hi welcome to REALLY NICE™️ human moment series. this project started with me in a moment of self-doubt going on twitter and posting “who wants to interview each other?” with the goal being to find random people that may not normally do interviews and just have a conversation, connect with people on a real level during a time when i can not in person. i learned a lot from just these first few – that all of these people had 1000x better interview questions than any music journalist i’ve ever talked to, that they were open and down to get deeply personal and share their stories which revealed we all share a similar internal experience and lastly, they all gave me a lot of perspective on the impact of what i do can have on others. which i rarely get the chance to know. and vice versa. thank you for reading and i hope that these conversations make anyone out there feel less alone, comforted or empowered by seeing themself in someone else.
human moment #1 is with a person named Austin Reta, 23 years old, living in Fort Worth, TX. We crossed paths once in Dallas, TX when I randomly gave him my guitar and brought him on stage to do an impromptu solo. He asked me about my relationship with my first record, god, trump, racism, toxic masculinity, mental health and pizza. I asked him about his journey becoming a palliative care nurse, alphonso mucha, thrifting, internal struggles with sexuality growing up, OCD, the future and florence and the machine.
HERE IS PART 1 WHERE AUSTIN RETA INTERVIEWS RON GALLO:
AR : Heavy Meta is 3 years old now, what do you think of it now? Anything you would change, add or take out?
RG : I’ve recently gotten past that period where I look back on old stuff and hate it, and am more looking at it like a different person made it, a younger me and I can appreciate it as a snapshot of that time in life. I retired the song “Why Do You Have Kids?” because I feel like it’s pretty harsh judgment and lacks compassion which is something I think the world needs more of, I was just a bitter young boy then and I actually intended it to have humor to it but it doesn’t feel that way.
AR : I feel like a lot of artists hate their “#1 song,” do you still enjoy young lady?
RG : TRUTH. I do and don’t – I’ve come around to actually appreciating it for what it is and that it has changed my life whether or not I like it. It is weird when a lot of people know you for one song you wrote 7 years ago. I feel like I wrote it in a past life and have no interest in trying to make something like it again.
AR : How is the relationship you’re in right now different then past relationships?
RG : Chiara is me breaking my cycle of always going for the wrong, most unavailable people. She is the first time where I just knew – it was immediate and natural. A big YES. The hilarious part is that I had to go across the world to find her and being from different countries it has been an insane process just to physically be in the same place, which is a first and I have never had such willingness to go through so much to be with somebody which says a lot about what it is for both of us.
AR : Do you believe in god?
RG : I believe that everything is one thing, that there is a higher intelligence- which could be called “god” “universe” etc. and it is at the core of everything that exists.
AR : What are your religious practices, if any?
RG : I go in and out of periods of meditation and yoga practices. For a while everyday I would chant “Hare Krishna”, now it’s every once in a while and I do it every time I take a plane. Sometimes I pause and just have a moment and talk with myself.
AR : Do you wants kids, why or why not, if so what kind of parent do you think you’d be?
RG : Right now having kids is one of my biggest nightmares. I am so far from ready to be responsible for another life and sacrifice total freedom. Plus, there is more than enough people and the world is insane right now. I think I would adopt if anything. All that said, I do think I would be pretty good at it and I would try to give as much freedom to the kid so they can really become who they really are which would mean probably a lot of unconventional stuff involving school, etc.
AR : Why do you think so many people agree with trumps ideology?
RG : Because we live in a fear-based, individualistic, capitalist society that functions on ego, getting ahead, the illusion of power and a total lack of humanity. Trump is the living, breathing epitome of these things that unfortunately so many people are brainwashed and wired to think like, aspire to be – it is how we have been taught in this country forever. It takes real strength to actually think for yourself and challenge everything that is considered “normal” because if you really think about it – NOTHING about the way we live, work, think about things, treat each other is normal at all. Unfortunately, most people are too weak to think for themself or know what is actually good for them and that is who Trump appeals to by giving them what they can easily understand, what they are used to. It’s like McDonald’s – easily accessible, cheap, normalized garbage – terrible for you but keep eating it anyway until it kills you. Conscious, compassionate, independent thinking, aware people can see through this and that is why they are depressed and anxious and often oppressed because ego sees these people as dangerous.
AR : What do you always get on your pizza?
RG : I’m a margherita girl all the way. Little basil, little marinara, maybe instead of the mozzarella a little parmigianno-reggiano. mmmmmmm.
AR : If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
RG : I have to go with some kind of bird for travel and singing abilities.
