The Mindspace Podcast #18: Conner Molander of Half Moon Run on Flow, Mindfulness & Creativity

welcome to the Mindspace podcast I’m
Joe Flanders thanks for tuning in the mind space podcast is my personal
in-depth exploration of the science and practice of well being I’m sharing this
journey with you because I believe we can all lead happier more meaningful
lives by getting the facts in training our minds join me as I learn and share
the most inspiring insights about human flourishing from leading experts because
we could all use a little more of mine space my guest today is Connor Melander
Connor is the guitarist vocalist and keyboardist for the Montreal indie band
half moon run the band debuted with their 2012 album dark eyes which was
very successful both commercially and critically they just finished recording
their third album and I spoke to Connor a couple weeks before they hit the road
for a big tour that spans over this summer and fall and takes them across
Canada the US and Europe as you’ll hear Connor is thoughtful and introspective
and has a lot to say about art and creativity the music business psychology
and mindfulness without any further delay here’s my conversation with Connor
millennia condom Erlander welcome to the podcasts
thank you good to be here I just learned that I wasn’t exactly pronouncing your
name right how do you say it in the proper Scandinavian pronunciation
I think it’s maligned er I wouldn’t want to say that to Swedish people their eyes
light up is your background Swedish my great-grandfather was born in Sweden and
he emigrated in the 30s other than that I’m mostly German okay
cool maybe you can get us started by telling us who you are and what you do
well I’m a musician I’m one of the members of a band called half moon run
from Montreal and I’ve been doing that for almost 10 years I grew up in British
Columbia and I moved to Montreal actually to go to McGill after high
school I applied to McGill and I got in actually into the psychology department
and thought that part of me thought I wanted to be a teacher and part of me
thought that I would be a psychologist like you and and it was only a few
months after I moved to Montreal that I met the guys in the band when I was when
I was a teenager I loved playing music I was always trying to start little
projects but everybody tells you that it’s not a good idea to try to rely on
that as a career and to have a back-up plan and all those things and so I never
really believed that it was a viable option although some part of me thought
that I could maybe pull it off if I met the right people and so that was why I
moved I decided to go to university here in Montreal because it’s got that great
reputation of being a center of the Arts and all that and somehow luckily I did
meet people right away that I found to be great collaborators I met the singer
Devon through a Craigslist ad no way like crazy hey and and then we start I
think member the first Jam that we had was maybe three months after I moved to
Montreal and it was really great it was really different I was 19 and I’d had
chances before jamming with people you know when I was teenager and all that
and usually what happens is that everybody plays tries to show how good
they are you know and and so you they play loud
and they play often but I found with this group of people right away that
everybody was listening and the room was really quiet and that was the first
indication that there was real chemistry there but then the other thing that
these people were that they were really focused and had a sense that if you want
to if we want to do this then we really have to do it so right away there was a
pressure on my University you know endeavours and and it was only
after one year that I had to basically decide between the two things between
studying psychology and the band and so I dropped out after one year and then
that started a whole uncertain period in my life because it took another year or
two before we were able to write enough material to record an album and that
since then things have gone well but it was it was quite something for a while
so things have gone well for you guys how many albums have you done so far we
just finished recording our third album and it’ll come out later this year
right so you recorded it this spring I guess and what’s in store for listeners
well this is this is actually I guess technically the first time I’ve talked
about the new album in any kind of interview form we’ve been working on it
for almost two years we’re not the fastest writers we can
talk about that later house yeah yeah the because it’s it’s a little bit
interesting I think we wrote more material than we might have needed for a
conventional record for a bunch of reasons to have to be able to pick from
a wider pool but also to be able to stay hopefully stay more prolific than we’ve
been in the past it’s been a few years since our last record lots of different
styles some stuff that we just wrote in the past few months some that we’ve been
working on for like six years so I feel great about the new record and
I guess we’ll see you don’t at this point we’re mixing it right now I don’t
really know what it is anymore you know it gets to a certain point I think
people who do do like long term creative projects know that once you dive into it
for a certain period of time you you can’t see it from the outside very very
well anymore and I think that when I get a reaction from the public I’ll know
kind of more what it’s about right now I’m just trying to think like is that
snare too compressed is that you know are the is the vocal balance right those
kind of things well you’ve set the bait so now I’m I
want to jump right into it maybe you can talk about what the creative process is
for the band when you guys are writing and coming up with new material mm-hmm
well in the early days in the early I guess in the early days that’s when we
kind of set the it’s not a formula but just the way that we interact as
songwriters collaborating that’s the main that’s the main kind of thing that
characterizes especially my experience in this group is that it’s collaborative
which is really different I think from just single minded individual creative
pursuits so Devin our lead singer will often have some kind of little guitar
lick or a vocal melody or something like that and then it’s kind of on us to
respond to that and to provide countermelodies and kind of rhythmic
rhythmic counterpoint I would say that the rhythm in our in our music is often
lyrical in its own way it’s not and and that’s that’s I has to do a lot with
Dylan our drummer being a classically trained piano player but anyway like we
it’s kind of after when the initial ideas sometimes it comes from Devon
sometimes it comes from other people gets thrown out there it’s this kind of
negotiating process that where whatever you kind of hear you try to throw that
out there and offer it and then we wrestle with it and sometimes that
process takes one afternoon and then everything kind of falls into place and
sometimes it takes years for it to kind of refine or the kind of like reduced to
what the common what the what the most potent elements are you can’t I think
the music often has a feeling where each voice can stand alone you can hear it if
you put headphones on especially you can hear it stand alone but you can also
hear how it fits almost geometrically into the Sonics
spectrum and that’s something that we’re always looking for not kind of stepping
on each other’s toes often with guitar music I find that you know it’s there’s
these kind of just blocky stacking of drums bass and good rhythm guitar often
to rhythm guitars lead guitar on top and then things are just kind of stacked
