By Kenyan Branscomb, Jr.
During the first wave of coronavirus, I moved away from the familiar independence of college life in Davis back to living with my family. My old room was commandeered by my younger brother, who had transformed the once naked space and decorated it into a luxurious bachelor pad complete with a television, bean bag chair, and recliner. He had taken full advantage of the quarantine and the transition to online learning by investing hours into his PlayStation, stuffing his face with Doritos, and substituting sleep for time on his new gaming computer. While he lived like a king, I was banished to the garage. In my absence our garage had become both a “bedroom” and my mother’s storage unit, filled with Amazon boxes and bags of old clothing which reached the ceiling. As I tripped on miscellaneous items walking through the door, I wondered how I would spend my time stuck inside and living back home.
After cleaning the place, I decided to turn my room into a mini music studio. I first started producing music my sophomore year of high school, when I began to make beats on my phone and teach myself to play instruments. During that time in my life, I had feelings of depression related to family drama and other issues with friends. Creating songs and singing became a way for me to express my feelings artistically and allowed me to communicate those feelings to other people. Music became less of a hobby and more of a coping mechanism that helped me become more aware of my own thoughts and feelings. After playing football all four years of high school and one season in college, I realized that my passion for music was starting to replace my passion for sports. During my first year at UC Davis, I made the difficult decision to stop forcing myself to play football and take a risk by chasing my dream of becoming a musician. Since then, the interest I’ve had in music has become a huge part of my identity.
Although my new room did not have air conditioning, it did come with an upside: it gave me a lot of time to study music. With all of the leisure time I had inside, it was easy to do research on my laptop on how to be a “successful” musician. Although my roommate from Davis and I were separated, we would watch documentaries and Facetime to discuss our thoughts about the artists who inspired us to learn about music theory and the music industry. Our research led us to discover people such as Rick Rubin, who began the wildly successful record label Def Jam while attending college in his NYU dorm room. In my search, I came across many other artists who inspired me such as Kanye West, Kevin Abstract, Kenny Beats, John Mayer, and many more. After learning about their different paths to success, I realized they all shared similar qualities: unrelenting determination to pursue one’s passion and fearless confidence to be different from their surroundings. In my own attempt to be successful, I have come to the conclusion that I need to adopt the same mindset of these artists and mold it to my own creative goals and aspirations.
My research began to inspire me. I used money saved up from birthdays past to buy a new microphone and recording equipment. I signed up for music raffles in attempts to get new equipment I couldn’t afford and wrote countless emails to get free trials for different production softwares. I even taught myself how to solder and fix the old equipment I already had, including a guitar amp which is ten years older than myself. I spent my days locked in quarantine practicing the smooth blues riffs of John Mayer, sampling classic songs like Kanye, and processing my voice through Autotune. I suddenly realized that what started as such an uncomfortable time in my life was a necessary step forward in my music journey.
Currently, I am working on making music every day so that I can eventually release my own albums. The time I spent finding myself, researching, and practicing throughout quarantine is paying off. When I watch old videos on my phone, I can see how far I’ve progressed since first picking up the guitar. I’ve started an Instagram account for my music, on which I share covers of songs that resonate with me and my own musical creations. Even though I’m back in Davis, I still spend countless nights staying awake past midnight trying to come up with creative ideas and find my unique voice for my music. Being locked inside all day with my own thoughts helped give me the introspection and focus I needed to sit down and practice my craft. Whether my music is only heard by a few close friends or eventually showing up on your “New Music Friday” playlist on Spotify, I am happy that I was able to find my creativity during quarantine and can begin to share it with the world.