What is one of the most challenging things you have experienced, or are currently experiencing?
“Well, one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had to deal with recently was about a year or a year and a half ago, when my apartment burned down over at 265 Orange Street. It happened spontaneously. It was Friday, July 25, I remember the day. I was having a good time at work, very happy, and I get a phone call that my apartment’s burning up and the firefighters had to break through my window. My friend was watching, he texted me and said, ‘They see smoke coming out.’ I was very worried cause at the time my acoustic guitar and a jar of money were in the room, and those were the only things that I was concerned about. I was really worried about that. Surprisingly, both things I was able to get out without much damage. All the rest of my room was just completely covered in soot.
“It was devastating to walk in and to see it all with a flashlight, because we weren’t able to turn on the lights. At the time I was a little numb and unable to take it in, but then a few days later, and a week later, it dawned on me and just hit me that that phase of my life was over. I lost about 80% of my belongings, and just had to find a place to put it because I didn’t want to go back to my parents. Luckily, I had a friend who let me stay at her apartment where she had just recently moved in, but it wasn’t filled with furniture. So I was able to have my stuff there as she was gone for vacation for a week. So everything synched up well then. But it was hard for me to walk into an apartment that wasn’t mine every night, with all my belongings stuffed to the corner, some of it smelling like fire and smoke. That was challenging.
“I was living in a space with other musicians. It was very conducive to what I want to do creatively, and I was stripped of that. So it was challenging to figure out what the next step to find another space that’s gonna be conducive to my creative process.”
How did you begin to put the pieces back together, and to rebuild?
“Well, I was luckily already in the community enough that people knew about the fire, so I was getting a lot text messages, saying things like ‘Hey if you need anything, if you need to stay here.’ People were really active about helping me out. As they were with others I was living with. I had a friend right away, maybe two and a half weeks later, telling me that there’s an apartment for rent, very cheap, and it’s with one of their friends. I met the friend, Kat was her name, and it was just quick. I was able to look at the space, and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is great, this is perfect.’ I was able to move in in less than a month after the fire. So I was able to quickly find my own roof.
“But that in itself was challenging. The whole process, and having to nest this new spot, that still continued to be a challenge because I only had I think a mattress top, or not even a mattress, and my pride and ego didn’t want to ask my family, my parents to help me out in any way. I had this envisioning that I could do all this by myself and I can take care of it. I had this almost vacant room with a mattress top, a few clothes, and I’m just looking at it all, and I’m like, ‘Shit!’ I would just lay my guitar on the ground, and that was really challenging. I felt like everything that I was building up from at this spot on Orange Street was coming together. I had this collective of musicians I was living with, and we shared the space we practiced in. We had conversations, and it was a growing network I was embedding myself in. And then it got stripped. It was just taken away and I had to, like, from living in downtown and then be stripped of that and be thrown in the outskirts, and have to work even harder to rework my direction—which was a blessing in disguise. But it was still very challenging. I had gone through a lot of emotional roller coasters, and battle of my ego and self to make sense of it and utilize the situation.”
It sounds like you were a very vulnerable situation.
It would have been very easy to focus on all the things that you lost, but it seems like you chose to focus on how to rebuild and acquire some of the security that you had. You mentioned not wanting to reach out to your parents because of ego and pride, not wanting to move back there. How was your relationship with your parents?
“It was good. I definitely grew up in a loving, nurturing space with my family. But it’s just a philosophy and view on life that’s very different. The language that I have with, I guess, trying to make sense of things, is very different from my parents’. With something like that, I felt like if I were to try to explain myself as to where I was and what I needed personally, in that time of crisis, they would just have a completely different approach to it. So I didn’t even really bother.”
What did you find helpful to help you get through that transitional period? Did you have coping skills that you utilized? Did you have outlets you found that were helpful?
