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Outside of the Comfort Zone

Earlier this week I spoke on being prepared when opportunity presents itself in the most random times and really asking yourself Are You Ready if it does? Opportunity is interesting to me...It seems to always show up when you least expect it. I believe self doubt and not being prepared are big culprits of missing out on life changing opportunities.

Picking up where I left off.....I returned from Detroit on high after learning I would be Slum Village's keyboardist/vocalist on there upcoming European tour. I spoke with their manager and was scheduled to go to Detroit for a rehearsal in April. April came and that rehearsal was rescheduled for May....and then for June...long story short we never had a rehearsal.

I recall coming home from work in late June 2006 and receiving a call from T3 that went something like this:

T3: Ab...What up man!!

Me: Wassup T3

T3: nothin chillin....We got a show in DC tonight at this club called Mirrors. Can you come out and perform with us?

Me: yeah (I had a million things to do), what time?

T3: 11pm but be there around 9pm.

Me: Ok cool.

T3: We need you to sing on Tainted & Selfish bro!

Me: Bet! see you then.

This show was so random! You would think I would know if they were coming to town as a fan but I didn't. I showed up at Club Mirrors and everybody I could think of on the DC music scene was there. It was interesting to perform in front of all my DC music peers. It's amazing how people look at you differently after someone co-signs you. It was like they viewed me in a different light after T3 said "I want to bring my man Ab up here to do these next two joints. He's going to be joining us on our European tour so give it up for him." It's not that they didn't respect me before but the respect was different after that. To this day people on the scene ask me how I got the Slum Village gig?? I performed Tainted & Selfish with Slum Village and the evening was really dope.

Fast forward to July and I'm on a plane from DC to London Heathrow Airport. I arrived, went through customs, walked up to the man holding the Aaron Abernathy sign, and hopped in the car with him headed to the Holiday Inn in Camden Town. I had no clue how our first show at the historic London Jazz Cafe' was going to go that night. We never had ONE rehearsal. Hex, the road manager called me when he got to the hotel and told me to be downstairs at 5pm for soundcheck.

We went to soundcheck and literally figured out the entire 60 - 75 minute set there. I discovered that there wasn't a band. The DJ (DJ Dez) doubled as a drummer and we were the duo creating the music. As we were creating the show T3 kept asking me what I knew how to play? What hip hop classics? What soul classics? Do you know how to play this? Do you know how to play that? I found myself adding parts of my "Ab & The Souljourners" show to their show. I couldn't believe he was asking me what I thought about playing this and that as a transition to the next section. We created the show and went through it one time....then time was up.

I believe in rehearsal before shows and lots of it but I was out of my comfort zone on this evening. Out of my element in a historic venue in London performing with a classic hip hop group. Oh...and the show was sold out! Talk about pressure. My expertise was sought out in soundcheck and I was challenged to see how fast I learn...I felt like they were putting me on spot to see how much of a professional musician I was.

I remember the food being really good that night before hitting the stage...Some type of baked chicken, potatoes, and sauteed green beans that was ridiculously delicious....I hit the stage and I was nervous...something that usually doesn't happen. I had to remind myself that this was no different from what I do with my group and being faithful to the little things had already prepared me for this moment.

We hit the stage to a sold out crowd and I played the show we created in sound check. The audience was pleased with the show and wanted an encore. Of course I was excited. I really didn’t know I was a professional musician until that moment. I should’ve known before hand but I was downplaying myself. I honestly believe that T3 chose me for the job because he knew I was a professional musician….I wonder why I didn’t know that….I’m sure it’s because I was looking for approval in all of the wrong places starting with my peers on the DC music scene. In all honesty, I never saw myself playing in a band with Slum Village…my plan was to stay focused on making Ab & The Souljourners the next big thing but God had other plans and this new door he had just opened for me was a door that would keep giving back….

I’ll explain more about this door next week.





One Mile At A Time....

