Interview: MASSIVESAD keeps the Balance no matter what currents await

Sitting down with us and letting us profoundly within his brave art which illumes many to carry on despite the carnage, MASSIVESAD opens us up and tells us all about Austin, Balance, staying healthy mentally, and his upcoming full LP concept record.

Llewelyn: Hi MASSIVESAD, we are super happy you’re chatting with us today. First, when you close your eyes and imagine your ideal sound and audience, what does it sound/look like?

MASSIVESAD: When my eyes are closed, a little grin starts to creep onto my face, because I can see an audience of people who grew up loving and finding new music that they discovered in films. So much of my favorite and deepest sonic influences come from filmscores or soundtracks (especially from “Remember the Titans” or “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”) and so my music has taken on a cinematic nature of expression that makes the listener feel like each song of mine that they hear sort of tips their life (or at least the moment) over into the climax of the “film.” I imagine my songs being those that play when the plot turns and the characters start to make sense of their surroundings. I think my audience will be the kind of person who feels that they are living inside of a movie, and that my music is a soundtrack that helps them to get wherever they’re going. And … when I open my eyes, I do think that I’m starting to see that take shape !

Llewelyn: Alright. Let’s get into your new single called Balance. How did you first conceptualise this release and what is the meaning of it? Also, who was involved in the project and who do you hope this single reaches?

MASSIVESAD: “Balance” is the fifth “Chapter” in the concept record that I’ve been writing and releasing one song at a time since February 2020. The whole concept tells the story of mental breakdown and total burnout … essentially the path from what I’ve dubbed, “Breakdown to Brilliance.” “Balance” finds us in the middle of that story, well after the initial tremors of burnout have shaken everything up and set listeners (and me, as a sort of guide or narrator) on the path toward healing, and ultimately joy. “Balance” is the chapter that explores the question of, “How do we find balance when life feels uncertain and rocky? How do we pursue or engage in relationships when we feel unstable, mentally and emotionally? How do we compartmentalize (healthily) all the different “lives” we feel we live when our life feels like it’s been turned on its head? How do we seek balance as we do the hard work of travelling the road from sorrow to joy, especially when it’s difficult and uneven ground?” So, now that we have “Balance” (Chapter 5), we can begin to parse through the answers to those questions and continue to make headway toward a more sustainable mental health, lifestyle and relationships.

Llewelyn: You’re based in Austin, Texas. What’s the scene like there as we’ve heard such great things? Where are some of your favourite local spots to watch live music at?

MASSIVESAD: I’ve gotten to become embedded in a really great scene of singer-songwriters here in Austin. We call our group “Hoboglabotribin” … and also, affectionately, “The Hobo Boys.” We’re just a small handful of artists dedicated to spurring one another on as we all work as hard as possible to achieve our creative goals and visions. When one of us is feeling worn down and discouraged, there’s the rest of us to lend a shoulder and encourage us. When we need help preparing for shows or help promoting new songs, we all jump in as the frontline of the fanclub and support group. We’re all trying to be one another’s biggest fans and encouragers. Everyone needs that, no matter how independent they are. And, especially as literal, independent artists, we need that much more support. We’ve established a really solid community of comradery and it’s been a huge help to me since moving to Austin. Locally, we love Hole in the Wall and The Spiderhouse Ballroom for shows!

Llewelyn: You courageously speak about burnout and mental breakdown in your music. This is such a major issue in modern-day society. What do you feel is the cure to these issues and how can our readers make sure they’re staying healthy mentally in such a rush-filled world?

MASSIVESAD: I could write a book trying to answer this question. I think the most important thing is to be honest in recognizing how often discomfort or frustration or disappointment or bitterness or so many other emotions that accompany burnout might actually be just this small, vulnerable seed of sadness deep down inside of each one of us. When I realized that all the stressors and negative emotions were just the outpouring and expression of pure sadness within me, then I was finally able to address that sadness and choose how to move toward joy from THAT space. MASSIVESAD is that portal for me. It’s like a gate. MASSIVESAD is where I discovered that under everything, all the armor that sadness had dressed itself in, I was able to begin to understand the “why” behind my sadness and then treat it like a wound that needed protection, dressing and nurturing. For me, burnout and breakdown came from a really palpable sense of disappointment and frustration surrounding how my life was panning out, so when I got to the very core, where that sadness was fending for itself, I was able to then join in the good fight for my own joy and growth. Slowing down and taking the time and space to pinpoint that sadness can make a profound difference on how we approach and step into the future. I hope MASSIVESAD creates a safe space for people to do that work.

Llewelyn: We’re so excited to see you’re releasing a full LP concept record. One single at a time right? That sounds like life in general right now. 1 step and 1 day at a time. Please let us know all about what’s next and the energy behind this style of releasing music.

MASSIVESAD: As the concept record is released and evolves over time with each song, I think we’ll see the sonic landscape move from a very experimental and alternative soundscape to a more lighthearted and hopeful atmosphere. We’re only halfway through with “Balance” so we’re just now coming around the corner (I think you can hear that crux in the bridge), and we’ll start to hear the sound shift with coming releases! But, I can guarantee MASSIVESAD will always stay true to what I’ve coined as the “Cinematic Singer-Songwriter” sound! I think that speaks for itself!

Llewelyn: Do you have any funny gig/touring/musician or fan interaction stories you don’t mind sharing? For example, a story from an event that made you laugh or a moment when you just knew…this is why I love being a musician.

MASSIVESAD: What a great question! I’ve had plenty of silly and heartwarming interactions with friends and fans at shows, etc, but I think the most “this is why I’m doing what I’m doing” was recently at a house show at The Providence House here in Austin, TX, where my buddy and trusted photographer, Mason “Sasquatch” Mansfield hosted a fundraising event for a documentary film that he is making about the issue of wrongful convictions and plea bargaining in the American judicial system. Sasquatch and I each have personal stories of our fathers being wrongfully accused and convicted, and then also being forced into really terrible plea bargains that took them from our family and pretty severely altered all of our lives forever. So, when Sasquatch invited me to write some songs for the doc ( for more information on the project), I was both honored and very challenged, because I’d never ever written a single thing about that experience in my childhood. It’s a very difficult headspace for me to enter into, just because of the way that that time affected me and my family. But, I wrote a song called “Don’t Cry for Me, I’m Already Gone” that I got to play for everyone at the fundraising event, and it was one of the most viscerally powerful performances of my entire life. I felt like I was a tsunami, (gently, somehow) crashing over the entire audience there, and I felt seen and very profoundly heard, and in that moment I knew that this is why I write, and this is why I sing, and this is why I share my art with the people I love – to help people to heal. That song, and Sasquatch’s documentary, and the songs that some of the other Hobo boys wrote for the fundraiser were a beautiful gate into a very sacred space that we all got to share in that night. I’ll never forget how powerful that whole evening was, and I can’t wait for the documentary to feature those songs as well. It’s going to change some very important things, and help a lot of people.

Llewelyn: Lastly, what do you hope for the future and what words do you have to comfort those who are struggling right now?

MASSIVESAD: This is probably the most boring answer, but I’m struggling to financially keep up with the amount of songs I write. Recording as an independent artist can get to be very expensive, and though I could “do it all myself,” it’s more fun and fulfilling to be a part of something with other artists, but for everyone to make a living and be supported, it just takes a lot of money … money that streaming doesn’t bring, and shows only help a little with. So, I’m trying to find sustainability in my craft, when and where I can. It’s a struggle, but it’s worthwhile! When people come to my shows and purchase my music, that is a huge help and encouragement!

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Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

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