Here goes nothing.
Answering an email from a stranger. To hopping on a phone call. To growing into friends. To getting coffee in the Chelsea area of Manhattan at a small, nostalgia-filled eatery that I can't remember the name of. But I remember the stained-glass coated table and most of all, I remember the idea: turning my music into a short film.
These conversations with a young director named Brian Petchers were the beginning of break some ice. But really, the making of it started much earlier, when I took a break from music publicly for a while unintentionally, when I put the microphone down to rest and started to feel most comfortable hiding my head, keeping my thoughts secret and safe on the pages of my notebook...which day by day were getting filled less and less. I went into a regretful stage of hibernation, of letting life pass me by, and of not giving myself the chance to move forward. And I regretted it even as it was happening. Has that ever happened to you?
Breaking through the ice began for me when I would think about what I wanted to say next in my music. I wanted to put all of the thoughts from this lifeless period, from these stagnant years, from my own self-criticism, from my own failure to launch during young adulthood and intangible fear of the world into one single thesis statement. I wanted to make a grand overture that could encompass everything I'd attempt to talk about in my future songs - death, love, how to heal heartbreak, being lost for what feels like forever in your twenties, looking at my childhood through the eyes of a kid the way I remember it and then again through the eyes of myself now. And a lot more. The things I want for the future and some of the things that I know I have to accept.
At the bottom, and the beginning, of those emotions, is where break some ice began.
Where it ended up is what makes me look back and feel a little bit of a knot in my throat. A good knot. A proud, but bittersweet one. I'm proud I took the things that were troubling me and turned them into something I love and that has so much meaning for me, but it is hard to not look back on the quietest years of my twenties in frustration. It's hard to not want to yell backwards into the void, to shout at the regret that started it all. To turn the nothingness into noise.
So let's dive into what that nothingness was. It's probably time I share it with somebody: I waited for years for love. A perfect, superstitious love that I salute to now as something that got the best of me and that isn't coming back. I also waited years to make sense of things everyone else seemed to understand, but I never got clarity on while they were happening. Death is one of those things for me, with the passing of a close family member for the first time taking me by surprise. The strange, tropical grief season where it always rained and we set up funeral services, where I shook a few thousand hands at a packed wake, where I reminded a lot of distant relatives of my name and which son I am. The one that does music. I'll talk more about this in a few weeks. But I also waited for music itself, protesting against any kind of change, protesting any story I might want to tell, out of the fear that talking about something means it is finished for good, or it is finally complete. Not perfectionism but something different, something more like obsession. My songs become real when I share them with the world. And some of them I didn't want to be real, I didn't want those stories to potentially be over.
So my writer's block grew, from a symptom to a disorder, from a sticky note above my desk to new wallpaper that covered my entire house, the house of most of my childhood, until I had to pack up my things and leave for a new start. And so I started all over, in an apartment in New York City.
I needed a new song that could encompass the journey into and out of these emotions, these built-up concepts that had become barriers for me, in order for me to break out of them.
That song idea started with wanting to write an overture for the album, and it eventually became the short film that Brian Petchers turned it into today.
The process of making the video itself became my vehicle for getting out there and living. From drafting up ideas over email, long and inspired stream-of-consciousness style phone calls between Brian and I, setting up schedules for the endless list of friends and actors involved in the various scenes, plotting all of the invisible logistics in great detail with Regina, finding a way for a door to open on to a beach the week of the shoot...it was good work, good stress, and a really fulfilling couple of months. Bringing the video to life helped wake me up and brought me back to life a bit, too.
I think it's my proudest single piece of work, all things considered, in terms of something I can press play on and feel like it explains who I am pretty wholeheartedly, or that it can serve as the film version of the movie I've been playing in my head since I was a young kid. Where love with a soulmate exists in its own universe, undisturbed, as purple and as lush as the bright lights of memory. Where everybody lives to an old age. Where everyone's life is cinematic, is unbroken, where everything makes a little more sense.
A lot of times when I'm trying to fall asleep at night...I picture myself somewhere peaceful. At the base of a mountain. Trees blocking the sky. Tucked away beneath soil and leaves and roots, that like grandparents' arms stretch out forever and are centuries old...
It's in that place where the Break Some Ice video exists for me.
So welcome to my world. I'm finally back, I've broken through a lot of things in order to be here, and I don't plan on getting so frozen up again. Where do we go from here, my friend?
VIDEO & SONG CREDITS, SHOUTOUTS, BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTOS
"BREAK SOME ICE" MUSIC VIDEO CREDITS
Directed by Brian Petchers
Co-produced by Brian Petchers, Dylan Owen, and Regina Zaremba
Edited by Brian Petchers
Art Direction by Brian Petchers and Dylan Owen
Director of Photography Jack Shanahan
First AC Jeff Clanet
2nd AC Phillip Laskaris
Drone operation by Vincent Rappa
VFX by Rafatoon
Hair & Makeup by Sam Granados
Production Assistant and on set photography by Liz Maney
Production Assistant RJ Wolak Frank
Production Assistant David Wong
Production Assistant Dominique Cortesiano
Starring: Vlada Roslyakova Dylan Owen Les Ferguson Gabe & Noah Owen Liz Lennon Tom Flynn Jessica Eve Kelly Mulvihill Javier Sanchez Julia Eckley Robert Barnes Liz Maney Tara Kane Conor Burnett Skinny Atlas Tommy McCormick Josh Angehr Jim Snyder Upgrade Tommy Owen Conor Burnett Jeff Kleinberger Josh Cseh Zaid Jangda Ali Malik Adam Malik Amaar Malik Asad Chowdhury Sameer Al-Tariq Tarek Sobhy Mike Ruckert
Deepest thank you and shoutouts to: Mom, Dad & E, Tom Flynn, Lori Petchers & Joe Plotkin, Mike Spear, Beth Oldis, Jeff Kleinberger, Tommy McCormick, Goshen Central Schools Transportation Department, Mary Spear & Spear Printing Co
"BREAK SOME ICE" SONG CREDITS
Written and performed by Dylan Owen
Produced by Skinny Atlas
Mixed by Jason Moss
Mastered by Chris Gehringer
Recorded in Dylan's apartment
Here are a ton of beautiful behind-the-scenes photos by Liz Maney that capture the incredible (and endless) team of creative people who put this together.