Touring spoken word performance artist Levi the Poet chatted with BREATHEcast about his incredible pieces, new album Correspondence, and the great tragedy that befell his family with his father's suicide.
Starting off in the hardcore music scene in 2009, Levi Macallister knew he did not necessarily fit it, but began winning crowds with the superb way he put words together. Another thing that made him stand out was the aggression and the attack on his delivery. He was just as hardcore as the musicians on stage except he had no music.
"Spoken word can transcend genre because it is it's own thing," he said. In music the genre of the music is pretty dependent upon the instrumentation and perhaps melody of the song while with spoken word the genre changes through the delivery. Currently he is exploring different deliveries, but when he started out, all he did was yell things.
Levi admitted he is "not in the same spot" he was in in 2009. He has matured not only through age, but also in life experience.
In spite of this, he said although it transcends genre it is still a challenge to find out where he fits.
He does not claim to be an expert of spoken word, but if he had to describe it would be, "lyric based sometimes topical, sometimes more narrative, sometimes a combination of both. Music optional, although it's great to have music carry it along."
Levi said as he was beginning to craft his skills he did not like being in front of people or presenting things. In high school he messed around with some hip-hop and still really loves it now. He is unsure if he will ever try it seriously but says he has the material from the past.
Overall his spoken word "was something that evolved naturally out of being very challenged with the situation I was in."
Levi released his newest album Correspondence in November, and the record is like nothing he has done before. Typically Levi sways from topics to topics and touches on harsh realities or beautiful situations. With Correspondence he had to create a story. He decided to make a fictional story and have each track be a chapter in this audible book.
"A story. A whaler's daughter, out at sea. An orphaned son, building a treehouse for her return. The letters they write back and forth to one another, carried by the waves via the ship-captain's liquor bottles," the album's description reads, "Their love. Their beginnings. Their new beginnings. Their Correspondence."
Levi said that with the new project he is just trying to be more comfortable in his own skin. He admitted that sometimes he forgets to have fun because he looks at spoken word too intensely. This album is a way of him expanding his creativity and being a little lighter on the subject material.
"There were times when I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is so different. Is anyone going to care about this at all'." He said that in moments like those he falls victim to fear, and places things in a higher place than they should be.
"When you start to let fear dictate what you are doing. It's never really good or a comfortable place to be."
Levi wondered if he was doing the right thing, but he had "so much fun writing the album" and collaborating. It helped him realize the power of a team to bounce ideas off of. "It was eye opening...a growing experience."
Correspondence is also notable because it has musical arrangements throughout from track to track rather than him just speaking. He said all the production came about after everything was written. He revealed the writing process comes about very slowly. Usually he has a certain type of delivery in his head that he wants to use. He has the rhythm in his mind, and a delivery style it needs to match.
"The first product is the final product" he laughs before admitting that may not be the best way to do things.
This time around he recorded demo versions to send to his friend Alex Sugg, who has his own project called Glowhouse. Sugg was enlisted to create the music for the entire album. "Whatever this makes you feel like, I want you to write that," Levi told him.
The product of Correspondence is pretty incredible. The music along with the dialogue puts the listener right into the story. It feels almost like an epic play unfolding in listener's eyes. It is truly an experience in itself.
Check with BREATHEcast tomorrow for part two with Levi the Poet where he opens up about his father’s suicide, depression, and his future.