Discover Your Dream, Influential Interviews

Musician Liam Kyle Cahill Shares “The Key To Happiness”

One autumn evening, I sat at a wooden cocktail table in a humble coffeehouse, and I listened to my friend Liam Kyle Cahill play his acoustic guitar to a small crowd of coffee drinkers and hopeful poets for Open Mic Night. Even with a short set, he garnered applause, and a song called “One Spark” particularly resonated with me that night. Now several years later, I still remember the chorus and its arresting guitar riffs.

Meet Liam Kyle Cahill.

Meet Liam Kyle Cahill, the musician with “The Key to Happiness.”

But Liam Kyle Cahill isn’t playing coffeehouses to build confidence these days. Rather, with his Ode to Wisconsin EP  under his belt and his first full-length album on the way, he’s taken stages across the country to play small shows with a gang of friends and a conglomeration of instruments: guitar, harmonica, drums, bass, mandolin, violin, piano, and even a string quartet.

As an artist, he’s evolved from a singer/songwriter into a man with the mentality of a full-blown producer. And his sound—it’s just as bold. (Think “Mumford & Sons in a bar room brawl with Bob Dylan at a punk rock concert,” as he’d say.) To polish it up, Liam Kyle Cahill’s lyrics stay true to his personable nature and big heart.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my friend. Today we’re talking about life, his music, and his encouragement to fellow dreamers. So listen up, friends, and learn how to live it well!

(1) You’ve got a new album called The Key To Happiness. So what is the key to happiness?

LKC: Making music really—that’s what makes me as happy as anything! As far as the title, I think it was more about my pursuit of happiness and the lessons I’ve learned along the way…. When you make the choice to be happy, you are! That’s what I’ve found.

Liam Kyle Cahill on stage

Liam Kyle Cahill performs with friends at his “Ode to Wisconsin” EP release party.

(2) You’re following your dream, working in geology by day and writing songs at night. Congrats! Tell us a little more about your journey to pursue your passion for music—not to mention, rocks—and what it’s taken to get there.

Liam Kyle Cahill on stageLKC: Well, I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a bachelor’s degree in Hydrogeology, and have spent the last three years doing exploration geology in different parts of Nevada and Utah. I have always connected with the outdoors, and was immediately drawn to that kind of lifestyle before I even knew how to hold a guitar.

But by the end of my senior year, I started writing my own songs and performing around town. The passion for music had always been there my whole life, but I finally had the outlet to create something that was uniquely me. Once I got a taste of that, I never stopped! Now I’m working to find the right balance, advancing both of these loves simultaneously.

(3) In your new song “Life Before Death,” you talk about that tension between nature and technology—that idea to slow down, “cut your chains and breathe life deep,” and really “live it, folks.” What inspired you to share this awesome message?

LKC: “Life Before Death” is a song based on a poem by John Muir, where he ponders these same ideas and what it means to be grateful for the lives we have. I took that idea one step further, challenging our dependency on technology and the control it has on our ability to be content in each moment that we live. Then I started reading Charles Dickens, and the basis for the song thickened. Dickens urges us to live with purpose and embrace the people around us by opening up our hearts and being vulnerable. And when it all comes down to it, that’s what I think music is really about.

(4) As we pursue our dreams, we need people to encourage us. Who’s been with you every step of the way for this project?

LKC_3LKC: There are a two people who fit that description, the first being my good friend and co-producer Dan Ruben. I met Dan at a show almost two years ago and we clicked instantly. When I first started to envision the scope of this record, Dan was able to bring those ideas right to life with bass, mandolin, and drum parts—and the rest is history!

Then there’s Tom Gordon: sound recording engineer, mixing engineer, co-producer, and friend. Nobody has pushed me to grow as a musician more than Tom during the recording sessions we’ve had this year, where he challenged my guitar playing and singing to become tighter than ever. Tom is like the quality control for the album, making sure we get just the right take before we move on to the next step.

(5) What advice do you have for your fellow dream-followers and friends?

LKC: In one of the last conversations that I had with my grandfather before he passed, I asked him what he felt was the most important advice that he could share about following my dreams, and I must admit his answer surprised me: “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” He lived his life by that rule and explained to me it doesn’t matter what other people think of you or your endeavor—if it’s your dream, then go for it!

One Spark cover art

Buy a pre-release copy of Liam Kyle Cahill’s album, and you’ll receive an immediate download of his single, “One Spark.”

