When I was younger, I never really felt like I fit in with the kids around me. No matter how hard I tried I always felt like an outsider — isolated and irrevocably different. I hated that. It tore me up inside. I wanted nothing more than to be one of them, to laugh like they did, to think like they did, to be what they were. By the time I started high school I was doing everything I could to be one of them. The boys were all strong and played sports. I started playing baseball and going to the gym. They made terrible jokes and I laughed even though I didn’t think they were funny and they all wore the coolest shoes so I did, too. Everyday I’d wake up hoping it wouldn’t be the day everyone around me finally noticed I wasn’t like them. I was a fraud and a fake and I never felt comfortable.
Through all of that, though, a few things remained core to who I was. I had been drawing and painting for as long as I could remember. That never left me. So, even though it wasn’t the cool thing to do, I signed up for freshman art that year. My teacher ended up being an amazing woman, Ms. Lori Warren. She, perhaps more than anyone else, helped me realize how valuable a strong, artistic perspective could be and how cool being a little bit different really was.
Our first assignment in her class that year was to create a self portrait. She asked us to go home, take a photo of ourselves with our phones and bring it in the next day. We were going to create collages. I’ve always been really afraid of photos of myself. They make me feel incredibly self conscious. So, instead of simply taking a standard photo, I spent hours coming up with a way to creatively cover my face. I ended up with a really cool portrait. I wore a dark hood and ominously laid my hands in a design across my skull. I was really excited about it. I charged confidently into her class the next day, portrait in hand. She loved it. She told me how much she appreciated my creative approach and how much she liked the image. It was a big moment for me. All my life I had been so afraid to go out on a limb, to create things as different as I felt. The rest of the class brought in normal photographs. I brought in something crazy. And she applauded me for it.
That moment, and so many others like it in Ms. Warren’s class, changed my life forever. She changed my life. I am who I am today because of her. She taught me that it was okay to be me, that there was value in being different. She taught me to think on a high level — that being smart wasn’t uncool, it was the greatest thing you could be. She taught me never to create without a purpose and to always have a reason. It was the beginning of everything — freshman art at American Heritage High School.
My music, and everything I do now, all leads back to those lessons. I work hard to create passionately and with care. I do everything I can to make sure every graphic, every lyric, every note and every show is the absolute best it can be because that is what excites me most. Delivering excellence to as many people as possible, anyone willing to listen. It’s not about money or success. It is about taking pride in what I do. Loving who I am fully and completely and loving the work I do just the same. I’ll never again pretend to be something I am not. I’ll give you all of me, and only me, for as long as I can. Unabashed and unashamed, I am Brother Sundance and Brother Sundance is me. It’s not a character, it’s not a cloak. It’s not something I hide behind. It’s my life’s work. And I could not be prouder of it.