“Before I would over-think things and I would talk myself out of everything. Now I just do it. Doubt opens the door for a lot of thought that could become negative. I could talk myself out of an experience that could be great.”
About Jay Daniel Flett
Jay is the vocalist for the punk rock band Old Derelicts. He is also a visual artist, a cat lover, and an incredibly positive and giving soul. On their Facebook Page, the Old Derelicts describe themselves like this:
“We play Punk Rock loud and fast, we do it for the love of the music and nothing more, our lyrics are about life, places we’ve been, things we like, skateboarding, and things that piss us off. We are who we are and make no excuses.”
1. What is the force that drives you forward? What fuels your ambition?
Because I play music, I find a lot of things that people sing about – a lot of songs that I hear these days – don’t speak to the real issues going on in our world. So I want to be able to have a voice, and maybe impact people’s lives in a positive way and encourage them think outside the box. That makes me want to create something better everytime I create something. I want to do something different. Create work that inspires people, hopefully. I don’t know if I’m that powerful, but if at least one person comes up after one of our shows and says that they enjoy what we’re doing, then that’s enough to make me want to do more.
2. Can you talk about your greatest “failure”? (something that led to your most significant shift in consciousness, and made you who you are today).
I don’t really look at anything that I’ve done in my life as a failure, but my greatest obstacle in the past was fear. There was a lot of things that I thought about doing in the past, but thinking about the end result would cause me to live in fear and I wouldn’t do it.
I had a fear I’d fail, or that I wasn’t good enough, or I’d have some sort of standard – some imaginary standard that I thought I’d have to live up to.
So, I wouldn’t do it. Now, I just do things without fear of the end result. I just do it because I want to do it. And I also think that, because I’m getting older, I’m running out of time. I have to do the things now that I’ve always wanted to do.
3. Are you happy? What does happiness mean to you?
I’m most definitely happy. What happiness means to me is loving yourself, being content with where you’re at in life. I find that if I have those two things, then everything else in life is just extra and an added bonus. If I’m okay with where I’m at right now in this moment, and I’m okay with who I am, then all the external things don’t matter as much. I don’t really feel a void anymore.
For a lot of my youth and stuff growing up I felt kind of a void, so I tried to fill it with different things: alcohol and drugs, buying things. Even though, you know, I’d like to own a classic car someday, I don’t spend my days thinking about or obsessing about the fact that I don’t have one. I know that based on the way my life has gone so far, eventually I’ll have whatever it is that I want… in some form or another. But if I don’t, I’m okay with that too. And that’s going back to being content with where you’re at.
4. What do you think is your greatest strength?
My greatest strength is my perspective. What gave me my perspective was reading a series of books by an author named Don Miguel Ruiz. He wrote a book called The Four Agreements. I apply those principles to the best of my ability in my life. He wrote another book called The Voice of Knowledge, and that talks about the voice in your head that tells you lies: I’m not good enough, or I’m a shitty singer, or I’m going to fail at this, or that girl won’t like me if I talk to her, or I’m never going to get this job. He teaches you how not to listen to that voice, and how to listen to your own personal truth; following your heart. So when I read those books, my perspective in thinking shifted and now I look at positive things and not negative things.
4.5. On the reverse, can you identify a personal challenge (something you currently struggle with)?
Spending too much time on my phone. I use social media to promote my music and my band, but I also find myself spending more time than I should wrapped in other people’s posts and that kind of stuff. It creates sort of a disconnect.
My friend and his wife are going to get rid of their phone and get a land line. What that’s going to do is force their other friends to be more accountable to them, and vice versa. If I say I’m going to meet my band at 9, there’s no way to get ahold of any of us so you have to show up at 9. You can’t just send us a text and say that you’re going to be 20 minutes late. And that’s really what’s happening in our culture today. It’s way too convenient to not be accountable. Oh, I don’t really want to hang out today… blah, blah, blah… so I send a text message. There’s no face to face.
I kind of like that. I don’t think I’m going to get rid of my phone, but I like that idea. Being on my phone too much… people have pointed it out to me. I think I do it way less than the average person, but if people are pointing it out to me, then it’s probably a problem.
5. When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist? Can you talk about that moment or time in your life?
I think when I was four or five years old, my dad would come home and he would get me to turn over the record. He’d come over with his biker buddies at 2 or 3 in the morning, and he’d put on a record and get me to turn it over when it ended. I just really gravitated towards music. And obviously, in my life, music has been a constant thing. I knew, from an early age, that I wanted to play music and create music. So I can’t really say that there was one moment where I was like ‘oh, I knew,’ but it’s always felt right and made sense to me.
One of my earliest memories is sitting on my dad’s lap and listening to records – Pink Floyd, Dark side of the Moon stands out. I just bought it on vinyl recently, and listening to it brings back a whole lot of memories from that time period… and that was 1979.
6. Habits, routine, morning rituals — What are the positive things you do daily that have had the most significant impact on your life and work?
Daily… I don’t know if I have any. I have two cats, so being accountable to them is important, but I don’t know if I have daily routines.
I do mental health outreach work and support work. I also volunteer and run a group at On-sight detox. Giving back to my community enriches my life in a lot of ways.
I also always take a minute to look around. I’ve made my apartment really comfortable, so I always take a moment to look around and be thankful for the home that I have. I do that every single morning, so that would probably be a ritual that I have. I take a moment and I ground myself before I go out. I also have a lot of plants and stuff, so my home is sort of alive.
