An actor, a playwright and a poet, New York City's own Rock WILK is also a socially and politically charged vocalist and an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. He creates all of this art while riding the subways of NYC. Along with being a Nuyorican Poet's semifinalist and 2010 runoffs qualifier for The Nuyorican's national team, Rock also was recently a featured performer for Amnesty International at an event for human rights. Rock will be appearing in his first feature film, Jamesy Boy, which stars James Woods, Mary Louise Parker and Ving Rhames, which will be released in early 2014.
He has worked as a studio and touring background vocalist for many years, most recently singing with the legendary Patti LaBelle and contributing vocal and horn arrangements to the Grammy Award winning Les Paul compilation album, LES PAUL AND FRIENDS.
Rock's music can also be heard on such TV shows as MTV's The Real World and Making The Band, among others.
Rock's first play, BROKE WIDE OPEN, was presented in July of 2010 at undergroundzero, as part of the Playgroundzero Festival at PS 122 in Manhattan. Rock also toured BROKE WIDE OPEN “unplugged” all over the United States, a “stripped down” version of the show that is simply Rock on stage, telling his story in various different types of venues such as art galleries, schools, community centers, public parks, street corners and small theaters.
BROKE WIDE OPEN was presented in August of 2011 as part of The Camden Fringe Festival in London, England, and had a sold out performance a few months later at The United Solo Theatre Festival on Theatre ROW in New York City. BROKE WIDE OPEN was also recently a part of the 2012 main stage season at The Passage Theatre in Trenton, NJ, and after six years of this amazing journey, BROKE WIDE OPEN finally had it's opening Off Broadway in October of 2012, and ran for over 3 months at The New Theatre at 45th Street in New York City to great reviews. Rock is currently developing his second play called PRIVILEGE.
Rock WILK performing at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe...
The making of the album BROKE WIDE OPEN.
What's the story?
IT STARTED WITH AN ALBUM OF THE SAME NAME....
I’d love to say that the making of this album was the happiest time of my life. It certainly is the greatest opportunity that I’ve had since I decided to make music my career. The truth is, this has been one of the most challenging times of my life. My professional life, my personal life, everything seemed to have gotten to that place where you feel as if you’re running straight uphill in the deepest, sloppiest mud you could imagine, with a 100 lb bag on your back, hurricane winds blowing straight in your face, rain pounding down from a dark sky, so that you can’t even see where you’re going. But I always push ahead, because I’m optimistic by nature and I have faith that there’s always something exciting waiting for me, and something to learn from the struggle involved in getting up that hill. I try to enjoy the journey, listening to myself breathe as I keep climbing. Two things my mother always said to me, “everything always works out for the best”, and “beshert, beshert”, which say to me, “stay positive and good things will come”. I try to live each day with my mother in my ear.
My story begins before I was born. My mother, a single woman living in The Bronx, NY, was having an affair with her boss, who happened to be 25 years older than her, and had a wife and 3 kids. She got pregnant, decided not to tell her boss, and just took off. Disappeared. Then, after a lot of thought, a lot of soul searching [I hope], she decided she couldn’t keep me, and that I was going to be given up for adoption. Or maybe she decided she simply didn’t want me. I guess I’ll never really know, but after a few short stays at 3 different foster homes, I was finally permanently adopted by 2 of the most amazing people on this planet, Leon and Phyllis Wilk. I never take for granted what “could have been” and I will always feel as if my parents saved my life. But when I refer to my “mother”, I’m always talking about Phyllis Wilk.
She chose me, she gave me a permanent home, she made me feel as if the world was a safe place. She’s my mother. Period. My biological mother, though, gave me the greatest gift of my life. She decided to give me up for adoption, to let me go. A complex issue, for sure, and to be honest, I see that as her legacy. I would hope she did what she felt was right for the child, for ME, just as a good mother should. Someone once said to me, “do you realize that the first major event in your life was that your mother gave you away? That she decided that you just weren’t worth the time and effort?” My feelings are very ambivalent about that, and in fact, for most of my life, I chose to believe that she realized that she had to send me “home”, and I’ve always felt as if it took a lot of courage to do that. Or at least I like to believe the experience was like that for this young woman, that she at least struggled with the thought of giving me away. That she thinks of me from time to time, that she hopes I'm OK, who knows? In any case, to Ms. Seidenberg, I thank you. And in case you are reading this, I AM OK, thanks to the 2 people who raised me and thanks to the journey I have been on for the past few years of working on this project.
The main reason I decided to do this album, was that I felt I had a lot going on inside of me that had to come out. If I was going to do a solo project, it was gonna be because I felt as if I had something to say, and this was definitely the right time for me to take this journey. These songs are really who I am, how I feel, how I look at the world around me. My hope is that each song evokes feelings in the listener about his or her own life, that these stories seem reminiscent of what is inside of everyone.
