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#008: Jeremy Cowart

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Have you ever conceived and built a hotel chain? Jeremy Cowart is a living, breathing idea machine. Not the type who sits in his basement daydreaming, most of his ideas become reality. He's one of the few people who have actually found and acted on their calling. He's overcome some of life's most tragic moments, suddenly losing his brother, adopting two children from Haiti, being diagnosed with a neurological condition, all formidable challenges and obstacles, but he doesn't let anything hold him back from pressing forward and accomplishing.  

He’s the founder of a global photography movement, Help-Portrait, a mobile social networking app called OKDOTHIS, and an online teaching platform, See University. His latest endeavor is The Purpose Hotel, a planned global for-profit hotel chain designed to fuel the work of not-for-profit organizations.

​Jeremy’s new book “I’m Possible: Jumping Into Fear and Discovering a Life of Purpose” is based on Jeremy’s viral life story video that was released in 2015 and launched Jeremy’s speaking career where he has delivered this message to tens of thousands across America ever since. The book dives much deeper into all of the stories and projects Jeremy has done and ultimately encourages people of all ages to jump into fear in order to find their own purpose in life.

​In this episode, Jeremy talks about the day to day challenges he faces and the approach he takes to press on into his calling.

Jeremy Cowart

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Transcribed Episode

Speaker 1:0:00

You're listening to the groove with Devin Pense and Reggie Ham.

Speaker 2:0:07

You have to take risks that will be disappointments and failures and disasters as a result of taking these risks. This task was acquainted to you, and if you do not find a way, red moments are born, great opportunity, and that's what you have here in the end. That's all we really are. I just stories. Stories are what our lives are made up of. Stories, how we remember people and stories make us feel a little less alone in the world.

Speaker 3:0:45

Welcome to the groove podcast. This is Devin Pence and this is Reggie ham. Here on the group, we talked to people from all walks of life, all areas of life, to share their stories about pivotal moments, struggles. We all face what it takes to rise above challenging circumstances, heartbreak, setbacks, to find what we call the group. Uh, you can find me at [inaudible]. Follow me around on instagram@devinpense and my website at You can find me at Regie Hamm on Facebook. That's one G, two M's. Be sure to head over to the groove, for more info about us and to check out the show notes from this episode and you can do us a huge favor by subscribing and hitting the five star rating whenever you listen to our, to our podcast and I look their five star podcast, hit the five star. Also, if you would like to help support a our currently sponsor list podcast, join our Patrion page.

Speaker 3:1:42

Any love would be much appreciated. Much, much a man. I'm super excited. I know I say this about every episode, but I'm really excited about the show today. We have Jeremy coward on, uh, many of you have probably heard of of Jeremy. He's, he's literally all over the place. Um, he was named the most influential photographer on the internet. That's the internet folks by Huffington post, Forbes and Yahoo. Uh, Jeremy, he's an award winning photographer, artist and entrepreneur whose mission is to explore the intersection of creativity and empathy. Jeremy's published four books and as a sought after speaker having presented at TEDx, uh, the United nations and creative conferences across the country. His latest endeavor is the purpose hotel, a planned global for profit hotel chain, designed to feel the work of not for profit organizations. He's the founder of a global photography movement, help portrait a mobile social networking app called okay, do this.

Speaker 3:2:48

And an online teaching platform called C university. Yeah man, his new book, I'm possible. It's impossible, but if you put up an apostrophe, it makes it, I'm possible. Jumping into fear and discovering a life of purpose is based on Jeremy's viral life story video that was released in 2015 and launched Jeremy speaking career where he has delivered this message to tens of thousands of people across America ever since the book dives much deeper into all the stories and projects Jeremy's done and it ultimately encourages people of all ages, all walks of life. Any anybody, no matter where you are, to jump into the fear in order to find your purpose in life. A lot of what we do here on the groove,

Speaker 4:3:37

so be sure to check out the show notes, um, to get more information. You can find his website there. It's, it's just Jeremy and we're just going to be talking about a lot of different stuff today to hopefully help encourage you.

Speaker 3:3:51

Jeremy coward. Thank you for being on the group today.

Speaker 5:3:54

Of course. It's great to be here. Thank y'all for having me.

Speaker 4:3:57

Yeah, we are really thrilled at something that I've wanted to have you on ever since I started the podcast and Reggie joined up. We've, we've talked about, you know, if we can just get Jeremy coward on the show, man, we'll have made it, you know, but nah, seriously.

Speaker 5:4:12

Now after this, Jeremy, do we get our million dollar checks? Is that how it was? I'm like sitting here super flattered. I feel like a nothing burger lately. So thank yo for all the flattery.

Speaker 4:4:22

Hey, what I thought I'd do, I just wanted to kind of kick it off cause you know Jeremy, you know we've go way back. I mean I think we met like way back in 2002 ish or three when you were doing a graphic design and that kind of thing. I don't know if you remember this or not, but I just have a quick story. I wanted to kick this thing off with you. At one point you, you're Nashville now, right? Um, but at one point you moved to LA for awhile.

