Just Make the Thing

You never know when you’ll find something that will truly inspire you for years to come. For me, one of those moments came in 2005 when, at a music festival, I accepted a free record label compilation from the now-defunct Absolutely Kosher.

Featured (with two songs, no less) was the band Okay, led by Marty Anderson. Now, the SEO expert in me wants to chastise him for choosing the least-Google-able band name imaginable, but that’s intentional: Anderson doesn’t want to be a part of the narrative in his own work. He just wants to make music.

Anderson has Crohn’s Disease. In fact, a particularly severe case of it, which often leaves him housebound, needing to visit doctors every several months, and making it difficult for him to maintain a healthy weight.

Despite this overwhelming obstacle, he’s been creating music for the better part of three decades.

His most notable work came from his work with Okay who, from 2005 to 2008, released three soulful Indie pop albums and 40 songs that are still being written about today.

Largely recorded in his parents’ home during particularly bad bouts of Crohn’s, Okay’s music is both fragile and powerful. Anderson’s voice has an almost insect-like quality that builds brittle harmonies over soaring pop instrumentation that inspires you to feel something—be it comfort, resilience, or stubbornness.

To put it simply: he creates. No matter the limitations or the difficulties, Anderson has a story he wants to tell, and he does so on his own terms.

Okay’s final album, Huggable Dust, contains 18 songs about the effervescence of love in the form of heartbreak, fleeting (but meaningful) joy, and, ultimately, how it can fuel artistic inspiration.

As a recent college graduate with an English degree, I began listening to this DIY masterpiece on repeat when it came out. I was looking for a job during the Great Recession and spending most of my time in a small, dingy studio apartment (you could say I needed some inspiration and motivation).

I became fascinated by Anderson’s story, and I saw the perseverance and effort put into each track. So I got myself a keyboard and an acoustic guitar (nothing fancy). I had taken piano lessons growing up, and decided to learn a few chords on guitar. I found inspiration from Anderson’s drive to create. And I stuck with it.

Even now, 13 years later, I’d not say I’m good. You won’t see me playing any open mics. But I appreciate how I feel when I take a few minutes to scrape out some chords, tinker on the piano, and write personal lyrics, attempting to channel Anderson’s work. When I do, I feel comforted. Resilient. Stubborn.

Sometimes, the hardest part of being creative is taking that first step. There are a million reasons why you can’t put yourself out there and try to make something new. But Anderson shows that if you really want to make something? You just make that thing.

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