Liam Kyle Cahill is currently raising funds to complete his 2014 album, The Key to Happiness. If you resonated with his story and his advice to fellow dreamers, then stop by Liam Kyle Cahill’s Indiegogo page to hear his music and buy a pre-release copy of his album. November 25, 2013, is the last day of this fundraising campaign, and LKC is giving all contributors an immediate download of the single, “One Spark.” As someone who’s been looking forward to a digital recording of this song since I first heard it in a coffeehouse, trust me: This music is worth the listen.

Words by: Ally Siwajian © 2013

Photo credit: Gary Micander and Alex Fleiner (All photos used by permission of Liam Kyle Cahill.)  

Ally in Reno snow
Daily Life, Discover Your Dream, Stunted World Changers

Birthing the Dream

Dreams are easy to talk about, but they’re more difficult to do.

A dream must be birthed, then cultivated, cared for. Like a seed in the ground, it needs nourishment—from multiple sources—to break free of the tough dirt and sprout above the earth. A dream needs roots, roots that reach deep and anchor it, no matter the storms. It needs a caretaker, a gardener—someone who will take proactive measures to ensure it doesn’t die, but rather buds, grows, and flourishes.

Deciding to Dream

Ally in Reno snow

Northern Nevada: in my element

In January, I chose “Dream” to be my theme for the year. I’d tossed around ideas like Move, Simplify, and Hope. But Dream was the most daunting. That would require work, and through it, all other ideas would be achieved.

So I decided to dream.

Pretty soon, life began to change. Anthony and I felt our time as residents of Reno, Nevada, would be ending soon. I’d been in that town for seven years. We were involved in volunteer activities, loved our church family and local friends, and even considered buying a house.

But something in the back of our minds—rather in the corners of our hearts—rustled. We prayed and prayed and prayed. And we felt it—we are going to leave Reno.

Succumbing to Fear

Anthony and I debated our initial inklings. I continued to write articles about everything from cocktails to curtain designs to bring in money for bills and keep my freelance writing clients. Anthony continued to come home from his biomedical lab work distraught and drained.

Walden's latteOne Sunday afternoon, we sat across the table from a good friend, Ronnie, in one of our favorite Reno spots, Walden’s Coffeehouse. We’re not moving, we told him. There’s just too much on the line. Anthony has a stable job with good benefits. I can just keep flying to Las Vegas on weekends for work. We like it here. We’ll be fine.

Eyes wide, Ronnie missed his mouth and caught his chin in the milky foam of his tea. He plunked the ceramic mug to the tabletop.

“What I’m hearing right now is just a lot of fear.” He paused, wiped the edge of his short beard, then continued. Wherever you go, he said, whether you stay in Reno or move someplace else, God exists and He’s with you.

Discerning Safety Versus Security

Good friends’ words have a way of sticking with you. It was the challenge we needed. Several Sundays later, confirmation came.

4x4 trip with friends

To follow your dreams, be in community. Here’s part of ours: Ronnie, Colby, Anthony, me, and Claire. Snowballs help too.

An artistic fellow and friend, Colby, spoke with us after church. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between safety and security,” he said. Sometimes we choose what’s safe over what we’re intended to do and who we’re designed to become. That sets us upon a trajectory in a certain direction. When you choose safety over security, where does that path lead you?

Anthony and I thought about these words long and hard. It was time to go big or go home, we decided. We’d been going home for far too long. We opted to stop playing it safe.

Dreams Rewritten and Realized

When we chose to dream and we knew it was time for that dream to be realized, we discovered dreams pursued are not easy. They often don’t resemble the dynamics you expected. The framework shifts. The details are rewritten. But the core remains the same.

Los Angeles downtown skyline

Welcome to the downtown LA city skyline.

We dreamt of a place where I could work for a magazine and be surrounded by people to encourage. We wanted an opportunity that also would extract Anthony from a job that was killing him, to instead be in a place that would let him claim his dreams of being a writer—a fantasy novelist, to be exact.

We have found that place. Through a zany series of events, we pit-stopped in my hometown Las Vegas for three weeks, then landed full-time in Los Angeles, California.

It’s different, and sometimes it’s difficult when I think of the people we left behind in Nevada. But as my friend Natalie Rose wrote to me: “Change is hard. God is good.”

Now It’s Your Turn: Pans and Pickpockets Challenge

marigold sprouting

A dream must be birthed, then cultivated, cared for. Then, like a seed in the ground, it will bud, grow, and flourish.