Speaker 5:4:47

Yup. Yeah, it did. A year and a half fell through.

Speaker 4:4:49

Yeah. Which is like a 12 years in, uh, you know, I said LA years, LA years and I can remember, uh, I dunno what the situation was. I was doing a shoot or something and I called you up and I asked you if I could borrow one of your lenses and you're like, yeah, sure man, don't you know, you know, absolutely. You said, well, the only thing is is we're not going to be home so I'm going to leave it on this credenza. So just kind of open our front door and then it will be sitting on this credenza and you had this, I can remember this really cool, like ornate house and there was very distinctive things about it. And in the front, you know, the best that I could remember, cause we'd come over for a party one time and we had to park in the street.

Speaker 4:5:30

And I remember that little gate, like you had a little gate that kind of went to your front yard, you know, so this was like in a late afternoon and you know, this went in. I'm like, God, this guy leaves his door open, you know, and unlocked in LA and he must be very trusting. But you know, so it was pretty simple. I opened the door, grabbed the lens, you know, you use the lens, so forth and so on. We returned it and, and I can't remember it, it must have been maybe year or so later. Uh, I'm a bit of a horror fan and my wife and I went to the theater to see, uh, remember those paranormal activity movies. Like there was like they made four or five of them of course. And as we're watching it, we're getting to the very end and it's kind of like this, the climax scene when everything is going down and the camera moves across the street and I'm watching it and I'm like, that looks familiar. Like I seen that little gate before and I whispered to my wife that looks like Jeremy's house. I mean there's no way it could be. And as the camera like went up the steps, the front door opened and there was that same credenza that I grabbed those lenses off, which made the movie like it scared me even more. Texted you later and you're like, yeah man, they, they took over our house. I mean that was crazy for me.

Speaker 5:6:50

It was crazy. Especially because like the demonic room, the main scary room was my daughter's bedroom. And so it was a super surreal to watch that later.

Speaker 4:7:01

Did, uh, did any of the evil spirits get into you dev? Just as a curious question dude. No, I got in and out of there so quick. I mean they would have to be really fast. Uh, cause it was like, I just want to make sure you're okay. And as far as I know, they, they could be lying dormant and come out at any given moment. I don't know. But Hey, let's, let's, let's get into this man, Jeremy, just real quick. Can you kinda just want to kind of tell everybody where they can find you? We're going to talk about this at the end of the show too, but where can people find more about Jeremy coward?

Speaker 5:7:36

Yeah. Uh, just my website, Jeremy, I'm at chairman carrot on all the social channels. Um, yeah, that's pretty much it.

Speaker 4:7:45

Yeah. We were kind of talking a little bit earlier. You've had so much success, um, with all your, your artwork, your photography, you know, your book, the, the purpose hotel, which we'll want to talk about, um, you know, help portrait all of these things that you've done it. Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, we know about your successes. What about the struggles that you face, you know, every day.

Speaker 5:8:09

Yeah, I mean, uh, it's funny, all of those things sound like successes, but there's a lot of failure and all those things. You just mentioned them in. They're not all that, you know, I guess it looks amazing from the outside, but yeah, there's no doubt that all of those things were not successful. Um, and some of them are obviously still in process. It turns out it takes a long time to build a hotel chain from scratch. So that's a long ongoing journey that I'm sure we'll get into. But, uh, but yeah, I mean, I would say I'm 42 right now. I would say at the age of 42, I'm dealing with more internal fight and voices and, you know, doubt than I ever have in my life. Um, and so I would say the doubt and the hardships only increased rather than decreased. Uh, so I don't know if that's an age thing or midlife crisis or what, but, uh, you know, there's no doubt I have my long list of challenges just like anybody else.

Speaker 6:9:09

Jeremy, I, uh, I love everything, literally everything about your story. One of the things that I, that I love about how you approach your life, your success, your failures, whatever. And I think this is a real instructive thing for everybody, is that I, I recognized in you a real sense of following the muse wherever it takes you. And that is something I think I've struggled with. I think a lot of people struggle with when once they decide what they are, quote unquote, uh, sometimes they have a hard time morphing that into whatever the next thing is. You know what I mean? Uh, you know, like you decide, you decide you're a drummer and a, and then all of a sudden an opportunity comes along that is not drumming, but it might open a skill set for you that you did not even know you had.

Speaker 6:9:57

In my case, it was, uh, it was book and blog writing. I, you know, I, I'd had this career as a songwriter and then all of a sudden I wrote a blog essentially trying to find people who had other people who had Angelman syndrome in their life. And that launched a whole career for me that I didn't even know really existed. I see that happened in your journey a lot in that you, you just kinda took what was available there and what you had, you know, in front of you and you, you keep walking forward. Um, and you just talked about the struggles that you're having right now. And I think I, I mean I'll take this opportunity to encourage you because in your own, in your own journey, uh, I find encouragement. I, I watched, uh, a couple of little episodes of something last night about how some movies were made and one of the things that you realize in every story of anything that's significant or important or that's ever been done of, of note is that while it's being made, nobody knows.

