All About Love with Courntey Orlando

/ creatives / leaders / protestors /


How do you follow up from a Grammy? That’s the question we pose to our first guest of Catch Fire Show: Season Two, Courtney Orlando. The answer may not be what you expect.

In this episode, Courtney Orlando tells his story of winning a Grammy award and the struggles that followed. His story weaves through heartbreak—illness, depression, death of loved ones—and coming back to a place he never thought he would be in creating new music to share with the world.

Preview

You can find his new single, “Me,” as well as the song played on today’s show, “Anti-Hero” on Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you get your music.

What are We Reading?

A new feature for Season Two is a book of the week. This week’s book is a new release from Todd Henry, a five-time contributor and founder of The Accidental Creative, The Motivation Code. The book aims to help each of us discover the hidden forces that drive our best work. The research in The Motivation Code began in the late 1960’s and includes the largest repository of achievement stories in human history. To learn more, head to motivationcode.com and tune in next week as Todd will be our guest for episode 2.

TP7 provides music for Catch Fire Show. You can find his work on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms.

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Transcript

Courtney Orlando: [00:00:00] My son asked me the other day , "what does a Grammy mean to two artists, dad?" I was like, just take favorite sports team and their championship rings. You only get a few of those and in a lifetime, some people don't get none. They spend whole career would in a season where they get no, not a championship.' And I'm like, 'daddy got one at 32 years of age, so...'

Welcome [00:03:05]

[00:03:05] Courtney, it's good to see you. Thanks for stopping by so to speak. In the land of COVID there's really no, or there's less like physical stopping by, some more virtual stopping by.

[00:03:18] Courtney Orlando: [00:03:18] Yeah.Yup. Yup.

[00:03:20]Simon Yost: [00:03:20] I view our relationship as special for a reason that is few on my list. And that is, I feel like we've kind of got to watch each other grow sometimes from a distance, sometimes close up, and for me is for me a super special thing. So thank you for that privilege of being able to have a seat for that.

[00:03:40] Yeah, man.

[00:03:41] Courtney Orlando: [00:03:41] Yeah. Ditto.

Where do you find yourself currently? [00:03:42]

[00:03:42] So,

[00:03:42] Simon Yost: [00:03:42] where do you find yourself in life right now? Can you just give us a little intro, what you're doing now and where you find yourself?

[00:03:49] Courtney Orlando: [00:03:49] Yeah. I am finding myself the best, spiritual, mental, physical health of my life. Artistically, I am in the most innovative and the most inspired place that I've been since...woof, since 2013, 14. So I'm feeling I'm invigorated. I'm feeling, just like, I'm ready to run, ready to just —all the ideas, you know ? all the dreams, all the songs, all the melodies that has been bottled up in me through, you know, these last few seasons of my life, I feel like are now just ready to come out and they are, and it's they just, it's a, it's an outpouring right now so... But then again, in the midst of COVID, we are in the midst of, again, finding our country in the midst of social ills that are hurting us and we're losing people to this disease and we're losing people to unhealthy and systematically racist policing.

[00:04:54]So it's just so many matters, man violence, you name it. The disparities that COVID creates from the lack of jobs, so much, but in the midst of it all, I've found sort of a solace in just God and my family, man, and my wife, man. She has been a rock for me and in these past few years of my life. So yeah, brother but yeah, I am midst of something amazing, but the tension is still there, ya know?

[00:05:22] Simon Yost: [00:05:22] It's huge and I think  acknowledging that tension—I'm not saying I feel the exact same tension as you do, but—it's just like you get on Instagram, you're on the podcast— we want to produce content of value and so people can enjoy themselves, listen to this podcast, but the world we find ourselves in, there's a lot of brokeness and a lot of hope too.

[00:05:39]Courtney Orlando: [00:05:39] Yeah, man.

[00:05:40]Starting Out... [00:05:40]

[00:05:40] Simon Yost: [00:05:40] Well, rewind. Talk a little bit about how you got started and what some of your road has been.

[00:05:45]Courtney Orlando: [00:05:45] Yeah, man. So, this is back when Myspace—I think the last year or so of Myspace— and it just goes to show y'all long we've been in this thing. But yeah, so, I was putting some music up on Myspace and I'm kind of just working that thing, and I had beef. I was looking for artists that were local, but that were making music on the same level that I was, and at the time I was really—God was really building and cultivating with me in his heart for diversity—and just like my love, for all types of music. I fell in love with, rock music that year or that season, and then, more alternative music, I've been introduced a Radiohead and some other people.

[00:06:28] And so I'm, you know, looking at this band, Fundamental Elements, and hearing this sound, but then see I'm like, 'these all white dudes singing', but it sounded so soulful. You know what I'm saying? I was like, 'yo, this is dope,' and so I followed them and now they ended up following me back and then I had just came-made the transition of taking the Christian moniker off of my social- my artists entities. So, I was no longer just, you know, referring to myself as J.R. Courtney Orlando the Christian Artist. I was just an artist, and so they were instrumental in putting me into that world, and helping me to really organically experiment inside of it and how God was using it by allow me, you know, they was like, 'yo, we've been checking out your stuff, and we want to know if you can just do a couple of shows with us?' And for me it was a perfect timing because I was trying transitioning from a faith based audience into now, just you know, wanted to make music on a more broader scale as far as my audience was concerned. And so, yeah, that's how we ended up.

