Contributor’s Note: Madness To Creation contributor, Richard Lepre, talks with Philadelphia multi-genre artist, Brian Walker who performs as A Day Without Love. We talk about mental health, their new album, Mega Jawn, the importance of collaboration, race and everything in between. When Brian isn’t making music he is seeking out creators the world over for his podcast, Dreams Not Memes. Fans can find A Day Without Love at the following locations:
Richard: Hello Brian, before we get into the album, for those who didn’t grow up in Philly, what exactly is a Jawn?
A Day Without Love: Thank you for checking out the record, a Jawn is a slang term commonly used in Philly to refer to a person, place, or thing. Think of it like a noun but to refer to things that are regarded in a good light. Such as a Mega Jawn or a really large collection of music that was created with good people.
Richard: This album features a host of Philadelphia musicians (Em Downing, Jake Detwiler, Erin Fox, just to name a few), how important to you is it to represent Philadelphia as an artist? Do you take pride in being a Philadelphian? What are some of your favorite Philly artists, past or present, that you love?
A Day Without Love: I think it is important to represent my community/Philadelphia as an artist because where I live and come from helps my narrative and shows familiarity for the people around me. I want people outside of Philly to know that and believe that the best art comes from people who show homage to their upbringing.
I have had a love/hate relationship with Philadelphia, but no matter what I will love the cheesesteaks and grit here. Our city has it’s problems on the political level, but the musicians play with a lot of heart and we share many of the same problems and we find ways to support each other. Recording and writing these songs with many local friends and players helped me understand the shared experiences of my city.
Some of my favorite Philly musicians are also people I have worked with on Mega Jawn and some I have played with in the past. My top 3 right now are Erin Fox, Taylor Kelly, and Laura Lizcano.
Richard: Mega Jawn is a collaborative album, almost every song features new artists, how does collaboration change the art you make? How has A Day Without Love evolved because of your commitment to collaboration?
A Day Without Love: I think working with other artists has helped me break the creative barriers I have always set for myself. I used to think I could only be emo and folk punk because that’s how a lot of DIY acts are. They stick to one genre and if they do something different they make a side project. I think to spend your life making side project after side project would be taxing for me. It could work for some, but when you are a solo artist you have to reinvent yourself often to keep things interesting. So in this “arc” of ADWL I felt like I was reinventing myself with the assistance and work with other people. As a result I think my work has evolved as a writer, I play more instruments now, I think about my vocal parts more carefully and I am working on writing an album with a bigger sound in mind. I am thankful for the people I met and worked with, they helped me be a better creator.
Richard: Personally, I really dug your tracks with Marcelyn, they were just very beautiful and introspective, you have a line in Daylight “No one knows when to stop thinking/no one ever knows when to stop drinking” that got to me. How big of a part does sobriety play in your artistic journey?
A Day Without Love: It plays a very very huge part in my journey, I am coming up on six years of sobriety starting in 2021. Before 2015, I was very suicidal, drowning in alcohol and my songwriting was very self loathing. Daylight was about a genuine distaste for Daylights Savings Time and about my insomnia and alcoholism. I used to continue to drink after everyone passed out and would let my mind wander creatively, I used to think writers like Bukowski and great songwriters did that so I glamorized my own self hatred thinking it would make me better. It’s safe to say it did not and lead me to really dark places. So, being sober has made me be more harmonious with myself and with others.
Richard: On your podcast, Dreams Not Memes, you talk to musicians and artists from around the country and now, around the world about music and their creative process but often you end up talking to artists about mental health. How has music affected your mental health and from your conversations as a touring musician and a podcast host what role do you think music plays in most artist’s mental health struggles?
A Day Without Love: As cliche as it might sound I consider my mic and my instruments my therapist. I am not currently in therapy now due to lack of health insurance and the costs of therapy, but I do believe music has always been my saving grace since I started recording and playing.
