We had the good fortune of connecting with Hope Hazy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hope, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
i think people assess which risks are worth taking and which risks are not worth taking based on how they measure the importance of the posed losses. we ingest cultural, environmental, political, & religious messages and then filter that conglomerate through our own unique psychological and physiological constitutions. one common message Americans receive through its capitalistic culture is to prioritize, first and foremost, the importance of financial security as well as growth & power advancement. according to the cultural risk-meter, any decision that puts financial security or power at stake is considered high-risk and advised against. this does not resonate with me. in order to have a thoughtful gauge on risks that are and aren’t worth taking for me, i must first know what i am never willing to risk and why, and then also know what I am always willing to risk and why. this helps me understand the borders of my own risk-meter.
i will share some specific risks i have taken that illuminate what i prioritize when making life & career decisions. i moved to los angeles to pursue music with no money or plan~ risking the loss of job security, familiarity, friends and more. because to me, the greater risk is not living the life i was designed to live. i passed on many “big” musical opportunities because i chose to honor myself as an artist or as a human~ risking the loss of connections, money, status, exposure, “what could have been” from that opportunity & a chance to “make it.” because to me, the greater risk is betraying myself. i left my first marriage and embraced a life of unknown territory with unknown outcomes for myself and my children~ risking the loss of community, respect, and relationships, the loss of jobs and financial stability… because to me, the greater risk is not listening to the Voice in my spirit urging me to trust its guidance without certainty. i left a music job with a salary to focus on my business, “hope hazy artist academy,” and pursue my own songwriting & music full time~ risking the loss of a consistent paycheck, routine & network. because to me, the greater risk is ignoring what i hear Calling me. if risks are decisions accompanied by potential losses, then what one values is what determines the weight of what is at stake. while our culture may value money & power as its top priorities, i value my connection to the Holy Spirit more than anything else. i choose to therefore make decisions rooted in trust and faithfulness instead of financial stability, certainty and social status. inevitably, these decisions i have made have amounted, many times, to those socially measured outcomes- financial instability, loss of opportunities, jobs, respect, etc. despite the fact that i have not been shielded from suffering those consequences, it is worth it to me to never risk this one thing. the outcome of my trust-anchored journey is profound peace. i know i am exactly where i belong. i know i am on the path for which i was built. when i lack that profound peace, it is an indicator to me that a choice needs to be made, a choice that likely involves some level of riskiness. the Source (Higher Power, God, Spirit, Creator, Being) in whom i trust is worthy~ making it worthwhile to be willing to risk anything else, making this path the only one for me worth walking.
now that i’ve articulated what i’m not willing to risk, i want to dive into some of the more inconspicuous risks that necessarily accompany my life as an artist. when i first considered launching a kickstarter campaign to fund my “ending shame” EP, i was severely uncomfortable around the idea of directly asking people to invest their money into me and the thought of the campaign not succeeding was crippling. but listening to the Spirit meant launching the campaign. in this case, it was a glorious victory that i’ll never forget. yet the successful outcome is not what validates that it was a risk worth taking.
i want to share this story in effort to reveal how abstract stakes have inhibited me with personal risk-taking. years ago, i felt the nudge to call a producer i knew and propose a project. discomfort around the idea overwhelmed me, accompanied by the thought-script that assured me i would be wasting his time or interrupting by calling. all the reasons i could come up with to protect me from having to fulfill the notion to call him. the prompting persisted for months and finally i texted a friend to tell her i felt paralyzed by this beckoning cue to contact this producer and she told me to call him right now and then text her back. i called him. i texted her back. the project did not manifest. no fireworks, no victory, no incredible outcome from my long-awaited-action. instead, the Spirit revealed to me how my state of avoidance exposed a lack of my own sense of self-worthiness. that if i knew i was worthy of another’s time, worthy of filling space, worthy of investment, worthy of being heard, worthy of being seen~ then i would have eyes to see opportunities dangling right in front of my face. but i had been clutching onto my own sense of importance and wouldn’t dare put that at stake. and while it wasn’t cognitive, i was operating as though i believed if he said no to the project then i am not important. my importance and sense of self and value and worthiness has nothing to do with anything that anybody could ever give to me or take from me. while this was a concept i “knew” already, i could suddenly viscerally feel the truth of my inherent worthiness in my guts.
