Aaron Abernathy: Life, Love and Healing During A Pandemic

Aaron Abernathy: Love + Healing During A Pandemic

Late last year I had the pleasure of meeting up with a gem of a person, Aaron Abernathy. Ab, as he is affectionately known, is a pianist and soul singer whose talent as an entertainer is evident to anyone who has been blessed to see him perform live or simply just take in his music. A raw vocalist whose riffs and runs will have you nodding and hollering “yassssssssss!” while sippity-sipping on your drink of choice looking super fly at one of his performances with your crew. Ab on stage is a WHOLE vibe, nothing less. 

At Howard University, Aaron honed his skills by majoring in Jazz Piano while also forming Ab and The Souljourners. Then came the self-produced debut album, Lyrically Inclined 1.3: The Odyssey. The album developed quite a buzz and led to a US Tour after they graduated from Howard. As the group leaned into touring and growing, their showmanship and vocal ability made them stand out from the crowd and over time, led to Aaron becoming the Musical Director for Slum Village and then Black Milk. Fast forward to 2012, Abernathy's revamped band "Nat Turner" became Black Milk's backing band and in 2015, “Nat Turner” opened up for Black Milk on his "Play Like Hell European Tour" to rave reviews from European audiences.

As momentum built, Aaron realized that he needed a moment to speak his personal truth and in the fall of 2016, Abernathy released his solo album "Monologue," that was met with critical acclaim from the music industry. Then Abernathy joined Black Milk on the winter European leg of The Rebellion Tour as an opening act and “Monologue” was met with rave reviews. “Monologue” centers on love and personal relationships while Aaron’s new albums, “Dialogue” & “Epilogue” dive into male vulnerabilities, navigating this world as a black man and restoration after heartbreak. Aaron has also gifted us with another album called “Affirmations” and this album plays a huge part in my meditation and grounding routines. The affirmations serve to remind me of whose child I am whenever life and circumstances try to tell me I am not enough as I am. All four albums were pre-Covid releases, but the themes still resonate deeply during these Covid times. 

E: What thoughts keep coming to mind when you sit with the hits that Covid has delivered?

Ab: There is a huge paradigm shift coming. We are officially living in the age of enlightenment and that enlightenment is filtering into many areas of life. We just need to fasten our seatbelts and have faith because with enlightenment, we are realizing that many are not in touch with themselves and also realizing the harsh truth that we might be the one not in touch with ourselves. Love of self is big and there is not enough of it. Or many don’t understand what love of self is and what that looks like in practice. My hope is that this time of enlightenment serves to show many a new and different way. 

E: How have the changes to our world affected you personally as an artist?

Ab: God has brought me full circle this year. I am not touring and that has not happened since 2006. Since 2006!! I hadn’t even thought about how long I had been on the move until I was forced to stop. Since stopping, I have been able to redesign my life in such a way that I had not been able to since 2006. Everything I do is from spirit so this time has given me a chance to sit with spirit and let it inform and guide me. I never expected this space or period in my life, but I am using it to shape the next leg of my journey. 

E: Talk to me about love of self, what this looks like in practice and how love of self affects the dating process.

Ab: Where are you from? I hear your accent lol.

E: I’m a proud Bajan, thank you very much :)

Ab: Ok, I asked that because you might have a different cultural background which in dating in the US, could leave you scratching your head lol. (He speaks facts). Dating in the US is different from dating anywhere other than the US. In America we are so individualistic. We bought into this money dream. Work drives us and not family. That creates a different dynamic from jump. We are raised to be individualists but say we want to be married. How is that going to work? First through self-love we have to break down the mental systems that allow one to be so individualistic. While on the journey of discovering self, we hopefully acquire grace, gratitude and compassion for others and fully start to understand where love for others is truly rooted. Now self-Love requires emotional intelligence. 

E: Please speak on Emotional Intelligence because well...wow. 

Ab: LOL. The lack of emotional intelligence in dating right now is asinine. Yes, asinine. Enlightenment brings about a phenomenon of the enlightened with their new found knowledge thinking they now know much more than they actually do and with the arrogance fostered by this individualistic superficial society, creates a clusterfuck. Enlightenment is supposed to open your eyes to the fact that there is very much more to learn and help you to push past the notion that now you are “woke” for lack of a better term. Being “woke” is static, like you gained a bit of knowledge and have suddenly arrived at this place of being “woke”. It doesn't work like that. Enlightenment is dynamic, it changes you and it is the constant seeking of new information to augment and add to prior information. It is a journey and requires a commitment to actual change through introspective thought. Thought meant to challenge your inner narratives leading to conscious and unconscious changes in behavior and patterns. Even though we are living in the age of enlightenment, that doesn’t mean that everyone will absorb new information leading to actual behavioral change. We ultimately have a group who will sit with the discomfort that comes with deep introspection and subsequent personal growth. Then we will also have a group that say they are putting in the work, but that ultimately is a lie to themselves because they never were willing to sit with ego and break the mental holds of individualism. Or they weren’t capable of. This isn’t a judgement and I’m not saying one group is better than the other. People will be people and that’s that. Some will put in the work and some won’t. Ultimately we choose for ourselves. But it all starts with love of self. Love of self helps you to understand what true love feels like because if you don’t know how to love yourself, how were you thinking loving someone else was gonna work out? We currently date to consume, to possess and this is all wrong. Love is about refilling someone's cup, love is about letting someone be free to be themselves unapologetically, love is unconditional, love is showing grace, love is showing up and being accountable, love is having boundaries, love is protecting someone’s heart, love is making space for love, love is learning your triggers and self-regulating. Love is not about consuming or possessing. 

E: As crazy as dating is now, do you believe in Monogamy?

Ab: Yes 100%. But the conversations need to first be centered on finding out if we are going to the same place. That is big and a make or break. We don’t need to be in the same place at the same time all the time. That’s not realistic. But people are out there so hurt, they don’t even know where they want to go. Hence love of self is so important to loving others. My parents weren’t always sharing the load 50/50. Sometimes my mom would be tired and she'd tell my dad to go ahead. She never wanted to hold my dad back and sometimes the load would be shared 70/30 or 60/40. But guess what, the tables can turn as things do in life and now it might be that dad is tired and will tell mom to go ahead and the load is switched 30/70 or 40/60. But it doesn’t ultimately matter because they are both on the same path headed in the same direction with no ego. They just redistributed the load along the journey they chose to go on together.

E: Damn Ab, that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that insight into how your mom and dad work it out. What stood out for me was that they approach it with no ego. It doesn’t matter who has the heavier load, it's all about love so there is no room for ego.

Ab: Exactly. And I will end by saying that true love of self and others cannot come from a place of ego. True love for others can only come from a place of healthy self-love.