"I am listenining now..."

My name is Andon Hiltner and this was my experience.

Letting Go of Me...

The 19th of November will forever be a date/moment for me to hold on to, and hopefully for others who were there also, to witness the magic of trusting that moment; being present to possibility.

My days lately have consisted of the most amazing feelings of ambition, and driven with passion, direction, yet to what extent can I stay on this course of giving, always hoping? For what, a means to an end?  I think not; I think for me it’s just that I want a good healthy path in life, to inspire others if nothing else.  Simple,  right?  Maybe for you…

 Who are you to be strong?  Who are you to be a leader?  Who are you to change the world?  Am I to put my heart on the line and stand up for what I believe in, and to stand up for those things for the people who cannot, those who don’t have such a chance of a heard voice, or the voice that can be heard?

I am listening now...mahalo nui loa Michael, Victoria and Clay, for sharing your magic with us that night. 

My plans that night were to be somewhere else and doing other things.   Many urged me to attend this event, yet  we had a pre planned recording session that night. It was tentatively set up due to availability and other factors, it didn’t come through.

As the day unfolded, I saw I’m not supposed to know what to do sometimes, and that that is ok… It turns out sometimes the best thing to do is to take the words of a friend to heart, a friend who sees you are in need of something...  We cannot always know what we need, and I’m just beginning to understand this concept of how we all need each other. There are times when we have to let our community know when we think they need something… I feel this, and the import this topic holds for us all.

Scott Clay called and said that he thought I needed a little inspiration.  
“Come with me brother and you’re sure to get inspired tonight,” were his words, as he encouraged me to do something that might be special, instead of letting other priorities dictate my evening.  In his way, I feel he was urging me to follow my heart; ; the offer would stay open.  I had been on my way to a meeting with a young and exciting drummer, since my evening had allowed for focusing on other priorities.  I hoped to see if there might be some magic there and possibly collaborate.  There was!  A great flow of music and cohesiveness,  that I know all musicians and music lovers reach for was reached! ‘


After that, I made my way to the University District, still buzzing from the jam… I had chosen to go with Scott, and head to the concert. 

As we carpooled to the show, Scotty enjoyed the fresh recordings I had of the drummer that I had just played with, and that lifted me even higher in spirits.  After all of the musical hardships that had built up, it felt nice to be in such positive company.  Most of these hardships I’ve brought on myself, pushing for more, and so often falling just short.  In these moments of weakness, I feel like I’m missing something and or am the one incomplete somehow; unsure.  Self doubt can really be one of the worst of feelings, the feeling of being lost, without purpose. Since I was young I’ve felt my purpose is to be involved in music and bands; I still aspire to make this happen(Maybe it is still, I have hope).

As we entered the Moore Theatre where Michael Franti  was showing his new, unreleased documentary called “StayHuman”, I messaged one of my mentors to see if he was there and if we could link up. The theater  was buzzing with anticipation, everywhere was a good spot to hang. I didn’t find him before the show.  With the movie starting, we took our seats in the back, bottom row, by the sound/light booth and dug in for what we had no idea would trigger my emotional rollercoaster ride for 2018!

This film is not just a movie, it is the story of Franti’s life, and the significant experiences he had come through.  It’s about those moments he has created, and about his friends who create moments in the lives of others.  It shows the beauty of bringing life into this world, how important our coming to earth is, and how we can leave it.  It’s not from a shallow part of my heart when I say that I was in many different emotional places while  watching this film, and as I type this it’s like the emotions are pouring out of my eyes onto this page. 

My guides, mentors, and father all mentioned to me after telling them my experience that I should write this down, and share my experience because most of all, that is the #HUMAN thing to do.  Sharing my experience is hard.  I have been in a struggle in many ways, since my earliest days through now, in adulthood, with my passion to be a musician.  Hearing Michael’s story, and the story of his friends, and what they are capable of together gave me hope, that even tortured souls and wounded hearts can be mended with the right kind of love and a sense of belonging, a sense of pride to be where you are in the community.  Do we all not wonder?  Do we not all imagine within ourselves what can we do, and what the steps are to getting there?  

About a year ago my father gave me this wisdom on life, a lesson that I wouldn’t understand for quite some time.  I wonder now if that is my soul goal in life to constantly reach for!  From my open heart to all of yours, with hopes that you will read this and be  inspired to strive for whatever it is that you want to do well. This is that lesson from my pops.  I hope that through my experiencing and sharing it, it can be some influence and gift to you.

