We had the good fortune of connecting with Matthew Levy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Matthew, what role has risk played in your life or career?
This is a great question for a rock climber because risk management is a huge part of our sport. Climbing is inherently dangerous and nerve-racking which may skew personal perceptions of what is a reasonable risk to take and what is irresponsible for our personal well-being. When we pick a climb that is out of our comfort zone or difficulty level (called a project climb) we have to take a lot of things into consideration. For example, what percentage of the intimidation we feel when considering these projects is rational and what percentage of it can and should be turned off to safely push our limits. I personally look for clean falls, difficult movement and safe protection in the rock as a way of securing a baseline for what is a responsible risk to take. If the gear is safe, the rock is clean and solid, and the falls are well protected, I know that any other fear and hesitation I feel can be responsibly turned off through meditation and breathing exercises because my baseline safety requirements have been met. Risk is absolutely necessary to feel successful in one’s climbing career as it is the only way to push through harder grades of climbing and tap into your personal limit.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I come from a world of cities, studios and television sets. I am a music producer, mixer and writer for TV shows all over L.A. I never could have imagined a couple years ago that my life would look like this. I have an extremely interesting mix of dark studio days and bright green days hanging on high lines outside! I originally started climbing for the fitness involved. It’s a great way to move your whole body and have a good time. I quickly began loving the movements involved and ventured outside for the first time. I’d say that’s when I became hooked. I knew almost immediately after my trip to Climb Smart’s Friends of Joshua Tree, that this needed to be a huge part of my life. I’ve been splitting my time between music production and climbing for years now but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to start bringing a camera with me. Originally, the idea was to save photos for my family and my future children to document the fun adventures climbing has offered me. I made an instagram account called LevyClimbing and started documenting my climbing progression. I’ve gained support from amazing companies like OnCrux and Cotopaxi and I think in general, people love my photos. I think I’ve gained a small following in the climbing community and have enjoyed a much larger amount of success in the music industry because I offer a real opinion from an everyday person. This is not to say that education isn’t very valuable but my personal journey did not include music school or photography classes. I believe my success in my creative mediums comes from the fact that everything I do is from the lens of people not from masters. I share an average person’s opinion on a mix or song production as I share an average person’s eye for what photos look pretty. I don’t pick apart the science of music theory when writing as I don’t pick apart numbers and graphs in my photography. Most of the time, my camera is set to auto (unless I am in very specific and unique circumstances) and I take photos based on what I see and find pretty or fascinating to look at. There are much more talented photographers than I, much like there are music mixers who know a lot more about soundscape than I do but I believe I find success in my arts by making art for the people, not for the experts.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, like I said earlier, I rarely go more than 2 days without climbing. A week-long trip would definitely involve some local crags and trips to the climbing gym. I would probably take a good friend to my favorite climbing spots (which I won’t mention here;) As for local eats, you can’t go wrong with Salt and Straw ice cream, Hugos Tacos and Beignet Box on Ventura Blvd in Studio City. The Malibu coast is always a gorgeous drive and we would probably hit a Street Food Cinema event for some food trucks and outdoor movie picnicking.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Wow, it’s almost like these questions were specifically designed to be sent to a rock climber! The climbing community is one of the biggest allures of getting involved in the sport. From the moment you walk into a climbing gym or venture out to your first crag (an area where climbers meet to climb well known and established routes) you will find support. I started in a gym climbing the easiest routes I could find and almost immediately I had seasoned climbers giving me pointers and taking me under their wing! No matter body size, color, sexual orientation, skill level or any other differentiating factors, climbers are an inclusive group of helpful hands. Every climber I have met has only wanted other climbers to enjoy the sport responsibly and safely for both our environment and other’s wellbeing and happiness. A lot of people in our community will teach you anything you need help with, the only stipulation being that you do the same when your time comes to help somebody younger find a safe way to manage their risk and rewards. In terms of specific people, I started climbing with my brother David Levy who has been an inspiration to me my entire life. He has helped me responsibly manage my risk assessment and rein me in when I inevitably get a little too excited or throw myself at things too quickly. He is also quick to let me know when it is safe as a climber to try my hardest and push that extra couple feet or to that next bolt when I would otherwise feel unsafe or bail. All of my hardest climbs have been sent with David belaying and projecting with me. Having someone I love help push my limits was important for me, but for those who don’t have the immediate in like I did, there is one community of folks who is absolutely willing to facilitate your new passion and that would be the Touchstone Climbing community. This chain of gyms has been a huge player in making me feel safe, respected and psyched. If you’re new to the sport and want a community of helpful happy people to help you out, definitely walk into a Touchstone gym. You will not regret it!

Instagram: @levyclimbing

Image Credits
Matthew Levy

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