lastly, i consider it a necessary artistic practice to engage in self-imposed risks that put the following at stake: comfort, the need for approval, and attachments. while i do this in many ways, one way is by sitting at the piano, playing a couple chords and then vocally exploring the entire spectrum of notes. i have to detach from self-judgment. i have to detach from the need to sound pretty. i have to put at stake my standard of “good ideas,” and instead submit to a Creative Force outside myself that expresses through my un-bordered willingness to be a vessel. i open my mouth and let my voice do whatever it does. such practices transcend conventionalism, constructs & limitations. such practices establish flow and surrender to the Holy Spirit. such practices prepare, season, train and break me. such practices shape, ultimately, how risks have impacted and will continue to impact my life and career.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
my art is the material of That which flows through me. i am a vessel for that white-water-rapid creative force.
i’ll start with my creative projects. “jamais la même [ never the same ]” is the album i wrote before having kids and recorded it while pregnant with my son and released it in the early years of motherhood. it is a product of commitment, trust, faith and integrity. i first fell in love with French music in 2002 through the film, Amélie (now my 7 year old daughter’s name), and its composer, Yann Tiersen. then in 2007, when i saw 2 street musicians in Germany playing an unforgettable cobblestone melody on the accordion and clarinet, i knew i had to give myself to European-influenced music. the next 5 years were spent listening to Edith Piaf, writing only French inspired music and melodies, taking French class at a community college, traveling to Paris, working with a French translator & dialect coach in the studio, recording & releasing this album, and touring across the U.S with an infant. they are five years i remember with pain and with gratitude. for the album, we combined a strings section with horns with ornate vocal arrangements with a rock band instrumentation with accordion and clarinet and bassoon and we created a sound that perfectly externalized every single note and timbre layer that begged to be captured. the album beautifully depicts exactly what my artistic vision was for the project thanks to Chris James, the producer, and all of the remarkable musicians that contributed, including: Dan Lutz, Aaron Sterling, Zane Carney, Benjamin Hazlett, Josh Kaufman, Aiden Moore, Rachael Picazo, and so many more incredible people. this album will be re-released soon.
pre-pandemic, i had successfully completed my “ending shame EP” Kickstarter campaign (thanks to my donors!!!), recorded (with producers, Bryan Senti & Chris James), released the EP (at James Cooley’s late studio), got all incentive rewards together from signed posters to my old-never-released material, commissioned poems, T-shirts printed, packages prepared, and sent off hundreds of packages to all the donors the week before the stay-at-home mandate.
right now, i’m excited about the whimsical piano project i’m writing. i am sifting and selecting from 30 or so songs i’ve written for this project that are politically & spiritually & personally heavy and dark and feel so good to play and sing and write. i have a few projects on the other burners that i occasionally stir- rearranging Mela Roos material, writing an opus of hymns, and compiling original lullabies.
another aspect of my professional world is working with some of the greatest artists ever through my academy. i am blown away, regularly by the incredible people who entrust me to walk alongside them on their own musical growth journeys. i recently hosted the first ever virtual “showcase” for my company, “hope hazy artist academy.” every single one of the performances had me in tears and i am humbled by the fact that i get to work & song-write with them. the age range of these artists spans from 4-75. watching them show commitment to their craft while supporting each other was incredibly fulfilling. seeing them week after week, break new barriers and bloom into these beautiful artists & musicians is overwhelming. i have found not just clients and artists in the consistent faces that i get to see weekly through zoom, but community and village and deeply valued connection. i have deep love and gratitude for these beautiful artists and i absolutely delight in my work.
every stage has had great challenges, including this one. i knew when i was 8 years old that i was a songwriter and i have never questioned that path. the biggest obstacle on that path is my own resistance to the obstacles themselves. accepting the challenges and letting them be there instead of fighting them away is what has brought most freedom from their impact. i believe we overcome by surrendering.
some lessons i’ve learned along the way:
– be in community, we are meant to do this together
– there is ALWAYS ENOUGH
– hold a loose grip around what i want because what i think i want is not necessarily what is best for me and not even necessarily what i actually want
– surrender to life’s ocean waves
– PAUSE before i react
– trust is everything
– be Present
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
oh wow, i can’t express how much i appreciate this question. while HUNDREDS of people come to my mind who have been beside me on my path including my incredible parents and family and friends, i dedicate my shoutout to Wogbe Ofori. tears fall at the sight of his name. his incalculable investment into me within the first several years i lived in Los Angeles will never be forgotten. the magic paint he sprinkled and dumped and spread all over my professional artistic pursuits still color the ever-expanding walls of the musical universe in which i write and teach and create and play and sing and dance.