[00:07:31] So we ended up rocking like four or five shows together. Been doing a couple of dates out of town and, just build a relationship with not only Russ, but also Luke, who was, Luke DeJaynes, who was one of the guitarist and songwriters, producers of that band as well.

[00:07:47]From Small Begingings to the Grammys [00:07:47]

[00:07:47]Simon Yost: [00:07:47] And so as many of us—small beginnings— you're starting from a grassroots level, but  then there was the Grammy. So before I knew you too long, you went to the Grammy's, and I think you take your son, and you gotta accept a Grammy for producer of the year? Is that the- was that the award?

[00:08:03] Courtney Orlando: [00:08:03] No, it was-no, so my Grammy was for my work on the artist Lecrae's record called Gravity. And so, I was part of a production team on that record called The Watchmen, and I also produced and featured on the title track 'Gravity'. And that album ended up winning a Grammy. So producers, songwriters, engineers that contributed to the record, all were Grammy winners that day.

[00:08:31]Simon Yost: [00:08:31] And so, how'd you feel about that award?

[00:08:33] Courtney Orlando: [00:08:33] Oh, it is definitely a highlight of my career. Still to this day. And to have my son,  Keenan— who is 21 now, but he was 16 at the time— to have him there to experience that was pretty dope. Because I know, musicians who were in circles around me and artists and writers who were in circles around me who have yet to have a Grammy .  And so I'm not saying that I don't deserve it cause I put it in a lot of work and my 8,000 plus hours, and have been nominated for Grammy's, two or three other times, but to really see that project, that you was a part to help to get to this point, you hear that Grammy belongs to, and you're a part of it. It's yo. It's like a Superbowl.

[00:09:15] My son asked me the other day. Liam, he was like, 'yo,' he was like, what does a Grammy mean to two artists, dad? And he was like, 'what is like, how do I weigh that? And I was like, 'well, I was like, just take favorite sports team and their championship rings. You see what I'm saying? You only get a few of those and in a lifetime, some people don't get none. They spend whole career would in a season where they get no, not a championship.' And I'm like, 'daddy got one at 30, 33 at 32 years of age, so…'

How do you follow up from a Grammy? [00:09:46]

[00:09:46] Simon Yost: [00:09:46] That's awesome. So you have a lot of highs in your career and we could talk about many more, but then kind of just to get practical with everybody listening. An artist's biggest—I don't know if biggest fear—but a fear is kind of coming back after you've created great work, and I know recently, you've talked about some work that's going to see the light of day, and you're really proud of, and some work that you've kind of had t o consider maybe keeping a little bit more private or somethi ng  Talk about how you're coming out of that success and where you find yourself today?

[00:10:18]Courtney Orlando: [00:10:18] Yeah, so,

[00:10:19] fast forward from that

[00:10:21] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:21] glorious day,

[00:10:23] and you

[00:10:24] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:24] come out of-when you win a Grammy,

[00:10:26] like one of the things that I was,

[00:10:29] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:29] conscious of was not becoming

[00:10:32] complacent. Like I had arrived, because even

[00:10:35] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:35] though I had a Grammy, I

[00:10:36] had a Grammy for a record that

[00:10:39] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:39] still—

[00:10:41] I think that at

[00:10:42] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:42] that moment it had only barely went gold.

[00:10:45] I don't even think it wouldn't go yet, even though it ended up going,

[00:10:48] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:48] I think sold like 500,000

[00:10:49] copies of something like that , but you know, little radio play, a little exposure to TV. It was a Christian hip hop album.

[00:10:58] Courtney Orlando: [00:10:58] So if anybody thinks that, you know, people who make music, it's only a small percentage, probably 10% or less who do music who call themselves a Christian Hip Hop Producer or artist that actually make across that six digit number in while doing music. It's just. It's just not lucrative, you know what I'm saying?

[00:11:19] Not then and still not now, because it's just such a small monopoly of record labels and content creators that make that level or have that type of following. So I had that Grammy, but my pockets wasn't laced. , If I won a Grammy, like for Kanye, you see what I'm saying? Or for Jay Z, because those albums are selling, 10 times platinum, you know what I'm saying?

[00:11:41] Seven times, five times platinum and you get ,millions and streams, of course, in revenue off one record take you-last you two or three years. So I wasn't complacent. I was like, I gotta get back to work. So that the Grammy, I will look at it and be like, I'm looking at it now, my studio and then just be like, 'Oh, okay' and get to grinding as if I didn't have a Grammy. But little did I know though, is that for me, it wasn't like the Grammy was the least of my worries are learning how to, deal with success. So that, wasn't what plagued me on those following years.