really like bricks on top of each other and it can obscure things and I find it
dilutes things so we try to stay a little bit more three-dimensional in
that regard and so that process takes a long time do you guys have a sense of
when something becomes a commercial success because you’ve had a you’ve had
quite a few hits mhm do you know when you have a hit does it
feel different when you’re writing it or you just sort of put stuff out there and
see what the response is well the first couple hits that we had were two songs
in particular full circle and call me in the afternoon way back in the early days
and in those days we had no idea because we didn’t even have a record deal we had
never played a show we were just jamming for each other and we were just playing
for fun we will be what we were serious but we were playing for fun and so then
when those songs got picked up later on on the radio all over the place we kind
of would tell ourselves that we kind of knew what okay that that one worked and
so and so maybe similar things like that would work but to tell you the truth I
really can’t predict I really can’t predict and we’ve
actually I will admit we have tried to write hits like in some sense there’s no
shame in that we’re all trying to make a living and like it so if you can write
something that’s going to get on the radio all over the place and make a
bunch of money like that’d be great you know and we tried and it felt so rotten
basically right away that it just became not feasible to carry on down that path
at one time when we were recording the first album we wrote something like that
that we thought might be a hit and but it felt really disingenuous it felt
really rotten and so but then certain people that we were involved with making
the record at the time on the business side of things also thought that it had
the potential to be a hit so it became a point of
it was tense you know they said you have to record that thing and at that point
we were way on we were really past it we said no we won’t do it and they really
tried to force us to and I remember that at that point there was just the three
of us it was before Isaac could join and we hadn’t sat out on this dirt road and
just said you know we’re not coming back in until you tell us that we don’t have
to do it yeah yeah yeah not not because we they you know I guess I guess there’s
one thing to say that you’ll do something like that and it’s another
thing to go through it and write so there is if I understand your job a
chronic tension between commercial constraints and your own expression as
an artist to be curious how you think about that in particular because I find
I mean music is like magic in a way right it just it moves people it helps
people see new connections in their lives and helps them feel certain ways
or work through certain emotional experiences certainly when I was younger
I used to see a lot of concerts and found the experience sometimes be
therapeutic in a way yeah and yeah I’m just curious how you navigate that yeah
and the fact that as you say you need to make a living and that there are other
demands on your on your time and energy yeah yeah I think a few things about
that I think from the inside since my job is as a musician a lot of that kind
of magic it’s of course I believe in what you’re saying about the magic
that’s why I got into it because I felt the same way that you’re describing but
when you really try to look at it when I look at the nuts and bolts of what I do
and how the songwriting process goes and how I feel when I’m analyzing a song
that we’re working on you’re you’re you’re chasing up you’re chasing
emotional feelings and you’re trying to use trying to keep them alive inside you
as you cut and and to keep them alive inside the music but it’s not the magic
is more I think that it’s something that people more assume from the outside then
more than I feel from the inside at a certain point you know
and and it and I also fit so I think that that’s kind of a may be an
unconventional thing to say about as a musician that because I do hear
musicians talk about how the magic of music and
but when I think about it it’s really oh I don’t I don’t mean to diminish the
emotional kind of value that I feel towards it but it’s more that I try to
take care of the the technical side of of the craft you know and and that is
not so magical you know you have to your fingers have to be able to do things you
have to have a certain access to a harmonic access to be able to improvise
effectively and that takes work and then when I’m truck when you look at other
styles and you try to incorporate different rhythmic motifs and harmonic
motifs so that you have more of a versatile palette to work with and all
that and once you start to think about it that way when I’m when I’m working
with the band if I hear something that you know I think that I might want to
add this interval or I think I might want to add this kind of rhythm it
becomes more like almost like a construction work you know and that you
that you have to kind of move back and forth in your mind between that and then
understanding the emotional you know the emotional effect that you’re trying to
preserve and I think that that so when I think about it that way that’s that’s
not so different from from lots of different kinds of jobs you know being a
teacher you have to you have to maintain a kind of emotional interest with your
students in order to be able to teach them effectively keep them emotionally
engaged or you know during doing your job as a clinical psychologist or you
have to be able to you know again your your kind of professional toolkit and
your kind of emotional awareness are in tune to achieve an effect and and so the
music has a certain mysticism surrounding it that I don’t know is
necessarily unique to the fine arts you know and so then when you relate it back
to commercial commercial ‘ti and that kind of thing well I just got back from
a trip to Greece you know and and just two days ago and I was looking at the
Acropolis the amazing old city and when I think about the Acropolis it’s
impossible not to think of you know Pericles the the statesman who ordered
all those things to be built and just like last year we talked about how I
on a trip to Florence in Italy and it’s impossible to separate all that great
art from the Medicis who again kind of ordered that to be to be built it was
all commercial you know and without the kind of commercial push the facilitation
to make those things happen wouldn’t be there and so I think that there might be
and I kind of have little theories that bubble up in my mind about why this
might be but but that there might be a kind of a marriage in the perception of
the Fine Arts with this kind of mystical mystical feeling magical feeling that
isn’t necessarily justified as far as I can tell it anything mantis eyes it’s a
bit romanticized I think that the arts might be more similar to other walks of
life than people might think yeah I like this you know the sense that you’re kind
of playing on two channels exactly there’s there’s the the technical aspect
that that is important yeah and if it’s not there the music will not be received
in the way that you want right but you’re also tracking the emotional
impact right in parallel right exactly yeah I kind of feel this this this
conversation moving towards the way that mindfulness and creativity
interact you know because I think both of these things have something in common
and it’s kind of like they have something inversely in common which is
creativity when we say that there’s one sense in which you can mean that word
that has that magical mystical kind of meaning to it and but then if you expand
