Move Closer, Speak Softer

Brendan Willing James is a songrwriter and vocalist from San Pedro, CA and currently a member of GrizFolk. We welcome him as a guest blogger to share his unique post-election viewpoint. Please note that the HeadCount blog is an open forum where all opinions are welcome. Anyone wishing to write for the HeadCount blog may do so by emailing [email protected]. This commentary reflects only the views of the author and not of the HeadCount organization. 

I’ve wanted to write this for a month now. Or maybe three months. Something poignant, something pointed, something compelling. I fingerprint my phone open in the morning to this new digital madness. It feels like I’m in a room with bad acoustics where everyone is trying to speak, but instead of moving closer and keeping voices at the same volume, everyone stays in place and just starts to yell. The cacophony is deafening, and little of it is intelligible. A familiar mental fatigue sets in, sometimes before I’ve even had coffee. I’ve questioned what, if anything, I can or should add to the din. I’ve questioned my own abilities to begin a worthwhile discussion. See, I’m not much for talking just for the sake of talking. I like to woodshed. I prefer to hone a sharp point in relative privacy before heading out into the fray. That’s me, most days. Procrastinating, doubting, worrying... and there's no shortage of events to keep anxiety at a strong tilt. So I open the computer, launch a new doc, stare at it for a minute or two, and then promptly pick up a guitar or a phone, or I get up to check the fridge for anything new. There never is. But I'll stare into it anyway.

So, what do I want to say? I’d like to think that I will finish writing, hit send, and kindness will spread across the land like a shockwave. It’s such a beautiful thought that I’m writing these very words with a smile on. That’s the kind of thought that will keep a guy from writing anything at all. Because then I’m just writing something that I think will get you to think a certain way, or take a certain action. While that notion has it’s merits, it’s not really what my aim is. Not explicitly, anyway. I certainly wouldn’t be mad about inciting any kind of positive activity. There, an honest look at my thought process. Like a lump of clothes in a washing machine.

So I have a band called Grizfolk, and we were recently in Mahahual, Mexico on a day off from the Rock Boat cruise. I spent part of one day enjoying the ridiculously blue water, drinking Coronas in a hammock, taking that beautiful moment in. I've never been in water that blue or clear. It's as pleasing as advertised, and those few hours were a blissful shutdown of the boiling pot that lives in my skull most of the time.

When it came time for tacos (which in truth is most waking moments), three of us ventured inland, away from the tourist strip to see if we could find even a little bit more culture. Boy did we. Sort of like walking through a facade in an old western town, the juxtaposition between the beachfront and the town is shocking. Goes from spring break to nothing fake in the length of a soccer field. We stopped to ask a kid on a swing where to find the best tacos in town, and she immediately pointed across an old soccer field to a place that looked like a little garage at the end of a gravel road. The scenes on the walk over there evoke this colorful melancholy. Out back behind paradise. Inside was a young mom with a big smile and a huge spit of al pastor. The oldest boy fried up fresh tortillas and onions, the middle girl prepared a huge stalk of string cheese, and the youngest little boy wanted to take pictures like us and also show us all of his stuff. The tacos were also unbelievably delicious. Fresh salsa, little shards of pineapple.. the whole operation was flawless, and it was an unforgettable meal in a stranger's house. I couldn't suggest it more, though I don't believe there was even a name to suggest.

There’s a simplicity to a simpler, more modest life that I think we’re programmed here in the US to think of as sad. We’re supposed to believe that they are lesser humans because they don’t have what we do. This country has to pull it’s head out in that regard. Experience and human relation with those that are different, foreign, unknown.. that’s the key to everything getting better. Closing off, digging in heels, crossing arms, closing doors, judging, pointing fingers… it’s not going to make your life better. It won’t make mine better either.

So if you happen to read this out there among a galaxy of words and voices, do I think it will change your mind in some way? Not really. However, it does feel really good to talk about. I don’t doubt that there are many who feel as I do, and are keeping their thoughts in too, like a fart in a packed elevator. So I'm basically promoting travel and writing here. Seriously, do both. They’re great for you in so many ways. We have to see and feel things to begin to grow back our compassion and empathy. Move closer, speak softer.

Find more of Brendan Willing James' work at,, on Instagram as @bwilling + @theimpossiblehuman and on Twitter as @bwilling.