On March 18th, George Watsky returned to UHS to help celebrate the school’s 40th anniversary. After listening to a few songs, spoken word pieces and a chapter of his soon-to-be released book, “How to Ruin Everything,” I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Watsky, in hopes of figuring out how he became the innovative, somewhat eccentric, artist (and person) he is today.
Growing up, Watsky always had a passion for music:
“When I was in middle school I listened to straight up radio hip hop. There was underground hip hop and mainstream hip hop and there wasn’t a lot of bleed between the two. The rock kids were the rock kids and sat at their own table. This wasn’t so true at UHS, but it was in middle school. And the hip hop kids very much identified that way. It was like Nelly and Eminem, Ashanti– whatever was on the radio in 2001.”
It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school, however, that Watsky started producing his own music and spoken word. Steve Morris, his English teacher, introduced him to Youth Speaks, an organization that aims to place young people in control of their intellectual and artistic development. Watsky acknowledged that “[he] was a bit of a trouble-maker in school.” Steve Morris, he believes, “saw there was a way for [Watsky] to channel [his] energy into something productive instead of something annoying.”
Watsky also reflected on how the UHS community played a large role in his development, both as an aspiring musician and an inquisitive person. “It’s a school that promotes discourse,” he said. “All of the UNItimes stuff, no censorship– not a lot of schools would do that.” This type of environment, Watsky said, “taught me to defend what I stand for and also have people critique my beliefs and really make me examine why I believe what I believe.” When asked what the most influential experience from his time in high school was, Watsky had this to say:
“. . . Sophomore year, on the first anniversary of September 11th. . . I read a poem that was pretty anti-government, anti-Bush, anti-war and some faculty members walked out. One of them wrote a UNItimes that said I was being inconsiderate of the victims, that I hadn’t seen both sides of it. . . . It became kind of a UNItimes firestorm that year. I wrote one back to him, standing my ground and then a bunch of other people got involved. I think there were maybe twenty, twenty-five UNItimes that went around. I feel like what I did is maybe something I wouldn’t do now, as an adult. I do think it was cool, though, the way the community responded to it. . . and it was interesting to be at the center of it. . . .”
In conclusion, Watsky sent this message to his fans:
“Striving and being a careerist is not the most important thing in life . . . . It is good to work hard for what you want, but if that’s the only side of what you do, then you are going to become a very limited person and you’re going to lose the other things that are really important, like love, family, and friendship. You just have to live a balanced life and you have to have something that you’re working towards and something that you love to do on a daily basis. Don’t forget that how much you accomplish in life at a career level is not that important– it’s dust in the wind. A billion years from now nobody is going to care how many records Drake sold, so you have just got to live a life that is fulfilling and happy.”
From his discourse articles to his rap and poetry, George Watsky continues to provide us with an untraditional perspective of the world.