Live Your Lief

by Nolan Ford

Life is beautiful, we are all going to die someday, and if you give up, fuck you. These
are just a few of the messages that Steve Roggenbuck has dedicated his life to sharing
through his video blog, Live My Lief.
Inspired by the work of poets, Walt Whitman and E.E. Cummings, the 24-year-old
MFA dropout has taken the art form to a new level. Harnessing the power of YouTube
and social media, Roggenbuck has connected with thousands of fans and currently can
be found traveling the country, speaking at college campuses, and performing wherever
audiences will host him. Throughout his travels, Steve has noticed steady growth in his
online presence and The New York Times even published an article labeling him, “The
Prophet.”
The videos on his site, www.livemylief.com, are typically introduced by a sequence
of absurd phrases carefully edited to music followed by some very powerful and
inspirational moments. To Roggenbuck, the bizarre elements of his videos are important
because they distinguish him from other artists. To further individualize himself, Steve
has been known to purposefully misspell words, which some followers have found
appealing while others have responded with unrelenting rage.
Thankfully for the editors here at Synthesis, Steve was kind enough to omit spelling
errors in his e-mail response to our inquiries concerning his rise to fame.

Your work has been described as “alt-lit” because of your non-traditional approach
to poetry and utilization of social media to reach fans. Do you consider yourself a
poet?

I think I’m still a poet, but the label is not important to me. I’m working hard to spread the
ideas and energy I believe in. I’m building a positive, inclusive community, I’m making
people happy, and I’m excited and fulfilled artistically, so I’m satisfied with my work
regardless of the label.

How does traveling inspire your work?

Traveling is amazing because it forces you to be in the moment – everything you
experience is new, it’s beautiful. It’s good for me. It may not work for everyone. I do get
lonely and miss having a more consistent set of friends, because I’ve been traveling so
long.

What is your live performance like? What do you think the audience is getting from
it?

I read poems and improvise humor. Sometimes I discuss spirituality. Usually I get very
excited and kind of loud. I try to transfer positive energy and humor to the audience to
make them happy. I also hope they expand their idea of poetry or literature, and feel more
freedom about what they could do with it, or how it can fit into their lives.

What is the change you hope to bring to the world?

I want people to be aware of their mortality so they appreciate their life. I want people to
viscerally realize we have limited time with the world and each other. We only have one
time to be a person! Now is the time to appreciate it and make sure you’re who you want
to be. Don’t waste your time being mean or lazy! You’re a person right now!! This is a
very exciting opportunity.

Have your experiences speaking at colleges been mostly positive? Any funny stories
or weird experiences along the way?

It’s challenging to express myself in an academic setting and in front of a new audience,
but I’m getting better at it, and I really like being treated like someone important!!
Nothing really weird or funny has come from it yet. It’s kind of amusing to me that I
am an MFA dropout, but already, within a year, I’ve been invited to come talk to MFA
classes.

In one of your latest posts you encourage people to do something beautiful before
they die. Is what you’re doing beautiful?

To me, what I’m doing is beautiful. My biggest living hero is Lil B the Based God. He
is prolific online, spreading positive energy. He inspires people and makes them laugh. I
think what he’s doing is beautiful. People in my community who spread positive energy
and encourage each other – they are beautiful. But also, “beautiful” is so broad. Everyone
is beautiful. If you’re just expressing yourself and creating, that’s beautiful. Some people
have more of a sad aesthetic than my work – that is beautiful too. I think as long as you’re
true to yourself and what you believe in, if you’re doing what you love with passion,
enjoying it and adding your creation to the world, that’s beautiful. I didn’t have a narrow
idea of “beautiful” in mind. I would hope people could see my videos and get inspired to
do many diverse things.

Nolan Ford grew up in Chico, California with great respect and admiration for Synthesis and its mission to provide an alternative voice on matters of music, art, and life in Chico. In addition to editing the paper and managing its musical content, Nolan performs with various bands around town including Perpetual Drifters, The Rugs, Pat Hull, and acoustic duo, Emma & Nolan.

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