How a Loop Station Saved My Life - Fighting Depression with Music and Purpose
“Purpose is the opposite of depression,” is a proverb said many times by Cathy Heller on her incredible podcast Don't Keep Your Day Job that I listen to weekly. In light of other advice from the show, I'm going to open up about where Ki5 and the attached music came from and reflect on my journey through feeling lost and hopeless.
Performing groups defined my high school and college pastimes including a cappella, orchestra and dancing, but that all took a turn when I moved 400 miles away from my Ann Arbor, Michigan home after graduating and found myself with a respectable software job and without a music community. I dreamed of performing and writing vocal arrangements for groups again and though I sent music back to my college group, Michigan State University’s State of Fifths, I was still left dying to release more of my own creativity that felt bottled up and mostly unused.
When I was 24, my mother passed away - only 8 months into my new "adult" life far from home and I felt completely lost. Having also lost my father at 11, I became depressed and felt anxious as I questioned both why I moved so far away in the first place and my place in this world. Without parental guiding light and wisdom being a phone call or drive away, I experienced a challenging period of grief that happened to coincide with when my job asked more of me than ever. I have to credit the community of individuals who lived near me at the time for helping keep me afloat on those difficult days as I was unable to find meaning in what I was doing on my own in my personal and professional life.
Since I was working a job that wasn’t creatively fulfilling, I knew I had to turn to music to learn to live well again. It was then I stumbled upon a video of a looper using a BOSS RC-505 (aka 505) which was the first time in a long time I felt excited about what music technology could do for me.
Upon purchasing this incredibly powerful, versatile loop station, I immediately began releasing rhythms of my soul whilst soothing the anxiety I felt and slowly lifting the cloud of depression I’d gotten used to. As I built songs from scratch and made vibrant, pleasant riffs I could improvise over and groove to, I felt freedom again. I felt the light that accompanies passion returning. I felt like I was growing as opposed to withering or stagnating and all of a sudden I had compassion to share again like I did performing in high school and college.
With the help of the 505, over the next 4 year period I turned the pain of loss into a capacity for expressing empathy. My friend’s living room became my first stage with the loop station in the spring of 2015 with five people and a guitar amp. Those in attendance graciously gave me their attention, applause and feedback that I both took in stride and applied to the next living room show. I didn't quite know it yet, but that's when I became Ki5.
Fast-forward to June 29th of this year where I performed at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival: Top of the Park as “Ki5 - Live Vocal Looper” for a couple hundred people excited to see someone doing something with music that was fresh, invigorating and honest. Same person as the living room, same loop station, better speakers. It felt like an appropriate rite of passage to hang my hat on as a native, but getting there took a great community around me (that's most likely you - thanks!) and application of everything I'd learned so far.
A cappella taught me to sing my truth. Orchestra taught me both listening and harmony. Dancing taught me confident physical expression. I’ve needed all of them plus a healthy understanding of my own fears to carve my place in the local scene now that I’ve moved back where I grew up.
The 505 was the missing puzzle piece that revived my ability to feel like myself and stirred me to explore both what was in my mind and new ways to play with sound. The 505 gave me purpose again; it lifted me out of depression and forever changed my life. For that, I’ll always be grateful.
Now, I want to serve as someone who inspires people to feel the freedom and pulse of life through listening to a refined composition of their own sounds.
I want people to sense the electricity on their fingertips and through their whole body when they make good music.
I want to lift people up and let them create the way they were meant to.
That, to me, is a purpose worth living for.