Walking up to Irvin Mayfield’s apartment building, passing the flourishing art galleries, upscale restaurants and other urbane features of the New Orleans Warehouse District, I couldn’t help but marvel at how well things are coming together for the 23-year-old musician.
In January, he released How Passion Falls, his brilliant second CD of original jazz on the Basin Street label, earning rave reviews and an increasingly high ranking on the Gavin jazz charts. On so many levels, this album represents a quantum leap forward for Mayfield: in the tone, fluidity and expressiveness of his trumpet playing, in his ability as a bandleader, in the top-flight production values, but especially in the breadth and poignancy of his compositions.
Bringing the full weight of his experience in jazz, classical and Latin music to bear, he crafted a song cycle that mirrors the doomed trajectory of most romantic relationships, from infatuation to betrayal to separation and, eventually, resigned acceptance (a.k.a. The Blues). Harnessing the anguish of his personal romantic tribulations, he connects them with universal themes, illuminating truths about the human condition.
The sweet texture of Mayfield’s trumpet and Aaron Fletcher’s soprano sax when they join together on “Adam and Eve” conveys the idyllic, childlike union of fresh love, just as the driving rhythms opening “The Obsession” embody heated fixation, and Edwin Livingston’s mournful arco (bowed not plucked) bass intro to “David & Bathsheba” foreshadows the tragic consequences of infidelity and deceit. Overall, the concept proves to be an ideal vehicle for an artist whose sensibility is at once romantic, intellectual and ironic (a rare enough combination, but one that strikes a chord with fans of Wynton and Branford Marsalis).
But that’s only half the story. On April 4th, House of Blues celebrates the release of Vol. 3: New Congo Square, a staggering, 23-track, Afro-Caribbean tour de force from Los Hombres Calientes, the jazz-jam band Mayfield co-leads with percussion guru Bill Summers.
“Yeah, this is one hell of a year,” Mayfield says as we sit down in his spacious, uncluttered apartment to begin one of our marathon interview/discussions about everything from rap music to theoretical physics. Any conversation with Mayfield reveals an insatiable intellectual curiosity. (Fortunately, Clara,Irvin’s housekeeper, prepared a steak dinner with a bottle of red wine to keep us fueled for the long haul.) As usual, his voice conveys an infectious sort of amused incredulity towards the scope and intensity of all life’s possibilities.
“To be able to do two big records like that in a year, it’s amazing,” he continues. “Even pop musicians, how many of them get to do two records a year?”
Indeed, it’s an impressive feat, one that seems certain to solidify his position as one of most influential musicians in New Orleans and a rising star in the international jazz world. It’s even more remarkable considering that only a short time ago he was merely another no-name teenage horn-slinger, fresh out of NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts), trying to do what many older musicians told him was impossible: make a living playing modern jazz in New Orleans.
But Mayfield proved it was possible when he, Summers and crew made their smash debut as Los Hombres Calientes at Snug Harbor in the spring of 1998, quickly followed by a self-titled CD which became the top-seller at that year’s New Orleans Jazz Fest. Practically overnight, Mayfield was catapulted from struggling artist—on the verge of leaving the Crescent City in search of better prospects—to prominent trailblazer.
Since that time, Mayfield hasn’t looked back. He released his eponymous solo debut on Basin Street in 1999, followed by two Live at the Blue Note albums and the acclaimed Los Hombres follow-up, Vol. 2, which displayed a far more realized approach to the band’s groundbreaking “afro-funk jazz.”
Beyond the realm of jazz, he appeared on a recent album by folk/punk diva Ani DiFranco, To the Teeth, and frequently sits in with Ratdog, the band led by former Grateful Dead guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir, when they perform locally.
On the other end of the taste spectrum, he continues to compose elegant classical music for periodic performances with the Louisiana Philharmonic String Quartet, and has worked with the New Orleans Museum of Art to present several celebrated programs of original compositions inspired by visual art. (The most recent of these programs, Half Past Autumn Suite, dedicated to the work of Gordon Parks, will be released on CD early next year.) This fall, he begins an “artistic and education collaboration” with Dillard University as an artist-in-residence.