While not all my conversations on the podcast are with musicians/artists but I do have many conversations with mental health advocates from all walks of life I think expression and connection helps people get through their mental health issues. Not all of us have the same issues and I do believe we all find different ways to heal and cope with our issues, but being able to talk to people who share their vulnerabilities with me has been healing.
Richard: “Find Yourself” feels like you’re talking to someone, who is your target audience on a track like that? What is your relationship with Internal Rhyme? How did you meet?
A Day Without Love: Find Yourself is for anyone who is trying to fight their own emotional demons through addiction or trauma. As someone who fought these two things throughout my life and used to do drugs, I wrote this song for that purpose. Internal Rhyme was a friend I met through the Philadelphia DIY Collaborative to make a music video, then we played shows together and then we recorded a few songs and now we communicate remotely since he lives in California. We have another new song out called “Only Child.”
Richard: I think I recognize some of these tracks as singles, how have you been releasing this 15 track, collaborative Mega Jawn? This isn’t your first rodeo, how have you changed up your release strategy for this album versus others?
A Day Without Love: So digitally this is a re-release but as a compilation of the past singles I released. I gambled between holding out and not releasing anything for a year and a half then dropping these or doing small campaigns. So I took the small campaign route and did various things from house show tours, to playing alternative style shows to music videos for these songs. This opened up more doors for me as a creator and allowed me to also be featured on other musicians’ songs such as Alex Stanilla, Mikie Mayo, Apes of the State, Rebecca Zimmerman and many more. What’s different about this release is that it is all of the songs in order of when they were recorded and it’s a showcase of different styles of songwriting I have been a part of. In past releases I have mostly toured, sent out a press release and hoped for the best. This release is about connection and creativity.
Richard: Brian, as someone who is interviewing you, I know you don’t like the term POC and oftentimes in publishing we feel it’s the most PC decision to call Black artists a person-of-color, if you feel comfortable, could you elaborate on that sentiment? What can the editorial world and the community at large do to promote positive identity politics? What can the music community do to show black lives matter?
A Day Without Love: I don’t like the term because it is derivative of the word “colored” which was used as a term to discriminate and segregate against black people. I wrote a piece on it on Medium here And I wrote a song about it here
I think the editorial world can do better by being less tokenizing and more humanizing. Respond to those emails, put some work in the research of their interviewees ( much like you are doing by the way). Understand that Black artists are artists and their experience is worthy of being heard. Using the term non white would be much better than POC. While some argue well POC decenters the term non white, I would also say you also realize that not only is POC derivative of segregation it eliminates cultural individuality and the right of a person to acknowledge their own culture. I don’t like umbrella terminology in journalism when it comes to discussing identity politics. Representation should stand at the forefront of Identity and when you use umbrella terms you are practicing slacktivism and erasure. What needs to be done is that people need to stop and listen and understand how people want to be identified instead of assuming how someone should be identified with an umbrella term.
To show Black Lives Matter music communities need to do better by providing non white artists with the same opportunities and support as white artists. We shouldn’t be tokenized, we shouldn’t be given affirmative action, we should be given respect and the same leverage as our privileged counterparts.
Richard: What are your goals as an artist? How much closer to you feel to those goals since when you started? How do you work to reach those goals each day?
A Day Without Love: Intrinsically my goals are to tell my story and be a better versed musician. I chase this by practicing and taking care of myself more. Extrinsically I want to be able to have more money and funding to be able to execute my projects in a qualitative manner and to be able to travel more. Overall I want my music and creations to connect to help others learn more about themselves, have deeper relationships with others and rise above their own personal struggles with the world.
Richard: What next for A Day Without Love? I know it’s hard to plan ahead but what is your 2021 looking like?
A Day Without Love: In 2021, while I am probably not going to be able to tour I plan on hopefully finishing a full length album, releasing a documentary called Safe and Sound Film, and releasing a poetry novel titled Surviving and Diving.
And there you have it! Check out “Big Jawn” by A Day Without Love in its entirety via Spotify below: