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Rascal Miles on “Asylum,” Vulnerability, and Safety

RM

Vulnerability is a challenge in life and a necessity in music. Rascal Miles perfectly captures the sacredness of vulnerability and of offering a safe space for someone else to be vulnerable with you in his new song “Asylum”.” As Miles sings about staying home and being safe from the world, we find respite in the relatability of the lyrics.

“And my alarm won’t go off 

Cause I’ll never set it

And I’ll call in sick and I won’t regret it”

A day to sleep in, do nothing, and have no responsibilities would be a well welcomed opportunity for most of us. Taking a break from existing in and performing for society gives us time to breathe and find what is important to us. For Miles, it seems like the person he’s singing about is what’s so important. He tells the muse of the song to “play hooky with me,” “share a safe space with me,” and “be in the future with me.” Whether this person is a friend or partner, Miles wants a moment to breathe, and wants to share those moments with them.

“And if you wanted 

To change your pronouns

You could come over 

And share a safe space with me”

Questioning one’s identity, and sharing that with others, is one of the most beautifully vulnerable things a person can do. Miles reassures this person that they are free to do that in this “safe space.” With acoustic instrumentation, tranquil vocals, and authentic lyrics, “Asylum” by Rascal Miles conveys such a strong sense of peace and comfort that it creates a safe space for us as listeners.

I found the lyrics for “Asylum” really touching because of their vulnerability. How does vulnerability play a role in your writing process?

Thank you! Vulnerability is everything in my writing process. It’s often through writing that I figure out how I’m actually feeling about my experiences, and being able to peel back the layers and get to the heart of the matter is the way to finding authenticity. In other words, in order for me to write songs like this, I have to be vulnerable, because otherwise it’s not authentic. I often have to walk through the world with a suit of armor to protect my sensitive insides from the challenges I face in everyday life, so channeling vulnerability is a way for me to just be myself without those protective layers getting in the way.

You sing about having a safe space in this song. Do you think of music as one of your safe spaces?

Music has been my only safe space for a significant part of my life. It’s the space in which I hold my thoughts and feelings and transform them into art. Music understands me in a way that nothing else does, and I’ve spent/still spend a lot of time not being fully seen and understood, so music is my place to have that and give that to myself.

Where did the idea for this song start?

I was in my practice space at the time, just playing a couple chords, and I had this festering energy in me that was aching for what I now view as freedom. I wanted a place of my own where I could make music without hearing anyone else and without anyone else hearing me, because it’s hard to feel comfortable expressing yourself when you write songs that stem from vulnerability, especially if you know other people are listening. “I wanna be in a room just for me that’s quiet, isolated, and spotlessly clean.” It was the idea of a physical space that was all mine, with only the bare bones stuff in it. My life and the spaces I was spending time in then were just cluttered and messy and I was in a constant state of chaos.

It was like I woke up one day and realized that everything I was spending my time doing was the opposite of what I wanted to be doing –I had a day job I hated, I had a seriously unhealthy relationship with alcohol and cigarettes that was ruining my friendships and relationships, I was struggling with gender identity stuff and the emotional roller coaster that comes with it, and I wasn’t applying myself to music the way I knew I could be. This song was my realization that I needed to take a huge step back and create a safe space where I could rebuild myself from the ground up, get sober, express all the things I’d buried and numbed for so long, and grow into someone I could be proud of.

Where did you shoot your music video for “Asylum?” Does the location have any special meaning?

The music video was shot by my dear friend Sam Gehrke in Portland, Oregon, where I’m based out of, and the location in particular was down the street from his photography studio. It’s a more industrial area out by the train tracks and under some of the freeways, and it’s not glamorous.  Often when living in a city, it’s hard to find a space of your own, and if you do it costs way too much money for the square footage, and I would dream of a little studio out in the woods.  I had this visual of waking up, walking outside, and seeing literally nothing but nature on the horizon. That visual is so dreamy to me, and I think I convey it a little bit in the third verse of the song, but the stark contrast of that nature visual with the reality of what our world looks like today (because of how the human race continues to trash it) sums up the conflict I felt internally.  Where better to sing a song about longing for a safe space to just be an artist in than an industrial yard?  It’s a perfect symbol for the capitalist machine…but don’t get me started on that.

What is your favorite part of being a musician?

My favorite part of being a musician is making the music. I like to create. I like to transform my pain into something beautiful, empowering, etc. Creating music is literally alchemy–you’re transforming energy. It’s magic.  The rest of being a musician is actually really difficult for me. I’m an introvert, I’m anxious all the time, I’m not the kid that runs around shouting “It’s my birthday! Come to my birthday party!” My ideal situation is to make music and never be on social media again, never have to sell it, and not have to tour for weeks/months on end to build an audience.

Speaking of safe spaces, actually, most of the spaces the musicians have the opportunity to perform in and make money playing shows in are centered around alcohol. I’m a huge advocate for this industry shifting in a way where musicians get paid more per stream so they aren’t as dependent on playing shows for sustainability, and for more underage, alcohol-free venues.

But to go back to the actual question, making the music is my favorite part. I like writing the lyrics and then editing them so every single word counts, and I like figuring out the atmospheric elements of the sound that will further develop the world I’m building in my mind. I love the recording process. I think it’s so fun to play a song over and over and push it as far as I can with the parts I write. It’s meditative for me to be in that space. Creating the music is where I get to be free in my expression, and for me, that’s everything

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