“Not really. I did in ways with some friends who really cared for me and would reach out and ask how I was doing. And they would ensure that I was keeping the right frame of mind. It definitely did put me in a mode of depression, that I just had some bad habits. But I think what helped me cope in that situation was just writing music, as cliché as that sounds, but really that was it. I would always play open mic nights, and solo shows Margaret Milano would throw at me. She cared very much about that flourishing, ’cause she knew how much I cared about it. She knew that my being on stage performing as often as possible would steer me away from the bubble that was my empty room with just a few things. That was my outlet and coping mechanism at the time. And it still is to this day, to play as often as possible and keep writing and playing guitar.”
What were some of the low moments you experienced during that period of depression?
“I’d have to say low moments was suicidal thoughts—not the tendency to approach it, but it was just in my mind a lot more than ever that I’ve experienced in the past. And, also, dabbling into some areas of self-coping that weren’t good for me.”
“Self-medicating, yeah. I’m just trying to choose the right word to avoid—it didn’t help. It was almost that I did it out of self-pity and just thinking, oh what can I learn from this. What will it say to me? Rather than any sort of desire from an addictive personality. It was out of curiosity and self-pity.”
Did it help to numb some of the uncomfortable feelings you were experiencing?
“It actually was the other way around. It would seemingly initially numb it, or you would think that’s the goal, but it would actually numb to the point where I was like no, I don’t want to be numb. I wanna feel. It’s interesting; I have a sick point of view, but I almost did it in order to be in line of almost losing everything so I know what I had in order to keep it. To be on the cusp of just everything being stripped away, and it’s masochistic almost, it sounds masochistic, but it’s something I did at the time. ’Cause I was already at the level of having nothing. And so what else can I lose? So I just played with that in order to know what I still had that was essential at the time.”
What did you learn from that? What was important and valuable?
“My friendships that supported me through it all. That was important.”
Did it give you a deeper sense of gratitude or appreciation?
“Definitely. It definitely did. That’s what I ultimately learned through all that phase of losing the apartment, having almost everything gone. A vacant bedroom. And, you know, self-medicating. I learned the importance of sensitivity to my health and the health of my relationships. And actually not to take it for granted, because as much as one can nurture their own craft and their own creative process, other people’s influences in my life are part of that process as well. And that’s what I learned. I also went into a bout of not wanting anybody to be in my immediate circle. I almost wanted to shut everybody away, and I was in self-loathing. The calming, tortured artist place. That’s what I experienced when that fire happened. And the hardest thing to get out of was that bubble. I realized that in itself is detrimental to what I wanted to accomplish with this music and the band.”
It seems like it’s almost human nature, when something brings us pain or we have a traumatic experience, to push ourselves away from a circle of support or network of people who care about us in order to heal, and to avoid being further hurt or cause more discomfort. It’s sort of a double-edged sword to an extent. It does take some time to self-reflect and to address the wounds, but you also on the flip side of that need to be around people, to be connected.
“Yes, you summed it up well. That’s it.”
You mentioned when you were talking about having some suicidal thoughts that you didn’t feel the need to act upon them. You also alluded to the fact that you had suicidal thoughts, or maybe had been suicidal before in your life. Tell me about that.
“Well, I played with those ideas because it was almost a mental coping mechanism. It was as if I got satisfaction out of what it would be like to just take myself out. It was like a ‘turn it all off’ kind of concept in my mind. It helped me a little bit with dealing with the pressures of everything, that the responsibility is in the action that I have to take in that moment. I know that I wouldn’t ever do it. I’ve never been self-mutilating. But it was just at that phase that I played with the idea of what if I did this, what would happen, who would it affect? Do I have that much influence in my surroundings? And why does it matter? I played with those thoughts in order to know my worth, because I didn’t feel very worthy at the time. I didn’t feel like I had any sort of influence in the community of musicians. It was just a reflection, more of a process of self-reflection.”
So by taking yourself out of the equation, you could see whether or not you were having an impact on your surroundings.