Wogbe managed my band, Mela Roos and mentored me with an ageless passion, wisdom, diligence, integrity & humor. i was his “padawan.” he listened to every single song and musical fragment i had ever written (hundreds at the time) to find the golden ones. he created a weekly schedule with 15-20 hours designated to time that we would work on my music and he always showed up and always came imparting brilliance. he asked me questions like “do you have health insurance?” and when my 20-some year old carefree self said “no, why do i need that?!” he told me to trust him and he helped me get it. he registered me with ASCAP and answered my millions of questions about publishing and royalties. he had patience with my cross-eyed responses when he talked logistics and numbers and banks and any and all boooooring business details. he opened my first business account with the name “Mela Roos” and when he surprised me by handing me my new debit card, he told me “I put $1,000 on it to start.” he always respected me, he always cared for me.
Wogbe organized and produced epic live shows for my band. he found, hired and paid all the players for me; including the sound, video, and lighting technicians. he directed all the rehearsals. he made sure they were all captured on the bright red 4 track digital recording device he had purchased for me. when i was sick, he brought me soup. even though i told him i would never eat soup. i ate that soup. he taught me how to learn from other people. he taught me how to listen. not just by giving me an opportunity to listen to him. but he actually broke down what listening to an artist’s music was and what it wasn’t. i realized i had never really listened to any artist on any album ever. i then imbibed every musical cocktail i could get my hands on, get my ears on. drunk on the art of all the creators before me. and all my contemporary creators. this led to me learning how to listen to myself. i had been missing that aspect of artistry the whole time. he paid for my voice lessons, cause well, i had a lot of unlearning to do after my lifelong of classical vocal training. he believed in me when my voice cracked, when it was severely flat, when it sounded like i was shouting, when i told him i didn’t think my voice would ever do what we were hoping for, when i didn’t know how to use it anymore and everybody at every show knew it, when i doubted myself. he continued to insist i embark upon this vocal-approach transformation because he heard me explain the style i knew i wanted to express, and he knew it was there. he could discern i wasn’t tapping into the voice that was deeper in me.
after finding out i played tennis in high school, he took me to a tennis court to teach me a new way to swing the racket to demonstrate how uncomfortable it will be to sing in this new way and how that’s normal and ok. i could not get a single ball over the net that day. i was so frustrated. he made sure i didn’t swing it in the way i knew how, the way i had been taught, the way i always relied on to get the damn ball over the net. he told me that’s all a part of it. that the balls won’t go over the net. and it’s time to accept that. and that i’m going to sound bad for awhile in order to one day sound good in a whole new way. in the way that i want to sing and was built to sing, and in the way i otherwise would never sing. he told me this happened over time, there was no way to rush it and as i had more life experiences, i’d notice that my voice, too, was changing. i resented this and demanded to have change now. he laughed.
i remember the day he introduced me to Mela Roos’ guitarist, Ben. Wogbe’s wife, Nancy, invited me into her beauty and insightfulness and she whispered words to me that still ripple inside me. the two of them sat at a table and held my sweaty hands as Ben and I told them we were starting a relationship. i married him and have two beautiful children with him. Wogbe stood beside us at the wedding and seven years later walked alongside me out of that marriage.
he told me when we were sitting in my car after i had just played the master of the french album i had been working on for years (jamais la même) that metamorphosis had happened. that my transformation into baby-butterfly-world was fresh and i’d be learning to fly. years later, he came to me in a dream as i was falling in love and assured me it was OK to move on, to marry him. and i couldn’t be happier. i don’t remember that racket swing he made me do a decade and a half ago but i can fucking fly and i now have that voice he told me i’d get to sing with one day if i continued practicing new form. and with that voice i say… shout, rather, WOGBE OFORI, I LOVE YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! not only do i dedicate this shoutout to you, but not a week goes by that i don’t think of you. not a week goes by without me opening my antenna to channel your wisdom into my padawans. i wouldn’t have this academy without you. i wouldn’t be the songwriter and singer that i am without you. i thank you, my forever Jedi. you’ll never know how much you changed me. you’ll never know how much you mean to me.
Linkedin: hope hazy
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