Whether it’s hosting Artistik Lounge, showing off Memphis in a Choose901 film, or performing alongside bandmate Siphne Sylve, Brandon “Eso” Tolson is proving himself to be one of Memphis’ most influential creative voices. Eso’s Embrace Your Inner Memphis shirts have been a huge hit since he first released the design after a stranger in midtown told him on St. Patrick’s Day to “Get in touch with your inner Memphis.” I sat down with Eso at Tamp and Tap and talked origin stories, creative influences, and the future of Memphis.
Q: You came to Memphis to study art and have stayed even after your degree was completed, what keeps you here?
A: So, I’m originally from East St. Louis, IL. I’ve been in Memphis for 7 years now. The thing that keeps me in Memphis is its culture and people. I feel being a transplant to the city gives me an advantage of seeing the city with a fresh pair of eyes. I love how the city has grown to really embrace itself over the past few years.
People have to [continue] to be educated on the worth and value of art . . . Memphis is moving past nostalgia and toward creating another new look, feel, and sound. In addition, the nostalgia that we feel now, at the time it was created, was new, fresh, and original. Memphis has always been known for it’s innovation in art and now it’s getting back to the business of doing that very thing…AGAIN!
Q: What drives you to create? What is the role of the artist in society? In Memphis?
A: I have to create. All humans create. We have different ways as to how we approach creating, but we all do it. Personally, if I couldn’t create I would probably go insane. Creating gives me peace and fulfillment. Whether it a piece of art, a song, a dance routine, a sketch, or an event, creating gives me the ability to organize and release thoughts and feelings in a constructive way. Art has a way of communicating that transcends language. It can be perceived as lofty and elitist, and sometimes it can be. However, culture couldn’t survive without it. Memphis is a shining example of a place with rich culture, history, and humanity. I couldn’t imagine Memphis without its art, which has influenced the entire world.
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