Bigger and better—that’s the philosophy behind his successive projects, and he doesn’t mind spending big money to achieve his goals. Recorded at the aforementioned museum for optimum acoustics, with premium engineering equipment and several band members (drummer Jaz Sawyer and pianist Richard Johnson) flown in from New York, Mayfield’s new solo offering How Passion Falls boasts the kind of expensive production values previously deemed unthinkable for a New Orleans jazz record.
But that’s child’s play compared to the $100,000 budget Basin Street ponied up for the new Los Hombres record. When Mayfield quoted this figure, my jaw dropped, but it hit the floor when I heard the music.
Featuring their new drummer, Cuban-born titan Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (who replaced founding member Jason Marsalis last year), the album was recorded on location in Cuba, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and New Orleans, capturing a stunning array of authentic grooves and choice collaborations with master musicians indigenous to each locale. It’s an international jam session of unprecedented proportions, equally breathtaking in scope, improvisatory flair and rump-shaking grace—and it gives off a distinct whiff of Grammy potential.
Of course, as these high profile accomplishments pile up and his stature increases, so does critical scrutiny. In the weeks leading up to the publication of this interview, the OffBeat Internet message board was lit up with scathing attacks, indicating that apparently some concerned citizens feel that Mayfield is entirely overrated, as well as being too “cocky,” “arrogant,” “uptight,” “irresponsible” and other less sophisticated adjectives.
But no amount of negativity could dampen Mayfield’s irreverent sense of humor and commentary, as this interview amply illustrates.
How does all this increased criticism effect you?
Actually, I look forward to it. As long as I wasn’t hearing things, I was kind of disturbed by that. I knew I must not be doing something. Because all the people I know as good get criticized. You know, Payton and Terence [Blanchard]. Take somebody like Wynton [Marsalis]. As much as he’s done to advance jazz music and the popularity of it, so everyone can think about it and we can all make some more money, according to the critics, he hasn’t done shit in years. The critics say, “You ain’t shit, the musicians you’re playing with ain’t shit, your daddy ain’t shit, your brothers ain’t shit.” And he’s one of the greatest jazz musicians in the world! Or Louis Armstrong, I know New Orleans musicians that used to call him “Daddy One Note Satch.” They didn’t respect him. You know, people are always out there saying somebody deserves this and doesn’t deserve that.
So you don’t really care?
No, why would I care about that? I mean, it’s not like me caring is going to change it. I’m a musician, not a politician. I don’t have to spend my time changing what people think. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. What they’re doing is reactionary. I’m effecting, I’m putting shit out here, they’re reacting to it. Which is what they’re supposed to do and what I expect them to do.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions out there about you?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know. But I think most of the shit people have a problem about with me is the money. If I’m not making any money, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You know, they probably wonder why this motherfucker’s 23 and he’s doing all this shit. He’s got two bands, and there’s fine musicians in them. And I have an extravagant lifestyle, which we covered in that December article. I think a lot of people assume that the reason I got this lifestyle is because that’s what I wanted. They don’t see that I got this because I want to play the music. To me, I’m lucky to be a jazz musician being able to live like that in New Orleans, having my central purpose here.
But why is it a problem for me to get $100,000 for a record? Why is that so disturbing? Why does a jazz musician have to be poor, humble and meek? If you’re poor, you can be cocky, but you’re not thought about. But if you’re rich, well, that’s a problem. And I think it’s partially racial too, because we’re in the South, man. And a lot of white people don’t like to see a black man with power. That’s just being honest about it. Some of the shit is racial. Some of it is pure jealousy and it’s financially motivated.
What really makes you angry?
Anytime people try to upgrade ignorance as being profound or being great. You know, “He’s from the streets so that’s important.” It’s like when people say one of the great things about Louis Armstrong was that he was an intuitive genius, and the man was NOT an intuitive genius. He was a genius. He worked and honed his craft like a professional, and that’s what he was. That’s that whole thing, “Oh, look at the Negroes, they’re so primitive!” I don’t have time for that kind of dumb ass shit.
