Patrick is driving from Memphis, Tennessee to his home in Springfield, Missouri when I call. He’s returning from the University of Memphis, where he attended to speak to the Tennessee Governor’s School for International Studies about storytelling, play music, and screen his documentary ICYIZERE: hope. The flick explores the perspectives of ten survivors and ten perpetrators in 1994’s Rwandan genocide and follows them as they learn to heal and build trust.
“Yes, the film is about Rwanda,” Patrick says. “But at its core it’s about the human experience.” As he explains the movie, I can’t help but notice that Patrick’s voice is exhilarated and optimistic. This positivity is contagious—it’s hard not feel inspired.
“I love to play and I love to share these songs and stories that mean a lot to me” he says. I should mention that Patrick is driving west as we speak, and he stops periodically to take photographs and describe the sunset to me. “From now on, I will only travel back from Memphis at sunset.”
Mureithi was born in Kenya. Though raised outside of the United States, his parents exposed him to a great deal of Western musical influences, all of whom would come to shape Patrick’s growth as an artist.
“My parents listened to a lot of Don Williams, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Harry Belafonte… It was always playing in the house, we would listen to it while driving to visit our grandmothers up country,” he shares. “[Music] was the currency of conversation between us and our peers.”
Patrick was enamored with rap music at a young age, and formed his own group. At 19, he moved to the U.S. to attend Southwest Missouri State and pursue a record deal.
“Perhaps Springfield, Missouri wasn’t the best place to try and start a hip hop career,” he jokes. “But I didn’t know that at the time. I just wanted to come to the United States.” In retrospect, he muses that he is glad he chose to move somewhere rich with nature, as this is such an integral part of who he is.
His life changed as he started to explore new venues for expression. “I went to an open mic with some friends one night” he says, “and I was surprised by the reception of the crowd. That was the first time I thought: I can do this. No one had ever shown me I had musical talent in that way before.”
He began playing weekly gigs on the acoustic guitar and slide guitar, and picked up the ukulele a little less than a year ago. But early in his career, Mureithi suffered an arm injury that kept him from playing for ten years. He spent money he didn’t have on medical treatment. Things changed when a friend introduced him to the Ice Man, or Wim Hof. The Ice Man uses practices of cold immersion, breathing techniques, and meditation to conquer superhuman feats. Mureithi tells me that when nothing else worked, he began to integrate practices into his daily life. Through daily cold immersion (whether jumping in a freezing river or taking a cold shower), breathing techniques, and meditation, Mureithi was able to heal himself and once again pick up the guitar.
After ten years of struggling with his injury, Patrick released an album called This I Believe. The album fuses folk, reggae, hip-hop, and delta blues. His philosophy of music is aligned with that of his films: Patrick aims to get people talking.
“What the world needs more is real conversations,” he says. “Music is a language that speaks to a very deep part of us. Like any good work of art, it reminds us that we are not alone, that we are all walking similar journeys. The circumstances might be different but fundamentally they are the same.”
Patrick believes that music has the ability to connect us in a deep, visceral way. It starts the conversations he believes are so necessary to breeding empathy and compassion among human beings.
“When an artist bares his or her soul, other souls resonate, and a very deep connection is created. It goes both ways. When I am playing a song and I see someone paying close attention, it heightens my performance. There is definitely a symbiotic interchange that occurs.”
Another key aspect to his performance style? Improvisation, or making decisions in the moment.
“The key is to trust, surrender, and let go,” says Patrick. “Improvisation comes in when you’re not quite sure what to say but you’ve been guided by a feeling. When you trust yourself, opportunities become apparent.”
Grounding in Order to Let Go
The aforementioned philosophy is aligned with Patrick’s strong belief in our ability to heal ourselves and assist others in their healing process. Remaining calm and grounded helps to bring clarity and opens us up to new experiences.
“I almost always start my day with 10 to 15 minutes of breathing in silence,” Patrick shares. “That is usually followed by some self massage followed by some movement. It could be yoga, it could be Tai Chi, it could be taking a walk… Something to open the body up and get it loose and limber.”
Patrick believes that by releasing tension in the physical body, we allow for the release of resistance in the mental and emotional body. When that happens, creativity “flows in unexpected and delightful ways.”
“It’s so funny how the universe provides,” Patrick says, “And it’s quite surreal that music is providing the opportunity… For me to meet people from all over the country, all over the world.”
He plans to continue to explore and play for as many people as he can. Patrick made his debut performance at Wanderlust this month at Snowshoe in West Virginia and will be playing Wanderlust Stratton this upcoming weekend. Look out for his show and get ready to set yourself free.
Jillian Billard is a poet, yoga teacher, cellist and avid wanderer. A native New Yorker, she is often caught daydreaming of sprawling green fields and mountains. She trained and received her ashtanga yoga teacher’s certification in Goa, India and works at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in Brooklyn. You can often find her with her head buried in a book, doused in lavender. Follow her on her (very newly developed) Instagram page for class schedules and updates at @jillboyoga.