Speaker 6:11:00

They're making a classic. Nobody knows they're there doing something special. It's you, you're in the battle. And at every turn it's like ClickList. Like you're on a high wire and at every, every moment you feel like you can fall off, this can be, this can be a story of, of absolute tragedy. You know what I mean? And then you look back on it and that's when it looks like success. You know, once it's, it's the, it's the afterwards that you look back and go, Oh, okay, well that was, that worked. But while you're in it, you don't know if it's going to work. And I speak to that a little bit because I believe that, I believe you're one of those fighters out there who fights through that. I would encourage you just right here on the podcast to continue. I think that the world needs you to, uh, because you're an inspiration to so many people.

Speaker 6:11:45

But I think people look at, you know, that they just saw you at a corporate event. They just saw your Wikipedia page. They just saw your video. They just saw it, read your book, whatever they think you've quote unquote made it. I don't know. I think maybe there's five people in the world who've made it like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, you know, other than that, I don't know who makes it. I don't know where it, I don't know where it is. You know what I mean? We have to get up everyday and get back in the struggle. Talk about that.

Speaker 5:12:09

Yeah, I definitely don't think I've made it cause like you said, I've got to keep working my tail off on a lot of things. So I'm definitely never feel that I've made it in any way, shape or form. Um, but yeah, I mean it, that's a really beautiful reminder about the filmmaking process. Now everybody or nobody feels like they're making a classic, they just see the heart, you know, the journey and helps up and as, and that's certainly where I met right now. You know, I had a idea to build a hotel in 2012. It's 2020 right now. So almost eight years ago I had this crazy idea to build a hotel, spent three years doing nothing about it cause I was so afraid of it, but I knew every day that it was still the right idea, the right thing to pursue. So it wasn't in 2015 that we started taking it seriously, launched, launched it to the public in 2016 mean we call it, uh, building it backwards.

Speaker 5:13:08

Cause it's like we hung our sign in the sky first and then we've had to then go and figure out how to do it. Whereas most hotels develop and build on the background for seven or eight years. And at the very end they hang their sign on the building. So I would say doing it the way we're doing it is much harder because you're setting expectations sky high. You know, it's one thing to launch an idea, but it's, you know, execution S especially the scale is just infinitely challenging, especially when you're also trying to disrupt the industry entirely.

Speaker 6:13:45

Yeah. Talk about that. What's the, what's the difference in your hotel and any garden variety Marriott that you can check into? [inaudible] let's talk about your hotel talk. Tell us what's the difference in that.

Speaker 5:13:55

Sure. Well, I am, you know, I've traveled to over 30 countries as a photographer and I was always amazed, you know, stayed in the worst hotels and the nicest hotels. I've been in every form of hotel. And I'm always amazed that even the most expensive and luxury hotels are still orange in my opinion. Sure. They may be luxurious and might have a nice pool. They might have great suit, they might have nice design and furniture and fixtures. But at the end of the day, the industry fell, still felt like soulless to me. Like there was nothing inspiring, there was nothing that moved the human spirit. So in 2012, I had an idea to build a, uh, basically a social good hotel where every element in the building was doing something to make the world a better place. He knew whether that was the room service feeding a child in need through for the hungry or the rooms sponsoring a child and tell them their story or the internet fighting human trafficking.

Speaker 5:14:58

This hotel would be all those things that just listed three ideas, three connection ideas. There's about 50 of those in the purpose of tow. That's the name of it, by the way, as the purpose of though. And so the idea is that just by staying at this hotel, you will be quote unquote changing the world in your sleep. You know, everything you do in this building is connecting to something bigger than yourself. And so inspiration will be everywhere in this building. Um, and, and cause base connections will be everywhere. And so it's a really, really big idea that is kind of, you know, I like to say that, um, most hotels are inward focused. You know, they're all saying we have the best price or we have the best comfort or we have the best food, or where the, where the head office, you know, what the new ACE hotel, uh, whereas the purpose hotel is saying, yeah, we're all those things. We have great pools, great food, great whatever. That's not the point. We're great because we're making other scrape. We're giving back. We're investing in the communities locally, domestically around the country and around the world. So we are outward focused, not inward.

Speaker 6:16:10

I love this idea because, and I'll speak for myself only, not necessarily for the group podcast or for Deb or even for you, but, uh, for myself, uh, I, I see people who want to change the world. And very often they channel that into politics. And as if the only people who can create effective change are people who have the controls of government or the leavers of power at their disposal. I, I personally like the idea of people out in the private sector doing something like this. You could, you could apply this, this concept to more than hotels. You could apply it to restaurants, you could apply it to movie theaters, you could apply it to it, right? Just pretty much any kind of, any kind of enterprise out there, you could apply these same principles I would imagine.

Speaker 5:17:00

Oh for sure. And that's exactly what we're doing cause we will have within the building and we'll have coffee shops and fitness and restaurants and coworking and offices. And so yeah, absolutely it can be applied to anything.

