If you’re a close friend or someone that just so happens to catch a wave nearby, you’re in luck, because he is one of the most talented surf photographers we know. But surfing and photography weren’t his first love. He first picked up a guitar at the age of 10 and for nearly 20 years it appears he hasn’t put it down. We were stoked to have him join us in Peru as the featured photographer, and having him play a show at The House of Ride Nature after we returned was like icing on the cake. We’re stoked to give you an inside look on some new projects Titus has in the works.
Let’s start off with a pretty easy question…how long have you been growing that mustache?!
As far as I can remember, I don't think I've ever shaved my mustache. I remember shaving it before it existed. Ha! I just tried to conjure it up somehow, but since it started to grow, I don’t think I’ve ever shaved it.
What about your hair–surely you’ve had some hair cuts, right? You’re like a modern day Sampson!
It’s definitely a spiritual discipline! Ha! But yeah, I’ve been growing it out for a while also. I think I’ve trimmed it maybe four or five times in the last nine years. But never more than an inch or two.
And how did you get the nickname “Uncle Tito?”
A lot of my friends married young and started having kids. Pretty much by the time I was graduating college I was becoming an uncle. Their kids were calling me uncle and next thing you know I was calling myself uncle! And Tito is Spanish for Titus.
Ok, so straight from Peru back to Florida for a concert the next day. I know I was tired, I can only imagine you were as well, but do you feel like music fuels you? Like you come alive when you play?
Yeah, I mean, live music specifically has always been something that is life-giving for me. When I'm playing a show or live music for people, I feel like I'm doing what I'm made to do. So in that sense, yes, it is definitely fueling. If I'm on tour and I just played 20 shows in a row it might be a little different but during the show, I'll still be energized.
When did you start playing music?
I think around third grade. My dad is a pianist and I was always really interested in the electric guitar. As soon as I started to play I went pretty deep, pretty fast. By the time I was in Junior High, I was playing in bands and learning solos and stuff.
Did you know right away you wanted to do music full time?
As soon as I started playing I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I wanted it to be my work. There was an immediate connection right out of the gate.
You’ve been working on a new album for awhile now, right? What’s the status with that?
So the last record I put out was in 2018 and it's taken me almost four years to finish this new one. I’m hoping and planning on releasing it in early 2022.
What has taken you so long to finish this one?
Well, Covid obviously affected a lot of things. Plans for recording especially.
But honestly, in hindsight, I don’t have any regrets. I think the delays will end up being for the better in the long run. It’s given me more time to write more songs and really figure out what I wanted to do with the album as a whole.
We did a podcast with Jon Foreman a while back and he mentioned that he writes songs every morning. Is that something you do as well?
That’s rad. Yeah, I got the idea from an author but I can’t remember who it was. But he had talked about his process with writing books and that’s what he did as well. He would wake up every morning and no matter what, even if he didn’t feel inspired, he would just write for two or three hours. That really motivated me to do the same thing. I started setting my alarm for like 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. and I would write for two hours every morning. Whether I felt like it or not, I would just write. Over time I had written over 100 songs and essentially tried to narrow it down to the best 12 for this new album. I’m really stoked on it.
Do you write lyrics or melodies first?
I've always written melodies first. So when I'm writing in those early morning sessions, what I’m usually doing is basically noodling intentionally on the guitar. And honestly, pretty much every time I pick up the guitar, some kind of idea just happens. I always record those no matter what. I for real have thousands of voice memos saved on my phone of little melody ideas. Then I’ll come back to them later and whichever ones are the most compelling I’ll start to create lyrics around them.
Has this new album been one of the biggest projects you've ever spearheaded?
Yeah, it is definitely longer than anything I've done before. My previous album only has eight songs. This record will be 12. And it’s something I’ve taken a lot of risks on; really letting go of control and letting the music just happen. In the studio, I basically didn’t show any of the musicians the songs until we were ready to record and everyone just played their first impressions of them. It created a pretty cool sound in the end. But from writing, recording, and financially funding everything on my own, it has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve done for sure.