Series of Traumatic Events... [00:12:14]

[00:12:14] What plagued me was a series of traumatic events that I could not predict that shook me to my core and where music could not help, or was very little help at certain times through this journey. So that was 2013. The greatest-the highest  pinnacle of my life, my professional life, 2014. I have—I get into an accident that almost took my life.

[00:12:40] If I didn't have my seatbelt on... That was in may of 2014. So I'm like,'okay everybody gets into accidents.' I had 50 stitches over my eye. I'm like, 'it's cool'. Fast forward to July, took my whole family, it's 20 of us, my parents, all of my family, my brother, his family, my brothers, and then my brother's wife's family. We all go to me and my wife timeshare in Orlando.  First day of that vacation, my wife has a miscarriage. The second day I have a heart attack, and so this was one of the starts of some traumatic experiences that as a person of faith, you try to make sense of it all. You're trying to make sense, Oh, okay. Back to back blows like this— and we have been trying to have kids for years and so that, but no—I think we were miscarriage number three or number four at that time.

[00:13:33] So it was painful, but not as painful of my wife having to rush me to the hospital cause I can't breathe. You know having these chest pains, palpitations, and then, come to find out I'm having a heart attack at 34. You see what I'm saying? That was 2014. My, my best friend at the time, Eric, Eric Brown.

[00:13:54] And he was like, 'bro, you want me to, fly down there, man?' he was like, 'I got you. I was like, nah, bro, I'm good. And he was like, 'it ain't nothing, bro. I can cook. I can be down there then a couple hours.' I'm like, 'I'm goochie'. Lo and behold, 2015, I would get a call from his wife saying that he had passed from a heart attack and he was only 33.

[00:14:13] So you take that 2015-2016, I have another heart attack while I was working out like Eric was. Lo and behold, that wasn't caused by new blockage, thank God, it was caused by the stint failing prematurely. 2017, I get a call while leading worship at church and my father dies of a heart attack.

[00:14:38]I go to the house. He's still dead on the ground. Go through that whole ordeal. 2018, my wife's father who was living in our home, and we knew he was going to pass because he had cancer. It was terminal. He passes in our home, 2018. Later on that summer, my mom has a quadruple bypass. So dealing with blow after blow, and then winning a Grammy while at the top of my career, I'm making some good money, and when these heart attacks and these other traumas hit, it also hit my ability to create. So my income is cut in half.

[00:15:19] So, take all of that, all of those that didn't.  Not knowing how, not knowing, the typical toxic masculinity is to not talk about these things and to be like, Oh, I'll get over it.' And especially with African American males, we just like trauma is supposed to happen to us.

[00:15:36] So we get used to dealing with it and we hide it and it hurts us. You see what I'm saying? It comes out in other ways that are more harmful, and so I didn't even know that I was depressed until I looked at anything I tried to put my hands to, I couldn't. Anything I started, I could not finish. I lost motivation and inspiration in things that I love to do just as quick as I got that inspiration, as quick as I would lose inspiration for it.

[00:16:01] And so started seeing a counselor and, seeing him for about eight months now, and it's been life altering. And so for me, winning that at grammy, if that was a pinnacle, then in the valey of the shadow of death was waiting for me. They know those following next five to six years.

[00:16:19] And so, praise God, this now where I'm at now. Praise God, that in March or April, March, and I had a breakthrough and I just woke up and God gave me life and I wanted to live. I was not suicidal anymore. The world just looked beautiful, and so out of that, I've been back to myself, recording, back in the gym, lost 25 pounds, and our new home is getting renovated and family is good. I can't complain. Can't complain. So, I'm learning what this new, what that season was meant. I'm still learning how God is going to use it, and all I'm doing now is just telling him my story, of me going through it.

What play does music and creativity have coming out of the trauma? [00:16:58]

[00:16:58]Simon Yost: [00:16:58] So when you look then at, I guess the place that music has in your life, how do you feel like it has taken a different spot now? Like your creative energy where your inspiration has that any of that change changed since?

[00:17:15] Courtney Orlando: [00:17:15] Absolutely. So I didn't have inspiration. I've been working on two projects in the last, two years or so. One is called, The Fight of Our Lives, which is now 85% done. It's about 16 tracks, and it's a project around social justice and social ills. But then the second one was, Things Below, and that was the project about this depression.

[00:17:37] And so, the last couple of years, the only thing I can really sing about was those two things. I haven't written any songs, any epistles to the church. I haven't written any songs about love, nothing. I'm just writing about sorrow and ills, you see what I'm saying?

[00:17:53] Because that was what flooded my psyche, and also the mystery of faith and mystery of being a person of faith and the notion of guidance and scripture and absolute truth, all those things that they play their part in it, and my song writing too. But coming out of that, I still am singing about this journey through depression, but it's from a different point of view, that makes sense.

[00:18:20]So this is not so much as, as a person currently suffering at that level, or this idea of hopelessness is which was really heavy on the first  version of this record. But now it's more of really kind of telling the story, and I could find myself telling my story and being totally authentic to the process, but without sounding like I'm pitying myself or, you know what I'm saying? Or I'm building a song. that is building its foundation on hopelessness. This just has a, more of a tone of hope, and it has more of a tone of storytelling and allowing of the listener to put themselves in my shoes, if we share the same experience. But the greatest emotion that I felt that what has come to me more than anything is the story of love.

