We sat down with industry professional, Molly Hudelson, to discuss working in the music industry while struggling with mental illness.
Molly Hudelson, a writer, photographer, and industry professional, has always loved music. Fascinated by music magazine interviews and record reviews from a young age, it’s no wonder her path led to a full-time career in the music industry. Molly originally attended college for pre-med, but then switched gears after beginning to book shows with her school’s program board. At this time, she had also enrolled in a class “History of Rock and Roll,” where she discovered how much she loved writing about music. This sparked her aspiration to write for a big magazine, so she decided to start by creating her own blog. Right after graduating, Molly worked on a few tours, and picked up several freelancing gigs taking photos and writing. Now, Molly works for HIP Video Promo, a music video promotion company, and as a writer/photographer for Substream. Like so many in the industry do, Molly chased her passion, mixing and matching different freelance jobs along the way. Throughout this journey, Molly has struggled with depression and anxiety, which she has learned to manage and now wishes to share her insights on this ongoing battle with others.
Can you tell us about your experience with mental health issues?
I have struggled with depression and anxiety for about 12 or 13 years - since I was 14 or so. When I was in middle school, I never fit in. I never had a lot of friends, and I think that’s why I took a lot of comfort in music. I went off to a private school for high school and started struggling a lot. I wasn’t sleeping, my appetite was all over the place, I was crying for no reason - I just felt sad. I started cutting myself because I didn’t have words to express how I was feeling. I started seeing a therapist who then referred me to a psychiatrist, and I remember being in the psychiatrist’s office, freaking out in cold sweats, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. The psychiatrist asked, “Have you ever had a panic attack?” and in my mind I thought “I think I’m having one right now,” but I didn’t know what it was. So, I ended up taking some medication for depression throughout most of highschool and it helped, but I definitely got to the point toward the end of high school where I was feeling stable, for the most part. I think it’s a myth with mental health that it’s a one and done kind of thing. Most people unfortunately are going to struggle with it for the rest of their lives to some degree. But I was feeling pretty stable and went off medication, and I felt like myself again.
The first couple of years of college, I struggled with depression a lot - I had knee surgery freshman year which made things hard. The summer after junior year, a friend of mine and I were driving to a show, and while I was driving I had an awful panic attack. It got to the point that I had to pull over to the shoulder to stop, and told my friend that he had to drive the rest of the way. The next day I made an appointment with a psychiatrist who prescribed me some medication for anxiety. So that definitely helped get it under control to some degree.
After college I went on tour, which can definitely bring up its own challenges, but I was living out a huge goal of mine. Once I came back, I struggled for several years after that. A lot of my concerns were largely focused on finding a job instead of what was going on in my own head. But then, I went back to struggling. I came back from a trip visiting my friend and I couldn't sleep. I would go to the gym and have meltdowns. It took me almost three days to reach out to my best friend and tell her I was having a hard time and didn’t know what to do. I realized it was taking me so long, and that it was so hard for me to say anything to someone who I talk to everyday. That was a wake up call for me. But I started seeing a therapist again which was a tricky process with insurance, and that’s been helping.
You’ve mentioned this a bit already, but what to you do today to help cope with your depression and anxiety?
Therapy has helped, and medication has helped me in the past, though I’m not currently taking anything. For me, eating right helps a lot. I am vegan, but oreos and french fries are vegan! It’s not to say I don’t eat that stuff, but if I’m making sure I’m getting enough vegetables and eating protein, not just carbs, eating a balanced diet helps a lot. I even realized recently that there are days where I’ve been so stressed that I forget to eat, or forget to eat real food. Exercising has helped a lot too. In college I started getting really into running, which was the best thing I ever did for my mental health. I was on the swim team in highschool and that helped a lot too. But running was huge. For me, the feeling of accomplishment and runner’s high, which I’ve never felt with any other kind of exercise. My problem the past few years is that I’ve had a few surgeries on both my knees, so running is out now. I have a gym membership, so I’ve been going there sometimes to do some cardio, and occasionally weights. Sometimes I will do pilates videos at home, which I really like because that focuses a lot on breathing. And if it’s nice out, I’ll go for a walk outside. Having my go-to comfort songs that I know will help me calm down also helps. Same with watching TV or a movie that’s really familiar. That and making and effort to talk with friends makes a huge difference.
Has being a part of a music community helped with feeling like you have people you can go to?
Most of my close friends are people that I know through music or being on tour. In that sense, the people that I turn to when I’m having a bad day are people that I know because of music, so I’ve gained something valuable through that. I think the sense that this is something I’ve wanted to do for so long, and finally making a living doing it, brings a deep feeling of satisfaction with that. As a writer as well, having the opportunity to write some pieces for large audiences is terrifying but a big weight off of your chest. It has also made me realize that people don’t just care about the stuff I write because of what artist I’m writing about. They care because of how I write it.
Has dealing with mental health issues ever negatively impacted your experience working in the music industry?