that to me anything if you’re creative when you think like I have a problem
with my friend and I don’t know how to spot salt solve it you know and then you
think of a new way that you can be nice to them or something like that you know
or like my root my house is too messy and I know I build these shelves you
know there’s the creativity can involve all those kinds of things and and then
in parallel with mindfulness about the way I think about well there’s the
practice of mindfulness but then there’s the kind of mindful thinking that is
broader than that right when who doesn’t think like just when you started to
teach me about mindfulness I started to think about the ways though everybody
kind of knows this in a way like that when you it’s
breath you know dick take a breath and count to ten you know that’s kind of the
mindful thinking in a way you know and so then when I think about so what were
I try to draw the boundaries between mindfulness and creativity it’s it’s
hard because it’s it’s not it’s not clear when you’re really engaging in a
creative process versus a mindful process it’s hard to know where to draw
the lines but when I think about writing music or something something like that
it’s it’s you you kind of go back and forth between being mindful of what
you’re doing and and and then putting that aside you know putting that putting
the mindfulness aside in order to actually let some kind of sub
personality in allow yourself that to inhabit you and and you kind of play a
game with that you know anyway yeah I’ll pick up on that I think what’s what’s
really interesting here is the sense of the appearance and disappearance of the
self you know and an awareness of the self right which is obviously a big part
of meditation and also any performative activity yeah right if you’re gonna
write something you know creative or interesting you have to get out of your
own way and let this whole range of complex skills express itself without
you interfering you know but then sometimes you have to sort of check up
check back in and say what am i doing my on the right track right and exactly and
kind of evaluate or or just check in with the process yeah yeah and
interestingly of course there’s a there’s a subtle difference between a
state of mindfulness state of flow right right and it sounds like you’re talking
about mindfulness as a state of self-awareness right and then flow you
sort of lose the sense of self and you’re just in the music or in the
writing and you can you know sort of between what’s the difference between
mindfulness and flow in that regard but if you’re in a state of flow is that
somehow different from yes okay okay yeah so there’s a there’s real immersion
in the moment yeah you tend to be at your most creative have
and you’ll have the most capacity yeah it tends to arise when the challenge of
the moment is a perfect match for your skills at the moment whereas meditation
is much more conscious right you can lose a sense of self but there’s a lot
more awareness I think right and it’s a broader awareness right of course this
is difficult to articulate but I think people who are familiar with both can
point to the two experiences and know experientially how they’re different I
wonder you spoke about how you work with the band and how your capacity for
mindfulness and kind of observing in a more maybe less impulsive way is helpful
for the group creative process but you also do a lot of stuff on your own how
does that process look mm-hmm I would see that that’s more well first of all
since since the music became my job there was a period of time when we were
touring really heavily that it kind that that that Manish to have the function
when I was a teenager such such a strong function of being able to offer like a
therapeutic release and all those kind of things that music can do for people
and that kind of got honestly it got it got tainted when when it became my job I
had no longer looked for at a certain points release it from music I would
look in other ways so when I do but and that’s it so it just takes work to get
back to a place where you can enjoy it in that way and I think we’ve done it
that’s why it’s taken frankly a long time for us to put our new record
together because it took getting back to that place but so then I find what I do
creative stuff on my own I’m really not ambitious about it in a career sense and
I’m really not too worried about what happens with it and so it’s since it’s
largely personal in that regard at this point if maybe in the future it won’t be
so so much so but it’s more of a process of just letting just whatever kind of
subpersonality might be nagging at me or whatever just just allowing myself to
explore it and and just feel how that feels when you go when you go
through it if I’m thinking about playing the piano in my apartment by myself or
entra and writing little things in there or I do work writing scripts and I do a
lot of writing just you know with words and just just to kind of let that
process be what it is in the moment and not be so worried about canonizing it
you know not so worried about coming up with a crystallized project product that
I can then share with people because that’s the side of it that has kind of
worn more in the magic out for me you know yeah so I was curious ask about
that was it you said you were touring a lot and almost doing your job as a
musician is that what sort of killed the the magic for you I that’s broadly
speaking I would say yes broadly speaking I would say yes that makes me
when you ask that it makes me think about what the function of music is in
the first place you know and when I think about I guess if I just go a few
centuries back you know just the way that it was used as a way of expressing
community as of celebrating of commemorating certain events or
expressing expressing sorrow and it were and what it became on the tour was more
like a circus almost you know like you did you’re you become detached from the
reason although you you’re sustained by the fact that the reason is that other
people are having that experience in the audience you know hopefully that they’re
they’re finding meaning and what you’re doing but it’s it’s hard to stay
connected to the kind of emotional impetus and so that can be you know
hurtful at the it almost feels like a betrayal in a way when it gets to a
certain point because it doesn’t feel truthful to be expressing the form of
the expressing the form without this kind of what the spirit underneath you
know so that whole thing became just it made me me this was this was a struggle
that we went through and I think like I don’t want I don’t want to sound
ungrateful you know but because I’m extremely grateful and and this it’s on
us too to find our way back to the emotional
core of things but and we I think we have but ya know it just felt like the
forms of music it was hard to pick up a guitar and hard to sit down at the piano
again and find expression it felt like I needed to look elsewhere for that at a
certain point yeah as a music fan I’m always super curious to know how
emotionally alive yeah the musician on stage feels yeah
and of course I could imagine like one of your fans finding out that you were
just sort of phoning it in one night even though you’re kind of going through
motions might find that a bit disappointing well I would I would I
would say that what ended up happening because we were desperate not to phone
it in and I can’t really remember very many times when we phoned in
because what ended up happening out if I speak frankly was that we it became
self-destructive and that took on I know a certain interest of its own from a
fan’s perspective because there was desperation in the performances and we