“Yeah, exactly. And to see if my efforts had borne fruit in the course of the almost three years that I was living at 265 Orange Street. Again, here I was establishing myself in a group of musicians in a collective that were being proactive about implementing themselves in New Haven as musicians and artists. Then the fire erupted and I was taken away from that. I was hoping to build more from the platform that we had, and being taken away from that, I was disappointed. So I furthered that in my mind by going okay, well, what if I was actually just gone? It was more a result of that.”
Were there any blessings or gifts that were revealed to you later after you sort of moved through being depressed and contemplating some of the impacts? Did you recognize that there were some good things that came out of it?
“Yeah, I definitely wrote songs that came from that place. Optimistically and even just emotionally. Just being pensive and reflective about it all. I wrote some songs that were really about that process of self-reflection, but making it universal. If people listen to it, it’s comprehensive in that way. And that was something that I got out of it. That was a gift. And also the people I met from the process who saw me in that place and uplifted me and encouraged me about my strengths—and revealing to me what mattered more than the things that I was so hung up on acquiring at the time, such as living at the apartment and just getting out of it because of the fire. I had this disillusion of the things that I thought I needed, through these people. The people I met in that process. So, that was a gift.”
What did you find that you actually needed?
“Just like-minded people—people who see you, who know your emotional frequency, and just feed it. And you feed each other back with that emotional nurturing and validation and affirmation. That’s all you need. Food, affirmation of your peers that see you for who you really are and can help the dialogue through that growth of each other. That’s what I learned. That’s more important than anything else I’ve learned so far. I feel so rich emotionally and empowered after a great long evening with my friends. We know how to have a conversation with each other, we know how to uplift one another and also question each other and hold each other accountable. That is the best thing you could get out of life with another human being, in my eyes anyways.”
It seems like connection is really important.
“I’m trying to make sure I don’t miss anything in between my thoughts.”
What led you to music initially? Tell me about that process.
“I remember how it all really started. I remember being a little kid and my mother would, this was in Walmart I think, Walmart or Kmart, whatever it was, and she was buying gifts for my brother ’cause his birthday was coming up. I remember her looking up at the first set of guitars on the top, top shelf, and it stuck in my mind because it was such a process for her to get a clerk to come down and find the right spot, and get a ladder, and it was just a process that it made me remember it. I was confused as to what was going on. It was initially bought for my brother, and it sat. It was just tucked underneath his bed for years. One day when I was in eighth grade, my history teacher—who was a great person, I didn’t know he was musically talented—and there was this agricultural fair or assembly going on at the school, and we all gathered into the gym room. It was him, he was just standing there, and I thought, ‘Oh it’s my history teacher, Mr. Delucia. What is he doing up there?’ He takes out the guitar, and meanwhile here’s this room filled with all the kids I know and more from the school just staring at him. Since I had this close bond with him from being his student and learning history, I was just so moved by it; and he played guitar and he got everybody enamored and reacting. It made me go, ‘I wanna do that. I wanna do that because he’s doing it and I know his frame of mind and I connect with him on that level, so I want to be able to have that. ’Cause he’s definitely speaking to all these people.’ So I went home and I knew my brother had that guitar under his bed that he had never touched and I just took it. That’s where everything started. That’s how it began.”
How does it make you feel to play music and to write songs?
“It’s definitely not a hobby. Some people see it as a hobby, or just an outlet or a coping mechanism. And it is, it is for me, but it’s more than that. Repeat that again. Sorry, I got lost in my thoughts.”
Describe how you feel when you’re playing music or writing songs. What’s that space like?
“I feel elated. If I do it right, and clear my mind and approach it without thinking too much, I can actually go into a state of meditation and transcend almost within myself. When I stop playing, I come back. It’s a spiritual traveling that I experience when I write music, play guitar. It’s an out-of-body experience. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, but most of the time when it does, it’s the best feeling I can ever get. It’s something I’ve always paid attention to. When I first experienced that, I was like, this is my thing. This is what I have to keep doing, because it’s actually taking me elsewhere. I’m actually going somewhere else. I’m actually experiencing some sort of spiritual movement. It’s inducing for sure. It’s something I haven’t been able to articulate just yet, but it’s evolving. Some of the things that come through me in those spontaneous moments of writing, some of the statements, it’s almost like I’ve been a channel for some of the issues that me and my friends have experienced and discussed. And it wouldn’t have come out in any other way other than just singing and the emotion of the music. And when I realized that I can do that as well, I paid attention to it. That’s been my passion, and it’s what keeps me going.”
Are there times that you faced obstacles musically and you felt challenged, or maybe you were going in the wrong direction and you should give up or do something else?
“Yeah, I definitely deal with that, and it’s the same thing we deal with daily living. It’s like, can I reach pure happiness? Can I be happy forever? I don’t wanna be sad, I’m gonna try to not be sad, but you’re eventually going to be sad. It’s the duality there, you have to experience in order to know how to keep being on the other side of the coin. I definitely experience writer’s block and challenges of my authenticity and continuity of my style. I can write a set of songs that all work together and make sense with a sound that I am trying to blend, and pioneer. But sometimes approaching writing and something new, and not cross terrain, I sometimes start making things that don’t sound like it and it’s very frustrating to deal with that process. Because it’s the same as the process of trying to mentally find out who you are and what you’re all about and self-reflection. That process, it’s the same thing that extends into writing music. And I experience that a lot. And I still do.”
It seems like journeying into your music is also sort of journeying into self-discovery.
“Yeah, self-discovery, that’s it.”
How does it feel to share that with an audience?
“It was definitely, and still is, the raw, I guess, first phase of it that when I began to really express some personal, deep expression lyrically, even though it wasn’t necessarily obvious, but for me I knew I was speaking it outwardly, and it was obvious to me, that was hard to do. And it was humbling and shattering at the same time. It was uplifting and shattering at the same time. Because here I am being brave enough to go on stage and express some pretty deep torments that I deal with, and just to paint poetically the words and to say it in front of people. And be afraid that people are going to know what I’m really saying beneath these words, and that they’re going to hear me, and how are they gonna interpret it? And how are they going to see me, because I’m letting them see all these layers, and which layer are they going to see? How is it going to affect their approach with me as soon as I get off stage? That was a process of thinking that terrified me at first. But not that’s actually like my drug in it. ’Cause now I like to present all these vulnerabilities, all these layers, all these pensive thoughts lyrically and with an incantation, through incantation. To then get off stage and see who actually hears it the way I intended, or how did it affect this person, and it is going to steer our conversation to it or away from it, and that whole thing. That I love.
“It took a little while to embrace that as a process to utilize and the view to have on it. There have been times I have performed and there were some songs where I just blatantly expressed some of these inner turmoil and romantic ideals and embellished promises to myself and others through these songs. Then I get off stage, and I’m like completely . . . I feel like a child who’s just being scolded and having to be placed in a corner. It’s weird, I don’t know how to explain it, but there are some times where it’s humiliated me. Like I humiliated myself even though nobody has any idea what I just experienced on stage with myself by just pouring that all out. And that in itself has been an interesting experience.”
It sounds therapeutic in a way.
“It is. It is, and also self-torture. But it is therapeutic most of the time, because I learn more about myself and also people’s sensibilities. There have been times where someone has picked up on it and they will talk to me, and they are drawn to what just happened with myself and also with sharing. That in itself teaches me a lot about people. And that’s exactly what I want to have happen with this approach. I am still in the early stages of it all, clearly.”
What are some of the valuable things you have learned about yourself over the last few years on this journey?
“That this is all I’m going to do. That’s it. ’Cause for a while I’ve always been in fear of is this going to fade out? Am I just gonna like lose the juice that I’ve had so far with writing music and content? And then just have it dry out and work a 9-to-5 job and just do some other person’s paperwork or bring them coffee to their office or something. I’ve always feared that. And it’s affected my approach with writing and my confidence with this aspiration. I’ve learned that I can’t have that view or that fear anymore, and to embrace that this is it. I’ve found exactly what it is I want to do with myself. And just push it and perpetuate it, regardless of how many times I’m going to drag my feet and be humiliated by the fact that it is my choice of life and living.”
“I always have this ridiculous statement I would always say to my ex-girlfriend whenever I was in a low point, and angry and self-loathing, I would always aggrandize myself and say, ‘This is what I’m going to do, and I don’t care even if I’m having to sit on a piss-stained mattress in a warehouse in Detroit. I’m going to do this.’ But that type of mentality also wasn’t good.”
So you’ve learned that this is what you’re going to be doing. What are some of the other things that you have learned about yourself?
“Through it? Away from the music and such?”
“I’ve learned how much I like to observe, and how important intimate encounter is. I’m not very good with a large group. I can be, but I’m more on the back burner, and I kind of just watch and I flow. I’ve learned how nurturing it is, and it fuels my art to be able to extend to the people I observe and connect with through that intimate encounter and sentiment. How I can provide my art through the music. I’ve learned that I am . . . it’s hard to explain, I’m trying to sum it up, I know what I’m trying to say. It’s like as much emotion and force that I feel within myself that comes through the music, that socially and in person how seemingly reserved, calm, and quiet I am. And for the longest time I was actually like ‘no!’ The music, it has a lot of movement. The music gets loud. For the longest time I didn’t want to connect the two, because I wanted to be separate, but I’ve come to learn that that’s what makes it work for me. I’ve learned to be okay with how seemingly complacent I might be, seem, like how I come off. Sometimes I feel like I don’t add up to the emotional projection that I have musically versus how I am socially. And so that’s what I’ve learned. And how to keep it separate, because sometimes it’s not good to try to contrive a way of being because your music or the expression is different. It’s louder or something. Something I’ve always feared is that somebody would say, ‘It’s weird, your music is like this but I don’t get why you’re like that.’ And I’ve had a big fear of that, but I realized not to have that.”
It sounds like it’s an extension of you, but it’s not necessarily who you are entirely.
“Yeah, because the music is just a filter, it’s like an extension of a part of myself that can be painted in different ways. But it’s still a framework, it’s still a boxed thing. And me as a person, there’s more to the self and a human being than that. There are so many layers and complexities, and I’ve come to accept that. That’s what I’ve learned.”
Is it fair to say that your tribulations and challenges and maybe heartbreak in your life have fed that juice that you were concerned that you may run out of?
“Definitely. And not only that, it’s fueled me to write music that is optimistic and musically sounding optimistic in order to help that process to be uplifting. Overcome the tribulations and hardships.”
What sort of advice might you offer to someone reading this who can relate to pursuing their own passion, maybe exploring their own interior space, or rebuilding from sort of devastation or loss in their life?
“Just put yourself through the hell, but make sure you have an ultimate goal in mind that is beneficial for you and your loved ones. Go through the hell, go through the process of self-discovery and torment of self-reflecting, ’cause that’s the only way you’re going to learn more. You can’t hide it and pretend that you’re not broken, you’re not tainted by your past experiences or decisions you’ve made. Face it and go through the humility, ’cause that’s the thing I notice about a lot of people—they don’t admit to themselves the humility.”
You used a very important word that I want to highlight, and that is ‘through it.’ I think many of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid things that make us feel vulnerable or humiliated or broken or weak or fragile, even human to some degree, but you use the term ‘through it,’ which I think is imperative in healing and moving forward and growing.
