Anthony Hale is the kind of guy who could have a Lifetime movie made about him. His story is insane, the dude survived brain cancer and got stabbed in the throat. Yet he radiates positive energy and remains optimistic about life.

At the beginning of the year, he released his album The Beacon which I can only describe as an upbeat tragedy. In his new music video for the song “Hospital Gowns,” he turns the aftermath of cancer treatment into a catchy chorus.

Anthony Hale “Hospital Gowns” ft. Kara Johnson

A Conversation With Anthony Hale

After hearing The Beacon, I got connected with Anthony through a mutual friend and set up a time for the two of us to chat. He tells me that he’s been attending the University of Washington and could meet after class. So I invited him over to tell me his story.

RMR: So you just got out of class, right? What are you going to school for?

Hale: Occupational Therapy.

RMR: Really? That’s interesting, how did you get started with that?

Hale: Kind of how everything in my life has started, as a result of some kind of tragedy. That’s been a common theme in my life which is kind of cool. Really awful things happen, and really amazing things come from it.

So to make a long story kind of long, I got diagnosed with brain cancer at 21. At that time I was going to go to law school. But then with multiple brain surgeries, chemo, and radiation, my brain was fried. I had such bad, what’s called aphasia, that I couldn’t even talk or form sentences anymore. I had to go to occupational therapy for about 3 months and went from not being able to talk to being able to go back to school.

RMR: I heard that the process of recording your album was rough.

Hale: Yeah, so I was living in Bellingham. I was finishing my prerequisites for grad school, which was super intense and really competitive. So in the midst of getting ready for grad school, I would come down on the weekends and record with Seth Mcdonald at Purple Door. We would knock out like three or four-hour sessions and get as much quality stuff done as we could.

I can’t speak highly enough of him, I love Seth. He’s an amazing man. I’m going to go on a little rabbit trail about Seth. The reason I love recording with Seth is because, at least for him and I, we have built a relationship to where if I record something and it’s trash or it’s not up to my standard or his standard, he’ll tell me. He’ll say, “No I don’t like this and this is why.” He’s not afraid to say that to me and that’s so valuable and so hard to find, especially in the music industry. You get so many yes men, and yes women.

RMR: Especially in Seattle.

Hale: Yes. One, they don’t want to see you win. Two, they’re just like whatever or like gas you up. And Seth doesn’t do that, he’s not that guy. That’s rare, and finding him has been a great thing for me.

Anthony Hale Talks Brain Cancer, Stabbings, Recording His Album Twice

This here would be the Seth in question.

Hale: To get back to it, I’m came down here to do sessions on the weekends amidst all that chaos. Eventually, I moved down here and we’re still recording. I got a lot of other stuff going on; I’m getting married and I’m working now while planning my wedding. Still recording on off days and weekends or whenever we had the time.

Then, the album was done. It was basically completely done and Seth had just started mixing it. He texts me one day and is like, “Do you have time to talk today?” I was thinking it was going to be something about like the snare drums or something like that. But he says, “We got something going on with the drive down at Purple Door. The studio drive got corrupted and I can see the songs on there, which is good, but I can’t pull them off into sessions or do anything with them.”

We spent two years recording this album and I spent lots of money, lots of time. I’m wondering if we’re going to be able to get any of them, and Seth kept saying he was going to do everything he could. Purple Door spent a lot of time and money trying to get it fixed, but they never got it fixed. I was devastated. The first song on my album I talk about that.

Anthony Hale Talks Brain Cancer, Stabbings, Recording His Album TwiceI had so much anxiety and I was so distraught, I was like what do I even do from this point? After I went through the experience with cancer, I started believing in God. I was praying one day asking God what he wanted, I thought you wanted me to do music but do I just stop? I heard so clearly from Him, “What’s changed? What’s different, you still need to do this.” Then Seth was like, listen this sucks. He didn’t say this, but it wasn’t his fault. And he was like we’re going to track all that stuff again, and I’m going to do it for you for free.

That man would come in early before my classes. I had class at 8:30am at UW, we’d get to Purple Door at like 6:30-7:00 and bang out a session. We’d go in super early, or way later after everyone had left. The thing is since we had already done all of those tracks at a nauseam we knew exactly how we wanted them to sound. We did it four times as fast and better. Once again a super big tragedy but something great came from it.

Anthony Hale “Sailing” ft. Pascal

RMR: I love that you remained upbeat; you can’t always have albums that are happy go lucky. Another story that Seth was telling me about was your attendance at the All Star Opera album release party back in October. He said you had just gotten stabbed that week? What was going through your mind to still make it out to that event?

Hale: Yeah, so my wife and I were staying out on Beacon Hill and I took the light rail every day to school. I was coming home one day from school. Walking home from the light rail is only a few blocks. No big deal. I was on the phone with my dad and I had my headphones in. I was standing right in front of our place and I heard someone right behind me start yelling. He’s like super sketchy looking, clearly strung out.

He’s like, “Ay man, you got a cigarette?” I’m like, “Nah, I don’t smoke.”  So he asks, “You live here?” I’m standing right in front of my place but I’m like, “Nah, I don’t live here.” Then he goes like super-fast and hits me. it felt like he just punched me. I pushed the gate open to our place and I just started bleeding everywhere. He says, “Give me your fucking wallet or I’ll kill you.” So I throw him my wallet like go, and he runs.

I have a very thorough knowledge of human anatomy, so I know if you get stabbed in the neck in this area, there’s your jugular and both branches of your carotid. Any of those get hit, you’re dead. So my first thought was that I’m dead.

The knife basically weaved in between all of that and came out in my mouth. I went to the hospital and even the doctor was like “I have no idea how you’re alive right now. This is amazing, there is no reason you should be alive right now.”

Anthony Hale Talks Brain Cancer, Stabbings, Recording His Album Twice

Anthony Hale with Travis Thompson and Shelton Harris

RMR: And how long has it been since you were dealing with cancer?

Hale: I’ve been in remission for about 7 years now. I don’t know, it was so clear to me that something or someone didn’t want me to live for some reason, whatever that was. I had a friend text me after that happened and he said, “It’s super clear that you’re here for a purpose and somebody wants to stop that. Because look at what’s happened in your life.” I’ve really marinated on that. 

RMR: What brought you into hip-hop instead of any other genre?

Hale: So I used to sing in a band called Count the Hours from the time that I was 16-20. We were signed to a local record label, we toured, did shows, and put out an album. That just seems like a completely different part of my life now, which I mean, it is.

Through that experience of being in a band, I fell in love with the writing process and how cathartic that is for me. Just being able to communicate my thoughts to people; there’s just something so amazing when you’re vulnerable and you write something, you put it into a song and you put that out for the world to hear. Then someone hears it and comes to you and says something like, “This really resonated with me.” For me, that’s all I ever wanted to do. That’s all I still want to do.

So yeah, I was in a band. Then at 21, I get cancer. At this point I have so much I want to say. I was still figuring myself out, as I am still to this day. We’re all a process.  Anyways, I have so much I want to say and I’ve always enjoyed listening to hip-hop. It made sense to me, so I ended up sending an email to Seth back in 2014.

RMR: Did you know him before that? Or were you just looking for an engineer?

Hale: Yeah so I was living up in Bellingham and had people out there who were recording and they were okay. But, I was at a point with my craft where I wanted to take it to the next level. I talked to my boy from Bremerton and asked him where he had been tracking his stuff. He told me about Seth and Purple Door, I sent the email and the rest is history.

Anthony Hale – The Beacon