With pop star, songwriter and activist Ian Erix
I think we can all make an effort to talk to each other and listen to each other a lot more. Engage the other side of this issue in civil conversation and polite debates and try to get them to understand our perspective. With irrational or corrupt people it’s like talking to a wall and no use, but there are plenty of people out there, perhaps you’re friends and/or family who are well meaning and well intentioned and may just be misinformed about facts and perspectives. Engaging with them can actually make a real difference.
I had the pleasure of interviewing rising international pop star, songwriter and activist Ian Erix who recently founded the non profit HUGG Coalition in an effort to unite people around the world to fight against injustice, spread positivity and empower youth. His latest musical release, “Raise Some Hell”, the first project from HUGG, is a powerful anthem for change that Ian wrote and recorded in the aftermath of the shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida. The song and video feature several of the most renowned student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school and young people from across the country who along with Ian are challenging gun control laws, Donald Trump and taking on the #MAGA movement.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to starting your work in advocacy and aligning it with your music?
No problem…thanx for wanting to write about me ;) — Truth is, I’ve always been a bit of a loudmouth, going back to early childhood I guess! As far back as I can remember, even as a little kid I was not afraid to challenge authority and stand up for what I thought was right. I don’t like to see people mistreated, that always bothered me deeply and I’ve always stood up for the underdog. In many ways, I’ve kind of been an underdog myself throughout life and have had the misfortune of being a victim of abuse growing up so I am sure that helped foster even more empathy in me for other people. When I started writing music and having success as an artist, some of my songs sparked conversations with my followers that were really touching. It meant so much to me early on to see that some of the words I was writing about my own experiences could have such a deep and sometimes even healing impact for strangers around the world and so I became very involved with helping some of my fans deal with some of their personal issues and I championed some causes that were close to my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of songs that are light and fun party tunes so it’s not really that I ever really set out to align all my music with advocacy in any specific way, at least not consciously. I just write about what’s important to me at the time and about things I think that matter. I’ve never been into politics in the slightest bit but as soon as all this Trump madness started happening I knew I had to step up and do/say more because I’m just so horrified by all the damage that he is doing to the true spirit and soul of our country.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began working in advocacy and music?
Sure! Earlier this year I was out in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Erimates. I was giving out an award to the Emirate of Dubai and hosting a preshow for New Year’s Eve with Katy Perry. From what I heard, there was debate going on about whether or not Katy should sing her hit song “I Kissed A Girl” because that region of the world still has a ways to go on LGBTQ rights. She made the decision to go for it and joked to the crowd that she hoped she wouldn’t go to jail for singing the song there. It was really amazing to see how the crowd reacted. Thousands of people in the audience cheering her on and singing along, chanting “I Kissed A girl and I liked it, etc. etc.” at the top of their lungs without fear or remorse. It was a moment I was really moved to be part of that night because it was such a tangible thing in the air. You could literally see how music and media truly moved the needle and affected change. Something like that happening in Abu Dhabi 10 or 20 years ago would have been unthinkable. Like I said, the region still has some work to do for equality but it’s a beautiful place and the people seem to be moving in the right direction. That’s definitely a moment I’ll take with me!
Can you describe how your song Raise Some Hell is making a significant social impact?
I’ve actually made it a personal goal to interact with as many people as I could who have been commenting across social media about the song and video. There are plenty of hardcore internet trolls who will just leave nasty and close-minded comments and they are too irrational to carry on a normal conversation with but it’s been really interesting and gratifying to interact with other people on the opposite side of this issue, some who have come on very strong and derogatory at first but have actually ended up coming around to some sort of understanding with me after I treated them with civility and asked them there reasons for feeling the way they do. People who are reasonable and open to hearing other people’s thoughts and feelings and learning facts they may not have known before or perspectives they may not have thought of before can be reached through a project like this and that is something that gives me great hope.
Can you tell me the story about what inspired you to become a social activist?
