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What is new with Levi The Poet? (poems, albums, tours, videos, whatever).

Well, after a much-needed sabbath for Brandi (my wife) and I after being out on the road for a good eight months in 2011, we’re getting ready to leave for a six-week long tour called Fight The Silence, which For Today is headlining. Brandi and I are going to be representing XXXChurch.com – a non-profit organization which deals with the topic of pornography for both those inside the industry, and those who fund it via their “viewing pleasure” from the outside. I’ll be performing a poem or two here and there, and then we’ll be running a “Confessions Video Booth” where show-goers can share their stories and have them uploaded to the XXXChurch website along the way.

We’ve seen a good response LTP material since joining up with Come&Live! in November, and we’re in the process of writing a new album – together – right now, along with another friend in Albuquerque (Alex Sugg of Glowhouse). That being said, Levi The Poet is going to look/sound a little bit differently than it has in the past, which I’m praying will be a plus. Spoken-word is still going to be the fundamental backbone of the project, but we’re going to incorporate some of Brandi and Alex’s musicianship / production ears into the process, as well. I’m hoping to solidify a recording date within the month, with a potential fall release (Lord willing).

As for video, a few members of the Media & Communications team at Mars Hill Church Albuquerque filmed and released a video for a poem named “Kaleidoscope” in conjunction with the Real Marriage series’ sermon “Disgrace & Grace” – which dealt with sexual sin and assault, abuse, etc. – all topics that the poem speaks of and into. Next week, we’ll be releasing a video for a poem that I recorded years ago – “Pretty in Pornography” – to be promoted in the same vein. I’m really excited about the response we’ve seen thus far from the first, and praying that the second would be an even bigger “success” – essentially, that the Holy Spirit would use them to work redemptive change and transformation in the hearts and minds of those enslaved in sexual sin – wherever they may fall on the scale from perpetrator to victim. Some of the messages we’ve gotten have been so heartbreaking, and yet so hopeful, with other people being encouraged to share their own stories as fear subsides in the light of seeing my transparency – which certainly doesn’t make me amazing or anything, but I’ve always prayed that honesty in one would beget honesty in other, and it’s been amazing to see Jesus answering that prayer.

How did you get involved with spoken word?

I’ve pretty much decided it all started with God playing a practical joke on me. I hated being in front of people more than anything else, and no matter how many shows I play, I still get stage fright/cold sweats at ever single one of them. It’s annoying. I liked Bradley Hathaway back in the day and gave him some of my poetry when I was in high school (he didn’t really like it that much).

At any rate, I think the best answer that I can give is that I’ve always loved to write – ever since I can remember – and so I have an inclination towards the lyrical quality of a song before I have / out of which I form an opinion of the song itself. I can’t listen to music with crappy lyrics (granted, “crappy,” in this instance, is an entirely subjective term, as I listen to Eminem all the time). Spoken word is the lyrics to a song minus the song. A bunch of friends in Albuquerque new that I liked to write, and that I wanted to share my writing, so they asked me to start reading at shows, and I suppose that somewhere along the line, I assumed that by “reading” they meant: “scream like a maniac and scare everyone.”

When did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

That’s an interesting question, because sometimes I’m still tempted to believe that I don’t (know, that is). Although I’m working on being a more confident person, the indecision that I’ve struggled through for years as to what I’m interested in, and what I want life to look like, and etc. more often than not leaves me overwhelmed without knowing where to start, so I just don’t start. Kind of like when you have such a large workload with so many different things to do that you do none of them.

That being said, I believe that I have done something with this project – so how do I reconcile the two? Jesus. And I’m not saying that to being an annoyingly spiritual sounding person who’s got his facade down pat for an interview. I just legitimately think that the Lord has been slowly putting all of these puzzle pieces together over the course of the last few years and, in hindsight, I’m able to see some of the ways he has developed my passion for this project, the topics discussed through it, and the people it appeals to. And he’s done so through a lot of “yes” answers and “no” answers to my prayers, which goes to show that he’s a much better God than I could be.

How has loss in your life impacted your vision, your poetry, your delivery?

Oh my gosh – words can’t describe the impact that loss (specifically that of my dad) – but suffering in general – has had on my vision and approach to this project. As difficult as it is for me to admit, I know that I can look back and specifically point to my father’s suicide as the event that sparked a deeper understanding of Jesus’ sufficiency in my life, because I had to wrestle through whether or not Jesus was really enough for me, whether he was really everything he promised he was, whether he was really good through such evil, and whether my identity in him would truly suffice despite the circumstantial ebb and flow of life. The answer is an overwhelmingly resounding YES! Because of that, Jesus, not me or my project, or my popularity, or whatever, has to be the vision – the End. All of this can be a means to the End, but it isn’t the End. Out of that vision, the mission for Levi The Poet is to be realistic, repentant and redemptive. We can be real about our losses, our suffering – Jesus was. He didn’t minimize it – he wept over his friends, he wept and he sweat blood over his own suffering. But in the end, Jesus is also the fulfillment of those losses, and he is still sovereign over them. He is still the one that brought Lazarus to back to life and he is still the one that raised himself from the dead and defeated death and it’s power. I think that, perhaps, there is not a sweeter doctrine to me than the sovereignty of God, and the grace that is in it. Many people would say that it is a cold, harsh, ungodly doctrine, in that it makes him a bad God that would let bad, unloving things happen. But Jesus is also called the suffering servant – a high priest that sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, a man acquainted with sorrows. It is was not unloving of God to allow my father to die and my family to suffer. While I would not claim to know the answer or have God’s purposes wrapped around my fingers (far from it!), Jesus has walked us through our suffering and it more beautiful to us because of it. At the cross he sympathizes with my hurt, shame – even the abandonment that I’ve felt through this process.

