The Creative Collective: An Interview Series

Sophia Palacio: The Artist

Lithium: You have many artistic gifts! Can you describe some of what you like to do?
Sophia: I’m kind of everywhere when it comes to artistic fields. I do everything from photography to writing; [really] a little bit of everything, because art for me is a creative process and different images [or] projects require different mediums. I see the world in colors, strange metaphors, and smells. Every person has colors about them and distinctive smells and strange things I associate with them. My world of these associations and my art, no matter the medium, is a way for me to portray that.

Lithium: You are both a model and a photographer. Do you ever find it difficult to transition between those two roles?
SophiaMost of the time, it’s helpful because I can see what I would do as a model and then position my models as such. However, most of the time I’m working with friends that aren’t used to modeling, so it can be sort of frustrating when they don’t know the immediate model position to move into.

Lithium: If you had to characterize yourself in any one artistic role, what would it be? If not, why?
[Author’s note: Sophia replied to this question in the form of a poem, showcasing yet another one of her artistic talents.]
it’s days like this when i’m exhausted,
and feel like my chest is going to explode,
that i remember why i create.
why i build things out of colors
and pixels
and words.
it’s days like this that i remember
i choose the title of artist
not photographer
or painter
or model
or designer
or writer

it’s days like this
when tears smudge colors together
that i remember
why i’m trying so hard
too keep those beautiful colors
and broken but gorgeous stories

Michael Jones Jr.: The Poet

Lithium: When did you begin writing?
Michael: I started writing fiction in the eighth grade, with these weird self-insert stories that [were] just taken from whatever media I was consuming back then. Then, freshman year, I started writing haikus because of a homework assignment for a history class, which led to me doing more free-verse work in sophomore and junior year.

Lithium: Tell me a little bit about the inspiration for Alma, your collection of poetry.
Michael: Alma as a tangible collection of my work was created because of my good friend Sophia. I remember she told me about the poetry she was . . . planning to release, and I [already] had an interest in self-publication and zines, so I took six poems from my [preexisting] folder that just felt good together. None of my poems were written with Alma in mind, so I chose poems that revolved around the world around me and how I reacted to it.

Lithium: Do you have any role models in poetry or in literature?
Michael: I really respect E.E. Cummings and [Ann] Bradstreet. I enjoyed all of the [Emily] Dickinson and [Pablo] Neruda I read. In literature, I enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut and some [George] Orwell.

Lithium: You often write your poetry in Spanish. Do you find it more difficult to write in this language since it is not your native tongue? Do you find that Spanish is a more profound form of self-expression?
Michael: I don't find it more difficult to write in Spanish, usually. It just pops into my mind as it comes. I tend to write poems that are more personal or about others in Spanish because I feel like I can find the perfect words to use for every emotion I could write about. I also write in Spanish because it's like a "secret code" that most people around me don't know, so it feels like a more private, more visceral form of expression.

Elicia Osigwe: The Singer

Lithium: Can you recall, at what point did you realize you had a talent for singing?
Elicia: I don’t think I can recall any definitive moment in time when I realized I had a talent for singing, but I . . . remember what inspired me to continue working on my talent [and] to develop the sound that I have today. My cousin, Sarah, has the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard, and I remember growing up thinking, “Man, I wish I could sing like that.” So, I worked for years on my talent, singing all around the house, taking piano lessons, singing in talent shows and eventually open-mic nights [held at my school].

Lithium: What songs inspire you in your singing career? What are some of your favorite songs to sing?
Elicia: Like I said, my cousin wasand issuch a great influence on my passion for singing and my sound. I grew up with a 90’s-child mindset and an even older soul when it came to music. All my life, I heard the sweet melodies of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. When I first sang “I Will Always Love You,” I knew the way I sang in that very moment was the way I wanted to sing for the rest of my life. She helped me develop my sound. I wanted to be like her, leaving my heart out on the stage, and I needed something that I could not just sing, but relate to. Some other great modern singers are Sia, Alicia Keys, and Demi Lovato, who is my favorite modern day pop singer. I guess I just really respect artists who always seem to leave a little piece of them in their music.

Lithium: Do you find singing in public to be difficult? If so, how do you deal with that anxiety?
Elicia: Oh yeah, definitely. I have problems with stage fright, it never fails. But in the end, I . . . just have to have enough confidence in my talent and in what I’m singing. When the crowd is hushed, I’m up there on stage. When I’ve finally gotten my body to stop the uncontrollable shaking and the nerve-wracking thoughts whirling through my head, I sing. And, like I said before, if you can relate to the song, then you get to experience the amazing feeling of completely losing yourself in a song, not worrying about what anyone else thinks. Eventually, the crowd disappears, the lights blur out, and it’s like it’s just you up there, singing for yourself and no one else. When it’s all said and done, the crowd’s roaring applause [makes] everything come back into focus and you realize you’ve done it. It’s absolutely worth the incredibly terrifying build-up for those three to five minutes of excellence.

Lithium: Do you believe that singing is more creative or technical?
Elicia: From a literal standpoint, singing in definitely technical, especially if you start out by learning notes. You have to be able to match pitch and follow the tune and constantly work on increasing your range. How big a breath should I take here? How many beats do I hold this note? But I don’t think about any of those things when I’m singing. I know this is cliché, but I truly think of music as being a language and you either understand it or you don’t. I do my best to sing every song as if it were my own, adding my own little flare to it to make it special. Music is what you use when words just aren’t enough. Music feeds the soul, and that’s why I’m so particular about what I sing and what I listen to. If I can’t find at least some part of me that can relate to the song, then I’ll never understand it, and I’ll never be able to get it right.

By Sophie Sebastiani