AR : Why do you think racism is still so prevalent in the US? How can white people better educate themselves on the matter to do better?
RG : Because it is the foundation in which the whole country is built on. If a country is formed by genocide, slavery, racism – that will live in the DNA for a long time. And if the system is built by scared white men then the system will be designed to enforce their values and protect them and their power. Racism is taught, it is a mental illness and it is so deep rooted that it will take conscious effort to rewire ourselves back to normal. I am grateful that I was raised by anti-racism because I just as easily could have been raised a different way.
All white people can do is actively work to deprogram themselves and realize how much programming has saturated every aspect of our thinking about people, the world, ourselves, etc. I do think white people need to be actively anti-racist and confront any signs of racism that exists within themself and those around them. It will take time but one day we will look back on it and be like WTF WERE WE EVER THINKING – same also goes for any barriers surrounding gender, sexuality, etc.
AR : Who is your #1 person? (Like the person you can always cry on their shoulder and count on)
RG : Mom. She has been my rock for so long especially through all the craziness of the last few years. She is unconditional.
AR : Why is toxic masculinity such a global construct and how do people grow out of that mindset?
RG : Yet another thing that’s taught and then deeply programmed into us. Another huge mistake on behalf of humans trying to box up people into categories. What toxic masculine men don’t realize is that they are actually really imbalanced, repressed, scared and they overact based on how they think they are supposed to, to prove themself because they think their value is equal to their manliness. No one is 100% masculine or feminine and we all contain all emotions – so toxic masculinity represses these natural things and overcompensates and often judges in others what they are supposed to not like in themselves. It’s actually incredible weakness dressed up like strength.
I think we can grow out of this mindset by acknowledging that human beings can not be put into neat boxes – everyone is a little bit of everything, we are way more fluid than rigid and continue encouraging self-honesty and acceptance as the ultimate strength. What is more difficult than just being yourself all the time? That is power.
One thing I learned recently is that many Native Americans recognized 6 genders and trans-people were considered godly because they perceived the world through the eyes of a balanced masculine and feminine perspective. That is so much closer to the truth and something that we could all learn from.
AR : Have you ever had a therapist or taken medication for mental health?
RG : I saw a therapist one time, and have never taken medication for mental health, besides some adderall in the past. This is not to say I don’t need/want to be talking to someone weekly but I’ve focused more on a meditation, yoga path because it usually solves all my mental issues at once. Keeping on it is the hard part.
AR : What is the best song you have in your opinion? Like which one do you listen to and go “damn I really did that shit”
RG : I never let myself get there because I always want to keep moving forward. But maybe one day.
AR : Do you like Florence + the Machine?
RG : I don’t know! Chiara loves her and I just have not dug in too much yet.
AR : Why don’t you perform Don’t Mind the Lion live? :,(( truly one of my all time favorite songs
RG : Dammit! We do play it, but we must have not at the show you were at, sorry we got you next time.
AR : What is your favorite album of all time? Or artist?
RG : OOOOOO. Not easy. But I can make a list: Jeff Buckley “Grace”, Tyler the Creator “Flower Boy”, The Stooges “Funhouse”, Lauryn Hill
AR : When did you start getting into jazz?
RG : As a kid actually, I remember my mom and dad playing a lot of smooth jazz. It always felt good to me even if I don’t understand it.
AR : Why did you become a vegetarian?
RG : I started eating chicken and fish some months back because I feel like I wasn’t vegetarianing correctly and needed it. I do believe deep down that vegetarian or vegan is the natural way though.
AR : Where has been your favorite place to play?
RG : Switzerland, Austin, Charleston, London.
AR : What’s been the hardest part of quarantine?
RG : The stillness, lack of human connection and the uncertain future of music.
AR : What’s your best thrift store find?
RG : I found this turquoise nylon jacket from the 90’s with a black fur collar that I loved so much but then I accidentally left it on a coat hook in a bathroom in France and never saw it again.
AND PART 2, WHERE RON GALLO INTERVIEW AUSTIN RETA!
RG: First off congraduations on nursing school! You want to help people for a living and there is not anything more admirable than that. I know nothing, so I had to google Palliative care, haha, can you give readers a little rundown of what that means? And is there something or someone specific in life, that has inspired you to want to commit yourself to helping people in this way?