“It is. If I didn’t allow myself to go through it and to process it all, I wouldn’t have connected the way I have with people. And that has been marvelous, that has been beautifully presented and gifted to me. I’ve had the most beautiful conversations and experiences through my own vulnerability, and admitting those things, and having people see it. And because they see it, they can almost allow themselves to do the same. And they learn in their own way. If you do it for yourself, you ultimately are letting someone else have the license to do it, ’cause they see that you’re doing it. And that is affection. You can have affection through your own process of self-discovery and humility.”
It seems like exposing yourself on those levels allows other people to connect with you, and with themselves as well.
“And I’m speaking on a plane of creativity and personal encounter. Because there are so many barriers and etiquette and context out in the public world that unfortunately you know you have to refrain a bit and not be so romantically inclined to do these things. When it comes down to being in someone’s kitchen or at a coffee shop or music venue where creative expression is allowed, these things are important. This is where I’m coming from.”
Do you have a favorite quote that comes to mind that you’d like to share?
“From someone else?”
“There’s so many.”
You were reading a book when I stumbled upon you today.
“Yeah, there’s actually a quote from that. I think, I wouldn’t say this is verbatim or exactly what it says, but it says, ‘What you want also wants you.’”
What does that mean to you?
“To me, it means whatever you know you want or desire out of life, and you’re searching for and you have that energy and you emit that through your spirit and your lens, like literally your eyes, that what you want will see that you want it, and it will come to you. I feel like that’s a simpler way of saying manifestation exists. That you can manifest what it is that you want. It’s like a magnet. You become a magnet. And that’s what it means to me. Because I’ve experienced things that validate that. It’s why we’re sitting here.”
It seems like the law of attraction, or aligning yourself with the frequency of the things you are striving for. I’ve used the analogy in life that if you are trying to get to a specific destination and you’re at the train station and you need to be on the A train to get to this destination, but you’re on the track for the B train, something’s not aligned there. You’re not aligned with where you want to go. So you need to get on the right track.
“Yeah, and another quote, another line that has stuck with me, again not verbatim but, what I got out of it is what I’m still trying to practice, still trying to understand, because it’s a discipline. And that is, ‘Take everything seriously lightly.’ Because you have to take life seriously, but don’t take it lightly. And that’s something I’m trying to habituate in my nature. That’s another thing, another statement I read in this booked called The Power of Photography. It’s amazing.”
I think no matter how hard you’re striving or how hard you’re working and how serious you are—
“Yeah, ’cause that’s the thing. I write from a romantic point of view, and I like to give weight to things the same way an orchestra from, you know, Beethoven or Henry Purcell—the movement and the climactic point of the symphony—I like to have the same type of emotional projection with my music. Sometimes I take myself a little too seriously with that, and I’m trying to figure out how to be light-hearted about it. Something I’m trying to understand is satire, how to have satire, because that’s a good blend with the whole seriousness of life.”
Yeah, I think it’s important to have a sense of childish innocence and play in your life. There has to be room or nurture your interior.
“Sarcasm, like jokes, out of the reality.”
In closing, how has it felt to talk about these experiences with me and to share some of your thoughts and ideas and emotions?
“It felt good. It’s definitely necessary. And also a learning experience. It all is. I don’t get to do this often, so I’m still raw and young in this expression.”
Do you think it’s possible that by sharing your experiences and your thoughts and your journey in a platform like this, you could be inspiring someone else, giving them hope or even a sense that they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing?
“I’d like to do that. I would definitely approach my practices and learning with that in mind. I wouldn’t say necessarily that it would be my goal or my focus. But I would like for that to happen. ’Cause a lot of people don’t realize how much influence they can have on their environment and their peers. Even if they’re not necessarily in much communication about those things, they just are. It’s just the way we are, it’s like we’re sponges: we absorb habits and behaviors, and subconsciously pick them up from one another, if you’re around those people long enough or watch them and observe them in your environment. And so with that said, to answer your question, yeah, I’d like to be sure I can have a keen sense as how to support people and influence people in a positive way.”
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