Our dreams are becoming reality. I’d like to encourage you to determine your dreams too.

Start by seeking God with your whole heart. Determine your natural talents, and weigh if your dream is supported by these skills. Become prepared: in your emotional state, your developed talents, and amid a supportive community.

Then, be willing to wait for the right moment when God tells you it’s time at last.

Because the right dream, friends, it’s worth waiting for.

Leave a Comment: Scroll down and leave me a comment below.  I’d like to hear your dream. 

Words: Ally Siwajian

Photos: Ally Siwajian; group photo by Claire Stephens  © 2013

Dream: One Word 2013
Advocacy Tips, Daily Life, Discover Your Dream, Scripture Study, Stunted World Changers

Running forward toward Redemption

This year I dedicate to dreams.

Dream: One Word 2013

I am finished with the belief that

“this” is all there is. I am no longer ascribing to a

school of thought that tells you all your hard work was all

for naught, so just get used to normal.

I am through with beating the drum

black and blue to walk to a professional tune

I think will lead me to my destiny.


We create our own soundtracks. We

determine our own steps. The cannon

fires. Pick up your feet. Reach out when

you feel weak, and raise a hand to

help a fallen brother when your paths collide

in a shower of sparks from a flare he sent up

long ago in whispered words of a prayer.


When will you step off the street that’s

paved with concrete and feel the

weight of the dirt-stained rocks that

seep into your shoes and

find those crevices that form calluses and

let you know you’re alive?


Today I choose to live big, bold and beautiful. I

embrace what the world has for me, and I

promise to stop being an absentee on

my own life. I tied these laces, and I’m picking up the

pace as I clench my teeth and pray to

see the path markers God set after

He paid my admission fee to

bring vitality to this

circuit of my race.


Today I make a choice:

Deny apathy.

Choose action.

Then start a chain-reaction to change

patterns in your brain that scream, “You can’t!”

You can and you will, if you’ll only

stop standing still and determine

this is the day of redemption.


(Inspired by Isaiah 40:27-31 and Philippians 3:13-14.)


Special thanks to Melanie at Only a Breath for creating my One Word Button. 

Journal pages wirth writing
Connectivity, Stunted World Changers, Writing Tips & Thoughts

How Do I Start Writing? Blogging tips to avoid sounding like a high school girl keeping an “I Love Orlando Bloom” diary

I’ve been writing in journals since 2003 when a high school English teacher encouraged me to write every day during summer vacation. Maybe he saw within me a great future writer. Or maybe he knew I just asked too many questions, and this journal idea was a fantastic way for me to write them all down and ask him the following year. (He did dodge that responsibility rather aptly by switching to another school before the new semester’s start. Smart move, Mr. Lamb.)

My Start in Writing: Journey of the Journal

LOTR comic strip

Okay, I may have also been this kid in high school. Ha ha! (Comic credit: Bill Amend)

I tell you this tale to let you know where I began. I started my writing journey with Pentel pens and decorated spiral notebooks.

Sure, blogs existed. That whole Xanga thing was a big deal.

But if I had published publically when I first started, it would have flopped. I didn’t have the guts to be myself in a written public setting. Also, I didn’t have much to say that would allow me to connect with others. (I mean, who wants to hear how much I liked Legolas from The Lord of the Rings movies again? … On second thought!)

I Don’t Know What to Write: How do you start?

This week, a reader from Reno, Nevada, contacted me. After reading my post “The Resurgence of Passion,” he wanted to take that Pans and Pickpockets challenge and make a difference by using his voice in the blogosphere.

“I want to join,” he said, “but I don’t know how.”

Today I want to start the exploration of that question. For this inaugural Writer Wednesday, let’s take a look at ways you can begin to write.

(1) Discover your passion.

First, know why you want to write. You each have something to say. Now find out what it is and why you care. This motivation will empower your words. If it’s too difficult to pull this passion from the nebulous unknown, ask yourself this question: What do I love?

Still too much? Try this bit of wisdom from author Jon Acuff: “Instead of asking, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ you ask, ‘What have I done that I loved?’ … Then you can start to really dream.” To really grasp the concept, simply replace “life” with “blog.” (Just this one time, of course).


Blogs require focus. (Note to self: So do close-up photographs.)

 (2) Find your outlet.