[00:19:08] The story of  a broken heart and know, me, myself. I refer to Coco, my wife, as my second salvation because God has used her. And even when I couldn't hear Him, he's spoken through her and she's my, greatest, I can't find another word to articulate it.

[00:19:30] If it wasn't for her, I would be dead. I would be dead and I'm a hundred percent sure of that. And so I write a lot about the love and the life that she gives me. The grace that she's shown me, the truths that she's shown me about myself. And I've been writing a lot about the heartache of, a lot of my friends who have been married 15, 16 years,  and have called it quits or have cheated on their husbands or cheated on their wives or been physical or mental abuse or... it's just also, I've had a chance to pass there and walk along rock alongside people who have experienced great heartache. And so I want to tell their stories and I want to tell my own stories of what, the notion of love, and how for one person it could be bliss, another person, it can be a nightmare,

Leading with a Limp [00:20:22]

[00:20:22] Simon Yost: [00:20:22] Sometimes when professionals are interviewed, there's this idea of them as a professional and of them as like a person or a man. And I am privileged to know you in both, but also a third dimension. And I don't know—I'm not saying there's just three dimensions— but there's this other dimension where I've seen you carry communities on your back.

[00:20:40] I've seen you care for people in ways that I just, I don't know if I even have the, I would even have the capacity to wade into. And so I've just gotten to see you lead people and love people in a way that is... yeah, it is amazing, and I just wonder when you've been going through all this stuff, personally, and it's so traumatic, how do you sort through how to put your energy, where to put your energy?

[00:21:06] Cause so many people rely on you for so much?

[00:21:09] Courtney Orlando: [00:21:09] Yeah, I think that was part of it. So when we talk about leadership and it's leaders lead with the limp. And I think that just comes along with leading. You don't-you're strong. You try to stay strong until you can no longer, until it becomes a thorn and you have to step back.

[00:21:30] But you bear certain burdens that the people you're leading may not have to worry about their time and, that's part of leadership. But I think what is toxic and what's been harmful is when leaders try to lead as if they are gods, and as if they are invincible, you know what I'm saying? and we're not.

[00:21:47] And a lot of us lead to the point to where, when God says, 'Hey, I need you to slow down, take a break.' We go past that, and then we wonder when we blow up, and whether that be, you doing something crazy out of character or blowing up in anger or frustration, or the shame comes in, whatever it is. Whatever it comes from, we were putting on too much weight.

[00:22:10]Whatever the repercussions of that, I think we fall victim to that way more than we are actually called to an ex. It should be expected to. So for me, I think, me leading in the season where I was dealing with so much personal trauma was, both a gift and a curse because one, anybody who deals with depression know that if you can find something that removes you out of your own head and puts you in a space where you're serving genuinely, and you're distracted from the voices, then that's a good thing.

[00:22:38] The other thing is that when you can get so busy doing that you've never doubled back to go 10 to your mental, spiritual own wellbeing, and so for me, I think I bit the bullet most definitely, but that's why my, the sabbatical that I took was so important because it, let me let go of everything except for the main thing.

[00:22:59] And that, for me, it was. Being able to preserve my faith, preserve my life, and preserve my family, and preserve my mind. So now I lead a small group of people, but as for a singular purpose and that's just, they're helping me to put out this music and to start my brand and to make sure I'm faithful to that, because that's what God has called me to in this season.

[00:23:21] So, yeah, it flows and I know I got the same hardships that comes from leading, but nothing that doesn't come with the job. Do you see what I'm saying? So it's a-I got a nice balance right now.

Trama Bookends [00:23:34]

[00:23:34]Simon Yost: [00:23:34] When you talked about the personal trauma that you experienced, I couldn't help, but think about the dates and the bookends of those dates were Mike Brown passing in St. Louis, right before that and Ferguson and then the other bookend  was everything that's just happened recentl y with Breonna Taylor, and it's scary that there's too many —

[00:23:51] bland. You know what I mean? Eric Yeah.

[00:23:53] Courtney Orlando: [00:23:53] Obviously that's why I tell people-

[00:23:55] people

[00:23:55] Courtney Orlando: [00:23:55] think that, if I write

[00:23:56] this song about social justice, I got to get it out because who knows? No, bro, like I wrote this song. I was like, that will be an incident like tomorrow or next week, and you can just swap out names, which is unfortunate. You know what I mean?

Which way is justice? [00:24:12]

[00:24:12] Simon Yost: [00:24:12] So, I'm not seeing the st. Louis has it harder than other cities, but I feel like there's so much, angst here and tention, and it's just so palpable. The only question that comes to my mind, and this is not, this is, probably even a bad question—but which way is justice? which way out of this is justice?  

[00:24:31] Yeah.

