Talks spirituality, music & creativity
Photographer: Ollie Ali // @mrollieali
Stylist: Rhys Marcus Jay // @rhysmarcusjay
Grooming: Nadia Moham // @nadiamohamofficial
Interview: Amal AlTauqi // @altxuqi
Project Manager: Johnson Gold // @johnson_gold
Artist: Miguel // @miguel
Miguel is back, raring to go and ready for his return.
There’s something in the air. Perhaps a spirited and definitive sense of returning. Or, at least that’s the case for Miguel, undoubtedly one of music’s most inimitable spirits. “There’s been a lot of lead-ups so I’m looking forward to getting back to a more regular and steady flow of output,” he muses as we take a moment to divulge his unwavering commitment to both music and creativity.
It only takes a quick search of “Miguel” to discover the anticipation of his musical return, with some fans exhibiting an almost threatening eagerness. The reason, however, is clear to anyone who has followed Miguel since he captured hearts with his entrancing blend of Pop-RnB ballads infused with an imposing uniqueness only a few can obtain so well.
Native to the San Pedro community in California, Miguel owes his philosophy to his authentic style, coupled with an innate grasp of both artistry and articulacy. Acquiring a sense of philomathic curiosity [relating to or enjoying the process of learning], Miguel looks towards entering this new season striving to extend his own boundaries and connect deeply with those who engage with his offerings, be it music, art, fashion, or poetry.
In fact, when it comes to creative polymathy, Miguel reminds me that categorisation does not exist. In order to apply a breadth of knowledge successfully, one must connect at a deeper level, establishing the cores of life and facilitating necessary change, much like evolution. “I’m in a place where I refuse not to explore creatively.”
My love for your music dates back as far as I can recall. Among the most talented experimentalists our industry has ever seen, your sound continues to defy easy categorization, making you one of the very few artists I have longed to study, to learn from. What’s been on your mind recently?
What’s been on my mind recently? Returning. Returning with music and being back on a regular flow of release, getting back to my fans and introducing new ideas. There’s been a lot of lead-ups so I’m looking forward to getting back to a more regular and steady flow of output.
You continue to share a beautifully crafted poem that encourages us to create our lives in accordance with our desire. Its repetition creates a sense of purity. Let’s flip the switch. What do you desire and in what ways do you affirm that everything you desire is within your reach?
I want to make things that last forever. It’s always been that. I want to connect deeply with my audience. More than ever, it’s about quality and wanting to have a deeper connection with anyone or anything that gives me the time and energy – it’s the best that I can offer. At this point in my life, it’s about honesty and really, that’s probably what I’m longing for too. I think we get so wrapped up in inflated numbers because that’s what this world has kind of shown us every day – “how many likes you have…”, “how many followers you have…”, “how much money you have…”, you know? I read this quote that said “the truth is not always popular” – and not that it’s always that deep but what I take from it is that it’s more important to connect with people who see things for what they truly are and love it, as opposed to grab everyone who ‘kind of’ loves it or halfway loves it. I desire to connect deeply and to make things that last forever.
I love the fact that you mentioned a quote, as I wanted to touch on the fact that T.S Eliot once stated that genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. What can poetry teach us about ourselves and about life?
That’s a great question. I have to think about that one…
Take your time, it’s early, and I told you I wanted to pick your brain.
I love it, this is great. Hmm. I think what poetry has done for me… even in the most everyday detail of life, it shows me that there is something to learn and something emotional to connect to through our creativity [in the way that we connect our emotions, even the simplest details]. Someone once said to me: “Great writing is you, seeing yourself, through someone else’s details”. That’s art in general. When you find any part of art from any medium, some details will evoke some emotion and it reminds you of your humanity. I think in the same way, that’s how great poetry works. You connect to it emotionally, to the details that strike a nerve or chord on an emotional level. In a world where everything is so easily found, we become so desensitized and information isn’t easily discerned to be true or false, so if there’s something that rings true, if there’s something that hits you in your heart, it’s one of those feelings that no one else needs to tell you about because it’s in your gut.
As with your music, there are traces of poetic expression. When taking the time to write or express, do you often rely on intuition, or do you consider it to be more analytical?
It is sort of a pendulum. In a world where we are bombarded by information, sometimes it’s hard to turn off your analytical brain so it’s a push and pull. It’s a good struggle and the best have found ways to make it seamless, when [perhaps] it is more initiative, as opposed to something more analytical, and back and forth.
The interplay is where there is a lot of individuality. I’m looking forward to what’s coming as I feel like there is a new dimension in the interplay within my work. I’m interested in seeing who connects with that and how it strikes people, as it’s certainly one of my more favourite elements to be aware of.
Which leads me into talking about the inspiration behind your new music these days?