I have had much success in this music industry, from plugs for booking and production, to knowing the bands,managers, and sound guys.  Being a part of this scene has opened my eyes to meeting and knowing lots of great people, and I am truly thankful for the path I have been given so far. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that I have had.  With all this success came the harsh thoughts of doubt and other obstacles that detour me from having the energy and confidence to do what it is that makes me feel whole, and create positivity everywhere I go.  Making people smile is my favorite thing to do, next to creating these moments. You can ask my lady, or my close friends who wake up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning, ill come at ya with an a capella version of Sting and Shaggy’s “Morning is Coming” until you giggle…  Moments like when two singers collide in a blood harmony so good that you think they are siblings, or like when Michael, Carl and Victoria started singing at this show.  Their energy feeds our souls, as mine is fed when I can be who I am around the people in and around my life.  Truly being myself is hard, but I will work in this, and will get better at it. 

I am ALWAYS learning, my dad would vouch for me in this statement.  Since day one I just wanted to do everything, and learn about it until I understood  it enough to do it well.  Throw with your right hand AND your left hand… I’ve wanted to see what it feels like to experience it all, I guess.  I used this urge for knowledge and honed my skills towards music and my passion for it. Music has brought me so much joy, and also hardship.  Boo fucking hoo right?  Well let me tell you something about the music industry; it’s not always what it looks like. Most of the time it isn’t what it looks like, and is not always good.  I get insight from my elders that have been doing it twice as long as me, their advice is always to follow your heart, not your wallet; music is the wrong profession for that.  If it’s your business it affects your art; making your wallet and heart work together is an art unto itself. (I have lots of positive mentors telling me good things also, just to be clear ) Bad gigs happen, band mates come and go, babies are made, music genre’s morph, branding efforts fail, voice never seems right…the list is endless and for me it is always a learning curve.  Why?  Maybe I’m beginning to find out now through my heart telling me, like when it beats out of my fucking chest before talking with Michael Franti in front of thousands of people at an awesome venue I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve never been in that spot before! 

 This is where my story circles back.  My dad’s words were about being present, and about the moments that happen when you are holding energy in that space.  Psh…shut up dad, your just a hippie and I love you right?… No, well, no to the shut up and you’re not right part, because my dad is definitely a more than a hippie green thumb rhododendron & tree whispering plant lover, epsom salts using, vitamin c eating poppa bear! I have had his words in my head since that day and have been pondering their meaning, and how, when and if this will affect me. 

  I understand this concept and that is how I think i am where I am today, yet I have become less present in my 30th year on this earth in some ways.  Lack of capacity? More like not following my intuition I think. My understanding of this came full circle this night, the night I sang on stage with Michael Franti.

  I was sitting there watching this film, relating to all the hardships, of injury, loss, rejection; all the things that people go through.  I’m sure all who take the time to read this flood of emotion understand on some level, and I never try to compare hardships, for everyone can handle what they can handle, and WE ALL need help sometimes. 

I cried, and laughed, and laughed till I cried, sitting next to my Viking-esk friend who had brought me here.  We didn’t look at each other for a good 10-15 minutes…Tears of emotion were right at the surface and neither of us could be the cause of them flowing out for all to see.… hah! 

Anyway, after this amazing rendition of what it means to stay human with the people of our earth, Michael stayed present  with us and accept questions from the audience.  As the first hand went up, of course so did mine, and with it my heart rate.  I public speak all the time, and sing in front of people, so it was an new-ish feeling to me, to be so cowed to ask this question I had in my head… which was…. wtf was I thinking right?…hah! It was, “Want to do a track with me, Michael?” 

I didn’t get picked, as someone yelled out with a great big voice and energized the room with the question, “did you sell the pinnapple guitar?”  The whole theater  laughed, as I did, and as a guitar player myself it got me wondering!  Then all our hands went up again, and another person spoke, and another… so I stopped raising my hand, never thought I’d get the chance, and my energy was in a weird place right then.  I felt that sense of failure, like I was being selfish. I didn’t even do anything but think up a question to ask this guy who is here to answer questions.  After a couple more,  my buddy leans over and asks me if I was going to speak, and what was I going to ask Michael. IN THIS MOMENT, my heart rate slowed down, my thoughts came clear, and so did my direction on what I would have done if I had the chance to ask him something.  I thought to myself, “Andon, you came here to be inspired, like all of these other folks in the Moore Theater, so use this moment to inspire all of these people. Tell him how you feel and ask for guidance.” 

As these thoughts unfolded I had a new emotion come over me…it was powerful, hard to even write about now.  Speaking about such moments has been hard for me; admitting to love and intention. Why is it so hard, right?  I had given up on the idea that I might be able to speak.  My hand didn’t go up again, and then a guy crept  up out of the darkened aisle and handed me a mic, whispering, “You have the next question sir, here.”  I looked over at Scott and we both raised our eyebrows, and just as my hands started to grip the microphone for strength and comfort,  Michael asked, “Next question”,  as a voice behind the curtain said there was a gentleman in the back of the room with a question- me.

So I abruptly and blatantly yell into the microphone with the little mic technique I do have, and said, “Hello Michael.”  Now, keep in mind when I’m telling you all this, I have so many emotions washing over me, and I know there is video of this happening and I’m sure some will see it. In my experience, we all have our own experience, and this was mine.  I  wanted to share it with you because it was life changing, and in such a big way, inspiring. 

So Michael replies with a hello, and the crowd giggles as they can all tell I’m super-excited and I blasted the mic way louder than any other guest speaker.  Whoops… btw, the Moore acoustics are epic; I highly recommend it.  

As I continued with my question,  I asked Michael  if he had any words of advice, as a leader, and mentor.  I figured he may be able to help me gain some internal strength back, and regain my belief in what I was doing with my life, and the choices that I’m making for myself.  I asked if he had any words of inspiration, as I was an up and coming artist here in Seattle, and for some insight on how to stay on my path, how to keep believing that what I’m doing is the right thing, and that it is ok to fail, and ok to succeed, ask for help;  all the above right, right? Right?   The room awwwwwwed a bit as I was a bit emotional about it, not nervous, but sharing that for the first time, my struggle to hold onto what I hold most dear next to my Ohana (extended family); my music and those relationships that go with it. I hadn’t shared that with anyone and for some reason I felt comfortable enough to say it in front of thousands. 

  Michael’s response is one that I will never forget, he pauses and then says, “ Well I’ve got one piece of advice for you.  When you’re on the road, on tour with your band, and you’re looking for a place to stay, and someone takes you in…before you leave…DO THE FUCKING DISHES!”  All in good humor, but for real right!? 

He followed the outrageous laughter with another statement which was more about the content of what he was saying, and the magnitude of it.  What I think he meant for me was, when you get these opportunities, always leave that place in grace, do the little things, for when you leave that house, and the next band that rolls through the town and is needing a place to stay, if you didn’t do the dishes, and inspire them to allow more of these kinds of opportunities in their home, why do it again, right?! 

He said, “Doesn’t have to be the dishes;  it can be anything, and as far as some inspiration for you goes…” and I must interject briefly before this next line….”

“Why don’t you come up here and jam a song with us!?”  

My quick response was with a serious yet comical tone of, “Don’t temp me Michael, {

I’ll come up there real quick!”  The room was filled with light laughter and inspiration, and my eyes filled with emotion as I sat down and handed the mic back.  It was some sense of, “Who am I kidding?” I think maybe I was even proud of myself. I understood that shift in energy that allowed me to have that moment with him, get that advice I needed to be inspired, and hear it from someone who is changing the world one person at a time, one song at a time, one free ticket at a time! 

 My dad once said something like, “The opportunities that you set up for yourself will never be close in magnitude to what the universe can provide by you staying present, son.  It’s those events that come by really staying present, by being, just being yourself.  Believe in yourself and others will be inspired by that.”  

Dad, thank you for teaching me how to be strong, a perceiver, to study hard. You taught me what being dedicated is, to family, our craft, and the importance of keeping it Ohana and always to make PONO (balance, righteousness, harmony {Hawaiian}).  

After my question there was one other question. It was a good one too, but I can’t remember what it was. But then … Michael invited his band mates, Carl and Victoria, out on stage with him to play some music.  It was AWESOME and so eye opening, that such a simple thing can be so powerful.  His message and his music have always been powerful to me, yet I think having the chance to speak with him for a moment brought my heart so close to his message once again, after we first met 5 years ago with, D.C. of Da Beckoning.  I remember him for then, and his energy.   

They did quite a few songs, during which 90% of the people in the building were dancing and clapping their hands, including me, and singing along!  What an epic energy he shares, without thought of his calves being tired from hitting his home made kick trigger 808 thing, which also rocked.  During his songs I was so content, and happy, I was gonna leave this night with such mojo from being able to talk to someone I have always dreamed of mentoring me, or becoming friends with, as these are the energies I aim to always surround myself with, so to be closer to one of his magnitude would surely stoke my fire for all to gather and share in his warmth.


  Just as I thought he was done and saying good bye to the audience, he says at the end of the cheering, “Hold on a minute, where is that guy that is supposed to come up and jam with us tonight?”  And then all I heard in my head was him saying, “ you better get the #&%* up here brother!” And, sure enough, Scott is helping me climb over the subwoofer on stage right to join in the fun!  Jamming is where I came from, musically, started in community band in Australia at the age of 8 as a percussionist, morphing through the instrumental wave of things, to where I am now, playing keyboard, guitar, and vocals.  I’m a long way from sitting on the beach back home in Maui, skanking the sunsets away every night, jamming with my Ohana…the reason I mention this piece of history is because I use to be the man at tambourine… and I can play the one I have at home well, with how familiar I am with its action (for those who don’t play music, action is how something feels when played, like the action on a guitar). 

I say this for all my musician friends and stage people, because I died laughing telling a couple friends this thought; as I walked up on the stage I’m beaming right for the guitar, thinking of course that’s what I’ll get to play; it’s my comfort zone… but no… the stage hand brings me a tambourine, much different than mine.  As a percussionist I know how vital it is to be good at it before performing with one, some other, tambourine (I’m giggling as I type this, thinking of that moment I had with myself about it, coming to terms with the moment that I get a tambourine solo… “Oh boy, here goes nothing!”)  

So I leaned over as he was starting to sing for his final jam and said, “Dude, tambourine is definitely not my instrument,” with a giggle, and he looked over, and the funny thing is, I’m not even sure what he said to me, but it was like, or felt like, “I love you brother!  Thank you for being here with us.”  As his piercing eyes looked at me like my very own brother does, with such intention and guidance that it’s hard to explain unless it was you, or you have had such moments to relate it to.

 He followed that with a request for me to sing with them.  Victoria was to his right and was so supportive to me, in a gentle and inspiring way. Carl, the bass player, was to my left, and as I turned to say hi to him, the sound guy had crept around behind me, out of sight, and put a microphone there right behind me, like he wanted me to sing into it… I looked at it, looked up at the thousands of people in the theater and then at Michael for guidance, as he says” Sing with us, Brother!.”  The three of them starting singing, and I went into another emotion.. not sure what it was, it was like I was looking at myself looking out into the crowd, but from a different mind set, it was calm, and gentle, and #beckoning.  The 3 of them sang the line as I tried to understand the vocal line, hear the notes and see if I could even hit a note to find a harmony… then my brain went to, oh fuck… don’t blow it Andon, you got a freaking fanny pack on, with hunting Cabella sweats on…What…The…FUCK, and your hair is like Fabio rolled all over the ground! HAH!…. All these thoughts came thru my head and in an instant… my life changed.  

After the line was established he looked over at the beginning of the phrase as if I was going to sing with him, or something…lol, and I stood up to the mic, gave into what was going to come out, and without fear, stayed present  with the energy in the room; that energy and mindset that I believe got me up there in the first place.  Open heart, open mind, now…Andon open your mouth and don’t  screw it up!  I opened my mouth and sang the high harmony, and it worked, Michael looked over, and in my head I was thinking about what he was thinking about.  Was it, “Oh good, I’m glad he can sing, and in key, too. “YEAH BROTHER” or that kind of face.  I had never jammed with them so I took it to heart, and just went there with them; I sang. 

 During these moments I had feelings of hope, that all of those people that were there, were there for the same reason I was; to open up, and get that boost of mojo; some inspiration.  Michael didn’t make me do anything; he allowed me to be me, and as I watch the video attached to this message I’m so happy to have had all of those moments with all of those people).  That was the raw and unfiltered Andon that I wish I could be all the time, and is going to be who I aim for everyday from here on out.   


To finish this story, I just want to say sorry first of all for my grammar and punctuation.  I can read, but my writings were never in proper English.  Thank you for taking this time to hear my heart. I hope that you can take something from this story.  This experience really helped to inspire me; to see what is possible by staying present and doing what feels right, for all, not just the right thing for yourself.  By giving from myself that question, instead of me asking Michael for something, I got something so much bigger than I could have imagined without asking  for anything at all. 

 My peoples all say that I have been manifesting these things in and around my circle, and to not stop doing what I am doing.

  Thank you, Michael Franti, for the energy you gave me.  One day I hope to spend some time with you, learn more from you and your teachers, with the hope that I too can change the world with whatever it is that I am for this time round.  My heart is full and I haven’t slept much since then, so I’m going to bed now… Love to you all, and as his movement provides strength for us humans, remember to #stayhuman , as I did with my question to Michael, for the answers are available to us all if one is willing to share.  Michael is a great example of how to share, and give back. 
Mahalo nui loa Ohana. 


Today I spoke with my mentor’s who went to the show… and guess what I found out… The first person who asked Michael a question was my buddy and mentor guiding me and believing in me to be me.  And the last question from upstairs was another mentor of mine; girlfriend. Today I found that out, and found out that they both knew immediately when this man downstairs started speaking that it was me. They felt me from where I was speaking, they said.  They told me this, and that they were proud of me, for using that moment to inspire a building with a little bit of my story, and how I was able to ask for guidance.  Sharing like I did is hard; I do my sharing of emotion on stage usually.  It’s much easier with a guitar in my hand and a backing band right?!   ;). OK thanks for listening.  Andonimus - over and out.