For starters, a lot of people who make their living in the music industry aren’t full time employees, or don’t have insurance through work. A lot of people who are struggling might know they should go talk to someone or wonder if they should be taking medication, but they don’t have the means to get the necessary treatment. I think that’s a very real problem for a lot of people.
You mentioned tour brought up challenges, what was that like?
Yes, going on tour can definitely be challenging. No matter what you’re doing on tour (and everyone on tour will claim they have the hardest job on tour), it’s hard. You’re in a constantly changing environment, probably not getting a solid 8 hours of sleep, probably not eating three healthy meals per day. You’re probably drinking too much caffeine, you’re not seeing your loved ones often. It’s a lot harder to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself on tour, and that makes it a problem for people. Which is why when I’ve been on tour, I’ve made it an effort to text people, try to eat decently when I can.
In terms of working in music in general aside from touring, I think mental health has been a challenge as it would be to some degree in any field. But especially since I balance a full-time job and other side gigs, it’s often trying to find a balance of self-care and trying to do what I need to do to take care of myself, while also doing what I want to do to advance professionally.
How do you think the music industry is addressing the topic of self-care and mental health?
I think it’s definitely getting better, I think it’s made a lot of progress since 7 years ago when I was just getting my feet wet, and that’s really important and something we should acknowledge. A big issue is that many people in the music industry experience burnout. I think people who want to work in music are generally very passionate about music, where in other fields that may not be the case. I think largely because of that, it’s kind of created this culture (which probably exists in any field, but is especially noticeable in music) where, because you WANT this job, employers will ask a lot out of you. It’s very much a culture of “You should be working and available and accessible at all times.” But even on top of that, I think there is a pressure we all feel that we should be doing something to advance our career at all times. It’s important to eat right, take the time to meal prep, getting enough sleep, exercising. People are starting to realize this importance, but I don’t know in the music industry if employers have caught on to this as well, in terms of what they expect from people.
You went to school originally to study pre-med and psychology. How has your background in psychology informed your approach to dealing with mental illness in yourself and with others?
In terms of dealing with myself, it has to some degree helped articulate what I’m feeling in that I am able to realize that when I am not sleeping, not motivated, when I’m randomly crying, I am probably depressed. I am able to put those things together. I interned in the office of a crisis hotline as well, so I went through some of the training for that. I learned from that that when people are struggling, when someone turns to you and they’re having a hard time, sometimes they want advice and sometimes they need advice. But sometimes, people just need someone to listen. Active listening is what they call it - learning to piece together what someone's saying and say “Wow that sounds really hard, I understand why you’re feeling XYZ.” Just being a listening ear, being supportive, and reassuring people that they are not crazy, they’re not stupid, they’re not a burden for opening up. That’s a big thing I got out of that.
What advice do you have for someone who may be struggling but doesn’t know what to do?
I would recommend everyone try to figure out health coverage now. If you are not able to get it through your employer or your parent’s employer, you can buy your own insurance. Depending on your income level, the Affordable Care Act will work with you to find a price point that works. As a disclaimer, it doesn't always work out in your favor and sometimes the prices - even accounting for income and tax credits - are still too much for some people (especially if you have any pre-existing conditions). It's absolutely not a 100% perfect resource, but it is certainly an option to look into.
And I would also say: remember you don’t have to be at your absolute lowest point to reach out. And from the other side, even if you don’t think someone is having a hard time, check in with them. Ask your friends how they’re doing and pay attention to how they respond. But if you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust, tell them what’s on your mind, and be honest if you don’t know what to do. If you think you’re having some problems with mental health, look for mental health providers through your insurance website. Or call them up and let them know what you’re looking for in your area. But I think even before you reach out to your insurance or make an appointment, lots of times reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can be a great first step.
What advice do you have for someone who doesn’t understand what it is like to struggle with mental health issues but has a friend or coworker who does, and wants to be there for them?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately of what it means to be there for people. I think it comes down to two things. Number one: checking in with people--making it a point to reach out to friends not only when you know they’re having a bad day, but also just so they know you’re thinking of them. I think if you want to be there for someone and you don’t really know how, I think a big thing is asking people what’s going on. You don’t have to know what it’s like when someone shares what they’re going through, but sometimes just saying, “That sounds so hard” or “I’m so sorry but we can get through this together” helps. You can even ask people, “Do you want advice right now or do you just want me to listen?” That is huge because sometimes people don’t want advice, and you don’t want to give unsolicited advice.
The second is educating yourself on mental illnesses and what they look like, as well as the warning signs of suicide. There are plenty of resources from organizations like American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, MusiCares, and To Write Love On Her Arms, that will help educate you on the signs and symptoms of suicide. Researching things like that and learning more about the illnesses to give yourself a better understanding can be really helpful.
Interview By: Katie Zaccardi
Note: The contents of this article relate the experiences of the interviewee for informational purposes and should not substitute for professional psychological advice. Always consult a qualified mental health provider with any questions you have regarding a medical disorder.
I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder two years ago, shortly after I returned from a semester studying abroad in Paris. While I was away, there were plenty of times I would spontaneously feel dizzy, shaky, and short of breath. My uneasiness would even lead me to lash out in anger. In these moments, I knew I was not like myself, but their unpredictable and consuming nature rendered me incapable of recognizing how the symptoms formed a bigger picture.
When I got back to New York, my best friend was celebrating her 21st birthday. I felt inexplicably on edge about going out, but tried to shake the sensation as I hopped in the shower. Immediately, those symptoms of dizziness, shakiness, faintness, and shortness of breath that I experienced abroad reared their faces again. The intensity of it all made me realize: I was in the midst of a panic attack. I knew at that point that going to a party was not a good decision for me, so instead I spent my evening researching panic attacks and anxiety while I drank water and snacked on Swedish fish in bed.
When my heart rate was not subsiding after three days of trying to relax as best I could, I saw my doctor who was able to confirm that I have an anxiety disorder. Giving the beast a name was an incredible, but daunting, turning point. In an instance, so much of the mystery was gone. The anxiety was still there, but my awareness put me in control. This knowledge, however, is never the solution to the problem. It is simply square one, where you must find the courage to battle onward.
Once you have received a diagnosis, the anxiety becomes more concrete, and managing it becomes a system of regular habits. Because of my diagnosis, I could pay better attention to my triggers and symptoms as well as my tactics for combating and preventing them. I could even open up to my loved ones about my struggle. At first when opening up, others’ responses like “just relax, try staying calm, it’s fine” were discouraging and isolating. I can recall an instance when I confided in my bandmates at rehearsal that I was having a bad anxiety day, but pushed through practicing. That evening over text, my band mate advised me not to use anxiety as an excuse because “we all have bad days.”
These kinds of exchanges, though less frequent now that I can better articulate my struggles, are often unavoidable when opening up about mental health issues. It’s impossible to know exactly what someone else is going through, and can be hard to know what to say when they’re confiding in you. This can cause blocks in the conversation, resulting in both parties feeling unheard. Anxiety is a bumpy road ridden with bad days along with good, with moments of major doubt along with hope. Sometimes it really is difficult just to get out of bed when your anxiety feels like a hundred-pound weight. Sometimes it feels impossible to find the patience for people who reduce your battle to a bad day that you just need to get past.
In my personal experience, I’ve found that continuing with honest conversations, even though it’s hard, allows growth and more understanding. I understand that it is also hard for others to find the right things to say to someone with mental health issues. I face this challenge myself when I speak with another person who lives with anxiety. And when I’m not sure what to say, I practice compassionate listening, finding that our differences only make me more attune to the vast and highly individual character of clinical anxiety. Anxiety largely remains an enigma in society and talking it out isn’t a cure-all. Speaking about it together gets us closer to ending the stigma, but anxiety is still something that needs to be tackled individually.
This is something that can be particularly difficult in the music industry. While I do not get stage fright or social anxiety, these are potentially huge roadblocks for a performer with anxiety. For me, the going out and drinking, which are especially a part of the professional side of the industry, are what can trigger me. Alcohol can agitate my anxiety, so I don’t drink. This stressor is frequently accompanied by social pressure and questioning (“What? Why aren’t you drinking!?”) that only make it worse--it’s frustrating having to explain yourself every time you go out. At the beginning of my journey, declining to attend an event or show, or just refusing a drink, would then also be topped with overwhelming guilt and FOMO. Now, however, I am able to shed that extra insecurity and find the strength to say no, knowing that I am doing what is necessary for my well-being.
In the fast-paced, late-night, competitive music industry, self care is too often neglected. Many of us in the industry work hard—sometimes on multiple jobs—and spend the rest of our time trying to make and maintain connections as well as push our musical projects forward. It is so easy to lose sleep and lose the inner balance which is so important to keep, inevitably leading to burnout. For those who struggle with anxiety or another mental disorder amidst all of this, there is always the risk of your body and mind slipping beneath your many other priorities.
I decide daily that my mental and physical health are the #1 priority. For me, this means a regular yoga and meditation practice that keeps me in tune with what I need inside and out. It also means unapologetically RSVPing “no” when I need time to rejuvenate or handle an anxiety flare-up. Dealing with anxiety is by no means easy, and the music industry’s demanding culture can make it all the more difficult. By being open about my struggle with others and myself, and by making self care a serious but enjoyable habit, I have learned about the courage it takes to conquer obstacles and the patience it takes to reach goals. Both despite and thanks to my anxiety, I am confident in my ability to cope and hopeful in my success in this industry.
Written by: Katie Zaccardi
Edited by: Michelle Costanza
Katie Zaccardi is singer/songwriter based in New York City and has been playing music and writing songs since the age of 8. After recently graduating from NYU’s Music Business program, she now works in Music Publishing and is Head of Marketing and Development // NY Chapter Leader at #WomenCrush Music. Aside from writing, performing, and working in the industry, Katie also practices and teaches yoga in her free time, and enjoys travelling, eating, and binge-watching the latest TV shows. You can follow her on Insta/Twitter at @ktzaccardi.
As an independent musician who also previously held a job as a therapist, I am naturally curious about the way musicians react to the unique hardships we face. Music is a part of us—not just some 9-5 where you’re biding your time until the clock strikes Friday. Emotional connection is the essence of what we do as musicians, making the difficult parts feel more difficult, and the wonderful parts more wonderful. This recipe, along with the copious amount of resilience it takes to become successful in music, makes for one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. We all do it because we love it. But, there are aspects of this profession that make it incredibly draining at times. Here are a few things that have been emotionally challenging for me, as well as some tips to help cope with the impact of whatever downward slope you’re headed towards.
Being rejected over, and over, and over again is just a part of being a musician.
Everyone will tell you to simply “toughen up” and get used to it--and it is true that we become more accustomed to rejection over time, but it is NEVER easy. With every opportunity that presents itself, there is hope. And with every rejection, there is disappointment.
How to cope: That feeling of disappointment is totally normal, but try not to let that negativity get out of hand. Remind yourself that this is one person’s opinion. Even some of the biggest acts in history faced much rejection before they made it big. After performing at The Grand Ole Opry, Elvis Presley was told by the concert hall manager that he was better off returning to his day job as a truck driver. If you’re dealing with a particularly difficult rejection that you can’t seem to shake, take a day off for self care. Don’t do ANYTHING music related. Stay off your email and social media. Hang with a friend, go to the beach, go for a hike, meditate, get your nails done. Then get back on the saddle. If taking a break isn’t nearly enough for you, it may be time to re-evaluate your goals.
2. Social media comparisons.
Social media complicates musicians’ ability to focus on their own paths by instead encouraging comparison to others. Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and thought: “It’s unfair that Jenny’s getting all these great opportunities and I’m not!”. We’ve all experienced jealousy, and even insecurity about our own talents. We see how much other talent there is not just locally but globally, which can be rather overwhelming or discouraging. But when these feelings creep up and turn into anger and bitterness, your emotional wellbeing can become compromised.
How to Cope: Sometimes the solution is just a matter of perspective. Instead of focusing on how unfair things are, ask yourself how this person that you’re envious of became successful. Are there things that this person has done that you can implement into your own career approach? For example, maybe they played in a cover band for two years before finding success as an original artist. Maybe they went on tour as a roadie and made tons of connections before being asked to join a well known touring band. It’s important to consider your path by first thinking about the bigger picture.
If seeing the others’ success is making you feel defeated, limit the time you spend on social media. Take the apps off your phone, and only check them from the computer for as long and as frequently as feels healthy for you. Now you can use that extra time to reading a self help book like “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Then put your new skills to the test once you re-engage on the web.
3. Unstable Income.
If you’re an independent musician, you likely have multiple forms of income to make ends meet. Not knowing how much money you’re going to make month to month from your gigs, your dog walking business, and your Etsy store can upset even the coolest of cucumbers. You CAN make a great living this way, but making multiple streams of income work is a stressful balancing act. It almost always takes time, a lot of mistakes, and some late payments before you figure it out.
How to Cope: Make budgeting part of your weekly routine. Knowing exactly what is coming in and going out week to week, relieves a significant amount of financial anxiety. Look on Pinterest for budgeting tips and materials to guide you through the process. Do your best to plan and cushion your income so that you don’t fall short on your bills. Your system won’t be perfect especially at first, but at least you’ll know what to expect. If you still find yourself stressed and scrambling every month, it may be time to make changes in terms of how you earn your income.
4. Not having a boss and a set schedule.
As an independent musician, you don’t work by the same firm deadlines that structure more conventional positions. While there are definitely perks to being your own boss, there is the risk of slipping into a lax routine and losing productivity. Losing motivation or falling behind on progress can often lead to a feeling of guilt, as we blame ourselves for slacking on career goals.
How to Cope: Everyone has an organizational and motivational style best suited to their goals and personality. My advice is to find support and get accountability from other independent musicians. Look to Facebook groups, such as the Female Indie Musician Community for accountability partners. Even better, see if there is a local musician meet up in your own community so you can lean on musician friends for support. Then, find routines that work for you by blocking off times during the day for different activities (i.e. rehearsal, booking, etc.). During your least productive part of the day, schedule something enjoyable. For example, mornings are the most difficult for me, so I spend the first of hour of my morning making an awesome breakfast and listening to music.
Some people are social butterflies who thrive in networking environments, but in my case, and for many shy or anxious people like me, this can be intimidating. People who struggle in social situations end up going to these events nervous and worried, which impacts their ability to connect with others. They perhaps don’t go at all, which also inhibits the progress they could make through social engagement.
How to cope: When it comes to facing these fears, it is best to start small. Being at a large gathering can be overwhelming, so setting a small goal like “talk to two people” or “stay for one hour” can make it more manageable. This way, rather than avoiding events altogether, you can push your boundaries and get the satisfaction of achieving a personal (and professional) goal. Do your best to think outside of the networking box. Would you be more comfortable hosting a small musician meet up for locals? Or how about starting a blog where you interview indie artists and other music industry people in your community? For more networking ideas, check out this episode of the Break The Business Podcast. Just like your social media, your income flow and your schedule, networking is something that requires you to figure out a system based on your personal objectives and strengths.
The next time you find yourself with a frustrating #MusicianProblem, know that there are solutions on the other end of your own hard work and self-awareness, with plenty of resources and community support to help you along.
Author’s Note: These are just some suggestions on how to cope on your own with some of the difficult aspects that come along with being a musician. However, you should seek a professional opinion if your life is frequently being impacted by your emotions and the DIY route doesn’t seem to be working.
Guest Post By: Laini of Laini and the Wildfire
Laini and the Wildfire is a New Haven, CT based piano-fronted pop rock trio with lots of sass and a little soul. Their music blends the pop sensibility of artists like Adele and the raw edge of female-fronted rock bands, like Florence + the Machine, inflected with a touch 60s soul. Find more information at www.lainiandthewildfire.com.
Jessa Campbell Premieres The Music Video to “Cedar” at #WomenCrush Music’s “Mamas In Music” Showcase
Portland, OR (05/16/2018) - On Wednesday, May 16, singer/songwriter Jessa Campbell will premiere her music video for “Cedar”, one of three songs off her first EP, Great Grey Owl. The video screening will be part of #WomenCrush Music’s May showcase, “Mamas In Music”, focusing on women who are both parents and performers. The show will take place at The White Eagle Saloon at 836 N Russell St, Portland, OR 97227.
Jessa Campbell is a rising artists based in the Pacific Northwest. Her music celebrates the biodiversity and abundance in nature while touching on deeply personal experiences. “Cedar” is written about the birth of her son and her experience with motherhood. Jessa has made a name for herself by performing with Wayne Newton, winning Resonate Choral Arts of Portland’s “Homemade Jams” contest, and hosting a local series in association with Local Roots. Jessa has been interviewed by Vortex, For the Rabbits, and Twist Online Music Blog. Her EP, Great Grey Owl, is inspired by the music of German composer Hildegard von Bingen. The music video for “Cedar” is produced by Rollstars Productions.
Jessa Campbell will be co-hosting the Mother’s Day-themed #WomenCrush Music showcase Wednesday, May 16, at The White Eagle Saloon. Her performance and video premiere will be accompanied by performances from Zahara Bre, Kina Lyn Muir, Jen Deale, and Amy Bleu. Music begins at 8:00 p.m. at the 21+ venue. For more information on the showcase, you can visit its corresponding Facebook event page. To read further about Jessa Campbell, check out her website http://www.jessacampbellmusic.com/.
Preview by: Emily Watson
Emily Watson was raised in New England and now lives in Portland, OR. She spends her free time writing indie-pop music and exploring Oregon. You can follow her on Instagram @emjaywat. For more information regarding Jessa Campbell's show, contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer, Christina wrote a song for her Mother, a song called “Little Girl.” Looking back on how her Mother had comforted her with that same phrase when she was young, Christina used her art to comfort her Mother in her own time of need.
For years, “Little Girl” was kept between Christina and Tina, a private and intimate gift. After Christina’s passing, it took on a new form, and Tina continued to find comfort in her daughter’s own words.
“Little girl, I’m here to stay / don’t run away.”
Today, Tina has decided to share that gift with the world, a gift from her and Christina to mothers and daughters everywhere who may find comfort in those same words.
“It is very special to me and carries a part of not only Christina but our unique bond,” Tina stated. “I miss her daily and I take comfort in knowing that this song might help other mothers and daughters through their fearful or tough times.”
Though Mother’s Day may be joyous for many, it can be a day of grieving for too many others. It is the hope of the Grimmie family that this song will be a light in the darkness others may also face.
“Little girl, open your eyes / the sun will shine after tonight.”
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx.
My battle with an eating disorder began in my senior year of high school. I know myself to be a very strong, confident and talented woman, but for many years that fire was inhibited by a more powerful force. One of my biggest weaknesses, admittedly, is my perfectionism. I’ve always strived to make every situation or aspect of my life end perfectly (as if that is realistic). I would strive for perfection in my daily tasks, my music, relationships and my body, so much so that it controlled my social life and mental stability. Some people see perfectionism as a wonderful quality, but in my case it turned to something that could have killed me. What started when I was 17 years old as “dieting” became a toxic relationship with myself, the scale, and the mirror.
For the longest time, there was no way for me to talk to others about what I was going through, let alone even accept that I had a problem. I talked to counselors, doctors, friends, the list goes on...but no one could convince me that I was destroying my body inflicting my own instability. It took me six years to find my bravery and discover a way to heal: with music. I love being able to express my emotions through music and I thank God for the talents he has blessed me with. I believe music is the universal language, and I believe it can heal others too. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized music is a way for me to communicate some of my rawest emotions. Music has helped me learn that being vulnerable, and not being perfect, is OK. After the time it took for me to struggle to realize this, I was ready by last year to share the lowest point in my life through a song I wrote with Kirsti Manna and Bill DiLuigi called “Ocean.”
“Wore down, washed out, paper thin, Pressure underneath my skin, No crystal blue, just shades of grey. Always faithful, meet me there, Never coming up for air. If I had to pick my poison I’d drink in your ocean.”
Above is the chorus from the song which paints the picture of the emotional battle I went through every day. It is me facing that constant feeling of being worn down and lifeless, because I starved myself and felt such draining fear and pressure surrounding food. “No crystal blue, just shades of gray,” is my reflection on the people around me saying I was so skinny and lucky, but they didn’t realize that, on the inside, it wasn’t pretty or lucky at all. My disorder and ability to control was always faithful. I was able to not eat and punish myself if I ever did something that went out of my distorted “guidelines.” I never took a breath. Five years of suffocating myself, and I would keep picking the disorder over everything. I had people that loved me who knew I was torturing myself. They would try to intervene, but I was poisoned, and under a force as strong as the ocean.
When you are chasing after a dream, things can get overwhelming and seem out of your control, just like the ocean in a storm. The ocean can swallow you whole and drown you if you let it, just like a disorder. Every battle in life can be calm at times, like the ocean at dawn, and then quickly turn into a dangerous body of waves. For me, it was a long journey of back and forth, but realizing my talents and my worth helped me see that I needed to stop hurting myself. The disorder was only holding me back from meaningful relationships and accomplishing my dreams. What I thought was “accomplishment,” like a smaller waist-line, was an unhealthy goal and inevitably unfulfilling. Today, I am healthy, more accomplished and happier than ever, because I know now that you cannot control life, just as you can’t control the ocean.
Music became my motivation to share my story with others in order to help them face their battles head on. The hardest part of healing is admitting to yourself that you can’t always be in control and what you are doing is not healthy. It took me very long time to acknowledge that being the skinniest person in the room was not worth starving myself nor the mental turmoil that comes with that.. If you are reading this and you are battling with a disorder or know someone going through a personal struggle, whether it’s body image, emotional or with loss, please share “Ocean,” with them. I want my music to be an expression of my story but also solace for others. When people hear this song, I want them to know they are not alone, that they can fight to keep the ocean from swallowing them whole.
I decided not to let the ocean swallow me. By embracing my gifts and facing my pains and weaknesses, I became aware of my incredible strength. If you can find the courage to tell yourself that your imperfections are what make you unique, you can conquer any ocean.
Guest post by: Pagentri
Pagentri, the artist alias for Rachel Tripp, is Nashville-based rock spectacle that is taking over the country dominated city, with her captivating performance and effortless vocal delivery. From an early age, everyone around her was attracted to her determination and knew she was born with the itch to perform. You can find more info on Pagentri and her music at www.pagentri.com
Photo by Valerie Bendish of VBPR
Friday’s event at The Yard: Herald Square gathered nearly 30 women of all ages, backgrounds and points in life for our Songwriting Tips & Tricks Workshop. Producers, songwriters, music enthusiasts and students mingled with curiosity and excitement as folks poured into the workshop space. The three panelists came from various, diverse backgrounds. Dana Calitri shared her experience with publishers and labels, including Universal and Virgin, getting her first big cut with N'Sync, and how her career has progressed since then to her now teaching and practicing sound healing. Cassandra Kubinski has always taken a more DIY approach to her career, and her current musical agenda is centered on breaking the barriers of gender in the industry. Divinity Roxx, perhaps most well known for her bass playing and touring with Beyonce, comes from a hip-hop and rap background. Since then, she has turned her focus to her own career as an artist and songwriter, starting her own label and publishing company in the process.
The panelists started their discussion with the business aspect of the music industry, specifically the experience of signing with a publisher or label, the importance of staying connecting to industry folks, and the rewarding process of finding the right people to co-write with. They each provided insight on their personal approaches, leaving attendees with some great takeaway points:
The second half of the event allowed for an interactive discussion, in which our panelists critiqued the creations of five attendees. We reviewed everything from a piano ballad, electronic pop, and folk songs. The panelists discussed the lyrics, production, and the overall experience of listening to each song, which created such an insightful, inspiring energy of women in music coming together to help each other succeed. All three panelists emphasized the power of female collaboration and camaraderie - an environment of support for all female musicians to create a better industry for the ladies.
Overall, the attendees were excited to have found a platform of other music folks engaging with ins and outs of songwriting and the industry. Thoughtful sharing from both the panelists and workshoppers made this event as enjoyable as it was helpful.
Recap by: Nadia Deljou
Nadia is a radio and music industry professional who enjoys photography, playing guitar, and a good Hefeweizen. You can find her on Facebook or connect on Instagram at exit___only
Since the early days of #WomenCrush Music, Portland artist Moe Lincoln, better known as Kingsley, has been the perfect exactly of what the movement is trying to promote: an honest, unafraid, and wildly creative woman taking on their local music scene.
