Feeling proudly uncomfortable with “Love or Drugs”

I don’t enjoy going out. Socializing with more than three people at once gives me anxiety. Jam-packed clubs make my skin crawl, and the thought of screaming over ear-splitting music just to hear the person standing next to me gives me nodes just thinking about it. I truly feel more alone in a room full of strangers than when at home by myself. That’s how I’m programmed. That’s how I’ve always been and always will be, but for some reason how I am has landed me the most convoluted, one-word reputation I’ve ever possessed. Apparently, I’m unrelatable.

I live in the world’s biggest bubble, Los Angeles, just like nearly every other artist trying to make it in music nowadays. Just like nearly every other artist, I dream of making music that reaches millions and comes with fame, fortune, and everything that money can buy. I think you could argue that regardless of your dream career, everyone strives for a successful and comfortable life where money isn’t a constant worry. Granted, many people modify their dreams or discover new ones that lead them down a different path than they had originally imagined for themselves. Sometimes that change is for happiness and well-being. Other times it’s out of a need for stability, but regardless of circumstance, we find our path using a combination of our own decisions and the universe’s suggestions. Artists are certainly some of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met, myself included. But as an artist, there comes a time when you must decide whether to remain an artist or become a careerist. For the lucky ones, it’s happens fast. What they naturally do and create lines up with music’s current trends, and voilà – success. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s a shorter path to the limelight than others. For most artists, however, they’re told to choose whether to create art that they believe in or to modify their artistic vision in an attempt to appeal to what is currently popular. People say it’s an ultimatum – sellout and succeed or be yourself and fail. I disagree. Actually, I refuse to agree, and here’s why.

I grew up an outcast. I was misfit, but I wasn’t a troublemaker. I wasn’t a mean or rude or angry kid. I didn’t have a particularly rough childhood nor was I from a broken home, but I was alone. I was alone in my mind. I was alone in my thoughts and my dreams and my aspirations. While other kids played with each other during recess, I played alone. I was much happier playing pretend in a fantasy world of my own creation than I was joining in on kickball and following rules and regulations during my thirty-minute break from the eight hours of institutionalized mental imprisonment that is elementary school. Because of that, I was told that I thought I was better than everyone else. That was far from the truth. If anything, I was jealous I didn’t enjoy what they did, and I felt more alone because of it. I became shy and ashamed and slightly reclusive in school. Instead of being myself, I kept my head down. It wasn’t until I discovered music that I regained confidence in myself and the weirdness that separated me from others.

Music became my outlet. I first fell in love with my parents’ music before anything else. I call Bowie, Prince, and Madonna my Unholy Trinity. They were such big personalities on stage. They were over the top and ridiculous in their personal lives as well. It was inspiring to see people create their own world through art instead of assimilating into ours. Their songs were more than songs; they were travel destinations for me. They would get stuck in my head and transport me far away to places better than reality. That’s when I realized what I wanted to do. As a theatre kid, I always loved performing and living in another world for a few hours, but as I got older, I realized I wanted to create my own world like I used to on the playground. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my Unholy Trinity. I thought that if they could do it, so could I. Times and music are different nowadays, but why should that stop me from changing them when they did just that thirty years ago? From 13 on, I worked towards one goal.

Five years ago, I bit the bullet and moved to LA straight out of high school. I honestly thought it would be a dream. I imagined a city filled with artists feeding off of each other’s music. I was wrong. It’s a scene. It’s a facade. It’s the lunch table you’re not allowed to sit at. Living here gave me the same feeling I felt as a child playing alone at recess while everyone else looked at me like I was crazy for not joining in on their kickball game. I tried to fit in once again, but no party or club or event appealed to me. No trend was worth following. I felt more alone than ever, but then I asked myself the most important question. Why on earth would I ever try to appeal to people who don’t appeal to me?

I was never comfortable growing up, so I’m not here to comfort the comfortable. I’m here to offer an escape and some understanding to the uncomfortable. I write pop music for unpopular people because that’s what I am. It’s antisocial pop. It’s club bangers for people who want to go to a different club. No matter how successful or famous I get, I will always be unpopular in my mind. That sounds like defeat, but it’s not. It’s empowerment. Popularity is an idea, and it comes from praising one’s ability to fit in. I’ve never been able to fit in even when I try, so instead of trying, I don’t. I say screw it. I am an outcast, and I’m proud to be one. I know there are other people out there who feel the same. There are other Bowie and Prince and Madonna-loving misfits like myself waiting to be understood just as much as I am. Not fitting in is being different and being different is what I’ve always admired about others. Now it’s time for me to admire myself.


Listen/Stream Rilan’s new single “Love or Drugs” HERE and watch the video below:

Featured photo by: Ashley Beliveau