My inspiration these days is life. When you say: “life is my inspiration”, it’s so vague because at the same time, what else? I think right now, again, it’s connecting on a deeper level. The thing I remind myself is that we change, we evolve, we grow, who we were six months ago isn’t the same as who we are today. To remind myself, it’s important to re-establish a baseline, to know that this is where I am at.
This is my perspective, this is my life, this is what’s fun, what’s wild, what’s sad, you know? And then stepping outside of that… (I hate it to say it this way) but I do believe that being an artist is somewhat self-centred – not so much because it’s all about that person – but because it’s finding the truth within and giving yourself that honesty.
From meditation to social conscience, what led you to an interest in spiritualism?
I would say it’s less spiritual and more spirited. For me, it’s becoming clearer about what is true. [Distinguishing] what is good for a season and what is good for a staple in terms of who I am. Let’s take PAUSE for example, it’s a fashion magazine, so we understand how things come in and out of season and in and out of fashion. And then we also understand that there are things that will always be a part of your repertoire, a part of who you are. Some things reflect on a very core level as a baseline of expressing, right? Whilst others work better in the moment and as they may express something about you, it may not be core. I guess what I’m trying to say is that where my mind is at now, I’m just digging for what’s really core. Which is a trip because I’m not a spring chicken, haha! Redefining and refining are the whole purpose here. So, in a weird way, it is spiritual, but I’d say that I’m spirited right now. I’m very much into getting at the core of what this is all about. In all honesty, I’m in a very existential place. It’s a trip.
You just putting that into perspective for me has left me feeling spirited. If you can do that by a simple conversation, I can’t wait for what the new music has in store.
Ah man, I can’t wait for you to hear it. I really feel it’s some of my most… well let’s just say I’m definitely going for it. It’s quite manic, to be honest with you. Evolution kind of requires that extreme. In extremes, you start to realise where your boundaries lie and what is important to make clear. I get bored really easily, so the fact that I have been working on this project for a long time and every time I play through what’s coming, I’m excited. I don’t even know if anyone is really going to fuck with this because maybe this is not what they wanted, but maybe I’m also reminding myself now that through the process, leaders don’t always give people what they want. Sometimes you’re just there to inspire someone else.
I think what’s important here is to distinguish that you have the power to know what you like and if you put the energy in, there’s bound to be someone out there that will be able to resonate on a deeper level. I find as humans, we are creatures of comfort and sometimes stepping out of our norm can be overwhelming. Let’s take the pandemic for example, nobody was expecting that, yet we had no choice but to adapt.
Uh, huh. That’s exactly where I’m at. What else were we supposed to do? We are supposed to step out of this weird quarantine-y…
Quaratine-y, is that our new word? Did we just invent that?
Yup, haha. Like in reference to this quarantine residual, the shell shock, everyone is looking for comfort, familiarity and I think I’ve always been the person to be like “yeah, where should there be some paint? Let me throw some paint on here…” It’s weird. When I feel a little scared, there’s this quote that Bowie has: “If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
Perhaps sometimes those who don’t feel like they have the capabilities to facilitate a change just needs that one person to say: “you know what – let’s throw some paint there, let’s get up and do this…” With that movement, comes change and acceptance. In the same way, the fashion industry has seen a shift in individuals no longer adhering to traditional concepts of gender.
Nowadays, gender fluid fashion is accepted as a norm by the mainstream, and society has moved along with it. A shift in attitude and acceptance leads to a shift in representation. Having expressed the desire to belong rather than stand out publicly, do you see a broader representation in the arts today?
I’ve always naturally – whether it’s been good or bad – stood out and been on both sides. I think the awesome part of where we are now is that there is nothing that is off-limits. There is no: “that’s unacceptable”, it’s more of a “by all means, do it, as long as it’s real.” As long as it is authentic, if it comes from a real place, that representation gets to see themselves in culture.
Now, we’re seeing so much more support across the spectrum of things and it’s exciting, it allows more people to express genuinely. That’s art. All of this is just people trying to figure out who else they can connect with.
In your capacity as a rebellious creative who designs for your own sustainable brand S1C.LA, your style is often intricate and unpredictable. How do you continue to push the limits of your conceptual work?
These days, it’s just learning. Learning as much as I can. From thinking of new things to try, to finding out new ways to do it, it is extremely challenging. Especially as someone whose offerings before fashion was often encapsulated in 3–4-minute timespans. A song is 4-minutes of your life for the most part, or less, and that means that the creative process start-to-finish typically is a lot shorter. When in comparison to something physical, a tangible product that requires craftmanship and collaboration between people with different strengths, that part of the process has taught me so much about patience and it’s bled into my creative process in music too. I think that’s where learning and really learning and appreciating the process of things informs what’s to come because the more and more, I see what is done, I think about what could be done. I now question what hasn’t been done and why. Those are the sort of questions that [initially] got me started with music. Why can’t a black Mexican sing like this or that? Why can’t I dress like that? There’s always a why.
