That’s my last six months, summed up into one onion-esque headline. In March, I began planning a western Canadian tour to raise funds and awareness for the BC Mood Disorder Association’s campaign “Stomp The Stigma”. As some of you may know (because I tweet about it relentlessly), I have been diagnosed with a slew of mental health disorders. This summer I wanted to STOMP that evil mental illness stigma, and I also secretly wanted prove that everyone was wrong about me. When I say everyone, I mean all the concerned friends and family members (not to mention doctors) who said,
“Sarah, do you really think you are mentally stable enough to do this?”
Here’s the thing…
I hate, hate, hate to admit it, but it’s the truth. In January, I was in the ER, out of my mind. If it had been a life threatening flu, I would have put my plans on hold until I felt better. No one would have questioned it. I mean, I had a cold last week and I spent five days watching Bob’s Burgers and eating oranges. But I guess there is still some part of me that buys in to the mental illness stigma and thinks I’m just being weak. I just need to try harder.
I kept showing up for school, work, shows and rehearsal, all while my mind and body were trying to adjust to the new meds. I was releasing an EP while going through medication trial and error: these pills made my liver fail, those pills made me sleep 18 hours a day. I visited the ER again, and was back at school two days later. My brain was so addled that I actually got lost walking from Main St. to Cambie St., yet I decided it was the PERFECT time to plan a tour across Canada’s prairies provinces. I don’t have to tell you that this did NOT go well. Here we are, halfway through august… I have cancelled every single one of my tour dates, I’ve cancelled all band rehearsals until further notice, and we gave up the rehearsal space. I fell apart.
People with bipolar can lead normal-ish lives. Emphasis on the ish. I’ve seen it, I’ve read about it, and I plan to be one of those people. But for the past half a year, I have been really sick. I’ve got a doctors note and everything. Sure, my symptoms are more psychological than physical, but they still made it impossible for me to tour this summer. Maybe if I admit this and start treating myself like a person in recovery, I can hit the road next year and play the wonderful venues that Canada has to offer. I sincerely apologize to everyone I let down this year, and I am so excited play music with you or for you in the near future. This mental and emotional turmoil has given me even more creative motivation, so please stay tuned for new songs, videos, hairstyles, awkward tweets, etc.
The band is on hold for a while. I will be playing brand new songs, solo, at Fringe Festival in September and at the Biltmore this Saturday.
Posted: August 21st, 2014
This summer, we will be touring western Canada to raise awareness for this cause that is EXTREMELY dear to my heart. Please stay tuned for tour dates and more info. And if you are in Vancouver, there will be fundraiser for Stomp The Stigma happening on May 24th. Get tickets here!
Posted: May 1st, 2014
I found this interview beautiful and interesting. Both Marc Maron and Fiona Apple deal with mental health issues in different ways, and hearing the two of them talk was captivating… especially when Fiona Apple discussed her compulsions and the lens through which she views life. Give this a listen if you’ve got some time!
Posted: May 1st, 2014
Vancouver singer/songwriter/enchantress Rykka has incredible vocal chops, delivers energetic live performances worthy of Rogers Arena, and has a fashion sense that deserves it’s own blog post entirely. She is the winner of the 2013 PEAK Performance Project, has signed to a label in Switzerland (!!!), and released a full length album produced by Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond last May (Click here to listen if you haven’t heard it yet). How did she do all this? The answer is, of course, hard work. Sigh, I know, there is no magic trick that will make a career in the music industry easy. The truth is: this girl does not know the phrase “I can’t”.
I’ve been inspired by Rykka’s work since I saw her performance at the Commodore last year, and I was super excited when she kindly agreed to meet up with me and chat about the music business before she was off to another co-writing session. I found her advice extremely helpful, and I thought I’d share a few tips that I personally found really valuable.
1. Remember, you are a musician.
Sometimes as DIY musicians, we get so overwhelmed with the music business side of things that we forget what we actually do: play music! Write songs! Sing! Rykka told me that when she was in school studying music, she would spend an entire day just practicing singing one note. I admitted that I tend to get caught up in everything and forget to just play my instrument. She reminded me that when you finally get to co-write with the producer of your dreams, you need to be able to show up and write a great song.
