Will and my adventure to LA started about 5 years ago… April of 2008.
Back then we were living on Martha’s Vineyard while Will taught songwriting at the Contemporary Music Center. The spring semester had come to an end and our planned next steps had fallen through — not an uncommon experience in our lives. We were leaving our home with no place to go.
We packed up our belongings, dividing our essentials into our little Ford Focus and the rest into a small moving truck we shared with our neighbors, the Wileys. With four adults and one little girl, we started our long drive.
The first big stop was Mount Vernon, OH… the Wiley’s new home. Will and I then continued on to Indiana. I stayed with my parents for a few weeks while Will drove to St. Louis to work on a record with our friend, Ben. After a few weeks at home doing random jobs for my parents, I also made my way to St. Louis. A friend’s mother picked me up at home while my parents were at work and dropped me off at a gas station in Brazil, Indiana — so I could then catch a ride with two CMC students who were going to take me to St. Louis to meet up with Will.
The adventure continued…
Our St. Louis friends, Ben and Mary Beth, were just starting their own adventure by heading to Chicago, so I helped them pack while Ben and Will spent their days producing a record. Will and I spent almost every conversation trying to figure out where we were going to go and what we were going to do. We spent a couple more weeks in St. Louis, wandered around for a another week, and then ended up following Ben and Mary Beth to Chicago, so Ben and Will could produce another record together.
We were able to fit everything we needed in our little car, and we were ready to head in any direction — as soon as we could figure out what that direction was. Will had some work opportunities in LA, and had been out here a few times, but we didn’t know how to make moving here actually work.
One day I was talking on the phone to my friend, Amy, telling her about how we had been living on couches or out of our car for two months and really didn’t know what we should do. She said, “I feel like you guys should go to L.A.” I told Will, and he said he’d been reading about Abraham and felt that we should go there, too. Two weeks later Will and I set out on our road trip.
After about two and a half days of driving, we arrived in Los Angeles at 4am. We pulled up to the apartment where our friends Josh and Allison lived and slept in the car until it was a decent hour to actually knock on their door. I remember that day like it was yesterday; here we were in L.A. without jobs or a place to live… just a few bags, our car, incredible friends, and each other. We slept on Josh and Allison’s floor for a little over a week until we found a little guest house. We were pretty nervous about trying to find housing, considering neither of us had jobs and we had no guarantee of ever paying our rent, but the landlord of this particular place said we had “a good aura,” so he let us move in.
We loved it. It was tiny. It had no dishwasher, no washer and dryer, and no AC . We quickly learned that having AC in the San Fernando Valley is a necessity and not a luxury. But it had a lot of natural light, a lemon tree, and an avocado tree (that, sadly, only produced one edible avocado — but it was a fruit tree in L.A. nonetheless). We spent the first three months without furniture. Every night we piled up our blankets and slept on the floor. After a couple weeks of this and a lot of itching later, we discovered that street cats had been coming in the broken screen door and had given us fleas. Our little guest house had a small step inside going down to the living room, and Josh and Allison had given us some little tables, so we sat there on that step day after day looking for work, eating our PB&J, laughing and crying about what we had just done.
We met wonderful neighbors and crazy ones. Almost nightly, a helicopter spotlight would shine in our windows, looking for someone who we certainly hoped was not in our yard. We experienced the daily drug deals right in front of the main house. But, with all of it, we settled in. I found work as a nanny and Will took on a bunch of random jobs while his mind raced with everything he hoped to accomplish.
One belief Will lived by daily was “making things flesh.” It wasn’t enough for him to have a great idea, it had to become a reality and he wouldn’t stop until it did. In our five years in L.A., Will wrote hundreds of songs, filmed a documentary, signed a publishing deal to Warner/Chappell, released an EP and the soundtrack to Broke*, and went on a few different tours. He brainstormed with numerous people who were also trying to figure out their next steps, he did graphic design for himself and others, he was a consultant for other bands. He read and studied everything he could about music, business, art, and culture. He led a community group, volunteered in our church, and he developed friendships with neighbors, co-workers, and Philip, the homeless man on our street.
We set out that summer in 2008 without a clue what was ahead of us. If, back then, I would’ve been asked, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” where I am now, five years later, is most definitely not at all where I would want to be. Not even close. But when I look back on all that has happened in the past five years, Will turned almost every idea into “flesh.” The only reason why any of his ideas are not real right now is that his new ideas never stopped.
This journey to Los Angeles has led to so many memories, funny stories, and incredible life-long friendships, but in some ways it has come to an end for me. The good memories I have are now overshadowed by the memories of this place that torment me almost constantly. The daily pain of losing Will is too much for me to bear, and the images of him suffering for the last ten months are torture. In the hopes of easing some of the pain and bringing back more of the good memories, I have decided to leave L.A. in the next couple of weeks.
I will miss living life with our friends here. I will miss the deep relationships that have been built, and I will forever be thankful to Pacific Crossroads Church, to the Warner/Chappell family, to Will’s music community here, and to all our Los Angeles friends who have loved and cared for us in such selfless ways.
Thank you for loving us all of these years, and particularly this last year.
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Angie, speaking on behalf of the entire #GoTeamGray community, it was, and continues to be a true joy to love you both dearly. Forever.