For as long as I can remember, art has been part of my life. My mom was an artist (ceramics), and she loved to flood the house with music. I was painfully shy as a child, but the one way I could always express myself was through drawing. No matter where I was, there was always a sacred space I could call my own on a blank page. Art was an escape, a way to avoid the hum of the chaotic world outside.
Ironically, my cartooning and portraiture actually connected me to that chaotic world — or at least the people within. When I funneled my attention into the confines of a sketch pad, people around me would take interest. Turns out, art is a great icebreaker for the shy, a way to get others to stop and talk to you.
Then I discovered the art of music. At first I tried to write little raps, but I quickly realized I didn’t have the attitude for all that. I finally found my voice when I learned I could carry a tune, so I began singing hooks as my friends spit bars over beats at the lunch table. With practice, I became more confident, and I began to delve deeper into myself to find more meaningful words and music.
When I began writing full-fledged songs of my own, I rarely wrote about myself, at least at first. My inspiration came from friends and family, especially when their lives seemed to mirror or complement my own. Whenever I noticed these parallels between lives, I was compelled to create a lyrical story that was relatable to them both.
Music helped me connect to the world, and those connections got stronger when I entered the world of radio. I was fifteen at the time, and I started by answering request lines at 97.9 The Box in Houston. It was the best job ever.
Before I knew it, I was meeting influential names in and out of the music business — from Quincy Jones and Mary J. Blige to Warren Moon and Mark Cuban. Just having a chance to meet and talk with these individuals made even the most far-fetched dream seem within my grasp.
For the longest time, radio was the perfect place for me. I could listen to music all day long and keep my finger on the pulse of the musical world. Radio was fertile ground for inspiration because new material was always passing through my hot little hands, and while the listener only hears the approved material, I got to hear it all.
Eventually, I realized something was missing. Life in Texas was good, but it never felt quite right. I was so busy with others that I could never find the time to push myself to where I needed to be. I yearned to discover a place where I could focus on me, a place where I could create something of me to share with others.
Opportunity led me to Oregon. It was quiet. It was secluded. And it was miles away from the scene that — love it though I did — distracted me from creating my own music. So I packed my bags and moved to the Pacific Northwest.
It took change of this degree for me to dissolve whatever fears I had left and enter the music scene on my own. In my newfound home, I discovered the positive energy needed to pursue my dreams to their fullest. Recently that home has changed, Still the PNW but now back in a big city, aka Seattle. I can't wait to see what things are on the horizon.
~ J. Ballou