A Kenny For Your Thoughts
It’s funny to read the title of my last blog post… because it was impossible to find myself through me.
I write this with each emotion it took to write this new music; love & disdain, joy & sadness, gratitude & reflection. Each song from this project is a product of the teetering battle between faith & fear. Stay or go. Leap into who you are meant to be or cower beneath the pressure.
Three years ago, my life completely changed. I shifted from a ball of light to a pit of darkness. It was a shift I could feel. Like a spider webbing disease through my veins. I couldn’t stop it no matter how hard I tried.
Since then I have tried to escape from myself. I have searched for my full potential through substances, marriage, religion, and self-help, running on an endless treadmill of emptiness. I have lived with a deep depression, been paralyzed by a crippling anxiety, experienced a borderline mental breakdown, and have let fear run my life.
What will people think of me?
What happened to my status?
What if I don’t succeed?
Sometime over the course of this last year, I started to see the Exit Signs. The lessons I had been learning started to reveal something. The hope that there is more to this journey. Slowly, I started to see it all around me.
Something beautiful was happening – life was calling me to press on. As the signs started to increase, so did my light. It was as if the universe was carrying me to where I needed to be. And by the pure grace of God, it led me to right here. To the point where I have regained sight of the most important thing I could possibly learn about myself: it isn’t about me J
When I set out to accomplish the impossible as a young man there was something that burned inside of me. It was a passion for goodness. All I wanted was to use the gifts God gave me to help others. I was blessed immensely in this pursuit of giving. I completely opened myself up to this world with the desire to make it a better place. When I started to see some success, I became obsessed with it and the more I craved it, the faster it slipped away.
Today, in spite of the fact that I have slid down a path of self-destruction, I am free. No more caring about where I’ve been. Only where I’m going. You see, as soon as I started to focus on what I can do for you instead of what you can do for me, everything has changed.
I am exiting out of a very dark tunnel, and let me tell you, there is definitely light at the end of it.
*Me Myself & I*
What a few months it has been. I have been living pieces of my dream for the past while. It started with my last blog post - in a van. I have taken that van back & forth across the U.S. about 4 times since then. I have toured the country with 2 of my favorite childhood bands. I have met & conversed with some of my idols in the music industry. And I have created a new record with some of my very favorite music producers.
I have slowed down the use of my social media platforms. I was feeling so trapped in this alternate reality of the digital world and it was really taking a toll on me. Instead of wanting to post & connect with the people following me, I felt like I had to post - spurring a lot of resentment for social media entirely. By being so focused on a small screen in my pocket, I started to feel very disconnected to the beauty of the world around me. The time away from my phone has improved my outlook on so many things in so many ways. This reflection period has led to me a few different observations.
When I openheartedly leapt into the music industry at age 16, I was guided by some wonderful and experienced people. And though I needed their help & guidance to teach me what I needed to know, I was being shaped into what they thought I should be. That wasn’t necessarily me.
When I started seeing the success that came from social media, I thought it was smartest to capitalize on it by creating and releasing music that would cater to the fanbase supporting me. So I started writing music that I knew would be fruitful even though it wasn’t completely relatable to me. And I was right! But I wasn’t being myself.
When I moved to LA, I started a band with a friend of mine. I never wanted to be viewed as a ‘social media influencer’. I wanted to be respected as a musician. So I compromised some parts of who I am & what I believe, in a fight for credibility. I started to forget many of the things that make me who I am.
When the band ended, I had to refocus on being a solo artist again. I was so fed up with the fakeness & facade that stemmed from social media that I started a war with myself & the rest of the society, trying to break all the rules & go against all social norms, attempting to prove a point. That I didn’t care about or need social media. But out of spite & anger, I was going about it the wrong way. That was around the time when I started to connect the dots between me, myself, & I.
Each project I have involved myself in for the duration of my music career have really been stepping stones to getting me to where I am today. Whether I realized it at the time or not, in each case, I simply wasn’t (to the fullest extent) being me. And I now know that I had to be all those versions of myself in order to learn who the real me is.