Kingsley has been a staple of Portland’s strong underground female-lead music scene since her arrival to the West Coast in 2016. What sets her apart from the pack is her fluidity within genres. Thus far, between previously released music and plenty of live sets, she has demonstrated her skill in R&B, singer-songwriter, and bluesy rock, and now, with her latest single, “You,” Lincoln is giving us a taste of her own unique brand of electro pop.
The Crush caught up with Kingsley to chat about the new song, her upcoming EP, I Am Because I Am, and her aspirations for her music going forward...
Tell me a little bit about this new single. Where did the idea sprout and what’s the significance behind it?
This song came from another stupid boy that I decided I wanted to get involved with (PSA boys are dumb). I couldn't outright call it the guys name... well I could’ve but that doesn't make the "new me, who this" move-on phase fun. To tell you the truth and give you a little exclusive, I don’t believe in love and this guy almost made me fall for him - and at the end of the summer fling, I was like “god damn youuuuuuuu *insert bad words*” and thus this song was written out.
The last time we chat for Vortex, you talked about how you don’t limit yourself to one genre. You let yourself explore, and you said the EP would reflect that wide range. Does that hold with what’s coming on the EP next month?
I am so excited for everyone to hear this EP! It has been a challenge - in a great way - to force myself to find my voice in different styles/genres. On the EP, I put folk, blues, EDM, pop, soul, and rap! LIKE WHAT! It’s insane, but there is something for everyone to jam to!
For this particular song, “You,” how do you choose what genre or spin to put on it? If I recall correctly, you performed this track at a solo set as a more acoustic tune. Was it always destined to be a bigger pop tune?
it’s definitely a summer pop anthem - ride with your windows down and belt out this song, I promise it feels soooo good!
The production behind it (by Jack Kennedy of Zarr Studios) really reinforces that pop style. And you’ve worked with him on previous tracks as well. Where did you guys meet and how did these collaborations come about?
Jack and I met on social media. He messaged me and was like, “I am new to town and am dying to work with new artists.” So I creeped on his social media - to see if he wasn’t catfishing me or something- and asked around town. We linked up to produce my first single I released in Nov 2017 “Ghost” and since then we’ve been quite the pairing. He mixed a few other songs on my EP and was the creator of “You”. We vibe together well and he can take my vision and really bring it to life. Very very very thankful to have worked with him on this project. He’s also an artist himself which is why I think we work great - he gets it from the producer side and the artist side.
When it comes to production, are you pretty take charge? Do you have the vision in mind or does it all come together in the process?
So in the production stages of the song, typically I send the acoustic version of the song (my guitar or piano) as a voice memo with a track I want it to sound like, like a Demi Lovato song or Jon Bellion. And from there, the producer comes up with something and sends it to me and we build from that. Since I wanted my EP to be all types of styles, I kinda sat back and let the producers works. Very hard for me to sit back and shut up but I think the point of creating a different genre EP is to work with different genre producers.
What inspired the sound and production for this track?
The track production was inspired by “All Time Low” by Jon Bellion - I love the way he took such a strong sad message and put it to music that made you forget that you are sending a sad message. Very pop!
What direction are you wanting to head with the future of Kingsley? Are you exploring more genres and sounds, working on an LP, anything we’d like to know?
After the EP is released in June, I will have a few music videos I am going to put out and a west coast tour and keep promoting the EP. I will always explore more sounds in future projects. My voice is an interesting one and it can mold itself into almost any styles, so why not.
Where do you see yourself and this project in, say, 5 years? What are your hopes, dreams, aspirations?
I see my EP, I Am Because I Am, triple platinum and with a bunch of songs on the Billboard! And in five years I will look back on this first project and be soooo freaking proud at how pushing yourself outside of the comfort zone brings beautiful confidence and magical music.
Why should people care about Kingsley?
I am just one person telling my own story as I live it and see it. If someone can connect to that and feel empowered or inspired, then care for Kingsley. And if they don’t, they can go on with their life (laughs). Honestly, my songs are for me to get over things that I go through, BUT I KNOW other people are going through that shit too, so grab your tequila and put on your booty shaking jeans and play my new single “YOU”
Listen to “You,” out now, and catch Kingsley at her single release show TONIGHT at a house show in North Portland. I Am Because I Am is out in June. Tickets for her EP Release show at The Old Church on Saturday, June 23rd at 7:30PM are available for purchase here.
Interview by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx.
People say Shae Altered is a very intense person. And this could be true. Her fiery alternative pop packs a punch, weaving emotion, anger, and vulnerability all into a unique electronic package. However, there’s a disconnect between Shae Altered, the version you hear on the tracks and see personified in the new video for “Control,” and Shae Williams, the girl sitting in front of me at a coffee shop in Downtown Portland.
Shae Williams is a bubbly person, and no sense of intensity was felt when we first met. The only traces of a dark pop persona lying beneath the surface is a shirt from Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo, blood red and adorned with images of skulls and crosses.
This may seem to be the case, but watching the video for “Control,” the Shae on the screen seems so different from the Shae in front of me. So I bring up my point. Is there a disconnect between Real Shae and Shae Altered?