Yesterday morning I arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC with two bags, two keyboards, and a keyboard stand. I was greeted by Tami at the Southwest counter who questioned where I was going with this huge case and bags. I explained I was headed to Dallas to prepare for a tour starting on Friday. We went through your typical song and dance....

Tami: Who are you touring with?

Me: An artist named Black Milk

Tami: What type of music is it?

Me: Hip Hop done in a progressive way....

Tami: My son is a musician...What do you do in the band?

Me: I'm the music director....I play keys as well as sing and direct the band...

Tami: Are you guys playing in DC??

Me: Yes....On Oct. 24th at Liv Nightclub

Tami: I'm going to try my best to come out and support you.

Me: That would be great!

Tami: How many tours have you been on?

Me: (Looks up in the air while thinking......) 9 or 10...

Tami: Before you leave....How did you get to become a music director and tour so much?

Me: That's a long story....I'd have to say being prepared when the opportunity presented itself.

I walked away from the check in counter thinking about Tami's last question....How did I become a music director and tour so much? What is the long story answer to that question look like?

Well..... I recall finding this Miles Davis interview on youtube a few years ago where he spoke about how people thought he had this talent that was so incredible and whenever he picked up a horn he made magic come out of it. He went on to say that what people thought was ridiculous and he's a great horn player because he practices a couple hours everyday and has never stopped practicing EVERYDAY.

Look at this quote:

"I've practiced my tone for almost 50 years, and if I can't hear my tone, I can't play. If I can't play, then I won't get paid. If I don't get paid, then I lose the house, you know? It's like a chain reaction. If I lose my tone, I can't fuck, can't make love, can't do nothin'. I'll just walk into the ocean and die, if I lose my tone." -Miles Davis

His tone....his identity...the way you know it's Miles Davis on the horn when he starts playing with out reference.....he worked on that and continued to until he died. Practicing everyday for 2+ hours seems like a small thing but clearly it was gigantic as Miles Davis is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Even after finding success he STILL practiced every day on his craft.


You're probably wondering what all this Miles Davis talk has to do with the question Tami asked me.....

The answer is all in Miles Davis' theory of practicing....Practice is what made him an incredible horn player...not his talent.

The road to doing big things is being faithful to the little things....He continued preparing himself for every opportunity that presented itself by practicing and he conquered them one mile at a time. He was faithful to the little thing of practicing 2+ hours a day no matter his status and over time it led him to the big thing of arguably being the greatest Jazz musician of all time...


I'm nowhere close to Miles Davis but I follow this theory.....

I'll answer Tami's question in detail and touch on the little things I've been faithful to that led to becoming a music director and touring 9 to 10 times later on in the week....





Featuring my band Nat Turner, Quelle Chris, and DJ Sober....