[00:24:32] Courtney Orlando: [00:24:32] Yeah. Yeah. Wow,

[00:24:33] that's a

[00:24:34] Courtney Orlando: [00:24:34] deep questio,

[00:24:34] and one that I've asked myself and others many a times. For me, I think what God requires, like his definition of justice for the least of us, the least,

[00:24:50] Courtney Orlando: [00:24:50] is at least

[00:24:51] in this country, will be the poor and black and brown

[00:24:55] Courtney Orlando: [00:24:55] bodies.

[00:24:56] For true justice,

[00:25:00] I think a repentance and

[00:25:03] Courtney Orlando: [00:25:03] restoration has to...

[00:25:05] It needs to happen in a way that it hasn't happened yet. So I am one of those people, I don't get excited. even though there are small w small winds when we have Black Lives Matter and painted in the

[00:25:17] Courtney Orlando: [00:25:17] NBA court, or a business

[00:25:19] changes a policy. That's cool. that's fine. Other communities, LGBTQ, you name it, PETA, anytime for your

[00:25:26] Courtney Orlando: [00:25:26] groups to have fought  for justics  we get

[00:25:29] our rights and we get these laws changed for a season or, it

[00:25:34] Courtney Orlando: [00:25:34] just gives-it changes

[00:25:35] the status of that person for however long.

[00:25:38] Courtney Orlando: [00:25:38] But for, justice for, when we're talking about black bodies in particular, we've never been restored. So if we call ourself a Christian nation, and yes, we were pinning for slavery, yada, even though so we know systemic and, unethical issue, steel plate, the Western part of the world. Part of God's plan for restoration of repentance is whatever you took from them you got to give that back. And so I look at my people when you wonder why, the blacks are the face of the lesser than. That's why we're murdered like we are, because it's been it's in the DNA of this country.

[00:26:19] You are a slave. You will always be beneath me, bro. You know what I'm saying? Like you were like, you just recently got free. Your people just recently-and some of y'all still can't vote. So all of this, what you're looking at, the looting, the rioting—I don't approve none of that stuff—but it's hard to condemn a language of a people when they have-when you can't-when they're not being heard in any other way.

[00:26:45] And it makes no sense, right? You, 'Oh, you hurt me. So I'm gonna go burn down my house.' It doesn't make sense, but people who don't know how to articulate that they're like, it's like a child and a child throwing a tantrum. So I'm not making, giving, making any excuses. But I'm saying I understand. But if you look at that, if you look at poverty, if you look at all the ills of what we think the average American will say, plagues our community, you will find it with someone who is in poverty or someone  from European culture was say, it's the blacks, the black on black crime and them. But all of that Simon, we can trace back to slavery. So justice to me says one, you recognize that you took something from us. Scripturally, if you are Christian, says that you have to now restore what was taken and that's never been restored to us.

[00:27:45] Why? Because the price is too damn high to restore what you've taken from us. It would be trillions of dollars. It would be land. It would be so many things undone unturned, and it is the cost is too high. So I don't get excited for that stuff. I'm grateful for small baby steps, but this will always be America's plague until it fully repents fully restores. You can't hold onto power. You know what I'm saying? And restore at the same time. You got a release-you go-it's got to cost you something. And I just think for justice for this country, I think is too great of a cost. True justice for this country, I think it's too great of a cost.

Interpersonal Justice [00:28:33]

[00:28:33] Simon Yost: [00:28:33] Yeah, so then like, that's corporately and that's super important. Inner personally for me in my relationships, for example, is there any way that I can bring this to bear in some way that even if I'm just offering smaller amounts of this?

[00:28:53] Courtney Orlando: [00:28:53] Yeah. Yeah. I would say— I know it's funny, cause we, had this talk with some friends of mine as well, white brothers of mine— so the first thing, every human being should be implored to do is to love your neighbor as yourself, right?

[00:29:09]That seems like a basic principle. Like you love your neighbor as yourself, but when you've been taught that you are above your neighbor, whether you be white, no matter your color. If you make more money than your neighbor, then there needs to be, or if you only live on the West side, And then those people on the East side, or the North side and like those barriers, economic status, like that makes us not be able to look good neighbor and say, I love you as myself, no matter what you look like or what you don't have of have.

Benefit from Whiteness [00:29:40]

[00:29:40] So first I would say, we love our neighbor as ourselves. The second thing is that the sooner of my white brothers and sisters realize that they benefit from whiteness, and that it is a concept that was created to create race. It was created, the concept of race and separatism. The sooner you recognize that, the sooner you'll start understanding the systems from what you benefit from every single day, those same systems have trap doors in them for my people, you see what I'm saying?

[00:30:15] They have systemically been designed to make sure that you are always on top and our people are always on the bottom. I can't say this enough, if for anybody that's out there and wants to understand the dynamics of in our race in this country and even how faith plays in it, check out Jamar Tisby "The Color of Compromise." He paints out all of American history and the ways we are complicit in the face of slavery. How ways still in the seventies and eighties and nineties, that politicians were creating ways different languages to put instead of saying nigger— I think it was one of Truman's associates or something like that, but it was like, 'we can't say nigger cause he's that hurts us.'

[00:31:01] But he was saying it, if you take that and exchange that for red lining or for these other terms, then we keep them at a disadvantage. This is what's happening in the system of whiteness. You see what I'm saying? And as soon as we start understanding that system was set up to benefit one and oppress another, you will continue having the same blind spots, and even when you think you're helping, you're hurting. You see what I'm saying?

[00:31:25] And so I would say, but you're already doing this with your family. You're doing this with your faith and you were doing this with your work. And of course here, you know what your art. So, but yeah, I would say the normal person who is of European descent understanding in this country, whiteness is everything. You see what I'm saying? It's everything. Even when you don't even know it exists, you know what I'm saying? You benefit from his existence.

[00:31:50] Simon Yost: [00:31:50] Okay. Cool. Yeah, cause I've been like trying to read, Ibram's "Stamped From the Beginning" and I thought that might be some bedtime reading material, and it's like nope!

[00:32:04] This is daytime reading material for sure.

[00:32:07] Courtney Orlando: [00:32:07] Unless you want to go to bed-go to bed with it, unless you don't want to go to bed. Put it like that.

[00:32:14] Simon Yost: [00:32:14] And then I pre-ordered, and 'I'm like, Oh, I'll get both his books,' and now I'm like, 'Okay, this is this is going to be some months. It's just so dense.

[00:32:22] Courtney Orlando: [00:32:22] Yes. Man. Yeah. you already know it, bro. Knowledge is the key to everything. Most of the stuff I've learned about my people and about this country, 90% of it I didn't learn in the classroom because it wasn't taught to us . Most of them, I had to go dig and get it.

[00:32:36] And so to my white brothers and sisters, you do the same thing. You know what I'm saying? You got internet just like me. And so I can own mind shooting suggestions, but educating, we all gotta educate ourselves on this. You know what I mean?

[00:32:50] Simon Yost: [00:32:50] You have the internet, just like me. I like that. I'm going to use that on my teenagers. I was with a friend of mine. This is a huge tangent with our toddlers the other day, and he asked his kiddo, if she was going to eat yet and she said, no, I'm not hungry and he was like, 'you mean, I haven't asked you to eat yet?

[00:33:06]That's why he didn't eat yet, and I'm like, I need to save that one. Cause I'm going to get, be getting some backlash.  So I'm like trying to create a catalog of all these toddler comebacks, Cause you literally feel like you're negotiating with a terrorist.

[00:33:19]You know? It's like you have nothing to lose.

[00:33:23] Courtney Orlando: [00:33:23] Absolutely.

Memory Work [00:33:24]

[00:33:24]Simon Yost: [00:33:24] This is kind of a brainstorming thing  I was reading about it a couple of years ago about this idea of memory work. Actually I heard about it on the "We Live Here," podcasts, the NPR St. Louis.

[00:33:33] Courtney Orlando: [00:33:33] Okay. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:33:35] Simon Yost: [00:33:35] And the example that they shared was happened in North Carolina and I believe, and it was a racially, motivated, murder in the nineties, I believe. And maybe a decade after they used a concept called Memory Work, which is just kind of a hoity-toity word for saying that they in a-they gathered the community together.

[00:33:55] I think it was through some kind of speaking at events and they tried to merge the real story of what happened with the kind of public remembrance, because it wasn't the same. Yeah, the folklore wasn't the same. And so they're trying to take the real facts and insert them, and to make a true narrative.

[00:34:15]And so I just wondered from your perspective, St. Louis 2020, obviously we can't all gather in a auditorium cause of COVID right now, but, but when we can, what are some of those narratives that you feel like, either narratives or what style and posture do we need to come together? Like how do we start doing this together? Just kind of in a brainstorming...

[00:34:39] Courtney Orlando: [00:34:39] Yeah, no. First, I forgot it was a director-movie director. He was just like, he was like, man, everybody's going through something. Everybody's going through something, so try to be kind, you know what I'm saying? And that's a lighter sentiment, right? That says, just be empathetic, learn how to be sympathetic.

[00:34:58]And we need that. I forgot. the doctor -scientist that's, gave this quote, but he was saying humans—at the study—he was saying, humans are way more, efficient in dishing out harm than we, then we are receiving harm. You know what I mean? So we can dish out evil way more than we can be sympathetic and empathetic and enter into someone else's pain.

[00:35:25]And of course we know that, we believe that, but I feel like you start with emploring every man that, you know,-human being to love your neighbor as yourselves. You start there and then you say, what does that mean? So the same way you love your daughter, same way you love your wife the same way you love your family, your brother and your sisters that same love we are called to try to duplicate with our neighbor, right? Not on the same level because we know time and, it's been in the same space and getting to know someone builds that type of love. But that same foundation of saying you are intrinsically of worth because you are human, just like me.

[00:36:07]You deserve the same equity in life the same as me. And so if we start there, Simon, that's automatically going to say, Hey, if I'm loving you, I love myself or the people around me than that means I can't ignore the things that may be happening to you or around you and vice versa.