Speaker 6:17:13

And that's what we're looking for as a society is sustainability in how we change things, how we affect things for the better. Um, and you know, how cool would it be? Is it, if you just, you know, getting in a certain car and driving to a certain hotel and checking in and ordering your meal and doing everything you normally do, just just those activities alone effect, you know, a measurable amount of change in, in, in the negative quotient of, of society where, where there, whether you're effecting, you know, trafficking or whatever it may be. I don't even know all of the, all of the strings that you have attached to it, but even the three, the three things that you listed, I mean, that's, that's kind of the dream, right?

Speaker 5:17:59

Yeah, for sure. Absolutely.

Speaker 4:18:02

Jeremy, where are you guys at on the project?

Speaker 5:18:04

We, uh, have our land secured, which will be downtown Nashville, Tennessee, right next to the main convention center. Um, we have, uh, our management, we have renderings from our architects. We have, gosh, it's a big team already, but, um, and we're currently fundraising this year. We hope to break ground at the end of this year or early next year. And then it's about a two to three year build from there.

Speaker 4:18:31

That's amazing, man.

Speaker 6:18:32

PayPal people are buying into this. I mean, it's not just, it's not just in your head anymore. You, you've got it's actionable stuff out there, right. You can get people drawing. You got people, you know, boots on the ground, I guess you could say actually making this thing happen.

Speaker 5:18:46

Oh yeah. In a, in a big way when we fed all of that developing for about a year now. Um, but yeah, a lot to lots of boots on the ground. It's a, it's a big ship already. It's kind of crazy.

Speaker 4:18:57

That's awesome. Hey, let's, let's help over endless. Let's talk about your book for a second because I think that's a good jumping off point here though. It can kind of lead us down to some of the things that we want to talk about. And it's like your book's called. I'm possible jumping into fear and discovering a life of purpose. What prompted you, I mean, I think, I know, but tell us what prompted you to write that book and talk a little bit about, you know, what it's about and that kind of thing.

Speaker 5:19:23

Yeah. Um, uh, years ago, my buddy John asked me to speak at his conference and I told him, I was like, man, I'm not a speaker. I don't have much to say. And then, so I told him no, but then I kinda came back to him. I was like, you know, I think I've got a good idea to literally illustrate my story and make a video where I kind of, you know, document my journey as an artist. And, uh, so I did it for his conference and it kind of exploded immediately. Like there was a standing ovation. Everybody was crying. And then I've found that I kept getting asked to do it over and over, and every time I would do it, I'd get a standing ovation. Everybody was crying. So I was like, man, this is really having it much deeper impact than I was expecting.

Speaker 5:20:08

And I think it helps that it's all visual and has music. And so it's really like you're watching movie that I'm narrating. And so, um, every time I do it, I would get asked, where can I watch the Sunline to send other people? So finally release it online a few years ago and it kinda blew up, you know, millions of views, uh, tens of thousands of people posted it to their Facebook pages, which for a 30 minute video that, that was a really surprising, um, and uh, and then that kind of accidentally launched a speaking career and then, then it turned into a book and, you know, and so it's been a wild journey. I never intended, you know, to be publishing a book or, you know, traveling as a speaker. Um, so you gotta be careful when you say, uh, when you say yes to things might just surprise me.

Speaker 4:21:03

That's true. I think some of the things I've, I've experienced throughout my life, you know, certainly nothing like that. I've made people cry, but probably not for those reasons. But, uh, you do kind of, you kind of get into your thing or whatever, and then you're asked to do something else. And, and I, I've been through that myself. You new year, I was asked to do something and I'm like, man, I don't do that. I, I'm not, you know, I'm not this or I'm not that. And then there's something in you, you, like you said, like you just, you do it and then like it literally just opens up doors and it kind of, you kind of, it kind of pushes you through, um, you know, read, you talked about it a little bit earlier, how you kind of accidentally stumbled into a new career and just, I mean it's, it's just an interesting road and I think the most important thing in life and what I try to encourage people to do is to, you know, these ideas, like, you know, this hotel idea of yours, like you said, you know, you thought about it and then you just kind of sat on it and, and then at some point something prompted you, you, you pushed the gas pedal.

Speaker 4:22:13

And I always try to tell you, I just tell this to my kids, you know, and they were growing up. I'm like, you know, life is kinda like, you know, driving a car. Like you can sit in it, it can be running, but you know, if you don't put it in gear and move forward, you're not going to experience anything. So I think it's important to, um, you know, have ideas, do things, be encouraged, but step into those things, you know, step into that fear and step into that. Because sometimes in the fear and sometimes in the darkness, like that's where, you know, we find the best thing that could ever happen to us. Jeremy, do you do, do you find that saying yes is the key?

Speaker 5:22:54

I do. I mean, obviously there has to be some research on like, yes, like for me, I always bounce it off those closest to me who will be really honest. You know, when I have an idea, I'll run on Obama wife and she's, I'm just crazy dead on us about ideas, most ideas. She, she's just not a big fan of, uh, you know, it's, it's rare that she supports, but then sometimes I realize like to, even if she doesn't like something, she's not in my industry, she doesn't know the target fee, you know, the creative industry. So then I seek feedback from people within my industry who will also be almost with me. And then I, you know, I'll wait. Cause ideas always seem amazing at first and then over time you realize maybe they're not that great. So I typically, uh, buy the domain names.