were drinking really heavily and we were you know you could see that there was
kind of like blood sweat and tears underneath the performance and so it was
not the same and there was it didn’t come from the same place that the
writing of the music did but it still had all the kind of emotional power
because we just refused to let to kind of roll over you know and so it as
destructive as that was I think he would still had emotional truth to it because
we were really going through something and then the the structure of the song
the structure of the performance still allowed us to express that but um you
know you can see how that would be you know a problem in and of itself your
that that that was both the expression and then it became a separate problem of
its own that needed a kind of a separate outlet of expression you know then it
couldn’t be a public performance thing at that point it couldn’t and to me at
that point I was reaction reacting so strongly against it that it couldn’t
even be music you know I started to take refuge like refuge in books and just
time in nature and I started to exercise more and I tried to stop drinking so
much and that became the outlet that was China I was trying to use to get away
from the whole touring beast about but I but I I wouldn’t say that we phoned it
in so if I’m getting that I’m understanding
that that there was something really frustrating about not being able to
connect with the music in an authentic way presumably because you’re saying
playing the same songs over and over and over again and you sort of lost touch
with the source of the creative energy mm-hmm but then that frustration became
like built up a life of its own and you were in a way expressing that that’s the
sort of the self-destructive piece that’s it’s something like that it’s
something like that I’m not sure it had necessarily to do with the repetition of
playing the songs it it might have been something that a lot a lot of touring
musicians that have expressed similar problems about this touring life and I’m
not exactly sure what what it is but part of it is probably part of it is the
extent that you get you first of all I think you become desensitized to normal
human social norms you know so to have that kind of reaction that you get from
a stage is not normal you know and and and what do you mean by that well the
way that I think about it this fits funny because I’d and this is really
silly because I I’ve been for everybody everybody’s following the NBA Playoffs
right now as the Raptors are doing so well and when I watch I watched Kawhi
Leonard and and the star and he’s like so stoic all the time and it’s peak and
it seems to be common among great athletes often not always but but also
among you know really successful people a lot of the time that it’s like getting
caught up in the response to the thing is a distraction from the thing itself
and the real meaning comes from following through that whole trajectory
without the kind of and succumbing to the little herbs and flows along the way
and looking at the bigger arc you know and and knowing what you’re really
geared towards but the thing is that when you’re when you’re traveling as a
touring musician like it’s really hard to separate yourself from that kind of
that like supercharged social response of a lot of people cheering for what
you’re doing you know and watching you you stand up there and do the silly
dancing stuff that you do and so it’s really a huge struggle to first of all
separate what you’re doing from the judgement of it somehow like what though
that was good a good job cheer cheer clap clap clap you know that was bad you
know bad performance that didn’t go well well it’s not really the point you know
like your your the the idea is more to find the voice that you hear in your
head or that you want to express developed it as well as you can and and
then confidently express it and don’t worry about what anybody thinks about it
just do the next thing after that keep moving forward you know and so but it’s
it’s the chat the challenge on tour is that that’s just really not the way it’s
set up it’s more setup like here’s what we’re doing okay clap clap that was good
you know and so you you get caught up in that you then you get desensitized to
that then you try to chase the feeling that you felt the first time that it
happened and and all and and then you don’t also have like these like little
mundane things like your routine is totally disrupted your sleep schedules
totally disrupted your diet is shit you know like and so all those things add up
I guess all those things that I I want to pick up on this comment about getting
caught up in the feedback right because you know understanding to dissent that I
do the human brain and the needs of a human being doing something with your
hands and then 20,000 people screaming and applauding and adoring you for it
has got to be among the most rewarding or even addictive things that you could
do outside of drugs although presumably you know a lot of musicians drink drugs
are part of life on the road so that’s maybe even enhancing the effect is that
what gets you caught up is just how rewarding and how powerful a stimulus
that is I think so I think so and I think the inverse is is is the same to
if something doesn’t go well and you get that negative feeling and then you don’t
want that to happen again like that’s it’s a really powerful like
reinforcement system it’s really hard to especially because when I first started
this I was only 19 or 20 or whatever that’s when you’re the most susceptible
to these well maybe a few years younger even more so but
you’re right you’re right that’s right in your sociable to what people think of
you I was a young man I wanted to I wanted to make my way you know and I was
I was ambitious and I wanted to I wanted to do well and I wanted people to know I
was doing well and then when things started to go well for the band well
I’ve really got a you know huge like shot of that feeling and I was
definitely not immune to letting that – feeling what that makes you feel like
you know like it’s like you put the similar kind of feeling to when you put
your really cool vacation picture on Instagram and more people like it than
ever before and whatever you know that’s great you know or you take a risk with
some other kind of photo and like nobody comments or whatever then it’s like you
know it feels really bad so if I want to feel what it’s like to like play guitar
solo onstage in front of 50,000 people I should just put like a cool picture of
myself on Instagram a lot of people like it yeah yeah yeah just a little bit more
amplified it’s just more amplified well and then in terms of the the drinking
thing and all that the drugs part of it it’s like one thing’s for sure is that
if you feel that feeling while you’ve been drinking that your brain is going
to tell you you know you don’t keep drinking I guess this seems to go really
really great though those things get linked up to and I think that’s why
addiction and music music musicians it’s it’s such a you know the the emotional
response is just so strong that those things become just hardwired together
yeah and then you talked about trying to find your way back yeah to connecting
with the sort of the source or like the kind of authentic
dynamic of creating and performing music yeah and you talked about going back
into nature and getting away from music how did you how exactly how did the
process go of finding your way back it was messy it was really messy because
that that became kind of the the point where maybe if you if you if you compare
it to a relationship that when a relationship is going badly you’ll be
susceptible to doing little things that will destroy it
