This guest editorial is written by Marco McKinnis, an R&B singer from Virginia whose sophomore EP, E’Merse, released on June 14, is the latest evolution of his soulful and poetic R&B. The six-track offering is a follow-up to the Republic Records signee's 2018 EP, Underground.
Being an artist means your mind will go from one side of the earth to the other—being sparked by this sound, that painting, this photo, that delicate chair. If you’re trying to evolve or reinvent yourself, this can become challenging.
As an artist, I’ve faced this challenge head-on, but it always leads to a never-ending question: “Why is my art not translating at the level I know it can reach?”
The answer, at least for me, is if you want to be a successful artist, do things you aren’t comfortable with. Maneuver outside of your comfort zone; the zone that conditions you to stay the same and to fight growth and evolution.
I’m not telling you to drink from every cup of opportunity because it’s there. Hold down your morals and ways of life and allow them to guide you through each decision. Many people confuse doing what you need to do with doing what is unnecessary to achieve a goal. Remember, drinking from every cup isn’t a requirement.
One way I practice becoming comfortable being uncomfortable is by limiting my access, for a set period, to the things I am most comfortable with. As a young black male vocalist, I have actively avoided listening to traditional R&B for a month at a time. Too much of a good thing can be the reason you drown. It can also brainwash you into rejecting newfound branches of creativity. Artists are people, and people need balance, so I find my balance by seeking other genres of music. As of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic and pop music.
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Our interactions, whether with other humans or the music in our headphones, define our being. We can either let them destroy our being or use them to strengthen our being. The outcomes are different but the constant is the power we hold and what we do with that power. The goal is to find synergy between independence and dependence.
To evolve and grow artistically, it is important to identify where you are at the moment. Make a note of everything (and everyone) that is holding you back. I often perform a self-analyzation, asking myself: “What can I build on?” “What do I need to evolve?”
You can apply this to relationships, appearance, sound, diction, and more. We are living, breathing works of art. How we move, how we speak, it’s all art. Every moment we live is playing a role in our conditioning, and every action we take continues that conditioning.
Most choose what they best understand and will not venture into the unknown. The unknown can be frightening. The act of tearing down and rebuilding can leave us vulnerable. But reinvention is necessary. It is an evolution of perspective. It means uncertainty and risk. It means casting away the concept of always having the perfect answer—or having an answer at all.
Usually, if there is a tough decision, it's because the results are similar. If you’re fretting over different journeys of success, you’re only beating yourself up. Relax.
There is never a guarantee that the right decision is truly the right decision. Every artist, explorer, scientist—every human being—must accept that. But if you’re beating yourself up over the journey, don’t.
Reinvention takes time. Be patient.