Conor McMullen on the ‘Lucid Project’ and mental wellness
Conor McMullen has been around the world and back with his careers, but he found his love of music in 2016 and hasn’t looked back. Working as a DJ since, McMullen created the Lucid Project, a project combining relaxation and mindfulness with EDM music, to help bring people the mental peace they need.
Not only has it helped plenty of people, it helped McMullen himself when he was left within an inch of his life after a deadly car accident in 2019. As his health recovers, McMullen has big plans for the Lucid Project, especially to help everyone through quarantine.
We spoke with McMullen about his career as a DJ and his plans for the Lucid Project.
What did you do before music?
Honestly, it’s always been music, but of course, I had to pay the bills. So, the last 15 years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to grow from all kinds of professional and personal experiences.
Things like managing restaurants with a James Beard Award hospitality group, running around Central & South America, and most recently. working with a global top 50 market research firm. Life’s been pretty fun, so far. I’m looking forward to what’s next.
How did you get started as a DJ?
My Dad actually used to DJ back in the disco days, so I guess it’s in the blood? The catalyst for me actually getting started, though, was 2016 in Washington, DC. Yassin Khalid (Lucid co-founder) and I were at a show when we just turned to each other and said, “We should do this.”
Two weeks later, I signed myself up for DJ lessons. And now we’re here.
How do you get into a creative mood to create music?
Great question. I have a holistic approach when it comes to creativity. I only consume things (mentally, physically) that will add to the creative fuel tank. I listen to music that evokes inspiration, I jump in the ocean, play my guitar, etc. Now, when I sit down for my daily music sessions, I don’t have to search for ideas. I just draw on the inspiration I’ve been surrounding myself with.
What drew you to making EDM music?
Actually, another family DJ got me started there. My cousin went to Full Sail University for Audio Engineering and he’s been DJing since the 90s. He’d always bring me the freshest house music when we got together at family gatherings, and then when I found out what he was doing at Full Sail, I wanted in.
What inspired you to create the Lucid Project in the first place?
It started with a conversation in Washington, DC, in October 2017. Myself and Yassin (referenced above) were at a Halloween party, when we ran into a friend who was fresh off a business trip to Colombia.
He’d gotten the greenlight to run operations for a hospitality group in Santa Marta, Colombia (up the coast from Cartagena) and needed help with music programming. From there, we kicked around a few ideas, booked our tickets to Colombia, and Lucid was born.
You had a near-death experience a few years ago that changed your outlook on life. Tell us about that.
Yeah, it was on February 23, 2019. I was walking home from a friend’s birthday party, when I got hit by what police assumed to be a drunk driver. Hit and run though – we never found out who did it. All I remember is waking up in the ICU, getting dragged to surgery.
It’s definitely been a crazy past 2 years, trying to piece my health & life back together, while simultaneously managing all of my music projects.
And it’s been through this process of rebuilding, that I’ve been provided with my fresh outlook. When you realize how fragile life is, you learn how to see past the bullshit and focus on the important things.
Why is mindfulness so important to you?
I’ll be as candid as possible here, because one of my goals is to lift the stigma surrounding mental health. If I hadn’t been practicing mindfulness before the accident, I think I would have committed suicide during the recovery.
There were a handful of times that I laid in bed and seriously contemplated it. I attribute the drive to keep going, to my mindfulness practice, so it’s an incredibly powerful tool that we have at our disposal. I want everyone to feel the same level of self empowerment.
What exactly is the concept of Aluna, and why do you want your work to represent it?
Aluna represents the concept of consciousness, or our collective universal energy. It’s a word borrowed from the indigenous Kogi people of Colombia. Through my travels, I learned more about their efforts to save the world, and I wanted to help them spread the message.
How has the success of the Lucid Project influenced your music?
As Lucid Project has naturally evolved, so has my personal tastes. We’ve been shaped by so many different cultures and communities – I really want to celebrate that when I make music or plans for Lucid.
Are there any indie musicians we should be keeping our eyes on?
Tough one, because there are so many. I’ll give you three from the house music space. Sosotharpa, Ella Romand, Ben Yang. They’re all super talented producers, DJs, and great human beings. Check them out.
What are some relaxation techniques you can offer our readers struggling with mindfulness?
Don’t struggle. Haha, it’s easier said than done, I know. But think it about it like this. The point of mindfulness/meditation isn’t sitting down in a trance and stopping your thoughts. It’s about becoming more conscious of them.
This means bringing more awareness to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling, all without judgement. Instead of trying so hard to fight unwanted thoughts, let them come, thank them for their lesson, and move along. It’s like the Marie Kondo method for decluttering your mind.
This is the biggest key of all. Focus on your attention on the things that you WANT to happen, and not on what you DON’T want to happen. It seems simple, but if you can learn to do this consistently, your life will change in immeasurable ways. I promise you.
Why is music key in helping achieve proper mindfulness?
Certain kinds of music have calming effects on the body, which is definitely helpful in the mindfulness process. Scientists have known since the 1700s that music lowers BP, increases cardiac output, decreases pulse rate and, in general, assists the work of the parasympathetic system
You have a special experience coming up as part of the Lucid Project. Anything you can tell us about it?
With all of the COVID issues disrupting our industry, it’s been a challenge to figure out where to go from here. With no certainty about the timeline for live events, we’re being forced to get creative. And that’s a good thing.
Right now, we’re in what we’ll call “stealth mode,” and we’re currently building out a number of different experiences to fuse music and mindfulness. Expect some updates around our 3 year anniversary mark in October.
Who are your favorite artists to listen to right now?
In no particular order: Hot Since ‘82, Honey Dijon, Peggy Gou, Moon Boots, Lee Burridge.
What do you think the music industry will look like after COVID-19?
More of a focus on thoughtful and intimate gatherings, rather than massive festivals with bloated lineups.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Living my best life, making music and sharing amazing experiences with people all over the world. Did I get the job?
What tips do you have for up and coming artists?
Just do it because you love it and not for any other reason. The rest will fall into place if you stay consistent with it.
Do you have any experiences with mentors? Would you recommend them for up and coming musicians?
I did! Mike Monday has been transformative in my development – he works with people like Claude Von Stroke (Dirtybird) and I would highly recommend checking out his coaching courses.
What’s up next for you?
Taking one day at a time. Right now, I’m going to go hop in the ocean. Thank you for the interview!