So if somebody came up to you and said, modern jazz is all right, but brass bands are better because it’s more street, it’s more…
That would be some ignorant shit. “It’s more street. It’s more ghetto.” The ironic thing about that to me is that motherfuckers are always talking about how “street” rap is and most of these motherfuckers like Puff Daddy are living in big fucking mansions, with a publicist and a fucking record company and personal assistants and drivers and financial advisement and artist and business management. Now, how fucking street is that? How ghetto is that shit? Then you got motherfuckers like that making albums about the fucking projects and shit? Come on, man. You mean the projects is where it’s at? The projects ain’t where it’s at, bruh. Sorry. No. Being black may be where it’s at, but being black in the project, no. Being black anywhere that’s repressing you, that’s not where it’s at. And I can’t upgrade that shit.
You don’t like rap very much, do you?
In my opinion it’s not a great music. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not likable music. People must like the shit. They can’t get enough of it. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t buy it. I’m just saying let’s call it what it is. To me, it’s like pornography, and shit, we all know what that is. Tons of people buy that shit.
Pornography? Some people will be pissed off to hear you say that.
Man, you take an Eminem record, and you’re telling me that’s not pornography for ears? I mean, what’s so bad about pornography? And why is Eminem better than pornography? OK, we’re knocking some motherfuckers fucking on TV; he’s talking about fucking his sister and his mother, what is the fucking difference? I don’t understand.
Well, some people will argue that what he’s doing has an artistic purpose besides just perversion and sexual arousal.
Look, man, anything can be art. You can shit in a bowl and it can be art. Us being honest, we can’t sit here and try to be highbrow like, “Well, just because we see it, it’s art.” That ain’t the reality of it. But what we can do is put shit in certain categories, and the shit that transcends the most humanity is going to be great. Now, if you want to tell me that Eminem is transcending humanity, well, OK, let’s take some people that have really transcended humanity. Let’s take Martin Luther King, Stravinsky, or Louis Armstrong. Now, let’s take Eminem. OK, there’s a difference there! I’m not saying it’s not art. Anything can be art. I mean, what is art? Art is just a manifestation of some shit that you like.
But what’s interesting is that because Eminem gets so much attention, because he pushes the envelope so much, he has a major impact that people feel is synonymous with the impact of great artists. I mean, a lot more people know who Eminem is than Stravinsky.
Well, I’m not talking about the impact in the sense of just effecting somebody. There’s a lot of different ways you can effect somebody. But when you effect somebody with greatness, you make them aspire to be great. And that may not necessarily be in music, I’m just talking about in life. You listen to a song, like when Louis Armstrong sings “Stardust,” shit, that makes me want to be in love. A lot of songs he sings, it makes me want me to be a better musician. It makes me feel good. I like the music that it puts in you. It makes me think about the fact that my grandfather listened to this record. You know, there’s so many different ways that it has an impact. It doesn’t just make me think about fucking, or my dick getting hard. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing! And I’m not saying there’s no Louis Armstrong songs that make me think that. But the thing is, that’s not ALL that they make me think about. Because jazz is about fucking, too. It can’t be about life if you ain’t talking about fucking. Shit, that’s part of it. People fuck everyday.
Why did you agree to pose nude on the cover of this magazine?
You know, the thing is I wouldn’t do it if people said I could do it. Jazz covers are always the same thing. You look at Nicholas Payton’s cover, you look at Wynton’s or Ellis’ cover, you look at anybody on the cover, they’ve always got a suit on. So when I think about a photo shoot, yeah, why shouldn’t I be on the cover naked? Why not? Why can’t I be on edge? My music is on edge, that’s my vibe. Like the controversy over my record cover [for How Passion Falls]. “Why did you use that girl on the cover?” Why not? If it’s sexist, so what, sex is involved in jazz music. It’s OK for the rappers like Mystikal to come out here and say “Shake it Fast” and all this shit. My music involves just as much of that as everything else does, and I don’t mind showing it. I welcome it. I want people to understand that when you come, you’re going to get sex, but that’s not all you’re going to get. It can be fucking, or it can be making love. Whatever you want, jazz offers it all.
You know, I did a story on Nicholas Payton last year where he confessed that he digs women and fine clothes. People seemed to be shocked to find out he wasn’t a monk or something. Jazz has such a pristine image now.
