I’d say I started young, but then took a winding road. I’ve loved making music, performing, and acting since I was little. My dad is a guitarist and works promoting rock concerts, so I got to go to shows from before I could walk. I was at Grateful Dead shows when I was two. I’d see Mick Jagger, Bruce Spingsteen, Prince, David Bowie etc and something about what they were doing on stage made me innately say to myself – “that’s what I want to do.”
So any time I got the opportunity to perform, I would. I jumped onstage singing Tutti Frutti at my grade school talent show, and I performed Thriller at another one (complete with all of Michael’s moves). I also loved movies and acting. I think watching Bruce Lee movies got me hooked (I’m a martial artist too). So I was in my grade school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (love me some Shakespeare).
The winding part of my story really began in high school. I loved playing football and I wanted to get into a good college, so I focused on that. I worked REALLY hard and I got into Harvard University. But once I got there I hit a wall. Some of the things that had been driving me stopped working. I’d chosen to pursue a degree in economics (I was at Harvard – I might as well figure out how to make money, right?). But that wasn’t my passion. I had, what I like to call, a “quarter-life crisis.” Ultimately I finished my degree, but I decided to move to LA afterward and pursue my original dream from when I was a kid.
In LA I started acting and I joined a band and started playing out. I got to be in movies and TV shows (Brick with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, ABC’s The Middle, and The Rookie most recently). And I got to play all of LA’s most historic clubs (The Viper Room, the Whisky A Go Go, the Troubador) as well as some of the biggest festivals in the country (Bonnaroo, the Outside Lands Festival, the Life is Beautiful festival, SXSW). We toured and made a couple of albums. It was a blast, but we didn’t break through the way we’d dreamed of. So, as most bands do, we fell apart.
After the band broke up, I retreated to the studio to get in touch with my next wave of creativity. I got in touch with the things that made me fall in love with music and performing when I was little. I had to decide what I wanted to say that would be more powerful than what I’d been saying to that point. And how I wanted to say it. Also, how I wanted to promote it so that it would have a greater impact in the world. That was the genesis of my new project – AVATARI.
Absolutely not. I’m not sure there are any smooth roads to being an artist. If there are, they are few and far between. That being said – I believe some of the bumps in the road have made me a deeper artist. I hope so.
One of the struggles is very personal. It’s the struggle of growing up as a human being. Like I talked about in the previous section – choosing what I’m passionate about (or allowing it to choose me) and then owning it and following through. I’ve always been someone who needs to do what’s in my heart. Whether it’s doing the things that make me happy, or loving the people I want to love. When I go against that – I fail quickly and miserably. So admitting that after pursuing a degree in economics at Harvard, I wanted to move to LA and become a musician/actor – was definitely a challenge. But fortunately my parents were/are beyond supportive. But still there’s that voice in my head that said “are you crazy? are you insane?” Fortunately that voice has become quieter.
Then there’s the struggle of self-discovery as an artist. So, once I decided that “this is what I want to do” then – how do I do it and what do I want to say? I’ve always loved writing songs and I’ve never really struggled with writer’s block. In fact, I find the opposite – I have too many ideas, so how do I pick the right ones? But I think really refining my craft as a songwriter and singer has been an important and evolving journey. And working collaboratively. Learning tricks and techniques, taking in ideas from other artists has been really beneficial. Having a community of artists to collaborate with and learn from is so important.
Another challenge has been continuing to pursue a career as an artist while taking on more life responsibilities. Specifically – I’m married now and have a three year old son. I love them more than anything in the world. But the game has definitely changed for me. When my wife was pregnant I panicked. I thought “oh no is my career over?” The answer is no. Like I said, things have definitely changed. But I’m actually finding it more important than ever that I do what’s in my heart and pursue what I love. That’s the message I want to pass on to my son. I can’t really pass that on if I’m not doing it myself.
Finally, there’s the challenge of the ever-changing music industry. Talk about the game changing! There are so many pros and cons to it. But I try to focus on the big pro. Which I believe is that this is the best time in the history of commercial music to be an independent musician. All the tools are there for us to run a business, to reach people all over the world, and to monetize.
I used to fantasize (as many artists do) that one day a record label or manager would swoop in and magically turn me into a massive star. I’ve given up that dream. Now I work hard every day, to reach new fans with my music, to nurture my existing relationships with fans, and to run my music business like a business. And it feels great.
I go by AVATARI and I make epic, anthemic, modern alternative rock music. Most of my songs are about internal battles with demons and the triumph of the human spirit. That’s what I think about, so that’s what I write about. My music is heavily influenced thematically by the bands that I love from the 60’s and 70’s – David Bowie, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley. But with a modern sound – a la Imagine Dragons / Twenty One Pilots.
The name AVATARI comes from a combination of the name I was born with – Ari (which is Hebrew for lion). And the word “avatar” which by the Hindu definition is an incarnation of a deity in human form. Basically a free spirit. That’s what I preach and that’s what I live by. That we are all loving, free spirits. Some times we lose our way, but underneath it all I believe we are these pure sources of love, power, and light.
I’m from San Francisco and my parents were hippies, so it’s probably not too surprising that my music and my “brand” steers in that direction. But it’s also just a really simple message that I think is hard to find anything wrong with – Peace, Love, and Empowerment. The amazing thing during this pandemic (which has definitely been the dark night of the soul on a global, national, and personal level) is that it’s forced me to re-define how I connect with people.
I’ve completely ramped up the way that I connect with fans on social media and it’s been amazing. I created a private community for my most dedicated fans called The Avatars. Connecting with people there, engaging, sharing the ups and downs of this last harrowing year has been an incredible experience. I’ve been completely blow away by the amount of love and support that I’ve experienced from my fans this last year. It’s really kept me going.
I define success as finding happiness and providing value to others. Happiness that is not fleeting. Rather the kind of happiness that comes from when I look into the mirror each day, and I’m comfortable with the path that I’ve chosen, and the person that I’m being.
Ultimately, I like to ask myself each day if I’m doing my very best. If the answer is no, then I ask myself – “what could I do better?” and then I try to do it better the next day.
I think treating others the right way is so important. Listening to others. Supporting others.
I’ve always been a very results-oriented person. It’s the part of me that wanted to get into Harvard, that wanted to win the football championship in high school, that wants to win an Oscar and a Grammy. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just part of who I am.
But I try to channel that today into – How can I serve? How can I serve my family, my friends, my fans, and myself. And if I feel like I’m doing that to the best of my ability, then I try to let go of the results.