It seems fitting that I am listening to some of Colin’s musical inspirations as I write this: Peter Katz, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jon Bryant and Glen Hansard.
There are few people that I have met that are as genuine as Colin Carbonera. I love saying his name and will write his name often in this post, as you need to remember it. His name will soon be a household name!
The people that are often quiet, slow to speak, quick to listen and take in the whole moment…to me, those are the ones that are wise and full of love. Meet Colin. He has a maturity about him that is past his age. He seems to be an old soul to me, a kind soul. I value kind souls. We need more of them today in our world, people who are genuinely interested in other people more than themselves.
I met Colin about a year ago when he auditioned for our music department. He’s a shorter guy that houses a raspy, smooth, soulful voice. It’s a beautiful thing when the voice doesn’t always match the carrier of it; a surprise that keeps you attached to the moment being played out. He plays his guitar effortlessly and sings melodies that entice you to dream and the words sung…well they forcefully stop you to gaze into the distance and dwell on the mystery they hold.
When I sat down with him I knew that he had something to say. I knew Colin to a certain degree from working with him this last year but I didn’t know the pain and struggle that he carried on the inside. Masks are all to convenient in this life as they allow us to be ok with only knowing the surface of someone, but I am on a mandate in life that we remove these pretend masks so we can become vulnerable with those that we do life with. We were never created to do this “perfect” life alone. He’s only 19 years old but has a story worth sharing and has learned a lesson that is valuable to most. I asked him, “What do you want to share with the one reading this?” His kind response was, “I feel that I should share about my anxiety; the anxiety I’ve had to deal with since I was little.” He went on to describe to me the journey he has had to walk out, where anxiety has always tried to rob him of life’s moments.
Colin, an only child, was raised with the pressure of doing well in school and succeeding at all he put his hands to. His anxiety issues started when he was young. He was enrolled in music lessons at the age of 5, which today he is thankful for as it installed good work ethic in him but also fed the creative side of him he didn’t know he had. With him starting lessons at a young age meant the pressure to be excellent was established in his emotions very early on. Through elementary, middle and high school he dealt with strong anxiety, he didn’t have an eating disorder but that is how it would play out at times. He would wake up in the morning feeling paralyzed and he would be sick in the bathroom before he had to go to school. I asked him what anxiety felt like to him. “It feels like clammy, sweaty hands, massive chills, and the need to throw up or pass out. It starts with my thoughts and then the symptoms come.” During these years the glimmer of hope for him was music. When he would play music, write music and create, the feeling of anxiety would slowly be made to disappear. Music was the antidote. Colin was apart of RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) and he had plenty of exams to go along with his program. He hated them, despised them; he would become so nervous during the exams that he would shake and become nauseous. Eventually these feelings and emotions would translate in to all areas of his life and they became so strong that Colin came to a point that he didn’t want to leave his house. He was housebound. He would just stay at home and write songs and music for his therapy.
During Grade 12 he started to come out of his anxiety and he gives credit to his school’s drama program (apparently a secret about Colin is that he is a huge Theatre geek!). Being shoved on stage challenged his issues and helped him conquer them. He still had all the anxious feelings but this time his courage, from who knows where, pushed him forward. He credits improv, musicals, writing two original plays in high school (one went on to Provincials, or State for American’s reading this!) in helping him walk out the path of overcoming. This pest, called anxiety, continually tried to rob Colin of his talent, his creativity, and humor. If it had won, we wouldn’t know that Colin is this outgoing guy that loves to be the joker, who now has the confidence to stand up in front of people and bear his soul through lyrics and notes.
Grade 12 was over and to the average person it’s a big celebration, but to Colin it was a huge relief. However, a big challenge would await him. His parent’s desired for him to attend university and become an engineer, an architect, or a doctor, etc. His whole life he had never been the rebel child, and so to challenge his parent’s plan for him, brought his anxiety back full force. He did not want or have any yearning to walk in those professions. His creativity and music were calling him forward into his future. When Colin made it known that he would not be following their hopes for him, he was fearful that the extreme could happen; they would disown him. His parents are traditional in their culture and to this day Colin appreciates and respects this about his parents, so to say “no” to their expectation was a fearful idea, the anxiety came back. Deep down inside Colin knew he had to, he had to follow the talent and ability that was inside of him and at this point in his journey he had to make the choice to choose what gave him peace of heart and mind. Wonderfully his parents were ok with his choice, a beautiful acceptance for Colin.
He took a year off from school and devoted it to his music, becoming better at his craft. He then met with Michael Larson, a musician and one who had been in the music arena for a long time, and he shared his music with him. It was nerve racking for Colin and the response he received from Michael was not what he expected, “Do you want to be apart of the music team at this church?” Colin hadn’t even thought that that was an option; this baffles me because after hearing him share his music, one should know that he is that good! (Colin…the humble one!) The first time Colin led a song at church, his anxiety came back in force. He had to endure waiting two songs before he was to lead a song and he was “freaking out” (his words) the whole time. “What song did you lead?”, I asked. “I led ‘Death In His Grave’ by John Mark McMillan, and it was more like ‘death in my grave’!” He didn’t make a mix that he was comfortable with, apparently he was super flat as he couldn’t hear himself and he thought, “They’re never going to want me back!” All these negative thoughts that were making him feel worthless, were flooding his mind. After, he went and sat by his girlfriend, Cairo, and she said, “You did great!” and all he could think about was passing out! Now he can laugh about it because, “You should never take it so seriously! People thought I was sweating due to the lights on stage….but no, that was my anxiety!” I remember that night and I thought that he did amazing. I was really excited for him to lead because I knew even back then, that he housed a maturity that was beyond what we as an audience had seen in someone his age.