“I feel like there are two sides to me a lot of the time,” she replies. “I feel like you have regular normal Shae, and this darker other part of me. Those two people, who I am inside, are constantly fighting. For me specifically, [“Control”] is about how I feel because I struggle with mental illness, and as much as I hate the personified part of this mental illness, this darkness, at the same time, that’s where some of my most creative shit comes from.”
Music has been a part of Williams’ life for as long as she can remember. After childhood time spent belting out tunes like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a tutu, she finally picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and began to write. She wrote her first song the day she picked up the guitar, but she uses the term song very loosely.
“It wasn’t actually a real song,” she says, laughing. “I think it was like three sentences and it was about dandelions or some stupid shit. But I fell in love with it immediately.” She asked her Mom to give her guitar lessons, and the rest is history.
For Shae, music quickly went from a hobby to a survival mechanism: “It was a way for me to express myself. And I’ve also always been a writer, so it just kind of made sense. I can sing my poetry, I can put these two things together. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I don’t know what it would be like… not doing it.”
Now, Shae Altered is, arguably, one of the most unique and exciting voices in pop and alternative in Portland. The creativity that goes into her music and the aesthetic behind her dark pop persona make her stand out in a crowded field. There’s a dark energy behind it all, a fire inside of her, and paired with her knack for pop songwriting, the result is a sound that makes you feel, pure emotion with an explosive texture.
One of the things that separates her from the rest of the pack is her approach to honing that sound. When it comes to the writing of the song itself, she says, Shae takes a very traditional approach. However, when it comes to the sound, the texture, and that spark that gives it that fire, the process is very much visual.
When working with her producer, Justin Abel, Shae knows exactly what she wants the song to sound like… or look like, depending on what perspective you give it. Moodboards play a large role in her process, gathering photos and art from herself and other sources. Abel and Williams then take these visual elements and work to translate them into the song. The visual aspects of the sound go even deeper for Williams. In our conversation, she begins to describe her music in very visual ways. When discussing her song, “Sleep Talk,” she describes it as “a very specific twilight purple blue.” I ask her to elaborate.
“I’m one of those people where sounds are colors for me. Not like crazy, I’m more chordal,” she says. “I think once, offhand, I told Justin ‘this synth needs to be more orange.’ And he was like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’” She laughs. “But now working with him, he understands my weird language. I’ll be like ‘Make it redder’ and he’s like ‘Okay.’”
Listening to Shae’s music, knowing that it comes from that visual standpoint, all the elements begin to make sense. Behind some of the most unique sounds, production and arrangements in music is often an artist with synesthesia, a rare crossing of the senses that affects only a small 2% of the population. Taking the visual and putting it into sound seems to connect in ways a lot of people don’t see. But Shae sees the connection, and in the end, it creates more unique productions. And, in creating the video for “Control,” this visual approach is an asset.
“As soon as I’ve written the song, I’ll know exactly what visual would go with it,” she tells me.
Whether folk includes banjos, five vocalists, or just a twelve-string guitar, several things hold the genre together: storytelling, vulnerability, and a look into daily life. This trifecta of qualities is exactly what makes “To Call Home” by Rebecca McDade a standout collection. McDade released her debut album on April 25 and proved that her lyrical wisdom is far beyond her years. Having spent time in Scotland and Ireland in addition to The United States growing up, her influences are broad and show themselves throughout the 13-song compilation.
The album starts off strong with finger-picked guitar introducing you right away to McDade’s technical skill. The first track, “Another Mouth To Feed”, also displays McDade’s aptitude for metaphor and imagery. She sings about watering thoughts and considering whether to accept lines thrown out to her from others. From the title and its reference to acknowledging her thoughts as another entity, it’s obvious how much self awareness this album was written with.
Water and rain play huge parts in McDade’s lyrics, showing up in various songs throughout “To Call Home”. Knowing McDade’s history, it’s clear she was writing what she knew. One can truly picture the types of landscapes she grew up in between Oregon and Scotland as she tells stories of family life and community happenings. Her second track “Uncomfortable in Prototypes” is based around a small town where everyone has secrets to hide. This song is where the listener gets their first taste of McDade’s storytelling ability. McDade has a knack for picking up on details most people can relate to and seamlessly working them in to her lyrics. The song “Cups By The Sink” talks about dreams being spilled out of the type of Dixie cup you use as a kid to rinse your mouth after brushing your teeth, or the type you might organize an elderly relatives medications in. No matter how you associate McDade’s lyrics, they’re so personal yet general that there are treasures for anyone to find within them.
“To Call Home” is incredibly intricate both with its instrumentals and vocals. McDade does not disappoint with this piece of folk art and will be someone to watch as she continues to release more music. To learn more about Rebecca McDade, you can visit her website https://www.rebeccamcdademusic.com/ or follow her on Instagram @RebeccaMcDadeMusic.
Review by: Emily Watson
Emily Watson was raised in New England and now lives in Portland, OR. She spends her free time writing indie-pop music and exploring Oregon. You can follow her on Instagram @emjaywat.