[00:36:31]So let's take, for instance, a narrative is when, if you see black lives matter or someone like out there—I support black lives matter— but then I can't also support police officers. That's a lie, that's a stigma right there that a lot of people may get mixed up with people who are protesting that they're anti-police. No, I have family members who are policeman.

[00:36:51]We know my brother works for the government, so I understand the value, but we're not talking about, police officers in themselves. We're talking about the systemic issues that plague, the office of a policemen. If anybody knows their history of what police came from, it is rooted in slavery.

[00:37:10]After the civil war-after the  reconstruction, former slave owners, we're afraid of retaliation and some retaliation had started or had been pockets of that. So they created a task force of people to guard those slave owners from potential people who want to, retaliate.

[00:37:28] And that then that spin into them creating law where know where we're now you have find, even now today—Ferguson was guilty of this—where the policing was issuing out of-so you would get these, misdemeanors, not misdemeanors, these fines that you really couldn't pay for. And so then that person, we know Mike Milton, does that work with the bail project, but, you have given somebody an $800 fine, and then they're like, I can't pay this, cause they poor. So then they go to jail, and after being in there for a week and then they get fired. Then they don't have a job and then they get kicked out and then they get on drugs or they rob you. You see what I'm saying?

[00:38:09]So we're not saying-no police officers. Policing is a good thing, but the way that it's been set up for certain people is not right. The police officer that were shot the other day in Tower Grove. That was a horrible situation! And I tweeted out prayers goes out to those police officer families. You know what I'm saying?

[00:38:27] May God bring justice quick. You see what I'm saying? There is no substitute for-what is evil is evil, what's good is good. So I think us getting on a level ground where we say we're human. We endure the same heartaches and the same joy, the same aspiration. How come that some people seem to have more heartache than others? How come some people seem to have it better than others? We've got to talk about those disparities, right? Because there's no use- Jesus said this, how can I tell somebody, go farewell and be well and be merry on your way, if I knew they were hungry and I had food, I didn't give it to them. So I can't wish someone well and say that I love you.

[00:39:05] I want to come together. If I can't the issues that I can currently see that are harming you or your people, or that they're harming me or my people. You see what I'm saying? So I think we've got to love our neighbor as ourselves. And then we got to talk about if that-if you-if it is true that you love your neighbor as yourself, that means you want equity. The same equity you have, you want your neighbor to possess, and then once you start to take that journey, you're going to see that, wow, this is not a fair, equitable part of the world for brown, poor people.

[00:39:39] And you know what I'm saying? There is a bottom and it's not just people who just made poor financial decisions. It's something greater than it. And so I guess to say that as we're brainstorming, it goes back to the repentance. Without undoing and recognizing that there was a system at hand that is hurting our neighbors and allowing other neighbors to flourish then the healing can't begin.

[00:40:06] We see that in scripture. Healing can't begin unless there is repentance, but then repentence follows a number of things that needs-a number of things need to happen before true repentence is  fleshed out.

[00:40:18] So we've got to stop doing evil. Almost don't want to start preaching here. As we see in Amos in Isaiah stop doing evil. Learn to do good. Correct the oppression against the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner, and then we'll see what it means for us to come together. You see what I'm saying? But if we're ignoring issues, if we're acting like issues don't exist and we're saying, 'I don't see it.' And that goes for all  types of all ethnicities.  If you're not taking a look at self, if you're not taking a look at what is naturally genuinely evil, and what is genuinely good. Know. Okay. If you can't look in the mirror first, you won't be able to see what's plaguing or hurting your brother either.

[00:41:03] Simon Yost: [00:41:03] Yeah, and I was thinking too, like the political divisiveness of our day is so twisted, and I was just trying to think deeply the other day. I was like, if you get beyond all that, what's really the thing?

[00:41:14] Yeah  

[00:41:14] Courtney Orlando: [00:41:14] the

[00:41:14] Simon Yost: [00:41:14] thing?

Clicks [00:41:15]

[00:41:15] It seems like there's part of it. Everything you're saying is included, but there's part of it too.

[00:41:19] That's I can't just take care of myself and just be responsible for myself and my nuclear family. And I also, on the other side, I can't be responsible for everybody. And it's the people that I look at that are embracing and embodying love it seems to be that there's a couple of clicks out, like it's their nuclear family and themselves, and a couple clicks out, and there's some diversity in there, but it's because they're including more than themselves in their nuclear family in that thought process.

[00:41:49] There's - and when there's a little bit of diversity in there, then it automatically sets the stage for a different type of decision.