7. How do you deal with doubt? Where do you go for support?
I have a small group of friends who I communicate with one a regular basis as far as what’s going on for me in my life. It’s also really about perspective. I look at where I was a few years and ago and where I’m at now. Before I would over-think things and I would talk myself out of everything. Now I just do it. Or at least I try to do it, and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I don’t really care what the end result is.
Doubt opens the door for a lot of thought that could become negative. I could talk myself out of an experience that could be great.
And even if it doesn’t end up being great, it’s not going to kill me. I think about that: Is doing this going to kill me? And if it’s not, then what am I afraid of? It’s not like starting another musical project or painting is going to give me a cancer diagnosis. You’re not going to get cancer from starting another band. The worst thing that will happen is the band won’t last and that will be it. I’ll carry on with my life.
Or when I was single, meeting new people. ‘Oh, should I go talk to that person – male or female? If I decide against it, I might miss an opportunity. That girl could be my future wife, or a guy I start a new band with or someone who could introduce me to new bands I could play with. Because I let fear take over in that moment, because of doubt, I might have missed an amazing opportunity.
I think I’m more outspoken now than I ever have been. You never know. The worst thing that could happen is nothing. I think about that a lot, when I start to feel doubt I push those feelings away and I just do it.
‘The Four Agreements’ really helps with that as well. Anybody, everybody, should read it I think.
8. What, in your opinion, are the qualities of someone who is a “great” artist (in whatever discipline)?
Integrity. Creating something from the heart. I think if you create from the heart then it’s your own, and it’s pure. I think we’re all influenced by a bunch of different things. All of these questions are very relative to each other. If I do something without fear or thoughts about what other people will think, then the end result is always going to be good, and I’ll always be proud of it.
If I’m influenced by everyone else, then it’s not going to be truly my creation. I mean, there are lots of artists that I’m influenced by for sure, and I’ve tried to emulate different parts of what they do and make it my own, but I don’t think ‘Hey, look at that guys painting. I’m going to make it just like his.’ I will take parts of his that I admire, and then make it my own. At the end of the day I think it’s equally my own.
Some people might see it differently, but I think we’re at a point in the Art’s scene (whatever medium you’re using) where it’s hard to create stuff that’s new or that people haven’t heard before. That’s really difficult. There’s been a million paintings painted and a million songs written. Look at the film industry… I mean, they’re running out of ideas. Some of the films that I feel have the greatest impact are biographies.
It’s hard to create fresh ideas. Really what I respect about other people, other artists is – even if I don’t like their music – bravery.
That they were brave enough to do something. No matter what my opinion is of what they’re doing, I still respect them because they’re doing something. Something is better than nothing. And there’s still a little bit of integrity in that.
Usually the people who have a voice – the critics – aren’t doing anything. I don’t think you have a right to have a voice (in that sense) unless you’re creating something yourself and you can compare. If you’re just sitting at home, buying the product and then reflecting that you think this is shit, maybe you should try creating something yourself. I was that guy for a long time. Eventually I decided to just create my own band.
9. Any advice for artists on a similar path? (Perhaps advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out).
Just do it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think yourself into a corner because if you do fear will take over and you’ll always think about what could have been. If you want to do something, just do it. And go out and get inspired.
If you’re in a band or want to start a band, go see other bands play. If you want to paint, go to art shows. If you want to take photos, seek out other people’s work and get inspired by it. And support it!
Buy it if you can afford. Buy other people stuff. Go to shows and buy a shirt, buy the CD, buy a sticker. Go up to that band and tell them you thought they were great. The energy you get, the positivity you get from that, for me, has inspired me to continue on. You won’t always get a pleasant response, but 9 times out of 10 I have. Everybody likes to be complimented. It’s pretty rare that I’ve given someone a compliment and they’ve reacted poorly to that.
10. Ever experience flow/being in the zone? What does it feel like for you, and can you tell us about a time when you experienced it?
I experience it often. Especially when I’m playing music but even when I’m painting… it’s called being in the moment. If you can quiet that voice in your head, you can wind up in the moment and that, for me, is what flow is about. It’s about living for right now. Not thinking about what I did yesterday and what I’ll do down the road. And that’s what life is all about: living for right now. I’m always aware of what’s going to happen – I’ve got a work schedule, bills, and stuff – but I do my best to slow down my thinking. Especially when I’m creating stuff. That’s hard. Especially if I’m distracted by my phone. But, in my opinion, that’s what flow is. It’s when you’re right in the moment.
Especially when you’re in a band. There’s 4 of us in mine. So four guys on the same page in the same moment… I mean, there’s nothing more magic than that. And you can create something new and afterwards you’re like ‘that was great.’ You all feel the same feeling. I experience that often, because the guys that I play with are really great people. I got lucky finding the people that I have to play with. There’s no drama. It’s like being in a relationship with three other men.
That hasn’t been the experience of other people I know, and finding that flow has proved to be difficult for them… you almost have to force it sometimes. For us, it has come pretty good.
11. What is your favourite book? It could be about your craft, or maybe just an excellent story. If that is too difficult to answer, who are your favourite authors?
The Four Agreements. Any of Don Miguel Riez’s books. I haven’t read them all, but the ones that I have read are good. It definitely had a dramatic impact on my life.
Check out the favourite books by the other interviewees
Facebook: Old Derelicts
*Jay and the Old Derelicts are in the process of recording their first record at the House of Payne. It will be ready in the new year.
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