AR: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that! I honestly thought you said condragulations at first and was like “cmon rupauls drag race!!” So ever since I was little I knew I wanted to do something that involved helping people, very cliche but true. Sometimes I wish I could help people in a more creative and “fun” way, but sometimes the “mature” brain has to win and remember that job security and good benefits need to play a factor in what career to go into. Palliative care is kinda like hospices step sister. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are dying, but it’s usually correlated with a terminal illness where we are treating the symptoms rather than the disease itself. Basically providing comfort, treating pain, and helping with the psychological and spiritual portion of it. My grandmother, my Wela, was my best friend ever since I was a baby. She took care of me when my parents were working and we just had this unbreakable bond between us. She’s the person who showed me to be human. She was kind to everyone she met, except the people that would step on her lawn. She would take care of her mother and her sister who were sick, she would go and talk to the elderly lady who lived two houses down and she would always give the paleta man (Mexican ice cream man) cold water on hot summer days. She never judged anyone and always treated people equally. She is the reason I think I have the heart that I do; she is the reason I wanted to become a nurse, to show people compassion when they need it the most.
RG: Your favorite artist is Alphonse Mucha, a name I had to look up to realize I am super familiar with his art but did not know the name behind it. What is your connection to it?
AR: Mucha to me just has this beautiful distinct style that you can see in so many places without realizing it, especially posters from the 70s. He’s the father of art nouveau. His work depicts nature and women in this elegant and majestic form almost as Greek goddesses. I’ve always had this connection with both nature and women that I think draws me to Muchas art. Women have always been the focal point of my life: my mother, my grandmother’s, my aunts and the singers/artists that I love. I see women as these beautiful and kind beings that help nurture us all, but are also these bold and strong forces that can do anything, like a goddess. The only thing I wish Mucha did include is bigger women and women of color. I just find this style so enticing and aesthetically pleasing.
RG : Have you ever been to the Style Station? It’s a vintage store in the middle of nowhere off the highway between Austin and Dallas. The guy that runs it is a major character and always has interesting conversation. Can you suggest the top 3 thrift stores you have ever been?? And what is your favorite thing you ever found?
AR : I have not!! I honestly don’t go out of the area too much but you bet I will check it out!! Doc’s Records is my ABSOLUTE. FAVORITE. It’s a huge record store with small cubicles that have all sorts of vintage clothes and items!! Texas Thrift by my university was a great find for clothes! And I honestly have just been to a bunch of little random places. The best things I have ever found…. probably a see through blue rain jacket from the 80’s and Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna vinyl.
RG : You want to move to Canada or the UK… Is this more of a “take me anywhere but America” thing? (haha) or are there specific things to those places you are drawn to
AR: Haha, a little of both, but I’ve always wanted to live in the UK. All my favorite artist are from there and it just seems very fitting for me. Overall Europe is just a beautiful country. I also want to practice medicine in a place that doesn’t charge extreme amounts of money to be healthy and to literally just survive. The cost just to take an ambulance to the hospital in America is absurd. Like anything medicine is a business, but I believe there needs to be some humanity when it comes to peoples lives and well-being.
RG : You mentioned being gay was a big internal issue for you growing up that led to depression and anxiety. Can you talk about your experience? and how did your environment (Fort Worth, TX, family, friends, etc.) contribute to this being an internal struggle?
AR : So the reason I use the word internal when describing my experience as a young gay is because no one around me had a problem with it except for me. I knew my parents were gonna be fine, I knew my grandparents were gonna be fine and I knew my friends were gonna be fine. I just could not come to terms with it. I felt like something was so wrong with me and I would pray and pray for god to make me “normal.” I did get bullied a lot in school cuz unlike some gays I could not hide it to save my life, I’ve just always naturally been a little more “girly.” I think being bullied as a kid kind of rooted the problem now that I’m looking back on it all. It was just a hard struggle for me and sent me down a spiral of sadness that ultimately led my parents to getting me a therapist when I was 16.
RG : I feel like most people struggle with self-love and self-acceptance. We live in a world that kind of discourages it, sadly. How do you empower yourself? Who are some icons or spirit animals that you have looked to over the years that help you be you?
AR : I definitely empower myself through music. Especially when I’m in my room listening and dancing to Stevie Nicks and grab my blanket like it’s a shall. I don’t exactly practice the best self care or self affirmation, but I have the best and most supportive friends on the planet, they are literally my family and my parents see them as extended children of their own. They bring me up and I do my best to return that. My Wela, Florence Welch, Lady Gaga and Lorde are probably my top icons that have helped me feel like it’s okay to be me. Lady Gaga has lifted me up, Florence holds me grounded to the earth and Lorde makes me feel normal. They each bring something unique to the table for me and I could never repay that debt to them.
