Brendan Kwiatkowski wasn’t planning to create a concept album, but after researching how young men are dealing with emotion in today’s world, the Fort Langley resident was inspired.
“Often I am moved to tears when I am reading the interviews,” Kwiatkowski said.
For his PhD, Kwiatkowski carried out a survey of 170 Langley Grade 12 students, to see how adolescent boys who are on the verge of becoming young men deal with emotions.
Out of the 170, he interviewed 20, 10 of the most emotionally expressive young men and 10 of the least.
Many of those who were less expressive became that way for straightforward reasons.
“In their stories, there’s events in their lives that make it harder to trust people,” Kwiatkowski told the Langley Advance Times.
He expected most would say they adopted a stiff upper lip because they didn’t want to appear weak, but that, surprisingly, was down the list of reasons, in third spot.
“Number one was, they don’t want to burden other people. Number two was fear of judgment.”
Boys who kept their feeling to themselves were, nevertheless, self-aware.
“They all, without exception, are conscious of that restriction.” Kwiatkowski summarized.
“They boys were all quite knowledgeable about what was happening inside themselves.”
On the other hand, those who were open about their feelings usually had people in their lives who acted as what Kwiatkowski describes as “emotional safe havens,” who let them express feelings without judgment.
Often those haven are female, usually their mothers.
One encouraging finding was that the trend among all surveyed was toward more open expression
“They’re noticing a shift in media and in their own lives.”
Kwiatkowski’s own feelings needed expression after hearing so many moving stories.
“I need to process it for myself,” is how he explains the genesis of his concept album.
Music has always been important for Kwiatkowski, a songwriter in his youth with an album to his credit.
He wrote nine songs that follow the life of a man from boyhood to old age, each song connecting with a major theme about masculinity.
Kwiatkowski calls it a “passion project” that isn’t part of his doctoral dissertation.
The album will feature a number of vocalists and each will only sing one or two songs on the album.
He’s already found a few artists willing to work for free .
One completed song “Letter to dad” performed by Gray, is a message from a son to his father, both struggling with feelings in different ways.
”What did you have to shut down? What dreams did you hide? What would the boy inside you, Given the chance, want to try?” the singer asks.
Kwiatkowski describes the genre of the songs as “influenced by each of the musicians I work with but overall the album is best described as alternative, acoustic and/or indie.”
He has given himself till Nov. 30 to raise the necessary funds with a Kickstarter campaign for “songs of masculinity.”
He calls it an “all-or-nothing” approach.
“Even though the lyrics are written, if I don’t raise enough funds to record and produce all of the remaining seven songs on the concept album, then this project won’t continue.”
As of Tuesday, Nov. 18, he’d raised just under $2,500 toward his $8,400 goal, the projected cost of hiring singers and studio time, along with artwork for each song.
If all goes well, the album will be ready for release in 2022.
His goal in producing it is to “help increase empathy and understanding towards men, as well as challenge men to healthily connect to their emotions.”
“Where we’re doing a disservice to boys, is that they don’t feel safe to open up, or don’t know how to do it,” he summed up.
Kwiatkowski also discusses issues of masculinity on his website remasculate.com.