon and a few songs address a few different issues. just want to make people aware who aren't or try to act like they don't exist. sigh. it can be very draining tho. cause you can't really fathom how anyone can ignore the issues, but that's the climate of the human race right now. very passive or passive-agressive. smh
"...but art doesn't allow you to deny the issues, it helps you swallow the pill."
Stanley This is so true, I agree wholeheartedly! Art -- via whichever medium -- forces you to challenge beliefs, has the ability to make you aware of an issue, but ultimately - like you said - helps you to digest the problem, and hopefully makes you move on that issue.
You can follow Brik.Liam on Instagram @Brik.Liam and on Twitter @BrikLiam
Watch Brik.Liam's video "Shine" here: