Appleby In Pursuit of 'Happiness'

Photos by Justin Mackie

Photos by Justin Mackie

Finding Joy In Change

Happiness is a new project from Appleby, and a new Appleby. With his sparse release schedule and low profile, Appleby chooses not to pop out often but turns heads like a groundhog when he does, leaving fans begging for more. Ask and you shall receive. On Happiness, Appleby breaks out of past molds and into his true singer-songwriter self. In these new artistic steps, he’s finding joy.

Appleby has always been an independent minded artist, unpredictable and in a lane of his own. To him, happiness is always moving. “There isn’t one version of happiness. Because if it’s’ that one thing, you’d’ stay happy forever. And I don’t think that’s how it works, at least it doesn’t work for me like that. For me, I define happiness as evolving, changing, but being cognizant of what you’re changing...did you do that for you, or did you that for somebody else?” His new EP Happiness represents Appleby reaching that standard, something that took time and trial and error. 

Before Happiness was Appleby’s 2016 project Down Dance. His debut was made with “a certain sound in mind, and there was a group of artists that I was aiming for. There was a sound I was aiming for and a style I was aiming for that didn’t feel very reflective of me, it felt reflective of the people that I liked.” Appleby felt confused upon releasing it, complicated because it received a very good response. The synthy beats and uptempo raps were seemingly exactly what fans were looking for, but something was missing for Appleby. “That, when I really started to confront that, was a hard hard thing to process. Because it DID do well. And you like when things do well.” Success or not, the expression wasn’t there so the joy was missing as well. "This is why I was feeling uncomfortable...I can't figure out why I'm not liking songs, and it's because you're busy trying to be someone else. You just keep hitting a wall. And then you have to make a change." 

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The change has arrived - raps to the side, Appleby sings now, a rhythmic, care-free melody elevating listeners immediately. The change brought joy, which brought Happiness, and now when you listen you can practically hear Appleby smiling ear to ear. With the helpful push of collaborator Elias Abid, Appleby found a style of his own. “It wasn’t til Elias and I sat down and he played piano and guitar, that I was like, this is crazy! What’s this?! And started singing instead of rapping, out the gate. And then there was this overwhelming sense of joy that I experienced in  hearing myself, and it wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t like anything I can think of off the top of my head that sounded great. It was just like, this feels right, this feels natural.”

It sounds natural, too. From front to back, Happiness is a joy to experience. Inspired by pop music and Coldplay, Appleby has a bright project striving to be universal. Sometimes happy in that fun, carefree sense ("Pages", "Count On You") other times in reflective nostalgia ("Young Lost Love"), even in the kind that seems rooted in pain but feels real ("ER").  There's a full range of emotions on display, how it actually plays out in real life - "It still goes up and down, no individual is happy all the time and if you are I'm nervous for you." Happiness is the evolution he was looking for, the emergence of Appleby. If you didn’t know when comparing the new project to Down Dance, you would expect it to be from two different artists. Now he’s flexing his vocals and living his artistic expression to the fullest. "Stretching towards happiness for myself, and hopefully within it,  there can be therapy for other people. Because music can be therapy for me."

So in all of this, Appleby has found his happiness. With the sound he never knew he was looking for, his artistic expression is reaching new heights. "The exercising of my emotions that come from each of these sounds makes me feel like I'm pulling from a real place. Not from a fabricated place...this is what I'm trying to say, it's now done, if you connect with it great, if you don't I understand...finding my happiness."