[Today, we sit down for an interview with musician and artist Chris Welsh. Here, he discusses the intersections of music, magic, art, and spirituality; how the natural world influences his work; and his collaboration with other artists.]
ev0ke: How do you describe your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have
a name, or is it more eclectic and self-created?
Chris Welsh: I think the term Spirit Walker would apply here. I let spirit and the runes guide my life and I am constantly in that headspace connecting
with the spirits that are all around me. I could use the term universalist, but I really do not like that term. My blood is Germanic for the most part so the names of the deities in my personal path go by those names, but they are Gods and Goddesses of nature and all “pagan” faiths from all around the world have gods and goddesses that deal with various aspects of nature, so those names are just one face of the greater mystery of the divine I feel.
ev0ke: Which Deities and holy days are particularly important in your practice
CW: Freyja has a very special place in my heart as she was the first deity I saw in a vision while learning the runes. She represents the birth of my spiritual walk as it is today.
Bragi, of course, with my Skaldic path.
Thor I am oathbound to. I have always been the guardian and keeper over those closest to me. He is a deity with whom I am so close to that he literally feels like an extension of the self.
As of recent, I am a devotee of the Great Mother. That is an intense story all in itself that involved me having to cut my hair off and my beard. Which was a very hard thing for me to do because they were important to me. That’s the whole idea of sacrifice right? It’s supposed to hurt.
As far as holy days, I would have to say all of them, because they each serve their purpose on the turning wheel. The spring equinox is one I hold very dear though. There is almost nothing that brings me more joy than seeing everything waking up from its deep winter slumber. The birds singing, the wild foods returning, the gardens being planted and, of course, all of the younglings being born. Spring is also when a lot of my music writing takes place as well. Inspiration is always high during these months.
ev0ke: How important is music to your spiritual self-expression? For you,
how closely aligned are music, magic, and spirit? Is there a
CW: Music is everything in my spiritual expression. When I first started
creating my music it was my healing tool first and foremost. If other people got something out of it and liked it…great. Over the past few years (the last two specifically), the game changed and it became about other people first and foremost. It became about creating songs as tools so that people could ground and begin healing their pain. My songs have always been about personal experiences and how I view the world around me. They will always remain that way but they have gotten much deeper and are more focused now. Spirit Walker is the beginning of something new.
Music is one of the best direct connections with spirit and the divine. Music is magic, and one of the strongest magics, at that. Each note of a song is a component to a spell. The sequence in which each of the notes are arranged is going to dictate a feeling to someone. Music can be destructive or it can help build and heal.
My answer to the third part of that question is that there is no difference in my book between music, magic and spirit. They’re all so intertwined with one another.
ev0ke: Your musical persona is Sun and Moon Dance. Why did you choose a
name inspired by the wolves Hati and Sköll?
CW: To me, the two wolves represent the balance of light and dark and the
necessity of both in our world. To gain the greatest light, one has to spend time in the darkness to understand and learn from it. I’ve always envisioned the Sun and Moon moving across the sky in their harmonious dance.
ev0ke: How do you go about composing new music? Go for long walks? Consult ancient myths? Meditate?
CW: Life and the great mystery of it is what drives my creation. I’ve built
my life to be my inspiration. I wanted my everyday life to be the inspiration for creation of all kinds. I worked and lived on farms for five years or so. There I was constantly surrounded by the elements, animals, and all the things that inspired me. I learned to walk with the runes, which are one of the biggest inspirations for my creations. Runes are my life.
Songs or ideas for songs can come to me at any point in time. I used to sit down and try to write songs out. Plan them out more or less. Sometimes I still do that, but rarely.
The last two years have been very specific concepts. The previous album
Ginnungagaldr was written about a journey I had that took me back to the beginning of creation, or the lack there of (Ginnungagap). Much of that album was written on the spot when I sat down to record it. I had the tracklist written out and let the songs come out as they were meant to be. Many of the vocal patterns are based on feeling rather than thought.
The new album Spirit Walker was the same process, but relied even more on feeling and being spirit led. That is what the album is about, after all.
Other than that, one of my biggest inspirations are these mountains that I live in. These are some of the oldest giants in the world and they hold so many stories. I’m humbled every time I look at them.
I rarely ever consult the myths for inspiration. I think the only time I ever did was for Ginnungagaldr because it was so specific. It was a story of creation. As I stated in a previous question, my songs are very personal and they reflect the world through my eyes and my experiences with the spirits or divine. I think that’s a problem with a lot of the folk music coming out these days. They’re not personal and many regurgitate the same poems over and over again.
ev0ke: You are also an artist, and created the cover art for Spirit Walker. What mediums did you use? Was the music born from the art, the art from the music, or did they influence one another?
CW: I paint like a caveman. haha I’m really not a good visual artist, but I’m
good at what I do if that makes sense. My paintings more or less come as visions. I start with a general idea of what I want to convey with the symbolism and the runes. I am big for saying the most with the least. I like finding meaning in simplicity. If you notice…most of my paintings have a central samstav “tree” as I like to refer to them. It usually says a word, animal, or someone’s name, and once that is painted the rest just kind of flows out.
When creating the art for an album, it could go either way. I think I’ve done an artwork before an album was composed and also after. Spirit Walker’s artwork came after the fact and was completely different from what I had envisioned it to be. They absolutely influence each other. I love that whole process.
My mediums are usually canvas with acrylic paint. They’re always red,
black, and white. Red I use for runes and to represent when energy is
being transferred between two objects. For other artwork, I’ve used natural objects and placed them in an artistic fashion.
ev0ke: Have you collaborated with other creators on projects? If so, who
and how did that come about?
CW: Yes, I’ve done a few collaborations. I’ve had Runahild featured on a couple of my songs and she even supplied the album art for The Spinning Of Time. She is one of my favorite artists in the world and one of my biggest inspirations still to this day. She was there at the beginning of Sun and Moon Dance.
I’ve had my friend Tonya perform Kulning on a song.
Mother Marrow, as well as my friends Lydia and Velitas, also contributed
to Spirit Walker. I’m very selective with whom I let be a part of my art.
I have collaborated with my friend Velitas on a few of his projects,
ev0ke: Where can listeners find your music?
CW: Listeners can purchase my music through all the main digital distribution services, but Bandcamp is the best. Of course, all of my music is up on Spotify, as well.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
CW: All I will say to this is that something much greater than myself and Sun and Moon Dance is coming. Something that I am very excited about. Something that will impact people on a very deep level including those
performing it. When will that project see the light of day? I am unsure, but I’m forging the path to make it happen and it will happen. Spirit Walker is the beginning of something new.
Did I mention how excited I am about it?