SEP 20 – DALLAS, TX – Dada

SEP 21 – ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Sister Bar

SEP 22 – LAS VEGAS, NV – Beauty Bar

SEP 25 – FRESNO, CA – Fulton 55

SEP 27 – LOS ANGELES, CA – The Echoplex

SEP 28 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Brick & Mortar

SEP 29 – SAN JOSE, CA – Pagoda

OCT 01 – SANTA BARBARA, CA – Velvet Jones

OCT 02 – PHOENIX, AZ – Red Owl

OCT 05 – AUSTIN, TX – Red 7

OCT 06 – HOUSTON, TX – Fitzgerald’s

OCT 07 – NEW ORLEANS, LA – Hi Ho Lounge

OCT 09 – NEW YORK, NY – Santos


OCT 11 – BOSTON, MA – Middle East

OCT 12 – BURLINGTON, VT – Signal

OCT 13 – MONTREAL, CANADA – Cabaret Underworld

OCT 14 – OTTAWA, CANADA – Ritual


OCT 16 – DETROIT, MI – St. Andrew’s

OCT 17 – TOLEDO, OH – Frankies

OCT 18 – ST. LOUIS, MO – Blank Space

OCT 19 – CHICAGO, IL – Subterranean

OCT 20 – IOWA CITY, IA – Gabe’s

OCT 21 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN – 7th Street Entry

OCT 22 – CLEVELAND, OH – Grog Shop

OCT 23 – PITTSBURGH, PA – Smiling Moose




Balance Creates Inspiration

Early this week I spoke about my challenge to find balance within my world. I'm aware that I'm a workaholic and at times I'm in desperate need of escapism from that realm. So I made my way to the E Street Cinema in downtown Washington DC to see a film. After arriving to earlier to the cinema I took a trip to Barnes & Noble and read a magazine article that really made me think about my life. The thought of "Who's in My Circle?" ran through my brain as I made my way back to E Street Cinema for the 5:40pm start time of a film called "In A World."


There's something about E Street cinema that's special.....

1.) It houses mostly independent films big theater companies rarely pick up (Regal, AMC, Cinemark).

2.) The theaters are located in a basement so it's hard to get cell reception....Thank God! No distractions from that one person whose phone is going to ring or has to text  during the film (Ma'am/Sir....That white light from your phone screen is lighting up the theater during a dark scene....ruining my experience).

3.) It caters to the adult audience so you don't have to worry about loud teenagers (HALlELUJAH!).

4.) They have food and alcoholic beverage options that other theaters don't offer (even though I rarely drink it's something great about the option being there).

I frequently visit E Street cinema because I know the environment is calm and I can enjoy the experience of watching a film without distraction.


I arrived inside the theater to see a few previews of what's coming to the cinema and most of them looked pretty good. As an indie soul music artist, I have a connection with indie film makers. We aren't limited in our creation and we're free to tell our stories from the way we see life. There's something freeing about the experience of creating your vision! I love theaters that show indie films because they have created a forum for these artist to share their work.

I was inspired by the film "In A World." While it was hilarious, the story line was really good. I don't want to ruin it for you so I won't go into detail but the story centered around a woman following her dream of being a voice over artist in the film industry. It's a refreshing story as I've never thought about that career (I love indie films.....Who writes a movie about this topic!). The voice over industry is dominated by men and she has to prove she belongs in this world after someone she really loves and wants approval from says it will be impossible for her to be successful in the field. It's a great film and I recommend you go see it if it's playing in your city.

I left the cinema inspired by the film as it reminded me that everyone won't see my vision or believe in it. No matter how much your friends and family love you, there will be times when you'll have to prove them wrong when they tell you it's impossible for you to do it. Most of the time they say it out of love because they want the best for you....just remember they don't see your vision and your vision might just be what's best for go for it! The film and the bookstore were the balance I needed. I returned to work inspired and refueled to drive forward with my vision and keep my circle in mind while doing so.





The World Is Yours.....Only If You Take It.....

I've been there before....staggering....lost.....trying to find my way through this world where nothing is promised. A place where disappointments can leave you with a broken heart and a crippled brain. A place where dreams are uttered but seldom followed and life is nothing but a cycle of mediocrity. I know this place well and occasionally find myself back at square one....lost trying to find my way through a world where nothing is promised....

I remember my final days at Howard University. My dean Dr. Dawkins called me into his office after my exit exams and said: "You had a great run here in our music department, the world is yours and anything that you want to be, you can be!" He followed that statement with: "Aaron, you should go to business school or even law school. You have the grades and the potential. I think that would be great for you after Howard." I told him I'd take it into consideration knowing that I was done with school. I had just formed a band and my plan was to work this summer camp job at Langdon Park Recreation Center in North East DC and get a job at W.W. Grainger in the fall and that's exactly what I did. My parents wanted me to move back to Cleveland but I knew if I did that, I wouldn't make it in music and that was my one and only goal.....To make a living creating, singing, and playing music.