But the thing about it to me is it’s American, and if it’s American, it’s democratic. If it’s democratic, you’re talking about a great paradox, so it’s got to be all things at once. The conception people get about jazz music is, yeah, it’s pristine, but it’s not only pristine. Listen to some albums Louis Armstrong put out, man. The stuff he would be talking about in some of them blues songs, man, would be nasty. Lord have mercy! The shit is vulgar. And don’t even talk about what Jelly Roll Morton was dealing with. Yeah, he was writing music in all these complicated forms, but he was talking about running ho’s! I mean, come on. Those Library of Congress recordings, man, shit is so vulgar it’s disturbing. And for me, I play music in New Orleans. When we do a second line, we do certain songs, like “Didn’t He Ramble,” where everybody knows it’s crazy. Or certain songs, “St. James Infirmary,” man, Danny Barker could sing that song so nasty it would make you want to cry. So, just me being from here, it’s like when we get on this national scene, I feel like I have to start abandoning it. And I’m just not doing it anymore. It’s like, man, let it go. Let it go.
Are you trying to use controversy to get attention? Do you like it?
No, I really don’t. Let me tell you something. One of the greatest things about when I first was in Los Hombres was having people come and dancing to my music, and loving the album. I never felt that before. And there’s nothing like when everybody loves you. Love is the way. I would much rather for everybody to love what I’m doing than saying it ain’t shit, but if that’s what they say, well, fuck ’em. I got to keep moving forward.
How much have you consciously modeled yourself after Wynton Marsalis?
I haven’t consciously modeled myself after him at all. Only in the sense of work ethic. I don’t have as much of a work ethic as he has. I don’t think anybody does. But I think people assume that if I have a suit on and I’m making a lot of money, and I play the same kind of trumpet he plays, that I’m being like him. Well, obviously you haven’t been around him, because me and him are two completely different types of people. But he is a mentor of mine, and I’m not ashamed to say it. He’s a mentor of mine, just as much as Terence Blanchard is also. Just as much as Clyde Kerr, Leroy Jones, Gregg Stafford or Wendell Brunious is. You know, I talk to all these musicians and ask them questions. I have a great regard for them, and much respect. And I hope to be as great musicians as they are. That’s why they’re my mentors.
As far as the amount of press that I’ve gotten so young, see, that looks like Wynton. I didn’t ask for it; people just wrote about me. You know, people assume that I have had this big machine pushing me onto everybody, and this big machine you have to understand wasn’t a big machine two years ago. Shit, it didn’t exist three years ago! This big machine is something that was developed.
People don’t want to give you the credit for doing the work.
Right, they think I got $100,000 just for hanging. “Hey, we like the way he looks. He wears suits. Let’s give him $100,000.” No. People should be proud that we developed a company in this city that can spend that type of money on a jazz record. Shit, if I would have heard that four years ago, that would have inspired me. I’d never want to leave!
How does the playing style of Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard inspire you?
Well, Nicholas is a genius. When he’s playing, it seems almost violent, because it looks as if he does whatever it takes for him to get to what he’s hearing. I mean, when you’re watching other people play, it’s like, “Wow, they almost got to that,” but when you’re watching Nicholas Payton, he’s getting to everything he wants to.
Now, with Terence, you’re talking about the most lyrical type of playing. And Terence has one hell of a phrasing ability. He’s got a beautiful sound. And you know, Terence is from that generation, when I was coming up, we idolized Terence and Wynton and Branford [Marsalis] and Donald [Harrison]. So every time I hear Terence, it’s like watching a star for me.
Wynton seems to impress you the most, though.
I wouldn’t say he impresses me the most. I would say I’ve had the most interaction with him, because I lived with him. You have to understand, I lived with him after I left UNO. I was at UNO for three semesters, then I decided I was going to leave school, which shocked the shit out of everybody. You know, nobody saw $100,000 record budgets coming, that’s for damn sure! But I tried to explain to people, “I know what I want to do and this isn’t it. I’ve known what I want to do for years and this is not the way for me.”
So you left school and went up to New York to hang with Wynton?
