(Original Photo By: Transparency Agency)
We often hear great stories of perseverance and courage in the face of adversity. Life can knock you down and how you get back up can truly define you. Some of the most successful people look at adversity as a challenge and enjoy conquering it. Other kinds of adversity you don’t see coming, but you can still respond in just as admirable of a fashion. This is what Eduardo Morrell, better known as producer/DJ, Rell the Soundbender did when his life and career were put on hold with a cancer diagnosis.
“In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer, so that put my whole life on hold. I’m Panamanian and I actually found out I had cancer while I was in Panama. The doctor said I was fighting time so I either needed to stay there and do my treatment or fly back to the United States. I stayed there. So I lived in Panama in 2014 doing my treatment, I had to cancel shows…I had to call somebody back home in Charlotte to move all of my gear out of the studio I was renting, everything just flipped. But it was also a blessing, because it put things into perspective for me. It brought me closer to my mom. We rented out a little house and we didn’t have anything for like eight months, it just humbled me. To this day, that’s why I claim Panama so much; personally I feel like I was reborn, that it was another chance for me. If it wasn’t for me being there, I might not be alive today.”
Although Rell’s parents are from Panama, he and his sister were born in the States and he grew up in Virginia. It was there that Rell started hearing hip-hop on the radio and got inspired to start producing. Rell was also an avid baseball player and developed a love for NBA basketball, especially the Washington Wizards. Despite many interests, by his late teens, he knew that his future was in the music world.
“As a kid I wanted to be a baseball player. I was really good at it, not to toot my own horn, but it runs in my family – my dad and uncle were both great ball players. I started listening to music heavily when I got into Timberland because of his production and beats. Around 16 or 17 the whole music dream began…when I realized it was fun, for one, and people had an interest in it, and I could do something with it. Producers like Timberland and Nottz inspired me. I’m from Virginia so I came up in that whole 757 Beat Club era, and that’s what inspired me to do what I do now. If it wasn’t for that I might be an astronaut.”
As Rell said, going through cancer puts things into perspective. For him the day-to-day of being a musician is the easy part. He’s truly focused on his craft and is trying to make a positive impact on the world through his music. Streaming numbers and social media hits are a non-starter for him, although admittedly sometimes to his brand’s detriment. Nonetheless, Rell has an impressive resume with releases on OWSLA, and collabs with Far East Movement and YG.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get up and make a 160 BPM raving song when you know the world is getting bombed. If I can make music that helps them escape that, I’m doing my part…Not only with music, but it also extends into social media and meeting people. I’m not a Diplo or anybody, but I feel like if you’re even remotely a public figure/artist and you have one person who gets inspired by you, it’s your responsibility to uphold that, to just put out that positive message and inspire people. For me, it’s always a thing when I have somebody tell me they love my music. I feel like now I have to continue inspiring and finding a way to motivate. We’re all human, everyone gets pissed off, but the main focus now is just to be yourself and stay on that path because it’s so easy to get weird along the way.”
Rell keeps a pretty simple formula for success. Not only is he making the music he loves, he’s also inspiring other artists, as well as trying to make a movement back in his adopted home of Panama using his cache to give artists such as Fidel Coronado and PuroWuan a chance to shine. After overcoming cancer, Rell has the utmost courage. His advice to everyone else, whether it be in music or life is…JUST DO IT.
“Always be true to yourself, don’t change for anyone…Don’t fear doing something you want to do. If you want to make a certain genre of music, make it. I feel like a lot of people think too much. When you sit down and make a song you shouldn’t always be thinking. I don’t worry about what genre I’ll make a song at least…just make something. Don’t be afraid to go left, do what you do, keep a level head on your shoulders, and you’ll be alright.”