Musician Profile: June West - Tucson
Hi June! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a musician and designer based out of Tucson, AZ and Missoula, MT. My practice explores the healing potential of rituals and objects we use every day.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
My curiosity has cast a wide net in terms of life pursuits, but consistently I always find the most joy in creative expression. In 2013, I moved to NYC and pursued an MFA in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons, in an attempt to make a Sociology degree more relevant to my art practice. While I was in school full time, I taught fundamental design courses, general managed the university’s radio station WNSR and worked at a record shop called Captured Tracks. In 2016, I played keys and toured in the psych-indie band Quilt. I learned so much from being surrounded by such talented musicians—most importantly, how a band sustains itself as a business. New York opened up my mind to the music and art industries. So now I’m working on my own records and touring.
What led you to create and pursue your music?
Music is something I’ve always carried with me since I was a young kid, my parents always encouraged me to play. It wasn’t until I went through all the motions of academia that I realized I was constantly searching for ways to make more of my own music. In the past few years, I’ve begun to seriously prioritize and make more time for my music practice because it engages the many facets of my Self, and helps me connect with people in a genuine way.
What inspires your songs?
I write regularly about my dreams, and I like telling and listening to stories as a way of talking about the unconscious, death/life, sex, waves of emotions, the quality of personal relationships. I am interested in how these seemingly personal experiences are easily indicative of larger belief systems that are harder to identify in surface reality. Often when I am traveling, a scene will inspire a melody or a phrase will come to me and I try to capture it with whatever tools are available. My songs are healing rituals for me to reflect upon something I’ve experienced or imagined, contained in a feeling that I can revisit and will help comfort me in the cycles of life.
Do you have a process of creation or is the way you create always changing?
The way I create is always changing. I’m all about tuning into flow and paying attention when inspiration comes and goes. Lately, I am trying to push myself more, to create more and more frequently, even when the flow doesn’t show up. This has been helping me force myself to dig deeper even though it’s easier to move on to something else when blocks come up.
In your studies of Transdisciplinary Design you learned about the link between design and violence. How does this translate into your everyday life?
I try to be aware of the whole ecosystem of every “thing” I put out into the world—from the material sourcing to the thing’s death in a landfill, and all the hands that touch the project in between. My professor Jamer Hunt built this concept into my Transdisciplinary Design education. He contributed to an exhibition at MoMA, curated by Paola Antonelli, called Design and Violence, which provocatively explores the role in which design intentionally and unintentionally contributes to violence in contemporary society. What is the relationship between the intent of designers and the impact of their designs? What are the dark ethical dilemmas, or critical mistakes made by designers supposedly “improving” society? How does violence shape our way of life and visa versa? To the ladies in the Glossary community, so you may become aware, where in the life cycles of what you put out into the world might you be contributing to political/social/cultural/institutional/environmental/design/personal violence?
How does Tucson help shape your work and mindset?
Tucson is a magical place in both landscape and community. The Sonoran desert can be a harsh environment, but is where such resilient life flourishes. It feels like a paradise when there is water. The scarcity forces me to truly feel the value of water. As for the scarcity of “time” I experienced in city life, I feel the value of the space and time granted to me by the slow pace of Tucson. A relatively low cost of living allows me to meet my basic needs so I can focus my efforts on creative projects. Most importantly, I’ve met such wonderful people who come together and support each other in amazing ways. Like any place, it’s all about good people that give it life.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Music is a universal language that can transcend boundaries of culture and identity to connect and communicate with people. It has the potential to be a powerful vehicle for change because it is so accessible. I imagine all the different people across the globe who simultaneously tune in to the new Rihanna single as soon as it drops. Music shapes, and is simultaneously being shaped by, culture, which fundamentally influences shared belief systems. These belief systems determine our moral decisions that influence our environments. Artists have a responsibility to bring awareness to where We as People devote our attention, and more importantly to question whether or not that power is being used to help our ecosystem flourish.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your music?
The music industry is a dark and mysterious place, both the blood flow for artistic potential and a hamster wheel hit machine. Defining what success looks like for myself is a difficult yet welcomed challenge. The scarcity of money is always tough, but forces me to use what I have wisely. Each day I find inspiration from the many empowered women artists who are changing the music landscape. On the other hand, I take a look around me and the reality is still that women are underrepresented and undervalued. Part of the issue has been about building confidence and skill in myself, so I’d like to someday embody the respect I strive for, while diversifying the visual landscape of bodies.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women are such incredible, creative, powerful beings. At every turn, I’m reminded that I live in a Man’s world. Why not support each other when we are all striving to be treated and valued with the same respect? I think competition is natural in establishing social power dynamics in groups of women, as with men. Women who cut each other down for the benefit of their egos are ignorant to the bigger picture about what could benefit us all. Beyond my lifetime—I would like to see a world where people of all genders, colors, sizes, abilities, etc. are free to succeed because culturally they are valued. Then, we might actually see women holding legitimate positions of power. If women would truly value women, they will see another sister’s success as her success.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
My mom, Yoko Ono, Missy Elliott, Della Humphrey, Solange, Simone de Beauvoir, Aretha Franklin, Chloe Sevigny, Kelsey Lu, Jane Campion, Alice Coltrane, Anaïs Nin, Ana Mendieta, Maya Deren, Pina Bausch, Annie Dillard, Taryn Simon, Carlotta Guerrara, Keaira Lashae, Yayoi Kusama, Nina Simone, Sibylle Baier, Noname, Lauren Hill, Jamila Woods, Cleopatra
What have you learned from your experiences that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Practice, patience and perseverance.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Normally, I either turn off all my devices and hide, or make plans to move to another city. Ahem… I mean, I remember that there are no other alternatives. There is nothing I’d rather be doing and everything else seems to be a distraction from my path. I’m doing this because the process of improving is fulfilling, especially knowing that I conquered my fears.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Lately I’ve been learning about audio engineering and production. I love hip hop and R&B music, which innovates the computer as an instrument. Recording technology offers limitless bounds as to what music can be and sound like. So I’m trying to make my own beats. Becoming more literate in various modes of production will help me become a better musician, performer and songwriter. I also love learning about movement. A regular dance practice has helped me be more in my body, which will help me transform the way I occupy space.
What are some of your favorite places in Tucson?
Gates Pass, Seven Falls, Tanque Verde Falls, DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Anita St Market, Exo Roast Co, Floor Polish, Tania’s 33, Pico de Gallo, St. Vincent de Paul, Mount Lemmon, San Xavier Mission