The more you ask why, the better the outcome. It’s amazing to me that you are able to use these different pockets of creativity to make yourself flexible and interchangeable. You learn more about yourself.
It definitely hones it. Again, it’s refining and honing, which is cathartic.
Cathartic for sure, I can imagine. That sense of relief?
Yes. I think the relief is… well for one, there’s nothing more exciting than going to sleep at 5 AM in the morning after listening to something I just made. You know, time disappeared, the sun is in a different place in the sky, the birds are chirping… there really hasn’t been anything else in my life that is that exhilarating, and it reminds me that life is exciting. There are glimpses of that in where I have been able to find in producing clothing too, where you have an idea and you think: “wow, this is dope. I can’t wait.” [Fashion] has brought a new dimension to my excitement and creativity.
With that said, through your work in art, fashion, music, and poetry, what medium captures your creativity the most?
I have become more fluent to translate my emotions through music, so naturally, that is where I feel it the most. I know how to get there, and I know all of the way it blossoms, so it excites me in different ways. With fashion and with any medium, at heart I have been tremendously lucky and blessed to be able to express myself and find people that it connects with. In any places that I can do that and have interest in, I will go. Right now, fashion is a new place where I’m really diving in and absorbing as much as I can. It’s not only a creative pursuit but also a business pursuit, there’s an art to that too, that’s equally as encouraging and exhilarating with its own lessons. Because I am someone who comes from nothing, who comes from nowhere, from the furthest reach of Los Angeles, the hood – I’ve been so lucky to get to where I am so if there is something that I have learnt, it’s that when I lean into my creativity and what’s honest, what can come from that is unimaginable and unfathomable. I’m in a place where I refuse not to explore creatively.
You recently shared a post about “innocent dreams”, which then disappeared…
Ooh, are you talking about… yup I took it down. I was like “I gotta take this down”, haha, I’ll keep sharing parts and pieces.
Oh, you tease. Yet, on the subject of innocent dreams, we often equate innocence to childhood, so what was your biggest dream as a child?
My biggest dream was to write songs that made people feel. Growing up, I used to listen to songs that made people feel, like Donny Hathaway, or the way a Prince song made me feel. It was to be able to go and perform songs anywhere. As a kid, we didn’t have much but what we did have was music. We did get to listen to music, and we did get to feel the emotions that inspired me. Innocently, as a kid, it was always about wanting to create things that make people feel like this… or that.”
Essentially, you strived to create music in the same way that it once made you feel, and how it made you absorb those emotions and sounds.
Yeah. I can remember listening to Donny Hathaway’s ‘For all we know, we may never meet again…” That entire emotion. For a kid? No kid knows how it feels to lose someone that they love on a romantic level from experience but through spirit? Through emotion? I certainly felt it deeply. It stuck with me. I didn’t know that you could feel this way. Those were my innocent dreams – creating things and allowing people to feel things they didn’t even know they could feel.
It’s so beautiful that the universal language of music allows us to feel some type of way. I always say this. Before I am a music journalist, I am first and foremost a fan. The fact that this shared passion of sound brings us together and allows us to have this conversation on a deeper level… it’s amazing.
Yeah, right? I guess the one thing that people who get to do what they love can tell you is that it has brought them to places they could have only imagined. Things that once seemed impossible from where the dream began, to now getting to experience these things. It’s like wow! It’s a trip.
I think I’ll forever be grateful for our love of art and creativity to bring us together. To have these well-needed conversations.
Yeah, same here. It’s really a pleasure.
From having this conversation with you, I gather this sense of redefined growth. Looking back at everything thus far – the experiences, the impact, these formative lessons – as you continue to grow, what else do you aim to learn about and the space you have cultivated for yourself?
I think the place that I’m in right now, I want to find out how far I can out-grow. Or maybe not out-grow? But how far can I push it. How far can I push myself? As humans, we get to Mars and then we’ll look at some other planet that seems out of reach and go there. That’s maybe something innately that is part of being a human, there’s a desire to continue to push further. Someone once asked me a question about success, and I still truly believe that success is going to where we want to go but without losing who we truly are. That’s where it’s at for me. I want to push further, destroy whatever limitations there are, prove to myself that you can and remain all the things that are worth keeping and change all the things that maybe aren’t worth keeping. Again, because I get bored so easily ha!
This has been everything and more that I could have asked for. I did tell you I was going to pick your brain.
You did and it was refreshing. Thank you!