Rob Ball
When you combine the restless spirit of an artist with a globally-focused entrepreneur that wants to save the world, incredible things can happen.

One Santa Cruz-based artist, Rob Ball, is already five tracks deep into an expansive and potentially limitless creative pool. He has combined his drive to perform at a high caliber as an artistic challenge in a quest to bring clean drinking water to rural third-world villages that have been forced to rely on corrupt governments and abusive militia to gain a foothold in self-sustainability.

Artists tend to try and circumvent labels that non-artists often attach to them and their work, these labels usually confined to the artist’s medium of choice. Ball takes the idea that people can be molded like clay to a new extreme by helping them tap into a conscious “flow state.” A flow state is akin to a pitcher on a hot streak, a skateboarder who just nailed his signature move, or anything similar. That’s the feeling and state of positive energy that Ball aims to draw out of his collaborations.

Highly motivated creatives tend to garner connections and like-minded acquaintances, and that was the case with Ball — it wasn’t long after implementing himself in the scene that Ball had amassed an address book that spanned the length of the left coast and stretched far into the right — a collaborative spice rack, if you will.

Ball, who also goes by the stage name of 333, is a local hip-hop MC and collaborator who has brought his own unique energy to virtually every genre or project he has been involved with. From soft and intimately nuanced folk grooves with Marya Stark to creating deep-hitting freestyles over Lowgritt electronic productions, Ball brings an elevated quality and personal quality to the table and that can only come from Santa Cruz.

When he isn’t sleeping or creating, he is actively immersing his energy as a life coach into helping “awakened creatives” translate their inspirations through various media with a positive focus, which he calls ‘Tap the Flow.’ Building off of the idea that an individual’s flow state is something that can be ‘tapped into,’ Ball got involved in the tapping of a real natural resource vital to any community or society: water.

A self-described conduit for the manifestation of inspiration, Ball seized another opportunity to be a beacon of positive force when he organized his efforts in support of the charity, a humanitarian organization dedicated to ending the clean water crisis in developing countries, one community at a time. Rather than continually raising money to transport water from outside, is committed to creating a sustainable and lasting water source that will help villages and families maintain autonomy over their water, and subsequently their future, by building wells.

In order to maximize his efforts, Ball drew a connection between the way is tapping the earth for the precious life source and his massive vision of collaboration: He is already putting an effort in tapping the artists he works with for their precious expressions of life. Combining his new passion with his life’s mission to tap the flow of other creatives, Ball created an extended project he calls Tap the Flow 24.

Tap the Flow 24 is a project where like-minded artists team up with him to create an original song and video, all with the aim of inspiring. Ball currently has five videos out dedicated to the project, but a vision like this doesn’t dawdle – inspiration is constantly flowing and the next installments are already being coordinated. The most recent video, launched on Thursday, August 18, contains the most grand vision yet. While adhering to the 24-hour rule (minus post-edit), Ball spent a day in Tahoe snowboarding and recording while his collaborator, Jackson Whalen and Kabir Garret produced the track in Massachusetts.

I had a chance to catch up with Ball and get his insight and perspective on the Tap the Flow project, and also chat about his work and life.

The Bay Bridged: Hi Rob, thanks for getting in touch with me. I really appreciate it!

Rob Ball: I’m really glad to be able to talk to you today, thank you for the interest!

TBB: Tell me about how this all got started. It’s a charity for water in developing countries, yeah?

RB: Yes, that’s an aspect of it. So I’ll give you a little bit of backstory. I started this project called Tap the Flow 24 and I’m partnering with, which is its own separate organization and non-profit. They are the ones that implement the water systems. They are an existing organization and they’re kicking butt doing great work around the world. A number of people support them. The nature of this project is recognizing that I have an unlimited gift of creativity, which is a blessing, and I also have a really wide creative community, and I felt that I not only wanted to use my gifts, but also access the greater community in being able to have a greater effect on something I believe in, which is clean water.

I’ve been in California now for about 7 or 8 years and you know, the community is very wide, even beyond Santa Cruz. The first video we did was in San Luis Obispo, the second was in Sonoma County,

[and] I just did one where I was snowboarding in Tahoe and the producer was in Massachusetts. Part of it is spreading out that global community of artists and mediums, people bridging gaps with resources and a point of valued creation — that is, music, and having the visual experience overflow into the worlds’ greater needs.

TBB: Wow, right on. When did you first get the idea for a 24-hour non-stop session like this?