you know the subconscious things that will destroy it and and it’s that some
some stuff like that was happening I think within the band at a certain point
that we knew something was not going right we didn’t really have control over
it it seemed like our job was to keep the machine going and there’s a lot
of other people involved a lot of other people getting paid and so it it took a
it took a kind of a messy process of self evaluation to get back on track and
there was like we had some fights within the band not necessarily about that but
definitely related to that and it was kind of the just the the Phoenix thing
you know he burned everything down in order to see what remained you know and
there was a there was a point to see that that I that I thought that I think
we were all open to seeing if we really if we really like we’re open to this not
going forward you know we’re open to this not going forward so let’s see what
that looks like in our mind and let’s see and just really explore that really
imagine that and see what’s left and then luckily I when we when we really
examined that and when I really examined that for myself as well it took months
but it looked like at the bottom there was still there was still some work to
be done between us you know there was still something that we wanted to say
there was still collaborating that seemed like would be meaningful
and the the the bond that we had musically seemed to be worth whatever
else we had to sacrifice going forward and that felt really truthful and so
from that place we were able to rebuild again and from I think he could only
really come from that place I really think that if we had keep just trying to
push the Machine forward that it would have it would have eventually exploded
and totally it would have totally ended and so from then we were from them we
were really able to rebuild it had to do with airing out all our grievances
between each other it had to do for me a lot with refining my skill set again and
really practicing my instrument and spending I spent like a year practicing
the piano and reading everything I could get my hands on to feel like a confident
person again you know to feel like I wasn’t just someone that would go out
and do the same old dance every night that I had new ideas and that I was a
more mature person and that I had something to say that wasn’t just
pantomime or something you know and so it was kind of a maturation process I
would say I felt really like I’ve became a man like I was I was my I was
crystallized in a teenage state because I was nineteen when it first started
happening and it was like it was like when when that happened it was like a
snapshot of me was taken and developmentally and in every sense you
know and that was taken and it was just dragged across the road for like three
or four years and I wasn’t allowed to not that I wasn’t allowed but I wasn’t
able to to let my life continue you know and so it was really upsetting to at a
certain point look at myself and realize like wow like I might have lost a few
years of my own growth here you know like that’s depressing and it’s
horrifying you know but then then to realize after that well I can definitely
still do something about this and the people that I’m working with and
collaborating with are in the same circumstance and so we can do this
together and then maybe we can still write around that you know maybe that
can be our inspiration and and and so those all became kind of points of hope
and so hopefully hopefully the new record reflects some of that we didn’t
screw it up yeah yes it’s a very interesting kind of narrative arc right
over the last what two three years maybe or more mm-hmm
about three years three years and you sort of arrived at this on a new
equilibrium or something so you have this new wisdom you have this new sense
of how to take care of yourself and how to take care of the band I’d be curious
to hear and of course this is a challenge for a lot of people right you
go through something you learn you figure it out now how do i sustain mmm
how do i sustain myself i don’t maintain the gains you know right so so you have
to take care of yourself in a way so that you can keep growing keep going as
a person you have to nurture the talent that you have or the the skillset that
you have that’s how you’re gonna earn a living and have some level of
fulfillment in your life what are the key elements are the key practices
you’re gonna try to maintain both for yourself and maybe even for the band
going forward yeah his chances are I mean you guys
have a big tour coming up yeah really big there’s a yeah you’re going all
through the summer and into the fall and yeah it’s got to go on from there it’s
all over the world what are you doing to set yourself up
for success and the next round yeah although that’s a great question and I’m
nervous about it because like like I haven’t really done an extensive tour
since like 2016 or so 2015 and and and so I’m nervous I know the demons to
avoid you know I know the things to avoid like what one thing that I’ve been
thinking just recently and I was just talking to Devin
the singer earlier today about it like there’s things that performance wise
that you dread that songs that you’ve that you feel like you don’t want to
play because they’re difficult and this kind of thing and that can often they
that’s just a little thing but just to try to try to treat the things that have
caused you trouble in the past like a project that once once you once
you once you get past that you can that will cause you no more meaning in your
experience and not be afraid of the things that you’ve been afraid of in the
past and a lot of its just behavioral stuff you know like and really
controlling the the the schedule and so I’m worried about the things that I’m
worried about are basically being able to keep myself healthy like that’s the
main thing not drink too much not let my diet get too too bad make sure that the
sleep stuff doesn’t get out of control because from there really it’s it’s kind
of seems mundane but everything can slide away as soon as those little
things can become big things when your physical health is is not taken care of
and because I think from there like because the next thing I would say is to
try to keep my mind engaged in engaged creatively one way or another with with
books or with instruments or with whatever on the road that’s if that’s
crucial so you don’t feel like you’re just stagnating on the road so like
health comes before that because health comes first and it’s it’s and it’s
important beyond that like I got like I said I’m a little bit nervous I’m just
gonna try to stay aware and watch for what problems may arise I still know how
the records gonna be received I’m optimistic about it so I don’t know
really what the touring experience is gonna be like so this feels like I’m
about to like a you know I’m just about to like get on the boat and go Etsy go
to see for like you know 18 months like in the 18th century or something I don’t
know what’s gonna happen I don’t know what people I’m going to encounter s oh
I don’t know I’m gonna bring us back to some of the territory we covered earlier
on in the discussion I’m wondering how you see mindfulness helping you through
the tour and life on the road and kind of sustaining yourself I don’t know I
don’t know if this is if this is something that other people that
practice mindfulness do too maybe you can tell me but when I first started
practicing it felt like I could you developed I developed a framework that
it’s almost like you when you have a little problem after that after having
practiced for a little while then you can just kind of shoot your mind into a
mindfulness snapshot for a second and and then you only think oh yeah you know