Speaker 5:23:48

I'm like a domain name, Paul gab, tons of them. Um, yeah, for sure. Uh, you know, and then I'd just wait it out and uh, and see what I think, you know, and I think the good ideas actually, there are still a lot of good ideas that I think are still worthy of pursuing, but at some reason, at some point you just reach your bandwidth. You know, there's only so much you can do. So I have a lot of great ideas that there's a couple ideas that are now multimillion dollar selling products that I see in stores everywhere. And I had those ideas long before they came out, so,

Speaker 6:24:25

Oh, don't we all have those?

Speaker 5:24:27

Yeah. So sometimes you have to grieve, grieve the babies that were never born. You know, like it's a, it's a crazy journey. Uh, being an idea person and having to choose which ones to pursue

Speaker 6:24:40

with, with the, with the, uh, when it comes to the wife, uh, conversation, I have a very similar situation as you and you know, the old saying behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.

Speaker 4:24:57

You know, Jeremy, you're talking about earlier we were talking before we started recording, um, you have having all these ideas and, and doing these things. You, you made a comment similar to, uh, sometimes you feel like you've got too many jobs and that that seems cool to a lot of people, but where, where is the bandwidth? Where is the cutoff? When you, when you're an idea machine and they're not just, you know, sitting in a corner, they're all moving in, in churning. Where's the cutoff for you?

Speaker 5:25:29

Yeah, to get questioned. I think I'm always trying to figure that out. Um, you know, I've got four kids and Somali life really is, I'm about as suburbia dad as you can get, you know, um,

Speaker 6:25:41

say no more. The idea start stops at eight o'clock in the morning. I know exactly how [inaudible]

Speaker 5:25:46

yeah, exactly. The idea is start at 9:00 AM for me it's 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM is all dad duty, you know, uh, and then really 6:00 PM or 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM as also dead duty. So I've got a very limited window that I can, um, you know, perform and do things. And so, uh, yeah, like I was telling you earlier, like it can seem sexy to be doing all these things and the older I get, the more fun that that's just so overrated, you know, crave more simplicity as I get older. And so, um, I'm definitely trying to wind a few things down so that I can only do a couple things and, and be more focused.

Speaker 6:26:31

Where's your primary love man? If, uh, you know, if they came to you and said, Hey, in 2020, Jeremy, uh, we, you can only do like two things. W w where's that gonna land for you?

Speaker 5:26:42

Yeah. Love anything that involves creativity and giving back. In fact, I came up with a mission statement a couple of years ago that said, my mission is to explore the intersection of creativity and empathy. So as long as it's artistic and has a social good element than the normal, and

Speaker 6:27:04

you're, you're such a great photographer. Is that, is that the kind of the tip of the creative spear for you or is it, is it just a means to a bigger end?

Speaker 5:27:17

No, uh, I mean, I love painting. I love drawing up and doing a lot of fun art over the last year, you know, but exploring, even really pursuing that as a, as another side hustle career, um, looking into galleries, I'm all like, it's a painting like crazy. Um, and that's where my love started. Is that struct or my favorite artists on the planet? Well, I doesn't live anymore. It's not alive anymore. But John Michel Basquiat was a painter in the 80s, and, uh, so he's [inaudible]. Yeah, he was an abstract artist and you know, some obsessed with abstract art. Um, you know, so I think, I think in my core, I really am a painter, but the camera is just become one of the tools over time that I also love using.

Speaker 4:28:05

And one of the things I love that you've been doing lately, um, that I've, you know, cause I've, you know, I follow you around the inner webs is how you've been opening up your studio and you know, cause you, you, you know, you were known as, you know, a, a, a celebrity quote unquote celebrity photographer. You know what I mean? It's kinda like a label that's, that's cause you, you know, you are, you're, you're talented, um, and that space and you've got a lot of great opportunities and then you open up your studio and you, you know, you, you shoot just whoever wants to come in and, um, pay to have their portrait done. Like, you know, that kinda thing. And, and the, where you've taken that I think is really cool, but there's an element I wanted you to kind of respond to and to kind of talk about a little bit because I paid a lot of attention to that because I, I'm always trying to figure out same kind of thing.

Speaker 4:29:01

Like how can I push myself creatively and in my directing or whatever it is I do. And I noticed that, you know, you always, as you said earlier, you always with what you do, you give back. So you, it's not like you have any kind of Jeremy coward secret sauce that you like, aren't afraid to like, you know, give out. You've put out so many things. Uh, you got the, the online school thing and I was kind of reading a lot of the comments and things and then you were basically encouraging other photographers. You know, the photography community, it's kind of a, you know, it's a humongous, I mean it's just, I don't think people realize just how many people, just because anybody can pick up a camera, you know, doesn't necessarily make them a photographer. But there are people who are trying to make a living.