It’s such a cool thing to know that God doesn’t minimize our suffering. That’s something that we do, but suffering is a big deal to God. And in talking about sovereignty – I think that often God’s emotion gets lost (I know I’ve been guilty of it), but just because God is over all doesn’t mean that he’s negligent of our circumstance. Jesus wept. God’s heart breaks. Our savior mourns. He meets us where we’re at and says, “I understand, and I am here to see you through.”

How has being married changed your outlook?

Being married is an enormous conglomeration of emotions all bundled up together. It’s awesome and insane and fun and hard and joyful and sanctifying and… the list goes on. It has changed the way that I approach managing this project, pursuing this project, and viewing this project, as I now have a wife to care and provide for. Brandi has always been my biggest supporter. If it weren’t for her, I never would have started doing LTP. She pushed me from the very beginning to get out of Albuquerque and start touring, and even though a lot of things are going to change as priorities shift and building up our relationship (as we’re still in our first year of marriage) becomes more important, it is still so awesome to have her by my side after all these years.

One of the topics that I tackle a lot – both through LTP and more specifically through XXXChurch – is sexual sin. Having a wife breaks my heart for the things that I’ve done in the past, and the things that I see being done, and the things that our culture promotes. It sucks getting to the end of a set and having to pray for a girl that’s been raped repeatedly and molested by her father (it doesn’t suck to pray for it, but it sucks that the issue being prayed over exists). Viewing that scenario through the lens of a marriage relationship is devastating.

Brandi’s amazing. I need her. Above and beyond anything that has to do with Levi The Poet, Brandi is my best friend, and words can’t describe how thankful I am for her.

What did you do and what was it like travelling with White Collar Sideshow?

We traveled with WCS for nearly a year. I still performed as an opener with Levi The Poet, and Brandi played keyboard for White Collar as Lady Iris. How can I describe the experience? Perhaps in much the same way as I described that of being married – a conglomeration of a lot of different things. T, Veronica and Phillip are a total joy, and I cannot image what it must have been like, in their minds, to invite two newlyweds (we literally moved in immediately following our honeymoon) into their 35-ft home, to live with them, 24/7, for a year. They sacrificed a lot for Brandi and I in order to see LTP continue and our dreams for “music-ministry” fulfilled. We covered the entire US during our time with them. As for the growth that came to my project during that time, there is no doubt that WCS provided me with opportunities I’d have never had otherwise (festivals, C&L! tour, etc). I’m so thankful for them and their friendship. They are truly some of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. But things were hard, too. Perhaps the erroneous thinking that tour life is all fun and games isn’t as pervasive in the scene as it once was, but we’re all still people living life like anyone, and last year was the most difficult year of life that I’ve ever experienced. My dad committed suicide, Brandi and I got married, my mom and sister moved away from New Mexico so I didn’t see them during off-times, friendships in our lives were strained if not entirely lost, and we were two newly married people living our first year together away from friends, family, church, and any sort of consistency, in an RV with three (more often than not, four) other people, and two dogs. No wonder everyone thought we were insane!

You know what, though? Brandi and I believed that was where the Lord called us, and I still believe it. The season didn’t last as long as we thought it would, and there are still some questions in our minds as to why, but we are all on good terms, and I can’t wait to see them all this summer at festivals, and give T’s mustache-less cheeks a squeeze. Haha. I’m so excited to see what they do with The Witchunt. It’s going to be insane (which T would not have any other way).

Anything else you’d like to add?

From what I can tell, Spoken Word has just exploded over the course of the last year. Although I would love to have a unique voice (maybe I do, maybe I don’t), I’ve never claimed to have a unique story. Frankly, I don’t think I have a unique story. Who hasn’t struggled with pornography? Who hasn’t had bouts of depression? Who hasn’t know pain, loss or anger? I once got an email from someone absolutely infuriated at the thought that my story was something special – but I have never claimed it to be so, and that notion never came from me. I do think, however, that God has a good plan and a good sense of humor, and that he uses fools like me to do things that are, otherwise, foolish, for his glory. That is my prayer, anyway.

You can find all things Levi The Poet at: www.levithepoet.net

Thank you so much for everything.

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