RB: It came about collectively when I was talking with someone who was actually invested in working with me. Beyond that conversation, which at this point was over two years ago, we decided that we weren’t going to work together but it was a collaborative idea coming up with it. About a year ago, still holding this vision, I was like, ‘Well this is still alive and true for me,’ and so I spearheaded it on my own.

TBB: Awesome, so you kind of already knew you wanted to work with for a while then, yeah?

RB: Actually that was my piece that I put into it. It’s interesting, we had this idea to do this 24-hour artistic connection project, but the energy wasn’t moving forward. I really liked the idea of it supporting a greater cause, and that really ignited it. I found and I was really inspired by what they’re doing and their mission and I reached out to them and got out that we would love to work with them. Essentially all the work that we’re doing, each track is for sale and 100% of the sales from Bandcamp I transfer into the fund that gets drawn on for funding a well for

TBB: So it’s per track, per click, donate as you see fit, or do you have set increment donations you’re asking for?

RB: I believe it’s set at a dollar per track, and right now I have my email open and it’s like, someone just paid $1, someone paid $2, $1.08, $15 for a single track.

TBB: How much have you guys raised to offset the cost? How much does a well cost, and have you been able to provide multiple wells yet?

RB: No, not at all, actually. So it’s $5,000 to implement a well, and this is why I’m excited to be talking about this right now. We just finished the fifth project or track. My greater vision is that after we’ve created an album’s worth of songs, anywhere from nine to 12 songs or something like that, I feel like it would be easier to promote as an album, and people would be inclined to give more too.

TBB: That’s a great idea too, because you’re not staying local to just one city or one neighborhood, you are branching out all of California and beyond, and getting lots of projects going.

RB: What it feels like has happened now with this project, is that in creating these five tracks, people are starting to catch wind of this and I think there will be more support coming and people will recognize the project, in a short amount of time they’ll be able to watch five videos and be able to recognize that more is coming.

TBB: So all of the money that you guys raise goes straight to the well fund, what kind of cost out of pocket for you is this? Is it taking a lot out on you as far as resources go or is everybody involved just happy to do it for free and take their time? Is anyone else involved in the editing, or is this all you?

RB: OK, good question. So everybody thus far has been willing to offer their services pro bono, for free, which has been a huge part of it. I’ve been organizing it, so in terms of direct money I do what I can to make sure everyone is well fed and putting gas in people’s cars so they can travel and doing all that to make things smooth so that people are able to just show up with their skill set and their energy. I’m a coach as well; I work with people as a life coach and a creative coach and I use the connections I’ve built to invite anyone I’ve worked with directly or indirectly to come and get involved.

TBB: You invite them into a place where they can just show up and go 100% and bring what they’re going to bring?

RB: Yes, exactly.

TBB: Awesome. Well this is a really cool project. Can you tell me a little bit about some of the videos that are out there now?

RB: So the nature of the project is that I’m collaborating with different people each time. The fourth video, just before the most recent release is with three other artists. A female singer, Carmen Crow, or Mama Crow, the producer and turntablist and breakdancer is named Noetik and the videographer, her name is Kaya. We collaborated together and created this last song from scratch called “Nurture Your Roots.” We’re showing up with whatever is alive for us in terms of what we’re feeling inspired by, together, like each group is a unique collaboration so we take that specific energy and translate it into a song that feels alive for us with the air that this is meant to inspire people and to support and their mission. Hopefully that will create further inspiration and awareness around the project in like a chain reaction.

TBB: Very cool man, this is something I can get behind for sure! Tell me a bit more about how you hooked up with Lowgritt for the 4th track?

RB: Absolutely, I’m so grateful to be able to talk about this with you today, too. That’s the beauty of online connections, I understand even you’ve worked with Logan (Gritton, aka Lowgritt) to a degree. We’ve got a musical relationship. One of the ways that we started working on this together is that he’s the manager of the UCSC student-run InDigital Studios in West Santa Cruz and with his connections there I was able to write a proposal letter to Jim Newton, the studio host, for a project and they granted that, which was a couple thousand dollar gift essentially. It’s interesting the way that worked out. Originally it was just Logan and I on the song and we had a videographer on board, but the female artist that I had lined up got strep throat like two days before the shoot and so she was unable to do it and we were like ‘Well, shoot, we’ve got this date on the calendar and we’ve had it for over a month, let’s rock it anyway.’ So that’s what we did and that’s how that one came out.

TBB: Well hopefully we can get more people behind this project as well. I’m really excited to hear where you wind up with this project! Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with me today!

RB: Thank you so much, I’m looking forward to it as well.

Questions and answers have been edited for clarity, context and length.