Fall came and W.W. Grainger became my first place of employment as a post graduate. I hated the job but I loved my co-workers. We all had dreams and supported each other. They're an incredible group of people that were placed in my life at the right time. We went through rough times at Grainger and the only thing that kept me from going insane besides Jesus Christ himself was my choice of keeping my intention for working there in perspective. I would tell myself every day before walking in there, "Aaron, you are here to earn money to fund your dreams of becoming a full time musician. You are here to make Grainger work for you!" And that's exactly what I did. I worked as hard as I could for me and not for my boss that cared less about his employees and treated us like trash. I used my paychecks to pay my bills and purchase the music equipment I needed to build a better studio. To this day, I have ALL of the music equipment I purchased when I was working there and it's still turning a profit for me. I worked at Grainger from 7:30am to 4pm, Mon - Fri and worked for Aaron Abernathy from 5pm - 12pm either rehearsing, playing gigs with my band, or recording. Grainger was nothing but a means to earn capitol to build the frame work around my dreams.

This weekend I met up with two of my co-workers from Grainger that I hadn't seen since I left the job in Dec. 2006. It was great to see how far we have come from that place. We reminisced on how we used to sit in that call center and talk about how this wasn't the final stop for us and how we had bigger and better things to do with our lives and now we're doing just that. It's my co-worker Tiffany that I am most proud of. As we sat at the dinner table in the Nation Harbor celebrating our other co-worker Diane's 40th Birthday, she told me she finally left Grainger this past April. That was the best news I had heard all week!!!

She expressed how hard it was for her to watch all of us leave Grainger and she knew that she had to get out of there. Our boss was stressing her out and still treating employees like slaves and I love how real she was about noticing that the stress on the job was effecting her relationships outside of work and that really convinced her that it was time to go. She said she began to make Grainger work for her and went back to school on their dime to finish up her degree in accounting. Then she contacted our co-worker Jay who had left Grainger in 2007 after getting a much better job at NASA, to see if there were any openings there. Thank God they were hiring in her field! After three years of total focus, non-stop prayer, and working in that hell-hole while finishing up her degree, she was hired by NASA making way more money then she did at Grainger and she loves her job. I love hearing that!! I love that she made Grainger work for her until she didn't need them anymore. She gave our old boss her resignation and he was shocked! He told her "I never saw this coming!" Of course he didn't! It's interesting how some people will never see you as better than the position you're in. It's your job to shock them and I'm ecstatic that Tiffany did and chose to make life better for herself.

I love Tiffany's story because it's much like mines.....

I left Grainger in Dec. of 2006 for a substitute teaching job in Prince George's County, Maryland to give myself more time to work on music. Then I moved to Los Angeles in Sep. of 2008 to pursuit music on the West Coast and while in pursuit I was the operations manager of a funeral home in Watts. Then I returned to DC in Dec. of 2009 and recorded music, performed live, toured the world as a music director, and got a record deal in 2010 just to be told Soul music wasn't in. I lost the deal in 2011....the same year I got a vocal polyp and couldn't sing again until Dec. of 2012.

There have been plenty of times between leaving Grainger in Dec. of 2006 that I have hit rock bottom and had to ask for help and take a 9 to 5 to survive. I remember tucking my pride in and calling Tiffany in 2011 to ask if Grainger was hiring.......and her telling me that our boss said they had no positions open for me. I had to fight through those times of regret when I second guessed my decisions cause my dream seemed so far out of sight that I I staggered trying to find my way through this world where nothing is promised. A place where disappointments can leave you with a broken heart and a crippled brain. A place where dreams are uttered but seldom followed and life is nothing but a cycle of mediocrity. In my final days at Howard University, Dr. Dawkins told me the world is mine and anything that I want to be, I can be.....but I'm telling you if you want that world you have to take it! You have to make it work for you cause no one else will and few people, if any, will care about you. I'm just like Tiffany.....

In 2013, after years of struggling....we both discovered that the world is ours only if we decide to take it!

Are you doing what it takes to make the world yours....

Something to think about.....