[00:41:57] Courtney Orlando: [00:41:57] Absolutely and I see I've seen this, on from both, whites and blacks and Asians, but, one of my former neighbors I remember him having a talk about some of the guys in the neighborhood and I was approaching him and I was like, yeah, I had a talk with a young man down the street that was responsible for some of the break-ins, and it went real well. And he was like-and I was like, 'man, what these young dudes need-they need to see older men- these young people, young men who don't have fathers. They need to see older or more mature men. speaking into their lives. Helping giving them wisdom and knowledge and helping them to take the correct and positive steps in life. And his response was, 'man, I don't give a fuck about none of them.' And he was like, 'all I care about is my own.' And that is-that's toxic, and that is evil in itself. Cause it may have a false identity of someone who is trying to just steward his own. But when there are issues that go outside of your home, that affect homes that look like yours. You can't just say, I'm just going to worry about my home because one day it may be your home that needs someone like me. You see what I'm saying? And so we can never just say I'm very- just worried about mines. When we live in a world where decisions are being made that affect not just our neighborhood of ultimately affect us like voting.

Voting [00:43:26]

[00:43:26] You know what I'm saying? I can't understand people who don't vote. You see what I'm saying right now? It's not about the perfect candidates. It's about the lesser of evils. If we are going to move forward-we think do we want to die out at a faster rate or do we want a slower rate of mortality?

[00:43:43] You see what I'm saying? We want a slower rate, and depending on who we have in power will escalate us in our country and our values towards that-what we want to be. But I can't just stay at home and say, I'm not voting because I don't like this particular candidate. Because that worldview says, yeah, you are okay with not putting in a vote, but  what you should be worried about is what your vote will do in a greater aspect. You see what I'm saying? If a person that is proven not to be able, fit to lead our country, or lead whatever municipality or state governor, whatever level. If you stayed at home and say, I'm just going to worry about mine, that you say, screw you to the other people who have, who you have to live with.

[00:44:28] And I can't do that. I'm always thinking about my neighbor. You see what I'm saying? That's why God does not want us to just care about ourselves because that's a small world because someday you're going to need somebody to care for you. And what if that person had the same mentality, you will be just be shit out of luck. You see what I'm saying?

[00:44:45] So, yeah, it's all hands on deck. All hands on deck. You can't ignore loving your neighbor. This is what has kept innovation, communities, neighborhoods, and nations alive, because there are things in place to make sure that we are growing in light of all of us, and not just a particular set of people.

Not too far away from grave injustice [00:45:09]

[00:45:09] Simon Yost: [00:45:09] Yeah, I was jarred. I don't remember if it was "The Color of Compromise" or something else, but somebody said, how are things going with—I don't, I forgot diversity, social justice— and they're like, well, the good news is that we're not killing each other anymore over ideological differences.

[00:45:26]Like all of the stuff that happened and for hundreds of years, and it's just okay. You might be able to like, kind of pertition slavery out of your mind, but like the French revolution, all this kind of stuff, like honor, and even with World War I was kind of almost the near end of it.

[00:45:40] And then I read an article the other day that the guillotine was used in France as late as like the 1980s or something. And it's just it's just okay, let's just not get too ahead of ourselves. Like we are not too far away from things that we would consider grave injustice.

[00:45:56] Courtney Orlando: [00:45:56] And that anybody who could make that statement is an unlearned person in that particular context or whatever the issue is. You see what I'm saying? And so we know that this thing is alive and well, man, alive and well. It just starts with an undoing evil. Stop, doing evil, learn how to do good.

[00:46:20] Bruh,if we all did that with our families and with our neighbors-do you know how beautiful of a place-the only reason whites are taught to hate blacks and blacks are taught to hate whites is because we open up that door. You see what I'm saying? Like we opened up, before-pre-colonization, like we mad loved each other. You know what I'm saying?

[00:46:41] It may be like how you love each other because we're a community. You see what I'm saying? But if you didn't know me, I didn't know you, I would assume that you are lying yourself with whiteness and you probably would assume if I had my beard out and kept earrings that you would be like, 'I don't know if I can trust him.' You see what I'm saying? Because of just how our world has been set up. The narrative! But that didn't have to be, but it is what it is. Cause it was .

[00:47:07]Simon Yost: [00:47:07] Like that Dr. Seuss Snitches book. I don't know if you've ever read that, but it's just like the Snitches, one had a star and one didn't and then it was like, 'Oh, the star!' And this is like random thing, Oh, a star is going to make the difference.

[00:47:20]Courtney Orlando: [00:47:20] Yeah, and of course  it's a lot of things that play into that and philosophically then, you align on, but the fall is the fall man, and I get it. I get it, but, Yeah.

[00:47:31] Simon Yost: [00:47:31] Cool. Well, I can't tell you how much joy it brings me to talk to you. But also when I'm in the car and we're playing music and my kids are like, cause my kids are teenagers. We're not, I don't want to give the impression that they're little kids and they're like dad put on Courtney's stuff. It's just yes! And it's just fun to be able to follow you and know you and cheer you on.

[00:47:51] Right on

[00:47:51] Courtney Orlando: [00:47:51] brother.

[00:47:52] Oh man. It's a pleasure brother. Pleasure, man. I pray- well, I think I'm grateful for the opportunity, and my desire is that this show would literally catch fire. You know what I mean? That you would, in some way of form, this would be a stepping stone to what's next? What I'm saying your career, but then, so I appreciate it, bro.

Author Bio

Courtney Orlando
Courtney Orlando

Grammy Wward-winning Musician