Speaker 4:29:53

And I remember you, you were kind of giving some advice like here's how you know, here's what I did and here's what you can do as well. Like this is kind of a formula for, for that. And I can remember even reading in some of the comments, people were kind of coming back at you a little bit like, well that's a little unfair. You know Jeremy and I'm paraphrasing, but you know, cause you, you know, you had a, you got to shoot for your famous, you know, people know who you are and all that kind of stuff. And, and it kind of bothered me a little bit because people don't want to put the work in and people want to immediately, you know, go from, you know, in my field, they want to go from straight out of, you know, full sail or college or you know, from being a PA to a director and without putting the, the years of what you have to put into to get to that. Um, can you talk about that a little bit? Can you respond to that?

Speaker 5:30:48

Yeah, it is weird. I think not to be that guy that's dissing the younger generation, but I mean there is this, you know, need that's been around for several years and I work, people just want to be a, be an influencer right away. You know, they, we have the big following in the name and all that. And um, I've actually had a lot of interesting conversations. I always try to give back by meeting with up and comer creatives. Um, uh, you know, I always say, you have to, you have to influence first to be an influencer. You have to put in your, you know, your quote unquote 10,000 hours of doing something interesting. That's the only reason I've had a little small pocket of people following me is that I did a decade of the typography, you know, and I worked really hard learning and shooting and failing and trying and, you know, um, I now feel like I'm really learning all over again, but I'm just always curious and always diving deeper and trying new things and experimenting and reinventing. Um, and so I think you really can't even think about the, the fame or the influence, whatever. You just got to keep your head down and start, you know, cranking out stuff and the rest will come if you're good. You know, I always always say find, find out what you have to say and how to say it in a unique way so he can figure out those two things. Like you're golden, you know, finding your voice and how to make it unique.

Speaker 6:32:22

I, I'm so with you on this, Jeremy, I, when I'm in a meeting with someone in, I hear them say the words I'm, I want to affect the culture. I kind of politely excuse myself because I know that probably what the last thing is that they're about to do is affect the culture. Because that's not how you, you know what I mean? You don't, I don't think you go into it planning to effect the culture. You go into it planning to create great work and work that's meaningful and work that moves you and works on a heart level for you. And then that, and then that's, you know, it works one by one. I don't, I don't,

Speaker 7:33:01

I don't, uh,

Speaker 6:33:03

I don't think you, you, you know, if you're, if your desire is to be, you know, they're the rock star standing in front of 100,000 people, you may not get there because that, that in itself is not the goal, right. That that is sort of a, a outgrowth of the goal. You, you to play stadiums. Not because they wanted to play stadiums, they play stadiums because they wrote these great songs that, that lots of people want to hear, you know, and so the stadium, the stadium experience is just a, it's a like a necessary part of, you know,

Speaker 7:33:38


Speaker 6:33:39

it's, it's sort of the function, uh, you know, the, the, the, the end result function of something that happens deeper and more internally than that. Right?

Speaker 7:33:49


Speaker 6:33:52

You, uh, you've had, man, I, you, you, you said this and I think it's wonderful that you, you got to find out what you want to say. I, I'm a firm believer that you have to live to, uh, and I tell all young writers, they asked, they asked me, what's the key to, you know, writing in a, and I always say, go complicate your life. Um, you know, if you've lived a really protected life, if you've lived a life without tragedy, if you've lived a life without pain, if you have avoided all of that stuff, you probably don't have anything to say to anybody.

Speaker 7:34:29

Yeah. Um,

Speaker 6:34:31

you sir, have had all of those things and talk about that a little bit to talk about how that, uh, informs your art, how that informs your journey. Uh, you've, you've had, you know, if any, anybody that wants to go watch your video, we'll get the, you know, the, the rough start that you had and all of that stuff and all of those things you, that you overcame. It's totally inspirational. But, um, just to maybe touch on a subject that might be a bit painful, but to talk about your brother a little bit and how that situation informs your moving forward and how it's informed your art.

Speaker 7:35:06


Speaker 5:35:06

sure. Yeah, I've certainly had my share of, of loss and, and hardships. Uh, my brother was, uh, 43 when he suddenly passed away of a heart attack. Now it was, gosh, five or six years ago now. Um, and we had no idea. He knew he had anything wrong with him with that he was healthy as can be. And so, um, he had a suddenly lose a brother, certainly changes a lot of perspective and all the, um, now the adopted at children, but two of them are adopted from Haiti. And, uh, you know, I've faced a significant challenge with one of them every day, um, because he endeared a lot of hard stuff while he was in Haiti and that can cause a lot of brain trauma for children. Um, and so what was done to him has made him very, um, you know, challenging.

Speaker 6:36:02

How old is he?

Speaker 5:36:03

Oh, he's now, uh, about to turn nine years old. And so he has a lot of great days too. But man, the hard days are the hardest thing I've ever faced in my life. And, um, you know, that continues to, to, you know, happen. Uh, and never knew which day is going to be good or hard, you know, good or hard day. And so, um, and they're, you know, I'm now facing my own health challenges. I've got a near a logical disease and I'm fighting every day and trying to figure out how to, how to beat it. Not that I can beat it all habits the rest of my life, but how to take care of myself. Um, you know, and so, um, like I said, I'm 42 and so, uh, yeah, there are certainly a lot of, uh, challenges dealing with my parents who are aging and have a slew of health issues. You know, uh, life is, life is full of challenges right now. For sure.

