[Photo by: Courtney Armitage]

Over the past four years, Stolar has written over 1,000 songs, and in the next year, he's set to take on a very special new project: Raw Emotions.

Releasing new songs every month, the tracks will correlate to a specific emotion, giving Stolar the opportunity to connect with listeners on a whole new level. Writing has given him the opportunity to unearth difficulties that we all face to various extents. And for December, he delivered tracks that are meant to help listeners discover what hope means to them.

As with everything, things aren't always so black and white—and that's a key part of the project as a whole.

“I would 'hope' that people get a chance to explore what being 'hopeful' means to them,” Stolar explains. “I personally didn't give this emotion as much respect in the past as I think it deserves. It's hard as fuck to be hopeful, it's a lot easier to be pessimistic, and for me, exploring hope has been a core element in recognizing that not everything in life has to be so black and white.”

Read on for Stolar's essay on hopeful, as well as a Q&A with the artist about Raw Emotions, the way music influences his emotional life and what New York City means to him.

stolar hopeful artwork

I am hopeful that things will get better. When my heart is torn apart and I cannot sleep at night. When the memory of her body on mine haunts my dreams, when my brain decides it is one of the days where my emotions will get the best of me and I think things that I would not dare say out loud. I am hopeful that things will get better.

Since I started this Raw Emotions project I have been thinking a lot about the scope of emotions, and what it means to be “emotional.” This month’s emotion is Hopeful. It is an interesting one because it can really relate to so many different types of situations. This month, I am hopeful that I can learn to accept myself for being emotional. I am hopeful that I can learn to forgive myself for the horrible things I do and say in the quiet of my own mind. And at the risk of sounding preachy, I am hopeful that we as a society can learn to accept each other for being emotional and vulnerable when we have no choice but to feel what we are feeling.

I started thinking about this a lot last week when I woke up an hour later than I usually do and then took 20 minutes longer to get out of bed than I wanted to take. Now this can just be normal real American human life… I don’t want to work, I don’t want to be cold, etc. But for me, this represents a lot more. To give you some context, I am what people call “bi-polar”. Basically, the range of emotional intensity that I feel is extremely vast and can dip into dangerous “low” depressed levels, or dangerously “high” manic levels. This can affect me over the course of a single day, where my mood is shifting every 30-90 minutes, or it can last for months. I know this sounds crazy but at this point in my life, it has truly become a gift. As an artist I have learned to dive into that emotional life daily, and allow it to flow through me – to not resist the change and movement, but to move with it. However, there are times where it gets the best of me, and those times I am usually unaware that I am slipping into a depression or a manic state. That day last week was different though; I felt it, I knew it… fuck… I am depressed.

So how does being depressed relate to being hopeful? Well, if you are willing to take this little journey with me, let’s go back 8 months. I wake up in my bed on March 3, 2017 after breaking up with a girl who I loved every day of my life since college. Her body’s imprint is still on the bed. It is the kind of heartbreak that makes people write books, invent things, fly around the world, change their lives or fall completely apart.

In retrospect, I am fascinated by people’s reactions to my breakup. People were so supportive, open and vulnerable. Everyone said, “Look, you are going to feel a lot of things. You are going to be happy, sad, excited, reckless, crazy, calm, lonely and eventually one day, so so fulfilled. And if you ever need to talk about this let me know. We have all been there, it is going to be ok”. The crazy thing is that people followed through. Pretty much daily my friends, collaborators and  business partners all checked in on me and asked how I was doing. There was no judgement about the time it was going to take for me to work through this. It was expected to take time, and it was accepted that I was not going to be “strong” – I was going to be a mess.

So when I realized I was depressed last week, I had a fantasy. What if being depressed could be treated the same way as going through a breakup? What if people could check in on you at work, at school, at dinner and be comfortable enough to talk about it like it was a friend going through heartbreak? What if we expected and accepted that you are “going to be happy, sad, excited, reckless, crazy, calm, lonely and eventually so so fulfilled”? What if instead of expecting to just wake up one day and magically be healed, we accepted that depression is like a breakup, or a loss of someone you love, and that it takes time and is apart of life?

So for me this month, I am going to start with myself. I am hopeful that I can be vulnerable enough to treat my depression with the same level of respect and acceptance as I did with my breakup. That I can accept that it is not my fault, that it is going to take time and that I do not have to be afraid to talk about it. That I can expect to be depressed and happy at the same time because it is not black and white. Writing this piece is a huge step for that. So if you run into me on the street, or find me online, I am officially giving you permission to ask me how I am doing, it’s ok, there is nothing “wrong” with me. I am just depressed. And hopefully I can be there for you one day where you need it.


You suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, so what has it been like using music as a kind of release or coping method?
This is actually something I've thought about a lot, and I think about this type of question differently in terms of “suffering.” My ability to create and feel things deeply, both on the positive and negative spectrum, is 100% because of my “Bi-polar” and “Depression.” Now it's different for everyone of course, but for me, and many people I've talked with over the years, it is not something we “suffer” from, it's just a part of our lives. Yes, sometimes there are incredibly hard days, sometimes it can even be months and in extreme cases it can be even longer, but I believe that mental health challenges are actually a powerful force for creativity.

For me, writing and performing songs everyday allows my emotional life to constantly be flowing. Music keeps me in check. It let's me know where I am emotionally and makes it easier to know when I'm headed towards any sort of psychological extreme. There are MANY other parts of my life that help maintain this fine balance of mental health, and trust me it is anything but “pretty” and “consistent” but I think Raw Emotions has taught me that it's ok to feel EVERYTHING, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

What was your thought process behind putting together this Raw Emotions project?
The project came out of necessity. Last March, I started taking my daily creative practice more seriously than I ever had. Basically, I have a one hour morning practice that combines meditation and in the moment improvised songwriting. I call this process “The Dig” and record each improvised songwriting session. The practice is meant to bring up subconscious thoughts and creative ideas that catch me by surprise. It's about finding the real shit. By July, I had over 150 new songs and felt like I needed an outlet to share this music. The phrase “music is nothing without people to hear it and feel it” kept blasting through my head over and over.

Raw Emotions is an outlet for sharing these songs as they come and as they are made. I also wanted a creative project that would be flexible and focused on releasing music in a way that fits with the way people stream music in 2018. 

How has it been putting songs together based on different emotions so far? Has it been easier or more difficult than you originally imagined? 
Yeah… So this part has been WAY harder than I initially thought. I've been learning a lot about emotions in the last five months and the biggest lesson is that they are not so black and white. There are elements of sadness in hope and elements of excitement in anger. It's been really interesting choosing songs that really fit into the box of a specific emotion. At the end of the day I just want the songs to make people feel something, but it's important that each emotion highlights the song in some way. It's hard, and I think it will continue to be a challenge, but I LOVE doing it. 

These songs will be compiled for a new EP every three months, named after parts of NYC. What made you decide on naming these compilations that way? Does the city hold a special importance for you?
New York City is everything to me. I've lived here most of my life and over the last two years my community and home studio in Brooklyn have been the heart of everything I do. I don't know what I'd be without New York, and with so much American music moving to Nashville and LA, I feel like we need more music coming out of this city.