As an Indie artist, you’re really on your own?
Yes, that's correct. Which has been pretty challenging, but up until this point I don’t really feel it necessary to pursue a label. It's tricky, because there are a lot of ways that it would be very helpful, but the music industry has changed a lot. We're kind of in an era where you can be your own label, but the hard part is that you end up doing all of the work yourself and don’t get to focus solely on the music. But so far it’s been pretty chill.
Is there a specific song or set of lyrics that you’re most excited about on the new album?
Man, that’s a really hard question because I really do love every song on the record and I don't think I could have said that in the past. There is a song I wrote called “Shaky Sighs.” Basically, I talk about how there are so many perspectives of “truth” that everyone is telling you and it becomes hard to sort through what’s really true and what isn’t. It really just touches on the predicament that we’re in now as a society about how “truth” has become this relative thing. We can live our lives assuming what we’ve been told is the truth, but in the end it may not be and that can obviously be damaging. I personally really resonate with that song. I’m kind of just confessing in a sense that I believe there are things that aren’t true and I guess I want to encourage people to not just believe everything you hear.
Who would you say are the musicians or photographers that really inspire you the most?
There are so many on both fronts. John Hook for sure–he’s a surf photographer in Hawaii. He's very inspiring to me. Robbie Jeffers–a film photographer based in SoCal. He used to be the original photographer for Stussy. Daniel Manson–he’s basically the reason I do photography right now! As far as music, definitely the Beatles. Also Radiohead and The Verve.
Kind of a random question, but if you could open for any band (dead or alive) or even have them open for you, who would it be?
Definitely going to say the Beatles for both of those. 100%.
I don’t remember a time laughing as much as we did on this last trip to Peru. So many good memories, but are there any that really stand out to you?
I feel like two things really stood out to me. The first was being inspired by the boldness of the people there living for Jesus. The second was just the thought that humans are so similar really anywhere you go in the world. There are obviously differences in the culture or what kind of food you eat, but at the end of the day, with just the basic things in life and the basic desires of the human heart, we’re all the same. That always stands out to me and is something I observe every time I travel.
You only had one small tattoo going into this trip. Any regrets with being peer pressured into getting another one?
Honestly, I’m very happy that I got a tattoo in Peru. I’m surprised that I’m so stoked on it. So yeah, definitely no regrets.
Surf or take photos?
In this season of my life right now, I would rather take photos; but I think my answer is going to start to change very soon. I’ve been working on a photography book for a while and I’m pretty driven to finish that up. I’m definitely a better photographer than I am a surfer, so I'd rather get really good photos of people who are good surfers but I’m starting to want to surf more.
You ever trade off surf photography with other surf photographers? Like you'll take pictures of them and then they take pictures of you?
Nah, I don't really want photos of myself! There are some things that are better not documented.
Do you have any travel plans coming up?
I'll be in Hawaii in December through the holidays and into the New Year. This will be my third year in a row doing that. There are just so many of the best surfers in the world that are there around that time. So it’s a good time to go hang out and get really good photos.
So when is this photo book getting released?
Actually, I had hoped to finish that project three years ago, but I had some aspirations as far as destinations that I wanted to go to shoot before I finished it. Covid put a damper on those plans as well. I really wanted to shoot in Indonesia but I don’t know if that will happen. I think I actually have enough content to make the book happen, I just need to find the time to put it together.
It sounds like 2022 is going to be a big year–photo album hopefully getting released and a new record. What’s beyond that?
I am never lacking ideas, but I'm also trying hard to just be present. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. If I were to guess though, I would say both of those projects would have sequels. I’ll tour for most of 2022 and then probably start working on the next record and photography project. Both of those projects have been several years in the works. I just need to finish them before I get too excited about the next thing. I would really love to make a surf film someday. That’s a big dream of mine!
When the new record comes out, you down to come back to Florida for an album release party?
For sure! Let's make it happen.
To listen to more of Titus’ story check out his interview on The Pursuit Collective
podcast available on iTunes and Spotify.