“Words For Soda” by Jake William Capistran
When I think about my relationship to music, I think about that old cliche “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Creating music for me has always been a journey, and largely because I never felt like I should be creating anything.
First when I was five, and then when I was seven, and when I was eight, and when I was nine, and finally when I was 16; I moved. I changed states, timezones, towns, schools. I changed houses, homes, bedrooms, hiding places, neighborhoods, neighbor kids, friends, words for soda.
At first it was a game. One that I would’ve called the “fun excitement box-fort new house surprise dad’s got a new job” game. Then it because a chore. A chore I would have been asked to do called the “pack up your things we’re gonna go again because this is the way it is when you have to leave” job. And then it became a fear. A sinking feeling in my stomach that I called the “‘new kid’ is sounding more and more like a rare disease than a greeting” feeling.
Teachers would often refer to ‘the move’ like it was ‘the war’ and I came to understand that this perpetual motion had expected, recognizable side effects. I also learned pretty quickly that I could get away with blaming a lot – namely fighting, and the subsequent fighting-induced crying – on adjusting to ‘the move.’
And then, I learned how to blend the f*ck in.
There’s this vivid memory I have of my first day of second grade – and though I have no idea if it is entirely accurate, people say hindsight is 20/20. In my memory I was walked to the classroom late in the morning by a teacher and the school principal, I swung open the door, and I stopped everyone of those playing children in their tracks. In that moment, piercingly quiet and unending, the class gawked, blinked, simply watched. And I think it was then – or when I reenacted that again a year later – that I decided that it was so much better not to draw attention to myself than to have all eyes on me.
I quieted down. I didn’t fight. And I didn’t really make friends, I just made peace.
And I did that for a long time.
It seems fitting to me now that I never liked to learn other people’s songs. To this day, I know embarrassingly few cover tunes. I took years of piano lessons as a kid, as well as clarinet and saxophone, but I never loved it. And when I started playing the guitar, I never wanted to learn songs that were already written; all I wanted to do was learn the chords and go from there, to create something entirely my own.
Suddenly, in playing guitar and writing songs, I could speak to people I had never gotten the chance to know. I could write songs to people with whom I didn’t know how to communicate. I could write songs about speaking up and speaking out and yelling and screaming and cursing and getting all of that weight off my chest. And I could sing them hiding behind my guitar, to myself.
And very [veeerrrryyy] slowly, I found that it felt good to say those things in song, and to sing them audibly. It started to feel f*cking good to speak up, and to make my voice heard. At first it felt terrifying, then more and more gratifying.
And from the age of 16 music has been teaching me that same lesson; that it is okay to be seen, and that it’s okay to be seen in your entirety.
Music reminds me every day that I have a voice. An important, impactful, and worthwhile voice. And though it’s strength, confidence, and assuredness may vary from day to day, I am continuously reminded that I have the right to speak up, and that my words have value and the ability to connect with other people. That my words and music have the ability to make this world a little better of a place.
And so, the work I do now is an extension of that. I spend my days with students from many different backgrounds using music as a vehicle for building belief and confidence in themselves. I strive to show them that music is a journey, and that in the process of working toward a goal – be it a new chord, a performance, a song, or an album – one has the opportunity to create something valuable and worthwhile, and to let their [important, unique, necessary] voice be heard.
I view my own music in the same way. That the music I create is extension of my own path; at times it’s a quiet and reserved look inward, at times it’s a loud celebration of found confidence and self-acceptance. I seek to challenge my past (and sometimes present) hide-behind-the-guitar self to speak the f*ck up, say it with conviction, and be unafraid of doing so.
And every day, in the process of teaching, writing, and creating music, I am learning to speak up. I am reminding myself that it is okay to be seen, and I am reminding myself that fostering self-esteem, self-love, and empowerment is important work, and that it is a lifelong journey.
I’m currently in the process of making the best music of my life, and I’d be honored to have your support.
Learn more about how you can help Jake make the best music of his life.