Jon Smith, who goes by his artist name happytree, recognizes the power of patience and vulnerability. The 22-year-old rapper from Michigan harnesses these virtues through making music. To Jon, music is not an entity separate from the artist. It is a force that flows freely, gives feedback, frustrates, and provides hope. He wrote this letter depicting his realtionship with music and its limitless nature.
I truly believe that the universal language starts with music.
That's the only way to rationalize how a good song can resonate with the hearts of millions of people from different places, cultures, and backgrounds.
Throughout my 22 years, music has served me as a hobby, a place of adventure, a way to relax, a way to turn up, a source of inspiration, and most importantly, a coping mechanism. Music allows me to exchange grief and frustration for solace.
Through music, I can avow my full self without disdain or interruption.
Nothing feels more pleasing to me than capturing real, raw emotion over lush chords and slightly under produced drums. I say underproduced because I've never taken any music production classes. Even if the drums sound on point, I still doubt myself on some level as a self-taught producer. The beat may sound a little muddy or the kick may not emit that chest banging feeling. That hesitation keeps me chasing the "perfect mix."
Pushing through the doubt, I channel my pain in the studio. It's hard to hold on to pain once you've created a space to lay it out. I can sit back and listen to the sadness over and over until it no longer affects me. Sadness manifests itself into music.
Emotions are solidified, frozen in sound. I can listen to the song a year later, and think back to where it came from. I feel what caused it, but never dwell on dejection. The sadness never really goes away. It just becomes easier to process once I’ve aired everything out.
Flipping the negative energy into a positive, I’m motivated to keep pushing. Music has built my spiritual and emotional health, and as of recently, has helped me grow physically. Exercising to high energy music keeps me focused and allows me to push myself. Even calm instrumentals while meditating or stretching makes exercise more enjoyable. Whether I'm working out at the gym or jogging around the block, my headphones are key.
From working out to working in the studio, I’ve begun to support myself creatively. Music provides me with a way to live on my own terms and has started to fund my lifestyle. I feel less stuck in the 9 to 5. I don’t feel trapped anymore. I can breath a little easier when my creativity is profitable.
It may sound weird to consider an intangible object as a best friend. I mean, I'm not Jonny 2x4 trading ideas with my buddy Plank. I'm just a tree who loves creating new sounds from preexisting ones. Much like a song that calls you to action, a simple chirping of birds can trigger a week long process of trial and error.
These hi-hats are hitting too softly.
This kick doesn't have enough bounce.
That snare is falling behind the 808.
Did I EQ the sample correctly? I hear a buzzing in the high end.
What words will complete this work of art?
Oh man, I know they're gonna love this, but what if they don't?
It doesn't matter because the process is fulfilling.
I love this.
When you love the music, you never truly recognize how much work you've done, or how many hours you’ve spent in the studio until you're singing along to the final product. Much like a friendship, you forget the times of disagreement, the feelings of under appreciation, and the compromises you've made to keep going. Building songs instead of smoking with friends, staying in the studio until 3 am, you can feel discouraged when you see others succeeding more quickly. Chasing success becomes a constant roller coaster of "I'm the best" and "I don't think I'm good enough.” Taking yourself too seriously can tear down self-image. No matter what happens, you have someone on your team, who helps you see past the bullshit ego, who shows you that you're good enough, that you're worth it. Music shows me that anything is possible. Whatever you want in this world, you can work to achieve it. Whether I’m listening to my favorite artist or my own work, music showers me with everlasting love. It validates my experience of life.
So yeah, Music is my best friend.
Maybe its yours too, that's the beauty.
It leaves no man or woman alone. There's a song out there for everyone, for whatever they’re dealing with. Some can't appreciate the limitlessness of music, its ability to last forever.
I respect its infinite nature.
I strive for it.
Music gives us the opportunity to break away from monotony.
It transports us to a realm of sonic soulfulness, lifting lonely spirits into hopeful ones, and giving us a reason to become our greatest version.
Music is my best friend.