When he spent more time developing his craft, he started to write songs that were more personal and were letting him write out his inner most fears. “Atlas Shoulder” the title of one of his songs references Atlas, from Greek mythology. Atlas was meant to carry the heavens on his shoulders for the rest of eternity, a torturous punishment. Colin felt like he was Atlas. The song was about how he carried a huge weightiness around and that was his anxiety. He carried this fear that kept him from moments and it also robbed him from friendships, as it pushed people away from him and him away from people. He was stuck carrying it with him; it was crippling him physically, mentally and emotionally. In Psalm 139 it mentions, “he makes his bed in Sheol” (underworld), this concept is how Colin felt for a very long time dealing with his anxiety. He felt like he was trapped in this darkness and he was destined to lay his head there. His album “Little Sparrows”, which featured “Atlas Shoulder”, was the beginning of him letting go of his anxiety.
As we were wrapping up, he quickly said, “I have one other thing to share that was a result of my anxiety and the fear I dealt with on the inside.” At a young age Colin started to develop severe acne, not just surface breakouts, but deep acne. People who have dealt with acne, like myself, know the difference between a random breakout to the acne that is deep and potentially scarring to the skin. This is a shameful, embarrassing and insecure process many have to walk out. Those who don’t deal with it, have a hard time relating to the emotions that those who do deal with it carry. When Colin shared the pain that it caused him, not just physically but emotionally, I could relate. Dealing with his anxiety and stress on the inside, led to it taking form physically on his body. His parents called it a “skin eating disease” and took him to the doctor who said it was severe acne. Colin expressed that he would never take public showers or go to the pool to swim, as he didn’t want to take his shirt off because of the scarring that was on his back. He hasn’t shared this part of his story before. I believe it a beautiful confession and I think I was the right person to hear it as I can relate with the thoughts that go on in the mind, telling you a different story than what other people see. He said to me with a small, sad laugh, “It’s been a long time since I’ve gone swimming.” The laugh he gave with that sentence didn’t fool me; I could hear the emotion in those words. I quickly encouraged him that people don’t see his scars, they see him; people don’t see my scars, they see me. “It was painful for me, more painful mentally and emotionally than physically. The fact that I have gone through it makes it feel like it was nothing. I am still walking out the scarring and becoming comfortable with them as it is who I am.” I hope he goes swimming soon.
Colin Carbonera. (Said his full name!) He is on the cusp of releasing his album, “Veneer”. I was able to take in a house show of him performing and it was just so beautiful. I wanted to ask him more about his Contemporary Folk album and the name, Veneer. Veneer = used in Dentistry and the Wood Industry, to put a finish/superficial covering on something, to make it appear more precious and valuable than what is underneath. He didn’t want his album to come across as something superficial, to cover up something precious. While writing his lyrics and musical instrumentation, he hoped they would not gloss over the meanings he was trying to provide. Some of the songs are love songs, songs of encouragement and hope, and also spiritual songs. His lyrics are poetic and creative. I don’t think I have heard or read such lyrics that make me stop and dwell on the meaning of them. He wants people to find encouragement in his music. “It’s a very organic album, one I didn’t produce heavily. I want people to love the music, to hear the little nuances and finger picking. I hope it is applicable to people’s lives.”
Wrapping up our time together, Colin really wanted to mention a huge thank you to those that have journeyed with him, supported him in his creativity and also with his album. A day before I sat down with Colin, his Martin D35 (guitar) was stolen, one he had saved up for a very long time. The kind guy that Colin is, well he is praying for the one that stole the guitar. True beauty. If his guitar is not returned to him, he has his eyes set on a Gibson Keb’ Mo’ Bluemaster! I hope he gets both!
To sum it all up, music helped free him from his anxiety. We all have felt the moments when music brings us peace, makes a moment magical, brings color to our daily routines, and even heals us as we process emotions. David, not yet a King, was the minstrel that brought peace to a tormented King Saul. Music has power that I don’t think any of us fully understand. A beautiful conquest; music healed Colin from his anxiety and now he hopes his music will minister to those that are in true need of peace and calmness to the soul that may be in distress.
I hope you will take time to discover his album. I truly believe you will be comforted by it.
Please visit Colin’s website for his music and also a link to one of his songs from Veneer . You’re welcome!!
We need more people like Colin Carbonera in this world.
(Just as I posted this, Colin texted me to say that his parents and girlfriend’s parents pooled together money and bought him the Gibson Ken’ Mo’ Bluemaster!!!! Put’s a smile on your face!)