Something I know about this new project is that for the first time, this record is completely honest, real, and me. I went into this recording experience with one goal. To make music for me. Not for my team. Not for my fans. Not for my family. With no other motive in mind but to create a work of art that I could deeply connect with & be proud of. Though it was tough at times to block out all of those outside motivators, I am very pleased to say that I strongly feel that I accomplished my goal for this album.
My carnal desires & big dreams may have gotten the best of me in the past. At the young age that I was reaching a great deal of fame & financial success, I slowly became something that I didn’t necessarily want to be, but perhaps needed to be in order to find out who I really am - as a person & as an artist.
Though things are a little simpler now than they once were, I am happier than I have ever been. I am seeing so much color in this seemingly black & white world. I am oh so grateful for the blessings I am able to identify in my life with a clear mind & an open heart. I have so much hope. I can’t wait to share this new music with the world. I plan to sing it, my experiences, & my gratitude so, so loud.
*SITTING IN A VAN*
The first tour I ever embarked on at age 18 was in a bus. I had a comfortable bunk, unlimited food & drink, 5 star hotels, and really anything I wanted. This time around, I'm sitting in a van.
Sitting in a van driving across the country gives you a lot of time to think. My mind is plagued with a few things that I want to share.
I feel like I have been through the wringer in the entertainment industry. I jumped into it in a full cannonball position as a 16 year old kid, with bright eyes & a bushy tail, ready to make my splash on the world. I was blessed with some incredible people to guide my initial departure into the treacherous waters of this business. They trained me, directed me, and helped me learn the ropes, so to speak. For a number of irrelevant reasons, around age 18 we stopped working together. That was about the exact same time that I started diligently posting videos of my music on social media as a marketing tool. As I started to see the "success of my music career" manifest itself in the way of followers, it was very exciting. But I don't think I knew exactly how it was effecting me. Ironically enough, I have never been the biggest fan of social media. Though it has many benefits in our world today, I have always felt it is more of a distraction to reality than a useful tool. My career got kind of stuck in a smile & wave, look pretty, and make yourself seem cooler than you are type of vortex. It became more about followers & staying relevant as opposed to a focus on my true passion: music. I'm a bit ashamed to say that, but it was something happening without me really recognizing it & it was sort of out of my control. I was buying into the very thing that I grew up despising.
That's when things got scary. The more I fed into something I didn't truly believe in, I started making choices that would eventually hurt me. I started to trust people who I thought had my best interest, as they bribed & distracted me with flashy, vain things. In my darkest & most vulnerable hour I was told some of the new music I was writing was going to be the summer's biggest hits in an attempt to use my social media power to further their own projects. The people improperly guiding me preyed off of the fact that I was confused & unsure of the world around me, using me for a paycheck and not truly caring about my life or more importantly how much music & this dream meant to me.
Don't get me wrong, much of this could have avoided had my priorities been in the right place with a clear head. But that is an awful lot to handle as an 18 year old kid with a newfound & large increase of fame, money, & freedom - all the while still trying to find myself & who I want to be as a human being. I had a lot to figure out about myself. And the hardest part is that looking back it feels like I had to figure out those important life lessons on a stage in front of the whole world.
It breaks my heart that I wasn't able to handle some of it. But after the fact, I am so grateful to have experienced those brutally draining hardships. Now I have the chance to help people who have been through a very real darkness in life just like me. And also help prevent people who haven't seen that darkness from feeling those pains.
I want you to know that I am living proof that there is always hope. I'm sitting in a van thinking about all of this. And even though there are days that I wake up feeling like a failure, the important part is that I'm still sitting in a van. I'm sitting in a van about to venture on a tour across the U.S. as an opener for one of my very favorite childhood bands. I have good people in this van with me. People who care about me and who know how much I care about music.
Six years later, after taking my initial cannonball jump, I'd like to think that 16 year old kid would look at this almost 22 year old kid and be proud of all that he has learned and how much he has grown. It took some ups & downs and lost & founds, but that's what this journey of life is all about.
I can see clearer now. I know why I'm sitting in a van, sleeping on floors for 3 hours a night, eating protein bars & almonds for meals, & missing my family out here on the road. It's because I am so dearly passionate about music & I want to share that passion with the world in an effort to make it a better place. And it all means so much more to me than I ever imagined it could because of the deep wounds & scars I carry with me.