kind of like that like you don’t need to necessarily sit there and meditate every
time and so like that to me that process right there it just got like if you’re
there’s a problem okay what about the mindful mindfulness thing then you go
boom and you and you have a shot right and then you can then you start to
remember things that are often like oh yeah what’s my objective what is that
feeling you know what is that person feeling you know the like what is this
sensation telling me you know but I rather than inhabiting the sensation you
ask what it’s telling you and asking that question takes like a fraction of a
second right and so that for me has become kind of the essence of what
mindfulness means is just that little snapshot that it gives you know and so
that’s why I kind of I stumble with my words a little bit about it sometimes
because I know I don’t have the definition of mindfulness quite right I
have a kind of personal relationship with that exact thing that I just
described maybe most people have their own personal relationship with these
things too what you just described is incredibly clear and a beautiful
experience all kind of description of how mindfulness is sort of brought
online in real life right it’s the idea is not that one meditates through a
problem the idea is that the meditation practice is there so that in the moment
where something difficult comes up yeah the capacity to step back and take the
snapshot as you say is more readily available right right so
you sound like a lot of the people that I teach meditation to I guess I’m
curious if mindfulness is useful anyway in the process of creativity whether
it’s your own personal creativity or with the band yeah right
so then building on what I just the way I just described it just those snapshots
I’d say it’s it’s valuable in that way incorporating those that that snapshot
like you kind of mentioned I forget what the study was called but when they
actually do brain scans of people who are talk told to improvise and whatever
that yeah maybe I’ll just I’ll just briefly introduce that so there’s some
very cool brain imaging studies done with jazz musicians who were improvising
in scanner and I believe I could be wrong with this but I believe there was
a very strong deactivation of the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex whether that’s
the brain region or not the interpretation was that these musicians
are incredibly good at shutting down their sense of self-consciousness
self-criticism or self analysis and they’re just fully immersed in the
moment and letting whatever creative skill they have just express itself with
ease mm-hmm so yeah it’s not clear that that’s necessarily a mindful State yeah
but I’m just thinking yeah it’s closer to a state of flow may think that’s
right yeah yeah and so the difference between those things that would be more
for the experts to talk about but but it seems it seems like the the concept of
kind of shooting back and forth between these different kinds of states between
different levels of self-awareness not to make it sound all esoteric or
anything it’s just that you’re that you’re allowing yourself to be inhabited
just totally in the music or you’re kind of checking back in to see what’s
happening to check your direction and maybe make a recalibration and then to
reimburse yourself and that happens like really in the fraction of a second and
it’s not even clear whether it’s it’s not always clear to me whether or not
it’s even useful to be aware that that’s what’s happening
like because you don’t always want to know how the sausage is made you know
like yeah I think you think about like you both great geniuses when what I
think about like you know I’m thinking about Miles Davis or something like
there’s no way that guy was you know like well I don’t know who knows what he
was thinking but but or what his brain was doing but we’re not all Miles Davis
and so it has been useful for me to Adam this like feels like another tool in my
arsenal you know another weapon that I have that I can when when I started
practicing mindfulness it just kind of put more of a name to that process of
kind of stepping outside your experience and taking a snapshot and then to be
able to have that just kind of really in your tool belt for when you might need
it especially helpful when you’re collaborating but even on your own even
on my own I’m thinking like you know you might be stuck up against a wall you
know and and then just to step back and just oh you realize that you’ve gone
down out of a rabbit hole here and so then you you go back to what worked and
so it can help you I think mindfulness can help organize your creativity maybe
and yeah so I had this guy peak Herkimer on the podcast recently he trains elite
athletes among other people in mindfulness and for elite athletes and
other peak performers being able to be totally immersed in the moment and not
be self-conscious and and not be overcome by stress or anxiety is hugely
important and these people are really focused on having flow in their
performance and I’m sure as a musician you experience flow quite a bit and the
idea with this kind of training is to use mindfulness to help set the
conditions for flow and this sort of little pithy statement for it is to say
flow sort of emerges by accident and mindfulness just makes you more accident
prone mm-hmm that’s I think that’s great I think that’s a really great way of
putting it yeah a really great way of putting it Minh
yeah it really reminds me of that of the athletic kind of comparison that I made
that I made it because I think that mamoru a moment and
usually that moment for me is the moment of collaboration with the bank when we
both all get into the room together the more I can prepare for that in advance
with just getting all about all the different kind of tools that you need to
it can just be practicing scales it could be practicing mindfulness it can
be just reflecting quietly about something else or going to a museum or
whatever and then all those things you know the it makes you feel like you have
kind of just some substance that some some some content you know that and when
you get into a moment that you’re prepared to disperse it in ways that you
know are free and open and you can be you can feel a levity in that moment
from your preparedness you know I learned something interesting I did a
contract with Pete actually recently working did it I did a training with
some Canadian Olympic athletes and during the Q&A at the end one of the
athletes said you know when I first started practicing mindfulness I found
my performances actually got worse okay and that was you know we were a little
concerned to hear that because we were trying to introduce people in to this
practice and get them excited about it and stuff and his comment was that he
just became more self conscious around his performances yeah and I think you
know it’s pretty common when one is first learning to practice that this
sort of sense of self sort of gets in the way yeah but again as one develops
the skill more deeply the awareness can be used to again sort of set the
conditions right and I find interesting because you were talking about when
you’re on the road making sure you’re taking care of your sleep
making sure you’re taking care of your diet stuff to maintain your basic
capacities so that obstacles like fatigue or feeling malnourished or
whatever don’t get in the way right I also really like this comment you made
about stepping out taking the mindful snapshot making whatever adjustments are
needed whether it’s to your lifestyle or behavioral routines or to music right
and then you dive right back yet yeah yeah yeah exactly yeah no it’s it’s it’s