RG : OCD!!!! That is something I have dealt with quite a bit too. From cleanliness to doing things in specific numbers, and much stranger ways it comes out. How intense is it for you? does it impact your daily life? How have you coped during the pandemic with that adding to the chaos
AR : My OCD is pretty terrible honestly. Don’t get me wrong it use to be worse and was miserably debilitating. I use to spend hours repeating completely POINTLESS actions. If something didn’t touch my hand the right way or if the towel didn’t land on the hook the way my brain needed it to I would repeat it until I was literally sobbing. Numbers and doing actions in multiples of 7 has always been my problem. The way my brain saw it is that this was my punishment from god for being gay, hence the multiple of 7 because that’s like the holy number apparently. I feel embarrassed even talking about it, because I know I sound completely crazy. The worst part about it is that I know what I’m doing is irrational, but it has become such a second nature to me that it’s concreted into me. Like I said though, it is a little better now, I still have my “rituals” that I have to do, but I don’t let it get to the point where I’m crying in frustration. The pandemic has definitely made it worse, because my rituals are done at home for the most part, so being home 24/7 has just caused those actions to be repeated more consistently helping them engrave into me even deeper unfortunately. I just try to talk myself out of them when I know I have repeated doing something three times. At that point I just go “Austin that’s enough dude, just breathe and walk away from it.”
RG : Do you feel optimistic for the future?
AR : The future is so ominous to me. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m naturally a sad ass, but when I hear someone say like the year 2040 I just cannot even fathom that concept in my mind. Granted time is an illusion. I just try to take things at chunks at a time and hope that it works out honestly. I am hopeful though, I’m about to start my adult life now that I’m graduated from college and about to start my career. I just want us as a human race to do better while we’re here floating on our little rock. There are so many problems that could easily be fixed, but it only takes a few people who are filled with greed to ruin it for everyone else. Jeff Bezos for example just blows my mind, how much money does one person need? When is enough going to be enough? Aside from problems that could be fixed by money, people need to be kinder to one another. My dad has always told me “you are no better than anyone else and no one is better than you.” That’s something that I live by and I think other people need to hear. We are all one and we are all equal.
RG : You said you always wanted to design and make jewelry. Have you tried yet? or is there something holding you back from going for it
AR : I’ve tried wire wrapping…. like once. I wanted to make a crystal pendent, but it didn’t really turn out well. I should definitely try again, because I honestly loved doing it even thought it didn’t look that pretty. I think now that I’m done with school I will have the time to actually go for it and make it a really nice outlet and hobby for myself. Just gotta start and actually do it.
RG : It sounds like Florence and the Machine is your all-time #1. Those artists for me are ones I feel like I can go off on an emotional rant about them. What would you want to say to Florence if you met? Or would you rather not ever meet
AR : This is a question I think about quite often. To me Florence is this mythical entity that lives amongst us. I know that sounds extremely dramatic and over the top, but it’s true. I do have to remind myself sometimes too though that she is a person with feelings and problems, she is invincible in my eyes, but I think as an everyday person we forget that artists need that space to be human. It’s just so weird because I hear her everyday in my car and I see her pictures when she posts and it’s almost as if she is this fictional character that I interact with everyday but never get to actually know or see, so when I see her in person it’s like “wow there she is! She really does exist!” She means everything to me. Her music has guided me through the toughest and hardest parts of my life, her sense of fashion and style is so unique and just her as a person is something that I admire and adore. I think what I would say to her would depend on the amount of time I would be allotted. If I saw her on the street I would keep it short and simple and thank her for basically helping me stay alive when I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be. If I was able to do something like this where it was a full sit down occasion, I would want to talk to her like a friend. She’s always been there for me and by my side. I would probably ask her a lot of similar things that I asked you. I know they were very personal questions, but they’re questions that I would ask to get to truly know about a person.
RG : What advice would you give your past self/ what would you say if you could make an announcement to the whole world
AR : I would tell myself “accept yourself for who you are, you feel like you don’t belong in the world, but you’re going to have friends and family that embrace you more than you will ever know also dude do not throw away your Harry Potter and Paramore shirts cuz we still love them and wish we had them now.” To the world “be fu**ing nice to one another, use your privilege for the better of everyone, do your part to help those around you, stop being ignorant and educate yourselves about things you don’t understand and lastly say her name BREONNA TAYLOR”