2. Be inspired by the success of others
I hate to admit it, but sometimes I can get pretty jealous when I see statuses like “heading off on our European tour” on my facebook feed. If you also have a little green monster inside you, Rykka suggests turning that jealousy into inspiration. Seeing your friends and acquaintances succeed is only proof that what you are aiming for is possible. Rykka sees the success of others as an opportunity to call them up and ask them how they did it! And if you really think they don’t deserve that success, then use that anger as inspiration to work harder. There’s always a way to find inspiration!
3. Be your own recording studio
I asked Rykka where she would recommend up-and-coming musicians spend their money. She said that personally, she would like to spend her money on collecting recording equipment for a home studio. DIY recording doesn’t make sense for everyone, but spending 30 to 40K to record a full-length album doesn’t really make sense either, especially when you know you can’t make it back in sales. There are a lot of great things about having a professionally recorded album, but if you ARE interested in learning more about recording your own stuff, chances are you will be saving a LOT of money in the future. Here’s an article I found that talks a little more about this.
4. Visualize yourself succeeding.
When Rykka was first accepted into the Peak Performance Project in 2013, she had already planned out what she was going to wear at the final performance. She pictured herself on that stage throughout the whole competition. It goes to show that believing you can succeed is just another part of the process. Superstars like Beyonce and Oprah have talked about this visualization technique as well… there is definitely something to it!
5. It never stops.
One thing I noticed during my chat with Rykka is her relentless work ethic. “It never stops,” she said to me, referring to the workload of a DIY artist. Rykka is always on the move, waking up in a new city every morning and meeting new people every night. Success in the music industry looks different than is did 20 years ago… there are no big breaks, only consistent hard work. You need to be willing to go outside your comfort zone and ignore everyone who tells you to give up (including that little voice in your head). If you are ready to work crazy hours, seven days a week for little pay, then you might just be ready to be a DIY artist.
Thanks for reading guys!
Posted: April 11th, 2014
Dear Maria Bamford,
I need to thank you for your honesty about your mental health issues in your comedy and in your interviews. When I heard you say the words “Type two Bipolar” out loud on your latest comedy special, it felt like a current of electricity ran through me. Someone I respect (someone who is hilarious and smart and amazing and I could go on forever) had the very same disorder that was currently making my life a living hell. She was LAUGHING about it. And I LAUGHED TOO.
The first time a doctor suggested I might have bipolar II (roman numerals make it classier, don’t you think?), she enthusiastically assured me that everything was going to be okay… because Catherine Zeta-Jones also suffers from this disorder, and she’s beautiful and famous! I really liked Catherine Z-J in Zorro and High Fidelity, so I found this information somewhat comforting. After a few more visits to a few different doctors, I discovered that Catherine Z-J is a popular way to cushion the blow of the diagnosis. She is the patron saint of bipolar II. On top of that, she has wonderful hair and a cool accent… and is completely unrelatable.
A few years later, I began exploring the comedy world. I had been told to listen to your comedy by pretty much every comedy fan I knew, but my memory is terrible and I kept forgetting your name. It wasn’t until I was “going through a rough patch” (a.k.a. spending all my time crying under my covers) that a friend sent me your interview on Nerdist with Chris Hardwick. Your story was so relatable that I actually stopped crying (it’s all about baby steps). That interview convinced me to go back on medication, and also made me a fan for life.
Your comedy is ridiculously funny, as I’m sure you know, but it’s your honesty that has kept me from completely losing my mind while I’m being tossed from medication to medication and doctor to doctor. Your interview on Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler gave me the strength to admit what I thought were unspeakable symptoms to a psychiatrist. This holiday, I found myself in the emergency room, and I kept hearing your voice saying, “Strap a feedbag of microwave popcorn to your neck because it’s going to be a twelve hour wait at the ER.” And even though I didn’t have any popcorn, I found it comforting to know that you had done this and you survived. Not only did you survive, you are out there today working successfully on your craft. You took your horrible experiences and turned them into mind-blowing comedy. That gives me hope. And for someone who feels hopeless a lot of the time, a little hope goes a very long way. Thank you, Maria B, from the bottom of my heart.
Posted: January 13th, 2014