been a super valuable tool in that way that’s there’s for sure kind of
switching channels a little bit here I’m curious to get your sense of what it’s
like to be in the role of a celebrity now obviously you’re not I don’t know a
Kardashian yeah last I checked but you are a public figure pretty well known
and obviously the celebrity lifestyle is has a lot of trappings or has a lot of
pitfalls when it comes to mental health and well-being I’m wondering how you
navigate like what you experience is a celebrity and how you navigate that and
sort of maintain a level head mm-hmm well yeah you’re right I’m definitely
not on the not even close to the level of what like where my privacy is really
a that big of a problem or I can go anywhere I want you know and I can enjoy
my time without it when people come up to me in the street oh really only
happens most of the time it just happens in Quebec and they just have something
really nice to say so it’s really pleasant in that way but so the main
pitfall for me has been just that feeling like the things that you do are
so subject to a judgement a value judgment you know because it’s such a
it’s such a distraction it’s such an unhealthy distraction I find though I’ve
heard somebody say I think it’s almost probably almost a cliche know that now
that with the way that social media is everyone’s like their own little
celebrity because I think that’s something that has to do something with
with like that is that you’re you’re you you’re everything that you do is kind of
idealized and then a value judgment is placed on it literally like you know and
and our people comment that it’s great or something and that’s just not the
most important thing in fact it’s far from the most important thing those are
idealized micro moments that are then used as checkpoints to represent your
experience to represent your or and then they’re there
lined up and and your your the story of your life kind of becomes based on that
somehow you know I’m exaggerating but there’s a sense in which that’s true and
then when you start to become known by more people your life becomes even more
idealized and the value judgments for better or for worse well I think even if
on the if it’s ostensibly for better it’s still long term for worse because
the more that you kind of accept that as a story of your life the less ownership
that you have over your life and just the more like really if I did something
on a record or on stage or whatever that you think is great well that’s great but
it’s not like me feeling like you think that is great is gonna make me rep
that’s not what led me there in the first place it was the whole whole the
whole my whole childhood and everything that I did in my life led me there and
so then to try to you know you attempted to replicate things that people liked
and that they told you that that they liked and to avoid things that they told
you that they didn’t like and then as soon you start playing that game you’re
in big trouble you know you’re in big trouble
and so the way to navigate that it’s not always clear because just you have you
have to be real with yourself and to acknowledge that well no you you like
the feeling you like the feeling of that acceptance and you hate the feeling that
what that that comes from people disapproving of something that you that
you’ve done and so you can’t just block it out you know you can’t and and it’s
so it’s complicated the the the way that I’ve send it to deal with that well
we’ve been we’ve been away for a few years so I’ve been just the kind of
inner inner retreat and I feel more ready than ever to deal with that kind
of thing but um it’s J it’s just been to to find one thing that I know is is a
good outlet and then just a kind of it’s a another kind of just a behavioral
solution then just think agent that you know what’s an example of that an
example of that would be if you start to fill yourself susceptible to towards uh
if I start to feel like like I’ll like just like I know that
practicing the piano is is is a good thing to do you know is a good thing to
do so as soon if I’m in my house and I’m staring at Instagram or if I’m just
having thoughts about myself as a certain kind of person I know that if I
just start practicing the piano that that’s going to be good you know that’s
that’s just an example I use exercise in that way I use talking to my parents in
that way I use writing in my journal in that way and so any if any one of those
things that my fingertips when this any kind of thought process along these
lines that I’m describing emerges that I just turned to the other thing and that
that tends to engage me in more of a long-term arc rather than a kind of a
short-term pleasure boost or whatever that might be so I just try to I guess
it’s it’s a matter of looking to try to you could you could be mindful about it
you try to look back and see what’s my goal where am i aiming here am i trying
to aim at being the most accepted by the most amount of people or well you know
just start to ask yourself those questions and then hopefully uh you can
avoid the the trappings in I wonder if this is like you’re going to give a
similar answer I’m curious about the tendency for the constraints of the
business side of things to influence your experience of being a musician and
even the creation of music mmm how do you navigate the demands of the
commercial side of things knowing that you need to make a living and it’s
probably fun to have radio hit how does that how do you navigate that
mm-hmm well there I’ve definitely learned although it’s not always easy to
remember but I’ve learned through real concrete experience in my life that
every single time you try to do what the business thinks it wants from you you it
doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t know what it wants you know the business doesn’t
know the business analytical side of things is it’s too analytical for its
own good the more that you can find the emotional core of what you’re trying to
say the more it will relate to the most people and so there it is it is a really
similar answer I’ve found that making this record
there has been pressure from the business side of things we have great
business partners and I saw a and so I’m not talking specifically about anybody
but what the tendency is in the business ID of the music industry I think this is
true about most industries is to look at what has worked and then look at what
you know this new product is trying to do and and compare it to what has worked
you know and then to try to adjust it to make it fit more into what has worked
and that’s not the realm that creative people occupy you know m’m that creative
people occupy when they’re at their best is to provide new examples of what works
you know and then maybe other people want to imitate it or maybe not but um
so the it it helps to have good collaborators that you trust that you
know when these difficult moments come up and people are asking for something
asking for changes that it’s not coming from the right place that you can look
to each other for support and I’m fortunate to have that in the band but
it’s a similar kind of thing that that what what’s you know what’s what’s I do
you try to ask yourself what’s the purpose of trying to make something you
know commercially comparable to other things like it you know well it’s it’s
it’s not it’s that’s not that’s not what I’m in the business of doing you know
that’s not I’m I’m in the business of trying to take whatever I feel and to
express it in a musical way you know and that if I am doing that I have business
business success as well because I’m not against business success I’m not against