I personally was involved in a shooting scare at JFK airport two years ago. There were sounds of gunshots, a mass stampede, swat teams storming the building. I had to hide under an airport ticket counter desk and call my mom and siblings to tell them goodbye. It was the most terrifying experience of my life and truly thought it was very possibly the end and there was nothing I could do. And EVERYONE in our country is at risk for something like this happening. From airports to movie theatres to restaurants, or schools and beyond. That’s why we really must act and make sensible changes to the gun laws and it CANNOT wait. It’s absurd that it’s harder to get and maintain a license to drive a car then it is to get a weapon of war. There’s a line in my song “Raise Some Hell” that goes “tomorrow was yesterday” and that line could not be any more true. These “do nothing” politicians keep putting things off and putting things off again and taking more blood money from the NRA while more people keep dying. It’s despicable. Literally, just a couple of weeks ago my sister and a few of my cousins called me from a concert in New York City. They were in Central Park and had to run for their lives because there was a shooting scare there and the crowd stampeded. The half hour I had to wait to hear back from my sister and learn if she was dead or alive literally took twenty years off my life. This problem is totally out of control and something must be done, now.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Yes, absolutely! If i had to pick just 3 I would say first and foremost, VOTE! We need leaders in charge who will actually stand up to the NRA and push forward real changes.
- Secondly, to address the root of the problem, I think we can all make an effort to talk to each other and listen to each other a lot more. Engage the other side of this issue in civil conversation and polite debates and try to get them to understand our perspective. With irrational or corrupt people it’s like talking to a wall and no use, but there are plenty of people out there, perhaps you’re friends and/or family who are well meaning and well intentioned and may just be misinformed about facts and perspectives. Engaging with them can actually make a real difference.
- And finally, when all else fails, SPEAK UP and speak up loudly! We can’t keep quiet any longer, let the stories fade and passions die down until the next mass shooting or let the people in power get away with doing nothing every single time it happens. The more voices screaming from the rooftops, the more people calling their congressman and governors, the more people posting on social media, out in the street marching, all of that helps. These are real life things we can all do that can eventually affect change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t know if this is my favorite but it’s definitely relevant. I use a line in another song I wrote called “Party On” that goes “In darkest moments have to focus on the light”, and I think that pretty much sums up what we all need to do in our day to day to get by. Of course, sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done…. I’ve lived through some pretty dark things in my life… from a ton of abuse as kid, to my grandfather getting murdered in front of me 4 years ago, my dad killed 2 months after that and then losing my grandmother a short while later…those deaths were world shattering events for me…all three of them were beyond devastating and life altering, but I couldn’t allow myself to be a person drowned in darkness….luckily, im not someone who suffers from clinical depression and as sad and as devastated and as angry as I’ve ever felt, I’ve always eventually been able to dig down and pile-drive through and find a way to smile again somehow despite the sadness and anger that will always be there inside me from these events….Like i said, following this quote is not always so easily done and i don’t mean to over simplify things for people who are in a dark spot at the moment cause i know many people cant just shake things off that easily….true clinical depression requires mental health treatment and there’s no shame in that…but from my perspective, even when the worst things happen in life, i do believe it’s imperative to find that light, some sort of hope, anything that you can hold on to or search for…focus on that light! In these dark political times, right now my hopes for light are pinned on the midterm elections which are so crucial at the moment…. so please, please, please if your’e reading this, get out there to vote on Nov. 6th and and help the good guys take back the country!!!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d love to get together with MSD students David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Cameron Kasky who are featured on “Raise Some Hell” but I didn’t actually have the chance to meet them in person when I was down in Parkland recording the song with some of the other survivors and community members. They’ve really been out on the forefront of this movement, they helped form the March For Our Lives organization and are responsible for giving so much visibility to this cause and keeping the fires going over the past few months. They’ve already done such amazing and impressive things but would def be happy to put my head together with them and come up with even more ways to push these efforts forward.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
you can find me personally on instagram @ianerix and twitter @ianerix
The HUGG Coaltion can be found at www.huggcoalition.org and @huggcoalition on all the socials!!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
Anytime…thanx 4 reaching out!!!