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Meet Kirk Alton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kirk Alton.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I guess I’ll start with a quote by Cecilia Ahern, to put things in perspective.

“Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.”

When people find out where I’m from, they respond with one of two questions:

“Is the water okay now?” or “Do you still have family there?”

No, and yes. I’m from Flint, Michigan, but my concept of home is more complex than that. It’s also one of the most unique things about me. People close to me know I was born in California, raised in Georgia, and grew up in Flint. All these places helped shape me into the person I am today, and that variety is something that stands out in my music.

Oh. I rap, by the way.

As a kid, it started out with corny little love poems to my crushes. As an adult, it took the form of random front seat freestyles. Houston is notorious for bad traffic and even worse drivers. Somehow, rapping became my way of passing the time while stuck in traffic. It also kept me even keeled and helped prevent road rage.

Houston is currently my home. I’ve been here since I joined Teach for America in 2014.

Oh. I teach, by the way.

I’m a college professor.

Teaching, for me, is home. When done right, it’s a mutual experience that allows an instructor and their students to examine, question, understand and rebuild themselves and everything around them. This is the shared bond between a performer and their audience. I rap for the same reason I teach. Real rap, at its core, is teaching.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Nothing that is worth it ever comes easy. In the process of pursuing my music career, I’ve been faced with many difficult decisions.

By far, the most difficult decision I ever made was to quit my job teaching high school, so I could more freely pursue my music career. I can give a detailed interview on that topic another time, but the most difficult result of that decision was the financial instability I faced. I literally traded in a full-time job with benefits for three part-time jobs, all on short term, work for hire contracts. The only thing that was guaranteed was artistic freedom and my personal happiness.

For me, it was the best decision of my life. There were periods where food was scarce and bills didn’t get paid, but this freedom ultimately allowed me to evolve, not only as a person but as an artist. Through all this, I eventually landed a job as a full-time professor and began teaching college, exclusively. Now I teach on my own terms and still possess the artistic freedom that I REQUIRE.

Aside from that, I face the usual struggles; buying beats, paying for studio time, and building a fanbase. These are all some of the most difficult aspects of pursuing this career path. When I reflect on how expensive it was just to find a good studio, I sometimes get discouraged, but I remember that it’s all a process. You have to pay for EVERYTHING in this industry. Getting people to buy into your vision takes time but as artists, we have to buy in first, metaphorically and literally.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Kirk Alton™ is a brand that represents me in my realest, rawest and most vulnerable state. My music is a representation of my innermost thoughts, but it resonates with listeners because I explore universal issues such as personal pride, social awareness, and self-consciousness. My versatility extends beyond these themes and addresses a wide range of subjects and emotions. I find inspiration by analyzing current events, my life and those of others. As a result, my music focuses on the contradictions and complexities of humanity and draws strong parallels with literature and pop culture. What makes my music different than other artists is my ability to tap into an extensive vocabulary, while still using simple, yet deep metaphors to reveal common truths to my audience. My debut EP, “Such Is Life,” is a culmination of these efforts.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success, in my opinion, is happiness. There are levels of success, just like there are levels of happiness. The caveat is “How happy are you”? I think we all start out aspiring for the highest levels of happiness, but most people settle for something less. For me, one of the markers of true success is the ability to look back on the decisions you made without regrets. I think when you regret, you settle. Another earmark of success is struggling. Not the struggle that occurs from maintaining the status quo, but the struggle that occurs from attempting to grow. I think anyone who has experienced growth would agree with this.


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Image Credit:
Photos by Rare Publishing and Media (@RarePM)

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