making money or any of that even if you want to look at it from a strictly
strictly business perspective I could take my own I could make you a chart
that says how many times I tried to follow like a business analytical path
that somebody else laid out for me and how many times that worked out
especially in a long term you know it’s a bad idea for the business you know but
it’s not like every time somebody expresses some emotion authentically it
turns into a commercial success so there’s some level of uncertainty there
right right right right that’s a great point that’s a great point
and and and I guess what I the little rant I just went on there it’s it that
that’s like that’s expressing kind of an exaggerated version of one side of it
because of course as a it’s a creative person you’re also you realistically
comparing yourself to other things because that’s that’s kind of how you I
don’t know there’s there’s a that’s but there’s a friendly competition even that
you could that you can use to you know well that that that was a really
musically you know that was a really you hear some other record that was a really
provocative emotionally risky take on something and then you think well oh I
didn’t realize that that was acceptable maybe I can push it even further you
know and so there’s there’s those kind of things to think of there’s also just
again I keep coming back to it but there’s the the the technical
proficiency of the thing in right you know you know you can’t you know I think
if Yoko Ono or something you know it’s like it maybe that’s a maybe that’s an
authentic kind of emotional expression but it sure isn’t very refined and it
sure isn’t very pleasant you know you know that I don’t know why I brought
here ya know but there has to be other elements other than just you know that
kind of you know raw emotional pure you know yeah and there are a lot of very
successful artists commercially successful artists that don’t have very
much talent yeah and you know maybe maybe I should have more nuance there
presumably some level of artistic ability is is is required you have to
pass a certain certain threshold although in the history of pop music I’m
sure there are borderline exceptions to that I wonder how you think about the
technical aspect right it sounds like it’s an edge for you it keeps you
growing and keeps you interested keeps it keeps you in flow but is that really
necessary that should be successful again that’s a good question I think
that part of why I say that is because I’m a bit reactionary myself against
what I perceive in the current musical landscape to be a real
neglect towards that side of things my John run roughly speaking indie rock I
think that there’s a frankly a lot of slackers in my genre I don’t think that
people learn how to put the guitars properly and I think that the
musicianship is just not in a very good level and I think that that’s one way
that we can set ourselves apart and that’s also something that I think is um
well I think it’s important when I think about the musicians like I I think back
to the 60s and 70s in the bands that were happening around then like you know
the people just can’t really play the guitar like like Jimi Hendrix and Eric
Clapton and Jimmy Page and people like that anymore you know if there’s
something missing part of it is that they really made their bones when they
were developing their chops you know and there was a there was a cultural moment
that they were able to take advantage of and all those kinds of things but no I
do think it’s important but then I also know that when it becomes too too much
you know too stuffy you know too too rigid that it’s it’s really valuable for
the counter-wave to come and wash it all away and to have something more rough
you know something more rock and roll or whatever you know like yeah I love the
music from the 50s – which is like you know that’s that’s um a little Richard
and Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley all reacting against you know how much is
that doggy in the window and you know though that kind of a that really stuffy
kind of post-war music and whatever and and so both they’re valid I guess mainly
why I would focus on the technical side of things right in this moment is
because I really feel like especially in my genre it’s something that’s lacking
alright so you guys are working on the album now getting it out soon hitting
the road what’s in store more in the long run and
and I’m not necessarily asking for your specific life plans but what is it
that’s going to nurture you the long run in terms of your life as an artist
mm-hmm yeah that it there’s a lot of uncertainty within this job and in this
life and I don’t know I have no idea what my life is going to be like in ten
years or even five years if I’m speaking honestly I really don’t know I really
don’t know I I won’t have a family one day but I want
to stay I think I want to stay active in the in the creative arts but I’m
interested in all kinds of things I guess right in this moment I’m more
thinking thinking along the lines of I just what what can I say that you know a
lot of the the journey that I’ve been on in the past 3 or 4 years has led me to a
kind of place where now it’s different I’m not in a state of turmoil right now
you know I’m not in a state of trying to claw my way up a ladder at this moment
I’ve just finished making the record and I’m now I feel like I’m just watching to
see what’s gonna come next you know and and I want to be able to watch and react
to things and I don’t really feel like I have such a mountain in front of me in
this exact moment and so I don’t know you know I don’t know what’s gonna come
next okay spoken like a true practitioner Conor is there anything
else you want to add anything we didn’t touch on you think is important for this
conversation well I’m happy with what we’ve covered all although I would say
that I’m really excited by the field that you occupy and not just mindfulness
but the like I know a little bit about the directions that your business is
expanding into and that the field is expanding into and I think it’s really
amazing it’s it the way the way that kind of meditation practice and is
linking up with really advanced neuroscience
and a lot of the stigmas about things like you know psilocybin research and
one thing and another that that those are all kind of fusing and coming into
this place it feels like an accelerating field of study you know and and and I
think it’s really helping a lot of people it really helped me and so I’m
thrilled to see what’s gonna go in the next few years I hope it I hope it uh I
hope it does as well as how I feel like it could be that’s awesome thank you for
saying that before we sign off here maybe I can just give you a moment to
just talk about where people can hear your music and come see you live and all
that kind of stuff mmm
well we’re working with really advanced marketing metrics now so it’s gonna come
into your Instagram feed whether you like it or not and but if you do want to
go look for it just half moon run accom is rural or two or days will be listed
and we’re on social media and all over the internet cool all right Connor thank
you so much for doing this it’s been really fun
yeah great thanks all right take care thanks for listening to the mindspace
podcast I hope it was inspiring if you feel the world could use a little more
mind space please consider supporting the podcast the best way to do that is
to leave a review on the Apple podcast app or wherever you listen or share your
favorite episode on social media thanks and be well you

1 Comment

  1. I absolutely LOVE this interview! thank you so much for sitting down and talking with him ❤️

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