Courage and Risk

Music and Healing

Is it worth the risk?

Am I willing to be hurt?

Am I willing to be judged?

These, my friends, are important questions. And these self-reflective inquiries relate directly to artists and the creative process. In fact, I would say, the fact that my artist friends are willing to wade through these questions, make their art, and have the courage to put it out there is part of why I admire them so much. Sharing your creative expression involves risk. It just does, especially if that expression is personal and honest.

Why is this case? Why does sharing art put the artist at risk? It’s pretty simple actually. Honest artistic expression is the artist putting an element of themselves out on display. It is revealing a piece of their hearts for other folks to see… and perhaps judge or scrutinize. Yeah, creating honest art is risky business.

I think of Derek Webb, an artist and entrepreneur that has had an incredible impact on me personally. While he would tell you he has certainly made his share of mistakes, he has been willing to take risk after risk musically, lyrically, career-wise, and more. He pushed the boundaries of “Christian music” and sang about things that other “Christian” artists wouldn’t touch, even though he knew it would impact his bottom line and the breadth of his fan base. Courage.

I think of Field Report’s Chris Porterfield and his raw, soul-bearing songwriting. You can hear the brokenness, the personal folly, and the pain throughout Field Report’s self-titled debut album. Porterfield was willing to put all of that out there in a permanent record for anyone’s perusal and/or scrutiny. Courage.

I think of Sayth, the preeminent locally-rooted rapper here in the Valley. He has used his immense talent to share his story of struggle and pain. He has been explicit about his homosexuality and the grief and sorrow he has experienced at the hands of folks who have hated him for it. Courage.

I am not an artist, at least not in the classical sense. But, I can relate to that risk. In fact, in various ways, I’m sure you can too. Any time you choose to speak up, you take the risk. Whenever you cultivate a new idea and choose to share it, you take the risk. That time you’re called on to present information, yes, that can involve the same risk. And, in each of those circumstances, it takes courage to step up to the plate, meet the challenge, and take the risk.

I am a risk taker by nature. It’s just part of who I am. But, I’ve been burnt enough times to know the risk really well… intimately, painfully well. And yet, when I am faced with taking the risk, oftentimes it is the artist than inspires me to move forward. It is the self-revelatory bravery from artists like Field Report, Derek Webb, and Sayth that push me to “screw my courage to the sticking place,” buck up, and do what I need to do… what I am built to do… what my heart longs to do.

Sayth: Intense, Emotionally-Charged, Creative Hip Hop

Artist Focus

For a long time, indie rock/folk and jazz were the genres I associated with the Chippewa Valley. One genre that never came to mind for me was hip hop. Thankfully, in the last several months I have begun to see the hip hop talent that resides here. Eau Claire native, Sayth, has been one of the artists that have opened this door for me. I came upon Sayth’s music a couple of months ago, and I was immediately affected. His songs are very emotionally charged and there is nothing “typical” about his music. In fact, his songs are so heavy that, sometimes, I can only take in a little bit in one sitting. The lyrics are full of pain, pain seemingly caused by loneliness and alienation.

If you look through the Tags at the bottom of Sayth’s Bandcamp homepage (, you’ll notice the term “homo hop.” While this is how he classifies his music, I find his lyrics to not really be about his sexual orientation. What I hear in the lyrics is pain. It is obvious that the writer of these songs has been emotionally injured (if not injured in other ways) by others, specifically because of his sexuality. There is a constant theme of being an object of hatred and injustice. For the listener who is emotionally alive, the pain therein is inescapable.

Perhaps this emotive quality is part of why I’m drawn to Sayth. I’m not used to hearing vulnerability in hip hop lyrics. Sayth bares his soul and shares deeply of himself and his experience. I find his lyrics thoughtful, and his music is pretty creative. Musically, he does not seem to feel limited by what is traditionally thought of as “hip hop,” which, in my opinion, is a really good thing. Working outside of such established “boundaries” is usually where significant art is created.

If you have an open mind and open heart and enjoy hip hop, you may want to check out Sayth on Bandcamp. You can stream his “Cave Journals” EP in its entirety, or purchase it (you can name your own price). Sayth uses some colorful language and he deals with some pretty mature themes, so keep that in mind if you’re interested in giving him a listen.