The first time we talked to Choker was in the summer of 2017. He had just self-released an album called PEAK and was still living in Michigan. Back then, he admitted that getting out more was a goal: "I spend more time in my head than I would like. I'm working on getting out more and experiencing things without analyzing or breaking down the unnecessary. The choice to be alone is a combination of preference and social anxiety, for the most part."
Since then, Choker has experienced a lot. He's been steadily releasing music (including a full-length album called Honeybloom in 2018 and some smaller projects in 2019), dropping music videos, and making merch. Most significantly, this year he moved to Los Angeles and completed the first tour of his young career.
While on tour, Choker and his team captured some moments and made the Help Yourself tour documentary showcasing some highlights from the shows and some intimate moments that set this apart from your typical tour doc. Today we're premiering that documentary alongside a short interview with Choker. Despite all the forward momentum, the talented young artist is already thinking about his next steps. Spoiler alert: he's working on a new album.
One of the most moving parts of the Help Yourself documentary was when you were on stage talking about dealing with anxiety and not imagining yourself being comfortable on stage. Before you had ever performed, did you always know that touring would be something that you'd eventually have to face?
That was a great goal I had. I just wasn't mentally prepared for it yet. I knew I wasn't at that point yet where I was ready to share myself with people on a large scale, to perform in front of them and fully be me. It took time to build up to being ready and to be like, alright, this is what I'm about, this is what I'm feeling, this is what I'm trying to convey in terms of emotions and presence. I had to get my thoughts together before I decided to just give myself over to people.
I had to get my thoughts together before I decided to just give myself over to people.
Was there anything specific that you did to get over that hesitation or did you just kind of face it head on?
I just faced it head on. And then also natural growth with time in terms of getting more comfortable with myself. Embracing the parts about myself that make me me. Being fine with letting people see those things, for better or worse.
With music you seem very meticulous. You know exactly what you want and you aren't willing to compromise. Is that the same with the performing? Did you spend time kind of mapping out everything or was it more spontaneous?
Yeah, I definitely spent a lot of time mapping out everything just because I can't do things without thinking about them first. I always have to figure out what I'm trying to do and what I'm not trying to do. Is this something that can be done, and can I execute it properly?
There's a lot of thinking that went into it and a lot of preparation. I started doing rehearsals about a month and a half before the first show. I was supposed to do it way earlier, but it took me longer to figure out the final stem situation for all the tracks and shit like that. That was a little bit of a hassle. Once I started rehearsing and opening up more I started figuring out the stage, show how we're going to flow through the songs, how we're going to flow through talking and all the parts that go into a show. I got comfortable with it pretty easily so it came kind of naturally.
You've kind of alluded to this in the past—you don't want to be constantly connected on social media and you want your art to speak for itself.
So when you were on tour you really got to connect with fans directly for the first time.
Was that cool? Were you nervous going into that or were you excited?
That was awesome because that's what I prefer. When you're doing things digitally there's an aspect to it that is kind of weird because everything is sped up. In terms of technology, when it comes to receiving information, it speeds up the process. It can be kind of overwhelming, even just with the sheer amount of people that you see interacting with things or how quickly people respond to something and get their take off on something. When you're in person you can really take it at your own pace, and it's how things are supposed to be naturally.
When I was interacting with people I picked up on emotions, little nuances that you can see when you're face to face with people. I guess it's overwhelming because it's a large crowd of people, but it feels more manageable and it feels more real. I like things that feel very real and organic.
When I was younger I wasn't transparent and that didn't feel healthy. I felt like I was bottling a lot of things and not saying what was on my mind. I wanted to change that.
You mentioned also that transparency has become an important thing in your life. Why is that?
Because when I was younger I wasn't transparent and that didn't feel healthy. I felt like I was bottling a lot of things and not saying what was on my mind. I wanted to change that. I wanted to get better at that. And I wanted to be more open, not only to people who are immediately around me in the sense of my close friends and family, but I also wanted it to be the case with all these people that I'm sharing art with, sharing ideas, my thoughts.
Last time I talked to you for a proper interview was in 2017, so it's been a couple of years. Beyond just becoming more comfortable with putting yourself out there, have you learned anything about yourself?
100% just because it's all new life experience. It's things that I've never done before, and I see how I naturally react to things that have never happened. I'm always going to be learning new things about myself. It's really cool. It's fun. It's exciting.
Are there any specific shows or moments that stand out to you from the tour?
The Atlanta show was fucking awesome. Kids were so excited to be there, moshing to really emotional songs. It was kind of confusing me but it was awesome, really cool to see. Just like a very big and honest release of energy.
Did you go into it thinking that you wanted a certain kind of reaction out of the crowd?
I just want people to do whatever feels natural to them. Some people like to jump around, fucking push people and scream. Some people like to chill in the back and just nod their head. Some people like to dance. It's whatever comes naturally to you. I'm just kind of up there doing what comes naturally to me. So whatever your reaction is, it is what it is.
Can share anything about what's coming up, or what the next phase of your career is?
The next phase is this album I'm working on and all of the art surrounding it. I'm trying to figure that out, piece by piece. I know that's like a very vague answer, but things are being built out and put in motion.