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John Michael Anderson

A conversation with musician John Michael Anderson on self-care, being present, and putting everything into your art.
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Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Surrounded by creatives, drive, failure, success, culture, etc., truly an immersive environment. One of four children, so competition, not only with family, but within our community, was fortunately or unfortunately very much the ethos in which we lived. I left high school to start touring in bands, which became my new life for the 15+ years to follow. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity touring gave me. To travel the world, see and do countless things I always wanted, and didn’t want. The lessons are innumerable. The peaks and valleys of that “norm” is beyond humbling and exhilarating. From playing on stages in front of 120k people, to finding myself staying on a compound of the resistance fighters in Bali. The list is endless, and I’m grateful for every step of it. With any art, I’m a big believer that you should be able to put your everything into it: all your hurt, love, hardships, highs, lows, losses, accomplishments, etc., which is another reason I count my blessings and value every lesson. In saying that, I personally (whether it is a good or bad thing) have never resonated with what we call regret. I feel there is a lesson in everything, and maybe that’s the point. Especially as an artist, this is a unique advantage as it only deepens the substance of your output.

What are you currently working on?

Musically, I have two current projects I am focusing on. The first is a band I’ve been working on for the past year. It is called YOU. The style is in the alt/pop world. Its a 3-piece with each member sharing a background as professional musical directors, and touring musicians. After many years working tirelessly building up others dreams, we came together with this project to give it our own shot. We’re currently preparing for our first release, which will happen in the next two months. It’s a project that I am fronting, and I really am enjoying the freedom it brings.

The second project came to fruition within our current quarantine. As artists we tend to over think everything which too often means we keep our work, and lives very secret, hardly ever sharing with the world what we create. I’ve struggled with this my whole life. It sometimes takes extreme situations like a pandemic to remind us how fleeting and fragile life is. That is something I’ve experienced as of late which led me to create Bill Heavens, an alias I gave myself for a musical outlet where I don’t let myself get in the way of myself. It’s a fun experiment and has been gratifying to be fairly transparent with my music, being able to share creations without taking myself or the reception too seriously. If everything disappears tomorrow, today I feel a little better for putting art out that I would have otherwise let die in secrecy. This project isn’t really living in one genre, it’s kind of where my head is at the moment.

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“With any art, I’m a big believer that you should be able to put your everything into it: all your hurt, love, hardships, highs, lows, losses, accomplishments, etc., which is another reason I count my blessings and value every lesson.”

Times are unusual right now– what are you doing on a daily basis to stay positive and healthy?

It such a unique situation we’re in and truly flips everything we’re accustomed to upside down. Since what we put in our bodies heavily influences our thought patterns and overall response to essentially everything, right now, more than ever I find it extremely important to focus on nutrition. Eating healthy, reading, meditation, adequate sleep, experience, and a connection with nature (as much as possible at the moment) is paramount. I try and make these my daily focuses to stay happy, healthy and a way to move forward in a somewhat uncertain future. 

What do you do to stay creative?

Creative is what we all are at our core so this question is very important. In the same breath it is important to understand the unrealistic standard we, both individually and as a society put on ourselves, so it’s crucial to not be too hard on ourselves right now if we feel we aren’t meeting those standards. It’s ok to take the necessary rest time we need to stay and be inspired. If I get stuck in what I’m doing I flip the script and challenge myself with something else, like cooking, as silly as that sounds. I think everything is connected and any activity heightens all others. Substance is key. Whatever you do, grow and find the love in it. 

Photo by Ben Fee

What inspires you to keep creating?

At the risk of sounding nihilistic, if everything is meaningless, then what is important is the moment. In a strange way, that is what keeps me inspired. To just be present and learn as much as I can in every single moment, no matter how mundane it may be. There is always something to witness and marvel at. Constantly reminding myself to live as a student in this world is liberating and constantly inspiring. 

Who or what are your current muses?

The answer is simple, my 5 year old daughter is by far the greatest muse I never saw coming. The world through her eyes is such a refreshing thing to see. A great reminder to challenge the bitterness or coldness that can come with experience. Every single thing, as simple as they may seem, are beyond important and grand in her eyes. It’s truly beautiful. Most of the time I feel that the roles are flipped. She is often more of a teacher to me than my child. Being the parent that I want to be has countless benefits. One being that your character and humanity expands exponentially, which in turn translates to more meaningful art and everyday moments. 

Where can we learn more and listen to your music?

On my website at BillHeavens.com, on Instagram at  @billheavens and @bandofyou and on Spotify and SoundCloud.

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