Speaker 6:36:58

Well, and how does this D, do you channel this into your art? Can you channel it into your art? Does it, does it, does it inform you in a, like an oblique way where maybe you don't, maybe it comes out in ways that you don't even think about consciously?

Speaker 5:37:12

Yeah, I think so. I think it keeps me, um, very humble for sure, but very, um, understanding and empathetic to others. You know, uh, I don't see myself as any, any different from, you know, the, the lady who cleans this building and washes the toilets. You know, I, I think of myself as just some other version, finding his way through life. I don't think of myself as like an influencer of celebrity. None of this stuff. I live in very normal, quiet life, especially these days. Um, but all of those things certainly in influenced the way I approach people when I photograph them. Uh, the RMA, the, the approach they'll take when speaking and, and then talking to people after I speak. It approaches him in a, uh, an informs the approach we're taking on the purpose of Intel. You know, how to relate to people. Um, it informs the book that it just did. I mean, yes, certainly, uh, is, affects all of it

Speaker 6:38:15

to a, how does it, how does it affect how you, how do you, uh, photograph people? That's interesting to me. What, what, in what way would that w would that affect? It? Does it, does it change what you're looking for out of a shot?

Speaker 5:38:28

I think so. Yeah. Cause people walk into photos to do and they're really, really intimidated. Uh, they're, they're nervous about how they look. They'd never done this before. They feel awkward. They're intimidated by being photographed by a well known photographer, all that stuff. And then to break all those barriers down and just to pour into them and love on them and ask them about their life and get to know them, it suddenly becomes this super laid back, you know, fun experience and you get much better results because of that, you know, when they suddenly feel like a friend is photographing them, they almost forget the camera is there. And so yeah, there's, there's much better results that way.

Speaker 6:39:12

And you, and it sounds to me, you know, I'm just outside looking in, but it, it would, it would sounds like what you're looking for in a photograph in a shot in a, in the capturing of a moment is, is something real and something expressive and something that, that actually sort of captures them as opposed to just a pretty picture. Right.

Speaker 5:39:35

Yeah, for sure. And I'll be honest, I don't, I don't have a specific plan on, never do a comment, wait and watch a, try a bunch of things really quickly and I, and uh, look at the results and I like recently heard any Liebowitz speak and I loved hearing her talk because she has the same approach. He lets, lets the scene and, or you know, unveil itself. She's not this master director that knows exactly what she's going to get. I'm the same way. Some of the third rows are that way. They'd see the shop before it happens. And um, I really, um, I'm an artist with, with the way I use light. I don't say that to be whatever, but like I have this insane process that mixes led lights with projection with, uh, strobes that change every time I shoot and I'm projectors changing the backdrop every two seconds and all the led lights are rotating in. So I kinda throw people into this just total chaos of experimentations with light. Then I direct them, then I told them and then just start having a conversation. And while we're doing that, all the scene around them is changing. And so for me it's just a way to, let's just see what happens. Let's throw you in the blender and see what flavor comes out. It's really,

Speaker 4:40:57

what kind of smoothie are you? I think the LSD helps too, right Jeremy? When you just kinda like give him a little at the beginning and they kind of LSD when you give him the LSD,

Speaker 6:41:14

I think we all know that LSD is a prime ingredient to all all art. I mean, I think that's kind of on the table. Well,

Speaker 4:41:20

one thing I, I, I can, I can attest for, I can attest to, I mean it's, I think it's a lot about authenticity. Um, and people can sense that. People know when you're being fake and they know when you're being real. Um, and you're, you're able to, anytime you're able to, and it can be an a negotiation or you know, in a photo session or, or whatever it is. And when you, when someone can feel that you're just, you're connecting with them and you find a way to connect with them, uh, at a heart level, it's sort of like the walls. You can almost just kind of see the walls come down and, and things open up.

Speaker 5:41:58

Yup. For sure. Every time,

Speaker 6:42:01

you know, Jeremy, as I get older, uh, we're, we're in this, we're in this world, in this culture, uh, where everybody is kinda geared to quote unquote bring it right. You know, we've got the, the voice and American idol and America's got talent and all these shows where everybody is sort of, uh, encouraged to, you know, man, just bring your best and you've got to, you know, re raised to another level and this, and this and this and this and it's, and it's all very, it tends, it can lend itself to artifice. Right. Uh, and I find I'm more interested. Uh, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who wants to do a record and, and he, he was, he's brilliant. He's, he's great. He absolutely should do a record. And he's like, man, I just, I just want it to be, I don't know if it's going to be good enough. And the acid mint, buddy, we, we don't really need you to be good. We need you to be, you.