Once you know what you care about and what you want to say, find a place to say it. I started with journals. Today I have a blog. Both work. To this day, I still keep a journal because blogs require focus. I realize not everyone wants to read about my amazing attempt #462 to make scrambled eggs. (Besides, that’s what Facebook is for.)


(3) Focus your message.

It’s easy to make your blog an online journal. But I want to challenge you to go beyond that. Rather that stating what you did today, tell us a story. Use narrative power as an ally. Let us connect with you by showing what we have in common. Tell us a story, and show us why it matters.

(4) Pick a lens.

Journal pages wirth writing

Speak. Write. Share.

Writing must exemplify your voice. “Your voice” is essentially your personal writing style, your sense of self, and your perspective demonstrated on paper. The more you write, the more your voice develops.

As you start, select a lens through which to view the world. This should match your current outlook, whether you’re known as an encouraging counselor, sarcastic storyteller, slapjack comedian, or even a thought-provoking poet. Use your lens when you write, and you’ll find your voice.

The Pans and Pickpockets Challenge: How will you start?

Let me know how you’re going to start.

Tell me your favorite tip in the comments below, and be sure to link to your blog too. Then you can share with all of us in the Pans and Pickpockets community how you’re choosing to use your voice and speak the words that can come only from you.


* Special thanks to Tim M. for asking the question that inspired today’s post! You can find and follow his blog at TimmyMac.

Photo credit: Foxtrot comic by Bill Amend, photographs by Ally Siwajian of Pans and Pickpockets and by Lauren Patton of NerdieBlonde Art

floating lanterns
Daily Life, Stunted World Changers

Your Passion, God’s Way

What if you were designed to like what you like, to love whom you love, and to enjoy what you enjoy? Lately I’ve been wondering how I can be a person who claims to care about the poor, but also a person who likes looking through fashion magazines to see the latest trends, the season’s hottest colors, and the best ways to revamp what’s already in my closet to reflect this year’s styles. Aren’t those interests contradictory?

In my own way, I’ve decided to dictate what is Godly and what is not. Caring about the poor—yep, Godly. Doing something I enjoy—um, evil.

We all have passions           

Today I realized it doesn’t make sense to dismiss every personal interest. If I can believe God put a burning passion in my heart to care about people, why can’t I believe that He also created me to enjoy looking at color schemes, coordinating clothing, and believing I am beautiful?

We all have passions. We all have interests. God created us, and He knew it was good. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Maybe instead of trying to shun the parts of ourselves that are “ungodly,” we should examine the bar we are measuring ourselves against.florating lanterns

What is Godly?           

Now that introduces another question: How do we know what is Godly? I think it’s really a lot easier than we tend to believe. Yes, we have the Ten Commandments, the Greatest Commandments, and the “Golden Rule.” But I think all these boil down to one, simple thought: Does it bring glory to God or not?

Obviously, if I have a penchant for lying, I’m not exhibiting an interest that brings glory to God. That’s something I’ll have to give up. Likewise, if I spend so much time on thinking about what I’ll wear, how I look, and whether or not people will like me based on what I’ve worn, then I probably need to take a step back and re-evaluate. I’m letting the clothes wear me.

Know your Worth

Rather than worry about the criticisms of others and the little voice in my head that whispers away my worth before the mirror, I need to claim Christ’s victory over condemnation and trust the intrinsic worth placed within me at my Creation by God. I need to be willing to be able to know my worth as a daughter of a King and believe I am beautiful, no matter what I look like each day.

With that mentality, I can enjoy my interests and the passions placed within me. I can safely wear pretty clothes and have fun playing with eye shadows. I wear the clothes. They don’t wear me.

Your Passion, God’s Way           

Once we rule our emotions, our passions, and our interests (rather than letting these rule us), we allow ourselves to be used by God. He created you with your interests for a reason. Now let Him use those to bring glory to Himself and to bring people (including you) into a deeper relationship with Him.

In every area of my life, I’ve met people who share my interests. Because we have that common ground, we’re able to enjoy life together, to build each other up in community, and let God reveal Himself through what we enjoy—yes, in every aspect from video games to manicures to picking up trash for volunteer work. It’s not about whether our interests are considered “holy” by others.

It’s all about what we most value. It’s about who we’re serving. It’s about what we’re choosing to glorify.

~ Ally Siwajian © 2012

Photograph credit: Ally Siwajian © 2012

Leave a comment with your answer: What are you passionate about? What are your interests?