The Road to Success

It’s interesting how success starts. More interesting than that is how we individual weigh success. I remember a fall morning in 1996. I was walking down Fernway in Shaker Heights, Ohio at 6am on a Wednesday delivering papers for The Sun Press. My mother must have been concerned about me cause it was cold and rainy. I saw her 96 Grand Prix creeping up on me but the music was so loud that I knew it couldn’t have been her. As the car approached the driver window slowly rolled down and my brother told me that he was going to trail me while I did my route. I had no clue what he was listening to but I liked what I was hearing. After completing my route I got in the car and we rolled around before going home. It wasn’t often that he got to drive my parents car because he had just got his drivers license that summer so he took advantage of the opportunity. I asked him who is this that we’re listening to and he replied:

"Jay-Z, you know who this is!"

I pondered…..

He said “the guy on Biggie’s album.”

I looked confused…..

He said “the guy who was in that Big Daddy Kane video with ODB when they’re outside rhyming.”

I really looked confused….

He said “the guy in the Hawaiian Sophie Video with Jaz-O they use to play back in the day”

I was ready to give up….

He said “you know him, he’s the guy with Foxy Brown in his new video!”

Then it connected! I thought that was Foxy Brown’s song but turns out is was Jay-Z. Had I read the video call I would’ve known that. I remember the first time I saw the video I didn’t see it from the beginning and drew my conclusion that it was her record.

I was intrigued by this Jay-Z album “Reasonable Doubt” and borrowed my brothers cassette tape and wore it out.

Looking back on this moment it’s crazy to see all the places he pulled from to get me to recognize who Jay-Z was. His point was I knew him, I just didn’t realize it. In 1996 Jay-Z put out his first rap album but who knew him prior to that? Who knew him in 1996? Initially I didn’t. He starting rapping in 1989 and 7 years later he put out his first album on his own label after being signed to a major label who failed to work a previous single the way he saw fit. Him along with two of his friends left that label to form Roc-A-Fella Records and began a journey.

Who were fans of Jay-Z before 1996? Who was inspired by Jay-Z before 1996? Who was Jay-Z before 1996?

I believe before 1996 Jay-Z’s fans were his friends. I believe his friends were inspired by him and he was inspired by them. I believe Jay-Z was a dreamer who saw a vision and learned after signing with a major label and letting them control his destiny for a short period of time to his disliking, he decided to control his own destiny and parted ways with people that couldn’t see what he saw. The great thing about all of that is I know for a fact that Jay-Z couldn’t see who he would be in 2013 in 1994 when him and his friends started Roc-A-Fella Records. That alone is the incredible part of dreaming and believing in oneself…..

The unknown that awaits you…….

Becoming more than you ever thought you’d be…..

Watching your dream become bigger than yourself….

Watching your dream plant seeds for other dreams you have as well as the dreams of others…

My friends inspire me. You might not know who they are but I do. They have these amazing dreams that they’re working on everyday. When I talk to Scooda and he’s telling me he’s close to getting his invention out to the world and has investors in Japan I’m inspired. I was there with him in Los Angeles in 2008 when he told me he was getting a patent on this idea he had. When I hear that Ayah is in culinary art school in bay area after years of knowing how great of a cook she is and finally taking the next step I’m inspired. When I see Chris deliver his first novel “Shadow Precinct” for the world to read and spoke with him yesterday and he’s already completed follow up and is working on a short story I’m inspired. When I received Tanekeya’s Neon V magazine in the mail and attended the release party to see a packed house of supporters I was inspired. I remember when it was just an idea. When I talk to Shannon and see her working daily on the lounge she’s opening and her growth as a photographer and entrepreneur I’m inspired. When I watch Curtis program drums and create music that only he can make I’m inspired. When I see Malik pick up his bass and play so effortless I am inspired. When my mother makes quilts and gives them to me I’m inspired. I remember when she joined the quilt club. When I see Anthony being a think tank for Nike, one of the most powerful brands in the world I’m inspired. I’m a fan of my friends and I have no clue what all of them will become within this world. Perhaps they’ll be as big as Jay-Z or maybe they won’t but they’ll be as big as themselves and that is incredible to me.

We don’t know what will become of our dreams but we’re working towards them and that’s where all of us are successful….

That’s where the road to success begins...