I vow to never give up. I vow to be my best. I vow to persevere success for the benefit of others. And by whatever means necessary, I swear that I'll try.
"I've been broken, barely breathing.
Fallen to my knees & pleading.
But I'm still singing & ivory dreaming."
And there's no place that I'd rather be.
I am overwhelmed.
I am overwhelmed with peace. One year ago much of my life appeared the same as it is today on the outside, however it felt very different on the inside. I was in the process of overcoming a dark time in my life. A darkness that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, yet a darkness I am grateful for because it helped me to recognize & appreciate the amount of light I have been blessed with in my life. My priorities were distorted, my heart was confused, & my mind was clouded. Looking back, 2016 was one of the tougher years of my life. It is interesting how life takes its course. I truly believe that we are given experiences in our lives to learn, to grow, & to turn our weaknesses to strengths. However hard they may be I am grateful for these experiences and the perspective they have given me, and I hope you can proudly say the same.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Eight days ago I performed for a sold out crowd in my hometown. It was debatably my favorite show of all time. For about 6 years now, I have been performing professionally and very passionately chasing a so-called ‘impossible’ dream. I’ve broken the laws of that word in my lifetime. I have been given opportunities and reached accomplishments that were once innocent daydreams. For a while I was naïvely hung up on the fact that I hadn’t yet reached all of my career goals. I’m almost ashamed of that state of mind, because I couldn’t be more blessed to even have a fraction of a shot at doing what I love forever. None of this is about money, none of this is about fame, and most importantly none of this is about me. It is about using a dear gift I was given to help others feel inspired & uplifted.
I am overwhelmed with joy. Six days ago was a magical day. I woke up and attended church with my family. Then we came home to homemade quiche & cinnamon rolls (a tradition started by my Mimi and kept by my mother) before opening gifts and sharing Christmas day together. There is something so special about this time of year. It is seemingly indescribable; an electricity of sorts. Decorations, music, family, and love always seem a little more meaningful. Every year in December my family & I travel to California to spend Christmas with our extended family as tradition. This was the second year of my life that we didn’t keep that tradition and got to celebrate Christmas at home.
I am overwhelmed with love. Four days ago I had the chance to meet a new member of my family. My beautiful big sister Madison had a child. Baby Harper. I am officially an uncle. A very proud uncle of a gorgeous baby girl. I grew up with younger siblings and for that reason, I know what it’s like to have a baby around. This is different. I have never seen a human like I see this little girl. It is somewhat hard to explain, but the love I feel for this child is something I haven’t experienced before. I am so blessed with such a fantastic family. I have an unparalleled mom & dad, five magnificent sisters, one rockin brother in law, and now one adorable niece. One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is that as long as I have them I have all I need.
I am overwhelmed with hope. Tonight I comfortably sit at my childhood home with a loving and supportive group of family & friends as we welcome in the new year. While 2016 brought many trying and testing times, I am so grateful for all I have realized this year. I don’t know what the future holds, but I have this spark in my soul about 2017. I don’t know exactly where it is coming from but it is undeniable. I am very excited to see what this new year brings. I’m excited to continue to discover the endless beauties of this mortal life.
Six months ago I couldn’t tell the difference between darkness & light. Six months ago I couldn’t tell the difference between snakes & friends. Six months ago I couldn’t tell the difference between failure & success. Six months ago I couldn’t tell the difference between desire & gratitude. Six months ago I couldn’t tell the difference between hate & love.
Tonight I can tell the difference. And for that reason, tonight I am overwhelmed.
May 2017 bring you peace, gratitude, joy, love, & hope. Thank you for joining me on this journey. The best is yet to come.
*I Am Not An INfluencer*
Ever since I was a young boy I dreamed of being a musician. I wanted to inspire people with the gifts that were graciously given to me.
I have been on the quest to find out who Kenny Holland is ever since those precious young dreams were dreamt. There is one place where my identity is never lost. Where my mind is never plagued. And where my heart is never lonely.