Yeah. That was another type of university. I mean, for somebody aspiring to know about art, man, it was just the most amazing experience, to live with an artist like that, somebody who’s into all these different things. He’d be up at three in the morning and I’d be sitting there and we’d talk about all kind of things. Like when he met Ralph Ellison, his experience of first coming to New York, his experiences with Miles Davis. I was hearing those stories, man. And then one of the greatest things being there, I would try to wake up and practice before him. First morning, I woke up at ten. He’s like, “Man, I finished practicing two hours ago.” Woke up the next morning at 8:30, he’s sitting down eating breakfast. He says, “You see my horn over there is warm.” Woke up the next morning early, like 6:30, started working on my long tones. Here comes Wynton, walking in the door with some milk, saying, “Man, I already put an hour in.” That’s how he is. Cat sleeps three hours, practices all the time. So, when I talk about Wynton, I’m not talking because I like him or respect him more or I’m more intrigued, it’s that I lived with him. If you live with somebody when you study with them, well, you’re watching what they’re doing, you’re living what’s going on, you know, being at Lincoln Center, going to his rehearsals, watching people come over. I was there when [renowned Cuban-born pianist] Chucho Valdes first met Wynton, and gave Wynton an introduction to what makes Latin music Latin, and Afro-Cuban jazz Afro-Cuban jazz. It was a hell of an experience.
How long were you up there?
Two years, back and forth.
That must have had an incredible impact on you.
Oh, definitely. That was the first time I was in a situation where I learned all the time. I met Albert Murray, and all these writers, Stanley Crouch. Had political conversations. I was around artists, you know? Met all these musicians: Elvin Jones, John Lewis, Chucho, Jon Faddis, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Jacky Terrason, all these cats. And somebody like Wynton is the greatest thing for an artist, because I always wanted to understand what it meant for me to be doing this art in the bigger scheme of things. “OK, how am I connected with what Picasso was doing? I know we’re all artists, but what’s the connection here?” See, Wynton introduced me to visual art and my love for painting. I’ll never forget the first time he brought me to the museum. And around that time is when you introduced me to Hemingway and Faulkner. So I’m reading all these books and I’m going through a serious transformation, from not wanting to be ignorant anymore, you know, understanding what’s going on.
I’m surprised you ever came back to New Orleans.
Oh, I was going to move. Wynton had extended an invitation to me and said, “Hey, man, you can live here and be here as much as you want.”
So why didn’t you?
Well, I was talking to Jason [Marsalis] at the Funky Butt one night, and I said, “Hey, man, I want to put together this thing. Let’s do some Afro-Cuban kind of stuff and do some different things that groove. Let’s do something that will make people say, ‘Wow, we can’t believe these modern jazz musicians are doing this.’”
So that was the birth of Los Hombres?
Yeah. I wanted to do it because I was in that point in time where I kept getting stamped with shit. Back when I was 14, I was a street, brass band musician. Then I became a traditional jazz musician, and I started working with the Algiers Brass Band and playing with all the traditional cats, with Gregg Stafford and them. Then I became a modern jazz musician. I was getting tired of being stamped. So Jason said, “Well, I’ve been getting with Bill Summers anyway. You should talk to Bill Summers.” And I already knew who Bill Summers was. I talked to Bill, and he really wanted to do the gig. Called up Snug Harbor, booked the gig. They said, “No Latin band has ever made the door.” I’ll never forget that one. The door was $400. Bill won’t even touch the drums for $400. I said, OK, I just wanted to do it for fun. I got these records, and I felt a connection with that shit, I really did. Because when I saw Wynton and Chucho playing together I said, “Damn, something is similar about these two guys.”
We didn’t get together to rehearse until the day of the gig, but when we did that gig that night, it was like the whole world changed. My career changed. I mean, I could work in New Orleans and people would come. I could make a living. All of the sudden in the next month and a half, we developed the infrastructure here in New Orleans of Basin Street Records. Jazz went to the forefront. Since then, jazz has been the number one type of record at the Jazz Fest. It changed the whole scheme of what jazz meant in this city. And then I realized I didn’t have to leave. It was unnecessary. I said, “Well, I can do this here.” And it’s what I always wanted to do. The only reason I was leaving is because I felt like I was up against a wall.
Obviously, the local jazz scene has improved a lot in the last several years. What other improvements would you like to see?
That’s a good question. The New Orleans jazz scene is doing so well right now. I just would like to see more clubs open up, more live performances taking place. I’d like to see more record companies here step up to the plate like [Basin Street founder] Mark Samuels. It’s a shame that he’s the only one out here delivering like he is. I’d like to see more of an industry down here. But I have to say it’s naturally progressing towards that. Shit, five years ago it wasn’t looking like this! We’ve got a lot of clubs here, a lot of places for people to work, a lot of music going on. I’m more interested right now in seeing the classical musical scene develop. I’d like to see more independent classical performances, string quartets, more different types of operas. Yeah, we’re really struggling in that area.