Speaker 5:42:53


Speaker 6:42:54

and I F. F that's what I'm really looking for more now in whatever artistic expression I'm, I mean, obviously there's a bar of technical expertise. You don't want to see, you know, a movie that's not done technically. Right. You know, where you can't hear the dialogue and you can't see the, you know, you can't see this and you can't see that. Obviously we want to, we want to see something shot well, but at the, at the end of it, I really want to see authenticity. I want to see a heart, I guess is the only way to put it. That's one of the things that I really appreciate about everything that you've done artistically. I feel like I get that. Do you think the quote unquote celebrities who you've shot, you think that's one of the reasons they come to you?

Speaker 5:43:40

I would hope so. I mean, a lot of times, you know, celebrities or even their handlers have no idea who I am as a person. Um, you know, at typically typically get hired because of my portfolio and my artistic approach. Um, but yeah, I hope then I'm able to really comfort them or make them feel comfortable on set because I'm a laid back demeanor, whatever. And so, um, yeah, I hope it all plays into it.

Speaker 4:44:08

Um, one thing as we kind of wrap up here, what we try to do and talk about on the groove or our goal is to share other people's stories of, you know, sometimes you know, you're, you're in the groove, sometimes you're out, sometimes you're in it, sometimes you get kicked out. Um, as we kind of wrap up here, can you, do you have any kind of like, you know, words of encouragement for people that are, you know, whether they be creative or artistic or whatever. Um, do you have any kind of like words of encouragement that, that, that you could kind of impart?

Speaker 5:44:40

Yeah, I would just say too, you know, kind of were talking about earlier, it's really trying to figure out like what do you, what do you love? You know, what do you love to do? You know, cause I think a lot of people, I think part of the midlife crisis thing is people realizing they thought they wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a physical therapist, a teacher, and then they realize years into it that way. I don't actually love doing this, you know? So it's important to figure that out first. Then how can you, you know, say something within that industry that's in a unique way, you know, so as a photographer, it's, it's one thing to take great pictures of the thing you love, but chances are there's hundreds if not thousands of people that are also taking great pictures of the thing. So how do you then tweak it and make it your own? Then you've really got something. You're doing something you love here. You're telling the story in a, in a unique way. And I think that can be applied to so many different careers, you know? Um, and so yeah, and it's ultimately the million dollar question, you know, it was finding your vision. Uh, it's, it's always an ongoing journey. I mean, for me, you know, 15 years into this, it's still the ongoing journey is figuring out who I am and what I'm just saying.

Speaker 4:45:59

That's awesome, man. Your book is called, I'm possible jumping into fear and discovering a life of purpose. Um, and they can find that again. Uh, Jeremy just said, Jeremy, Well, thank you man so much for being on the show. Um, it's been a real honor to just to eighties, just to get to catch up into, uh, always, you know, get a little bit of your insight. Um, it's, it's you, I can tell you for a fact you've inspired me in my career and things that, that have been, I have found success in that, that I have, uh, gained a lot of inspiration, um, just following you around. So, um, I encourage everybody, you know, hop on and follow, you know, hop on the Jeremy Howard train falling around. You'll see some authenticity, you'll see some great art. Um, and you'll also see some funny tweets have to say this before we go, cause I follow you on Twitter and the other day, um, you, you sent out a tweet about, does anyone know how to get rid of bad smells? Did you ever get cause what'd you say? Like your studios sandwiched between like a, a restaurant and, and smoking some like smoking or something

Speaker 5:47:10

like in an old factory and then I'm next to seafood restaurant. The public restrooms are right outside that door and there's people that smoke out some my doors all the time. So I'm like in a turd sandwich over here. So yeah, I'm always trying to figure out how to make us [inaudible]

Speaker 4:47:28

so that just, you can still make beautiful, amazing art with the stench of life surrounding it. Right around my best.

Speaker 6:47:38

You're doing great man. Thank you so much for being on the, on the show and I'm sure you've inspired people out there. You've certainly inspired us and uh, that's how you stay in the groove man.

Speaker 4:47:49

Exactly. Thank you guys for having me. Really appreciate it.

Speaker 6:47:53

Thank you man. That was just amazing. It was inspiring. Head over to the groove, for the show notes

Speaker 3:48:01

and to learn more about Jeremy, you're gonna want to do that. And just as a reminder, don't forget to hit that five star rating and give us a thumbs up wherever you listen to your podcasts. It really does help push the show on and get us noticed. Um, also if you'd like to help support the show, head over to the group, and click on the support tab and you'll be directed to our Patrion page. Thank you guys. We need the love. Oh, we just love us. Love us, love us. Uh, no, just kidding. Uh, thank you guys for joining us and remember that anywhere you are, no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what failures you've had, no matter what your vision is, you can find the groove. That's what we're looking for here to find the groove. We'll see you next time. Thanks guys.

Speaker 2:48:53


Speaker 3:48:53

You've been listening to The Groove with Devin Pense and Regie Hamm.


#JeremyCowart, #PurposeHotel, #HelpPortrait, #I'mPossible, #Photography, #OKDOTHIS, #TheGroovePodcast, #DevinPense, #RegieHamm, #JeremyCowart


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