Music has given me a reason. Music gives me a purpose. Music makes sense. When the world around me is blurry & filled with confusion, music understands me.
I started taking piano lessons when I was 8 years old & I grew up singing with my beloved family. I always felt something very strong when participating in those two activities. Even if I didn't accept it or recognize it back then, the same passion was always there.
When I was 14 years old my dad got me my first keyboard. I was overjoyed. I spent hours and hours in my bedroom playing songs, learning new chords, & testing my writing abilities. That same year I took that very keyboard & set it up at some local frozen yogurt shops in Arizona where I grew up. I would play for tips on the weekend - those were some of the most memorable & special moments of my life. I got to play music for money AND I got free frozen yogurt. Life was as blissful as can be.
When I was 15 I started a band with some high school friends. At our very first gig, the promoter of the show approached me to work together on some different projects. He connected me with my first team. An unforgettable, dear to my heart, extraordinary group of people who were the first to take a chance on me. They trained me & taught me endless valuable information about the music industry & being a professional musician.
When I was 16, that group helped me hone my craft as a songwriter and I released my first single called “So What”. It was a magical time. I felt like I actually had a shot at accomplishing the critically acclaimed "impossible". Shortly after, I released my first full length record entitled “Heart & Keys” when I was 17 years old. There was nothing that would stop me from chasing this dream. It was all I had & it was all I needed.
As I continued to play concerts for my small fanbase & write music, that original team of star-crossed friends & I began to drift apart for various reasons. But I couldn't let that stop me. When I was 18 I started to post videos on Vine. I gained over 1 million followers in the span of a year. I felt like this was the ticket to the success I had been so deeply craving & working so hard for.
This gave me the opportunity to reach millions of people, tour across the country, & share my music on a much larger scale.
I saw those childhood dreams start to become a reality, but in a very twisted way. Slowly & painfully, I began to realize that I was not being praised as a creator, but as a thing. A puppet. A number. And it started to really take a toll on me. People who I thought cared about me were using me. People who I thought I could trust were stealing from me. People who I thought respected me saw through my passions & only saw the number on my social media platforms. I began to find myself stuck in this dreamville state of mind. My appearance changed, my choices were different, & my judgement began to get very clouded. I started working with a number of different people who were guiding my career carelessly & improperly as I was being taken advantage of left & right.
I didn't know how to handle all of this. I was so confused. As I was becoming more & more successful, I was gaining less & less respect. All I ever wanted was for people to hear what I had to say. To listen to my ideas. To appreciate my creativity. But all of that was being overlooked.
I felt lost. I felt used. I felt jaded. At times I even felt worthless. My priorities were distorted & the purpose I had once felt so strongly was slowly diminishing. I almost felt like giving up. But I couldn't. After some harsh changes I had to make in my life & the help of some very dear people, I started to regain my light. I started remembering what I was blessed with & what I had originally set out for. I started writing the realest & most honest music I had ever written and I was finding the realest & most honest version of me.
I am not a “social media influencer”. I never have been. Social media has been a tool I have used to try and make my stamp on the world as a musician & I will continue to find ways to be heard.
Now, don't digest all of this in a way that it is not intended to be. I am grateful - oh so grateful - for anyone supporting me and for those who have discovered my passion through the phenomenon of social media. I just want it to be known that I do this for more than numbers and meet & greets. I do this because I bleed this. I spill my guts into what I create. I just want it to be heard, the way it's meant to be heard. With attentive ears & an open heart.
I am grateful for the highest of highs & the lowest of lows I have experienced through this part of my journey. I'm grateful for the opportunities that I've had & the chance to live a piece of my dream. I'm grateful for all of this because it has taught me so much about myself, others, & life itself in the purest and truest of ways.
The irony of this mortal journey we call life is that the most constant thing about it is new beginnings. Sometimes we fall to get back up again. Sometimes we fail to learn a lesson. Sometimes we crash to recognize we were going the wrong way. But we cannot fear the opportunity we have to make mistakes, to refine ourselves, to Begin Again.
Begin Again EP releasing Nov. 25th, 2016.
Thanks for loving, listening, & reading.