In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, rapper/producer John Forte speaks on what his life was like the years he was incarcerated.

A musician since his days at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he studied violin, it’s no surprise that Forte consumed himself in music during his stay in prison.

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“Most of the songs I wrote while I was away didn’t have to do with my situation,”John Forte explained to the Journal’s Jim Fusilli. “It was a counter-thesis to my location. I wrote about the kind of liberty I dreamed of knowing. I didn’t want to exacerbate my situation.”

Forte was also able to discover several new musicians who he became inspired by.

“No MTV, no VH1. BET occasionally,” said Forte. “I found myself falling in love with Regina Spektor, Cat Power, José González—musicians who could just accompany themselves on an instrument and didn’t have to be overproduced. I was inspired and I wondered if I could be as self-contained.”

Forte will be performing at Austin’s South By Southwest music festival today, March 19 at Scoot Inn. In 2000, Forte was arrested at a New Jersey airport after traveling with cocaine. He was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison, but was pardoned last year by former president George W. Bush [click to read].