So you really enjoy playing that music as much as jazz?
You know, we say jazz or we say classical music, but to me it’s just any great music, any music that’s fine art that you have to work and develop. I’m just trying to open up and let as much music as I possibly can pour out of me, and that’s just one of the ways I know how. What I would really like to see in the art community is more artists collaborating. That’s what we’re seriously lacking in New Orleans. If you ask the average jazz musician here who’s the top classical trumpet player in New Orleans, what answer will they give you? Ask the average classical musician what’s the best jazz to go see in New Orleans right now, or ask the top visual artists what’s going on with the jazz musicians, what are they going to say? That’s what we need to have going on that they have going on in New York.
The interaction. We’re all moving together. It’s all fine art. We’re manifesting love and life into our art forms, and we need to come together and present ourselves as a community, so we can teach people how they are a part of what it is. You know, I don’t look at myself as a jazz musician, or a classical musician, or a jazz musician who likes classical. People always try to find some type of stereotype for you. That’s the thing I love about Gordon Parks. Refuses to be stereotyped. Film director, photographer, music maker, Casanova, whatever you want to call him. That’s why I’ve loved collaborating with him. I like his conception of art: Let’s do it all, let’s have it all together! Why not? Your dreams are only as small as your beliefs.
On How Passion Falls, you really found some universal themes, allowing you to strike a chord with more people.
Definitely. Man, everybody relates to it. And that’s the point of this shit, to really do stuff that people can feel a part of. Another thing about it is that it was the first album I did besides Los Hombres that was really presenting a band. I mean, I’m playing on it, but you’ll notice I’m not really playing a lot on there. It’s more I’m presenting a band concept and a concept of music. We came together as a band and talked about the whole album, and we tried to present the best conception of the theme, so people can hear it. We’re not trying to play the greatest definitive solos or any of that kind of stuff. And that’s the thing I love about Miles Davis’ records. You know, the vibes and the themes of what’s going on represent much more than any great solo. There’s something to be said for great solos, but you can’t beat a great theme. And when you get to have great themes and great solos, boy, when I get to that level. I’m not there yet, you know.
With the new Los Hombres record, I guess $100,000 opens up a lot of possibilities, doesn’t it?
Yeah. I talked to Bill and said, “Man, you know what would be great? Let’s get as authentic as possible. Let’s really show New Orleans as the northern port of the Caribbean. Let’s go and get the authentic sounds of each of these port cities of the Caribbean.” And we probably spent $175,000 worth of work on this record, and I ain’t lying. From all the studios that we used and all the musicians, at least fifty. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this record, boy!
What I love about the record is that it connects all these cultures for the listener. And then you come back to New Orleans, and it connects all these scenes within New Orleans.
Right, that was very important for me, and that was my conception of the album. Los Hombres, we received a certain amount of flak for not having a Latino member in the band. Obviously, we don’t have that problem anymore because Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez is Cuban, but I think now the Latino people as well as the African Americans as well as anybody can see how all these things relate. Even the white Europeans or just the white Americans, they can see how they’re related to this. All this music is European influenced also, as well as African. You know, this is a serious marriage of a bunch of shit. Now everybody from all these countries can hear this and say, “Oh, we’re related to them. These are our cousins. This is my brother, my sister, yeah.”
Why did you decide not to explicitly tell listeners which songs were recorded where?
Because we think it speaks for itself. You tell somebody it’s recorded where, they assume certain things about the song already. But people will never be able to figure out what part was recorded where. And it makes it more interesting. I want it to be a free record. I want people to just feel the vibe of what we’re trying to represent. If the music is good, let them enjoy that and be happy about it. If they don’t like it, at least they can say they like the album cover, or the liner notes.
If I went back and told that kid I first interviewed five years ago that you would be doing all this stuff, would you have believed me?
Yeah. You don’t understand. I felt like there was no other choice for me. I remember telling my mother I was leaving school, that was one of the most painful days of my life. Scary. And I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t stop, I’ll just keep going, I just won’t look back. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get there.