"Capturing a sense of balance" through the life of David Aaron

FLINT, Michigan — “I love how you’re filtering all of this,” David Aaron says at my indirect way of talking about his life and upcoming album, supervision. The album, releasing December 17th, is his most notable foray back into the Flint music scene. He calls it many things: “a love album,” “an extension of my self-perception,” and a project where “I could speak on things,” but ultimately a moment where he could “capture a sense of balance.”

He leans forward in the chair, his second cigarette nestled between his index, middle, and thumb fingers, and declares, “what are you curious about?” I am, for a moment, caught off guard. "I want to know what happened," I say in retaliation, staring him back in the eyes that house the gaze of a little boy than a grown man. Then, with a grin, he suggests that we take our surface treading conversation from outside into the inner confines of his bedroom. It signifies the shift in mood and acknowledges his desire to let me into his life, that from an outside perspective is veiled in confusion, irregularity, and controversy.

I am led through the side door by his command, past a freshly cleaned kitchen and dining room, up a flight of stairs, and submerged in David’s “philosophy,” “expression,” and “insecurities.” Up here, with one bed for him and one for his son, Mecca, a table that serves as a place to write music and paint on canvases, a stereo system, pictures, jersey’s and albums on the walls, there is a sense of loneliness. Yet, a space that few have entered, even fewer invited, bears his unfiltered truth, and the unspoken agreement between us allows a level of intimacy and authenticity to form that sets the tone for my next set of questions.

"A lot of people don’t know what specifically is going on. A lot of psychiatric centers, and a lot of time in this house, right here in this room, letting the days go by.” - David Aaron David sits across from me wearing an Atlanta Braves cap, an old NASA t-shirt that frames his slender physique, ripped blue jeans, and orange socks with the type of body language that feels reserved and guarded. But he remains open, willing to answer anything, and takes a deep breath before he talks about his time in Los Angeles and in the music industry.

He pulls out a cigarette, his third, recalling the phone call he received to go to L.A. and how “that whole scenario was cliche” given how we, as Americans, “love that story” of going from rags to riches. But somewhere along the way, “I couldn’t see around me and what was going on,” openly admitting to “falling victim” to the inside games of the music industry.

“Now, I wouldn’t have committed to agreeing to that,” he says. “It’s really who got the most money and who got the most influence. That’s who dominated the room. Everybody else plays into whoever is the richest and most influential. It was a game that I feel like I wasn’t learning the rules [to].” So he journeyed back to Flint, returning to his roots that began in high school under a collective called Backpack Nation. The time saw him connect with “The Hippy” artist Anthony “Stoner” Malone and a young Ace Gabbana fresh off his first album, DMT.

The trio formed the group Cartoons Only and later disbanded. In the midst of that, he recorded a smash hit with Jeff Skigh titled "Good Vibes." But swiftly, David vanished from the music scene, from social media, and many people’s lives not once or twice but several times. They are events shrouded in vulnerability and conflict. Events he recalls, sparking his fourth cigarette, that stems from a “neurological problem.” Immediately, there is a change in his demeanor.

We’ve hit the point of our conversation where my curiosity and his open invitation to ask anything collide. “Not saying that I’m not going to talk about it with you, because I am,” he says erratically, trying to put into words his thoughts, “but it’s real. A lot of people don’t know what specifically is going on. A lot of psychiatric centers, and a lot of time in this house, right here in this room, letting the days go by.”

The discourse around his mental and emotional health in the context of his life and the greater one surrounding the industrial music complex is needed. One mentioned in my conversation with Jon Connor, in which he talks about how “there’s a system that the music business has implicated [but] I believe the issue is we have to educate young artists to know the power within themselves.”

David’s sister has gone on social media to explain to his peers and followers, and it’s something that those around him during the peak of it still carry to this day. For David, he explains in an easy tone that “I was in a real damaged and insecure state,” having returned home from L.A. all the while trying to “capture” the love and essence of music. And it wasn’t easy. 
David in contemplation.
He started suffering from “mental, emotional, nervous breakdowns” that heavily strained relationships with loved ones and those closest to him. The experiences “twist s*** in your mind,” putting him in a state where “I would go days without saying a word.” While he is getting help, it is still a continuous everyday battle. It was a battle that almost caused our conversation never to happen.

The day before, he canceled our interview, an event he now apologizes for but lets me know how “bad” it had gotten. The process of “learning how to get out of those [moments]” helps. But I wanted to know how he manages it all and what, if anything, keeps him sane.

“Smoking weed and listening to music,” he says with a laugh. “Cleaning up, washing dishes, telling my mom good morning, and talking to my son.”

David’s son, Mecca, whose sixth birthday was the day of our meeting, remains a critical piece in his battle for peace of mind. Situated next to the bed hangs a photo of the two asleep. The image captured in black and white, with the sun shining through the curtains, causes both of us to choke up. Yet, the photo seizes the complexity of David Aaron perfectly—his pure heartedness, the unconditional love for his son, and the awareness of just how important it is to remain humble and take care of himself.

“I wish I could find the words to validate what he does for me. Raising a child is an emotional process. He got me back to myself. All of the art I was doing, [Mecca] inspired it. He inspired the title of the album, supervision.”

I tell him that there are lessons to be taken from his life, and he agrees. And the moment isn’t lost when I ask what he would like people to take away from the present and future he’s envisioning and creating. Finally, he lights his fifth and final cigarette, sits up straight, and shoots me an intense glare.

“Treat every second like it’s your first and last. Treat everything like it’s a brand new moment, whatever that is for you.”

You can find David Aaron on FaceBook, Instagram, and Bandcamp

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.