As my good friend Jack Rollins compelled me to do, I tried to reveal myself, to strip down naked and open my personal window, to let you see who I am, in hopes that you might allow me into your world, briefly, one song at a time. Working on this album has been the most amazing and fulfilling time of my life and has been a great learning experience. I would say that I’ve learned more over the past 6 months than I have in my entire life.
Where and how:
These songs were all written while riding the subways here in NYC. I’ve always written that way. For some reason, when I get on the train, I just feel so inspired by what’s around me. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I LOVE New York City, it’s so deep in my blood, it can make me cry at times.
Being out in the midst of the incredible diversity of this city always makes me feel as if I’m a part of something very special, and music just comes flowing out of me. I always travel around with my small, handheld digital recorder and a notebook, and ride the subways until I have a song.
If I get on the A Train in Brooklyn, usually by the time I get to 207th Street in Manhattan, the last stop, a new song will be born. If not, I’ll ride down to 145th St, get on the D Train and head to the Bronx. My personal adventures always seem to, eventually, wind up with a song. Once I have sung all of my ideas into my recorder, I’ll get on a bus and finish up the lyrics. I guess I really have to thank the MTA and New York City for all the inspiration it has brought me over the years.
My father and my grandmother were both great storytellers. Just sitting around after a meal with them was a gift. You would hear the most amazing stories. They both had this ability to make you hang on every word, to make you laugh until you cried. My mother continued that tradition after both my father and grandmother had passed away, and she had the same ability to communicate. With all of them, it was as if you were getting a history lesson from the greatest, most interesting, and funniest teachers of all time. I guess this is what I miss every day of my life. With all of them gone now, my connection to that generation has passed away with them. Loss of people like that are startling reminders of how finite things are in this life, how final all of our experiences and relationships can be, and how we should never take them for granted. I tried my best to use my family in the making of this album, channeling all of them while writing these songs. I wanted to really tell stories, not just craft pop songs. I wanted to communicate in an interesting way, so I hope that comes across in these songs.
Getting it recorded:
Once I had all of the songs written, it was time to get into the studio and produce them. My studio is in a loft, literally in the middle of my apartment here in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and it’s a small space, but perfect for my needs. Once the production process began, I didn’t leave that space for about 4 solid months. The only time I left was to go running every morning, usually over either the Williamsburg Bridge or The Manhattan Bridge, from Brooklyn into Manhattan.
What a perfect way to start each day, with this stunning view of the most beautiful city in the world, getting my workout in, and then heading home to get back to my music. After a quick shower, I’d get right into the studio, usually working until about 3am every day. I lost about 20 lbs during this process, simply because I was forgetting to eat, I was so consumed with the work. These songs are extremely personal, and as a matter of fact, I got physically sick working on a few of them. There were many times I didn’t think I was going to be able to complete this project, that it was just too difficult to get through, because I was digging so deep inside of myself. But as each day passed, I realized how important it was for me to finish, so I “stayed with it”, as Mr. Rollins would tell me from time to time. And what a gift those times were, when he would share his experience with me. Coming from a man who had a very significant hand in the careers of Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Tony Bennett, and many more, I was all ears, all the time. Mr. Rollins has this tremendous insight into the deepest part of a person. He really pays attention, listens, and is probably the wisest person I have ever known. My conversations with him will be with me forever, like jewels from an early civilization that increase in value everyday, they become more meaningful every minute. “Open your window”, “when you find a great artist, first you define them, then you refine them, until they’re one of a kind”. I would often think, “Who gets to experience something like this while they’re working on an album?” Nobody, would be the answer to that question. I’ll say it again, what a gift to know Jack Rollins, to be able to call him my friend, and to have had him take an interest in my work.
So here I am, putting these songs out into the universe for everyone to hear, and I hope that you feel them and enjoy them as much as I do. The day I dropped the final mixes off to the mastering studio, it felt as if I was taking my children to school for the first time, holding their hands and then letting them go. Releasing them to find their own, individual paths. That’s what my desire is for these songs, that they touch as many people as possible, and that they all find infinite and diverse paths to travel. I guess this album is my legacy, and I hope in a small way it’s a contribution to my communities, both immediate and global. I thank you for listening to my stories, and I hope you enjoy the way I tell them. Be sure to keep in touch with me and lemmeno what you think…………………..
BROKE WIDE OPEN is in it's 7th year now, and they say life moves in 7 year cycles, what does the universe have in store for this amazing project now? We'll see... I look forward to a bright future for myself and BROKE WIDE OPEN, and other projects, as well...............