There is something to be said about vocal talent. Some are born with it, others train hard to perfect it—despite how it begins, it is easy to recognize great talent when you hear it. Minneapolis, Minnesota native Asa Goldstein is one individual whose smooth, pleasant voice pairs perfectly with the unique acoustic music that he composes. Goldstein’s music varies in influence, from the soothing sounds of jazz and soul to the upbeat indie rock. But best of all? He utilizes cannabis both as an inspiration as well as subject matter. In honor of Goldstein’s newest album, Conscious Creation (out now), he took some time to talk about his career and his love for cannabis.
How did you get started making music?
I began taking piano lessons at the age of five, but that only lasted until I discovered guitar the age of 10. I started singing around the same time, and eventually writing my own songs during middle school and onward. The movie August Rush and my subsequent discovery of acoustic fingerstyle artists such as Andy McKee, Kaki King and Antoine Dufour inspired me to use the guitar percussively, write more complex compositions and experiment with open tunings. By the time I was 16, I had released two very mediocre EPs and a music video.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Hiatus Kaiyote, Chon, Punch Brothers, Little Tybee, Ott, and Panic at the Disco!, but only the band’s first two albums. It must be said, I would be a mere husk of an artist without Jesse McCartney’s album “Right Where You Want Me.”
I want to make music that is honest and vulnerable. Who am I to wear a mask or mis-portray my past mistakes for fear of being judged?
How do you describe your style?
John Mayer’s long-lost younger brother started reading strange hippie books from the ’70s and things got a little out of hand.
How do you feel about your music scene locally and worldwide?
The music scene at my university in North Carolina is very vibrant and diverse. I’m finally back in my home city of Minneapolis this summer after a couple years of being away, so I’m excited to discover my local scene. I attended a performing arts high school, so there was always a fair share of bands forming, and playing some really great shows, but then disintegrating. The worldwide music scene has some really impressive acts, but I don’t jive with most trap music, which is uber-popular with my generation, though I do love freestyling and writing raps. Most good fusion music comes out of Britain and Australia. There’s an awesome jazz scene in Japan right now as well.
What is the inspiration behind your music?
My intention is to create soundscapes and write lyrics that bring people to a higher state of consciousness, whatever that may be for them. I mainly aim to create lush, mystical spaces and lyrics inspired by introspection, whether they be spiritual, psychological or romantic. Also funky beats.
I want to make music that is honest and vulnerable. Who am I to wear a mask or mis-portray my past mistakes for fear of being judged? I wouldn’t be releasing music or lyrics that are so ‘out there’ if I cared about my art or ego being negatively perceived. All I want is to make a genuine connection to my fellow human being when I express myself. I don’t imagine I’m alone in how I feel or think; I’m not special.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
Feed Me Jack, Rex Orange County, Shpongle, Jordan Rakei, Plini, Kendrick Lamar and Action Bronson.
How has cannabis affected your life and/or your creative process?
Cannabis has exponentially increased my awareness of myself, others, and the world around me. I feel that it has aided me in the process of waking up to the potential of the human experience, the depth of the current moment, and my own capacity for joy and spontaneity. I’m not saying that makes me special; I think that I was naturally a cynical and inattentive person (though I was always creative and involved) and that cannabis tunes me into a higher perspective on life. I think tons of people possess this viewpoint naturally. I stopped taking Adderall for my ADHD back in November right before final exams after taking it for 10 years straight. I realized I just did not need it anymore; using cannabis allowed me to better understand my ADHD and to become truly motivated to learn from and engage with the world around me. Cannabis affects everyone differently, but to me, it feels like thinking in 3-D. By this, I mean that my perception begins to exist along a continuum, rather than blindly accepting my initial judgments. Using it with intention as a tool for wellness has developed me spiritually, physically, and mentally in so many ways I’ve lost count. I also use cannabis as a creative tool, but I find the key is to use it and not let it use you. Since we have such poor drug education surrounding cannabis, it can be difficult to find your way at first in terms of dosage, frequency, and the pitfalls to avoid, but it just takes some trial and error to understand how cannabis can best be an asset to you. Oftentimes when using cannabis, I’ll write a complex song with lyrics that I’m proud of; the song comes from an authentic place with complete fluidity, like it was waiting to express itself. I do not think I would have made an eccentric album like Conscious Creation without having been inspired by cannabis to speak my inner truth. It was a very intentional concept album.
How do you feel about legalization so far? Is there anything you think could be done better or differently?
I am very excited about the way things are going. This overdue change in our nation will allow me to live authentically and pursue my goal of working creatively in the cannabis industry. The states that are expunging non-violent drug offenders’ records are making the right move, but there is much more work to be done. Hundreds of thousands of people, disproportionately minorities, have been arrested for possessing personal amounts of cannabis and some are still in prison. Parents have been incarcerated for treating their children’s epilepsy or other ailments with the treatment that works best: Cannabis. I look forward to campaigning for this change going forward. If the government is admitting its mistake, it needs to make up for the damage it has inflicted in its ignorance.
Have you ever worked cannabis into your music as a theme? If so, how?
Track 3 of Conscious Creation EP, Strawberry Blue is about my relationship with cannabis. The truth comes out. If in 30 years cannabis use is suddenly cracked down upon by robot overlords or the corporate and governmental elite, I will be the first to go, but I’ll go proudly. I use double-entendres about cannabis quite a bit in my music; I would honestly say 80 percent of my published lyrics allude to it in some way because it is so deeply ingrained in my creative process. My upcoming album, In the Other, differs in that it is more centered on spiritual and romantic development than the psychologically focused Conscious Creation.
How do you feel the experience of using cannabis can affect people’s lives?
As Bob Marley would say, “the herb reveals you to yourself.” You might not like what you see at first. I used the anxiety and self-criticism I encountered to shine unbiased awareness on my lacking qualities and to motivate myself to make positive change. Weed is more effective when your body and mind are healthy and you’re on a good track. Again, it affects everyone differently, and can certainly lead to lethargy, but for me, it is a driving force. Cannabis provides infinite potential for spiritual growth. I think it can strengthen people’s relationships, their health, and their interest and investment in life itself. There are many people who share my experience, and I meet them in the places I would least expect. Using cannabis opens your mind to new possibilities and expands your imagination. It can be an extremely liberating and euphoric experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am currently working to enter the cannabis industry. It is my dream to work at a branding/marketing/advertising agency someday and am currently happily engaged in several internships in the field. I have an extensive portfolio and experience working with several cannabis companies, so if you are looking for an intern, employee, or freelancer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Same goes for any musicians interested in collaborating.